There are very few series on television quite like Shameless. Produced by John Wells, Shameless made its way to Showtime in January of 2011. As a remake of a British series of the same name, the American version of Shameless takes a markedly different approach on the shenanigans of Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) and his family. In comparison to ‘blue collar’/working class television shows, creator Paul Abbot describes the show as a ‘no collar’ brand of family television. With 96 episodes, 8 seasons, and a cavalcade of TV awards under their belt, now is a great time to catch up on what Shameless has been up to. Let’s dig into a brief recap of all eight seasons of this hit ensemble television show.
Shameless Season 1 – Meet The Gallaghers.
Right off of the bat, Shameless introduces us to the fact that this is ensemble television at it’s finest. Frank Gallagher is the alcoholic family patriarch while Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum) is the trouble-plagued daughter trying to keep it together. Fiona is tasked with making sure her four siblings (Lip, Carl, Liam, and Debbie) are taken care of.
The first season largely follows Fiona’s troublesome relationship with Steve (Justin Chatwin) as she slowly comes to realize that he’s a carjacking criminal with a heart of, well not exactly gold, but of at least silver. The first season largely focuses on the slow reveal that he’s actually a wealthy son who is hiding from his parents and some less-than-savory connections.
Frank Gallagher has a wild time in the first series, dealing with a strange biopsy, blacking out and waking up in Canada, and even a run in or two with his ex-wife. Frank’s story takes a dark turn when, after blacking out, his son’s ex-girlfriend Karen rapes him on video before sending it to her father, Eddie, who proceeds to kill himself. This incident triggers Frank into quitting alcohol and he begins to bond with his young daughter, Debbie, over a stand-in substance: sugar. Debbie loves this chance at bonding but things fall apart, as they always do.
Meanwhile, Kevin (Steve Howey) gets into trouble as he pretends to be engaged in order to get away from a flirty girl at the bar. Frank hears the news and ignoring Kevin’s protests, proceeds to announce it to the rest of the world. this snowballs into an actual drunken proposal as Kevin and Veronica (Shanola Hampton) actually end up engaged. The party ends up at the Gallaghers’ house where everyone is ecstatic except for a withdrawn Kevin revealing that he’s actually already married. Uh oh!
The first season comes to a close with Steve being found out and forced to leave the country. After careful contemplation, Fiona realizes that she cannot follow him and thus decides to stay home in Chicago in order to help her broken family.
Shameless Season 2 – Lowering The Bar.
The entire Gallagher clan is back in season 2 of Shameless and things continue to darken as the show proves time and again that this isn’t another ‘family sitcom’. The second season starts in the heat of summer with Frank once again drunk and in trouble, losing $10,000 to a local drug dealer in a taser bet gone wrong. Fiona is waitressing alongside neighbor Veronica while simultaneously hooking up with every guy who knocks on her door. Lip (played perfectly by Jeremy Allen White) continues his descent into trouble by pining after Karen, who is in Sex Addicts Anonymous, while simultaneously dealing marijuana and joining a local fight club – busy kid.
With Steve out of the picture, Fiona is clearly a mess. She’s desperate to plug a hole in her heart through casual sex but that doesn’t help her self-esteem. She ends up falling apart and calling Steve for help, who can no longer oblige due to the fact that he’s been forced to marry a drug dealer’s daughter in order to survive. On the other end of the family line, Lip and Ian have a huge falling out after a misadventure with West Point. Ian, already struggling with his emotions after coming out of the closet, is violated when he realizes that West Point was only ever interested in Lip. Fiona comes to the rescue. Lip ends up kicked out of the house, bereft of family and scorned romance (Karen, at this point, is pregnant by another Sex Addict’s Anonymous member).
Elsewhere, Sheila soon proves that no good things can last. Her relationship with Frank is constantly on edge and almost dying from an exploding car certainly doesn’t help. Sheila soon comes to a confrontation with Frank’s mother, a surly woman named Peg. Peg ends up pulling a gun and a shot goes off but thankfully nobody is injured. This, however, isn’t the only gun situation of the season, as Ian’s boyfriend Mickey threatens to kill Frank after the Gallagher patriarch walks in on Ian and Mickey mid-hookup. Mickey thankfully changes his mind at the last second and instead attacks a police officer so that he can get locked up instead.
