The ‘Shameless’ Series Finale: What Worked and What Flat-Out Didn’t
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the series finale of Shameless, “Father Frank, Full of Grace.”]
The Gallaghers took their final bows in the Shameless series finale, but it didn’t feel like much of an end for any of the characters, with one major exception. Warning: If you haven’t seen the episode that marked the end of eleven seasons, spoilers ahead.
Which is not to say the finale didn’t have its share of great moments — we’re talking about the quick-thinking Gallaghers of Chicago’s South Side, after all. Most fittingly, though, family patriarch Frank (William H. Macy) earns his tragic ending and, in doing so, allows the other characters to move on.
Below, we break down what worked, what almost worked, and what flat-out went wrong during the family’s final South Side outing.
What Worked: Frank Dead
While it’s never easy saying goodbye, Frank’s dying proved what we all knew already — his cat-like nine lives were up. His hard-partying lifestyle had caught up with him and his dementia diagnosis earlier this season was a giveaway for his impending fate.
In the end, COVID helped him along, but Frank got what he’d wanted since trying to kill himself the night before with an overdose of heroin. There’s some solace in knowing the scoundrel found peace.
Almost Worked: Addressing Fiona
Fans hoped Emmy Rossum would return as big sis Fiona for the series finale — hey, you can’t always get what you want — but this was as good of a substitute that viewers could expect.
As Frank wandered Chicago for the last time, his storyline paid homage to the eldest sibling. This included pit stops at Patsy’s Pies (shuttered), where Fiona had been a manager once upon a time ago, and the church where she was supposed to marry Sean (Dermot Mulroney) in Season 6. Later on, Frank mistakes one of the nurses for Fiona, remarking how beautiful she is as he lays dying in the hospital. That might feel like a throwaway nod to Rossum’s character, but it’s actually quite sincere and poignant once you know that the actress playing Frank’s nurse is William H. Macy’s own daughter, Sophia Macy.
Still, it would have been more satisfying to get an actual update on Fiona’s life since she left at the end of Season 9, but at least there’s hope she’s on some new adventure.
Didn’t Work: Loose Ends Galore
There’s leaving things to the imagination and then there’s providing absolutely no closure. It’s clear this show went with the latter. We did learn that Mickey (Noel Fisher) and Ian (Cameron Monaghan) were thinking of kids, so, that’s nice and optimistic, but we get no resolution one way or the other with Lip (Jeremy