Things don’t get better for Frank. In fact, they get quite a bit worse. Frank ends up taking advantage of a dying woman, helping poor Dottie to an early grave by failing to warn her about her heart transplant waiting at the hospital. She dies. Grammy comes back and destroys Frank from a guilt standpoint, abusing him until she herself dies of cancer. Frank even reconnects with Monica under the pretense of taking care of their children. Instead, they take their inheritance from Grammy and blow it all on drugs.
Shameless Season 3 – Unrelenting Chaos.
Life is never easy for the Gallagher family and problems are compounded by the return of Steve/Jimmy, who moves in with our broken family. As Fiona and Steve try to make things work, Lip continues his descent into trouble – getting arrested and arraigned in court. Jimmy is watched throughout the season by Estefania’s father (drug dealer to his ex ‘wife’) and this culminates in Jimmy literally walking the plank onto a yacht where his death is assumed.
Sheila struggles in her new relationship with Jody and after repeatedly inviting Frank over to help deal with Karen’s baby, the two end up getting back together. The relationship predictably falls apart after Frank asks Sheila to pose as Monica during the CPS scandal. Their relationship ends again and Sheila’s left alone, dealing with her own demons — namely a sex addiction that she tries to assuage by selling sex toys to women.
Kevin also goes through the ringer, meeting his ex-wife Sheryl who appears to have his kid in tow. Kevin is shocked and makes a real effort to get to know the kid, before it is revealed that Sheryl was merely tricking him. The kid is Sheryl’s sister. Kevin goes back to Veronica, sorry about everything and the couple makes up. Kevin and Veronica spend the rest of the season trying to have a kid before turning to Carol for her service as a surrogate mother.
Ian and Mickey are given a central viewpoint in Season 3 as their on-again-off-again relationship anchors much of the drama. Things get incredibly dark halfway through the season when Mickey’s father catches his son and Ian being intimate. Terry pulls a gun and brings in a prostitute to ‘cure his son’ of his homosexuality. Mickey and Ian stare at each other as Mickey is raped, making for one of the most haunting sequences of the season. Mickey is damaged and the two drift apart, albeit with a ton of tension.
Elsewhere, things get better for Lip as Mandy helps him get into college. Frank loses custody of his kids before ultimately ending up in the hospital due to years of drug use and substance abuse. Fiona, worried sick at the disappearance of Jimmy, simultaneously fights for custody of her siblings while daring to dream about her own future. Karen gets her accumulated due when she is hit by a car, thrown into surgery, and brought back different thanks to a bout of TBI.
Season 3 was lauded for its darkness and it is easy to see why.
Shameless Season 4 – Fiona Falls Apart.
Over the course of the first three seasons, Emmy Rossum’s Fiona has developed into the series lead and the figure we rally behind and this continues in season four. Much of this season is focused on Fiona’s concern for her missing boyfriend, Jimmy, while simultaneously trying to adjust to a more secure life. Fiona works at Worldwide Cup now while seeing her boss, Mike. Mike, already struggling with trust issues, is destroyed after he finds out that his brother Robbie has been manipulating Fiona into hooking up. The two get into a physical fight and Fiona is promptly dumped by Mike. Fiona’s arc comes to a tragic end when little brother Liam gets into a stash of cocaine that had been gifted to her for her birthday. Fiona is subsequently locked away on felony charges.
Frank makes his return home while still dealing with liver failure and young Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) gets to take on a more central role as his father’s keeper. Frank’s adventures in S4 take a dark turn as his health begins to seriously deteriorate. Needing a transplant and not being able to find one, Frank falls into the clutches of Sheila — who marries him while he is unconscious so that she can try to adopt children from the Indian Reservation that she had been staying at. Sheila tries to save Frank’s life by paying $26,000 for a liver transplant, but it ends up being a scam and Frank loses a kidney for his troubles. Eventually, Frank is saved thanks to a last-minute liver transplant and his arc for the season ends in a wheelchair next to Carl, having a beer.
Ian is missing, now in the army after having stolen his brother’s name, and Lip is struggling through college. Sheila is in the mix as well, working as a lonely maid at the Gallagher home. While this is all happening, young Debbie loses a sense of innocence and begins to follow a rapidly darkening path, losing herself into sexuality much the same way that Fiona and Karen had in earlier seasons. Debbie pines after an older boy, Matt, and eventually helps to get him to break up with his girlfriend. Matt just wants to be friends but Debbie has other plans.
Elsewhere, Kevin and Veronica are pregnant and things continue to get better. Kevin comes into ownership of the bar, The Alibi Room, and things are generally kind to one of the more underrated duos in the show. On the other end of the spectrum is Ian and Mickey, one of the most popular pairs in the show. The two have a wild ride in S4 as they struggle to come together in an increasingly complicated world. Mickey, trying to do the right thing, ends up ‘adopting’ a bunch of prostitutes, including Svetlana. Mickey eventually crosses paths with an intoxicated Ian who was presumably about to be taken advantage of. Mickey rescues his on-again-off-again lover and brings him home. Svetlana and Ian end up fighting and the young Gallagher is thrown out of the house. Svetlana begins to extort Mickey, making him take care of her child while also demanding money. This leads to a string of crimes committed by Ian and Mickey as they try to figure out a way to get Mickey out of trouble and Svetlana off of his back.
The season comes to a questionable conclusion when Jimmy pulls up in front of the Gallagher household, wearing the name ‘Jack’ alongside a woman we have yet to meet. He doesn’t enter the house and we are left wondering as to why.
Shameless Season 5 – Gentrification In The Neighborhood.
We start S5 on a slight time jump with Fiona getting out of prison and the Gallagher family learning that Ian is drastically different after his experiences in the army. The focus this season is specifically on the Gallagher’s as they are now and who they were then. Ian’s mental health is in rapid decline, Lip is torn between his South Side clout and his new lease on life, and Frank is as big of a mess as ever while living with Sheila.
The darkest moment of the season revolves around the continued growth and destructive nature of Debbie Gallagher. Debbie throws a party and ends up raping Matt, her friend from S4, after he ends up passing out drunk. Matt can’t go to the police since Debbie is underage. Debbie eventually meets and ‘falls for’ a boy named Derek, whom she pressures into sex — without birth control. Her arc for the season ends with the announcement that she is pregnant. Uh oh.
Kevin and Veronica struggle as new parents despite the fact that Kevin is excited and trying his best. Veronica, missing the single life, ends up putting their relationship on pause but this doesn’t last.
The highlights of season 5 predictably revolve around family matriarch, Fiona. Fiona has learned from her time in prison but she still has that foolish Gallagher streak. She ends up dating a rockin’ roller but still ends up falling for her boyfriend’s friend, Gus (Steve Kazee). The two end up getting married after dating for a week and, naturally, Jimmy decides that now is the time to re-appear. The two re-ignite their relationship and Fiona cheats on her new husband. Gus isn’t happy and he gives Jimmy a black eye for his trouble. Fiona closes the door to Jimmy forever, forcing him to leave, and desperately begins trying to patch things up with Gus. The entire time this is happening, her old boss Sean is slowly winning her heart again.
Elsewhere, Carl begins running drugs, Ian starts to get more and more provocative with his sexual encounters, and Lip works hard to regain some clout in the neighborhood as gentrification begins to impact their humble surroundings — to no avail. Lip returns to college, Frank tries to stay sober after a liver transplant, and the Gallagher family continues to struggle.
Shameless Season 6 – No Place Like Home.
As far as change goes, S6 definitely pushes the Gallagher family around. The Gallagher’s lose their family home and Fiona is forced to try and win the home back at auction. She doesn’t. Still married to Gus, Fiona continues to fall for Sean and the two end up living together — so much for the marriage to Gus. Once living with Sean, she struggles to connect to her new boyfriend’s son. Fortunately, the Gallagher’s are able to win their house back and so Sean and Fiona, as well as the rest of the clan, head back home. Sean eventually proposes but the wedding is ruined by an irate Frank who tells Fiona that Sean was doing drugs.
Throughout S6, Frank continues his descent into depravity. He scams for money in order to help pay for Fiona’s wedding and he becomes inconsolable when Fiona bans him from walking her down the aisle. Frank and Sean routinely fight and end up throwing fists more than once.
Meanwhile, Kevin is making life increasingly difficult for himself as he accidentally reveals to an FBI agent that Svetlana is an undocumented immigrant. In order to save Svetlana, Veronica decides to jump in and marry her so that she can stay in America. This begins what fans have affectionately called the ‘throupple’ era.
Among the younger children, Lip continues to struggle with his sexuality as he falls for a girl named Helene. Lip also begins his true descent into alcoholism which culminates in his getting expelled from college. Professor Youens ends up pushing Lip into rehab, beginning what can only be considered a lifetime of wagon-hopping for Lip.
Carl is sent to juvie and released on good behavior. Carl gets deep into the thug life, eventually smuggling weapons and selling them. This criminal venture includes even selling weapons to teachers at his school. Carl witnesses his friend Nick kill a kid with a hammer and this causes Carl to get out of the ‘thug life’, book ending one of the most traumatic scenes in the entire history of ‘Shameless’.
The season ends with Frank getting his comeuppance as Kevin, V, and the Gallagher children throw him off of a bridge. Ouch, sorry, dad.
Shameless Season 7 – Frank Tries To Rebound, Just Gets Worse.
The season starts with Frank waking up in a hospital suffering from amnesia, 29 days after being thrown off of the bridge. He can’t return home and is effectively disowned by his children. Frank ends up moving into a homeless shelter and eventually ends up running his own shelter. He is, of course, scamming his residents and this results in another Frank Gallagher beatdown. Things go from bad to worse when his latest love, Monica, ends up dying from a brain injury. This is a rare peek behind the veil of awfulness that consumes Frank and we get to feel a tinge of sympathy for the man.
The Gallagher children begin to grow in a tangible way. Fiona sets boundaries and starts to take real control of her life. She buys a laundromat, sells it for a profit, and ends up buying an apartment building. Lip continues to struggle with his love life and even ends up beating up his girlfriend’s ex. Rehab is on the horizon for Lip.
Ian seems to have some more control over his life as he works as an EMT. A new love interest in Trevor gives Ian something to do but Mickey soon returns, having broken out of prison. The two hit the road to escape to Mexico, but Ian bails at the border. “This isn’t me anymore,” he says.
Carl has an embarrassing breakdown with girlfriend Dom which leads to an intense moment with her father. Dad ends up becoming a decent guy and helps motivate Carl to enroll in military school. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Debbie, a new mom, and new thief. Debbie’s bizarre character arc includes dating a paraplegic man named Neil, rescuing her kidnapped daughter, and deciding to become a welder. Okay, Debbie.
Kevin and V continue their weird three-way relationship with Svetlana but things get complicated when Svetlana’s Russian husband shows up. Svetlana lies to Kev and V about her husband, claiming that he is her dad, and the two conspire to steal The Alibi Room from Kevin — tricking the man into signing over the rights to the bar.
The weird final nail in the coffin, perhaps literally, is the fact that a recently deceased Monica bequeathed over $70,000 worth of meth to her family. Frank calls this “like a family heirloom” before admitting, “but only drugs.” Everyone cashes in except for Fiona and little Liam.
Shameless Season 8 – Things Get Weird.
The most recent season of Shameless just wrapped up, leaving fans in a curious state. The newest season marked the final appearance for actress Isidora Goreshter (Svetlana) though details are scant as to why she has departed. With that being said, a lot happened over the last string of episodes.
Leading the way in S8 is Lip who fought both his sobriety and his weird relationship with Sierra. Lip shows real growth as he tries to aid Professor Youens who is also dealing with alcoholism. The arc is season-long and it is gratifying to see Lip really put his mind to something.
Things get more complicated for Kev, Svetlana, and Veronica but a resolution is forthcoming. Angered that Svetlana stole the bar, Kevin rats Svetlana out to the police in relation to her harboring of illegals. Svetlana is thrown in jail and Kev & V quickly realize just how much work goes into maintaining their bar. The trio agrees to split profits of the bar 50/50, with Svetlana getting half of the split.
Elsewhere, Fiona dedicates herself to trying to patch up her new apartment while dealing with her new role as a landlord. Highlights of the arc involve Fiona serving as an unofficial conspirator to a pair of tenants named Nessa and Mel. Fiona even has a brief relationship with a man named Ford, taking a break from her risky Tinder days.
Frank, ironically enough, becomes a sort of bastion of stability. Briefly adopting the name Francis, Frank has a real go of it as a regular, employed man. This doesn’t last long and before long he is running drugs. The season ends with Frank tries to get Liam to help him steal from a rich buddy. Some things really don’t ever change.
Carl ends up married to Kass but he soon realizes that she is crazy. Carl eventually decides to escape to military school, leaving behind her back. Ian mucks around and becomes a gay icon which causes real stress with his relationship to Trevor.
So, What’s Next?
With S8 wrapped up, fans are looking ahead to another big year of their favorite dysfunctional family. Showtime announced a Season 9 premiere date of September 9th, 2018.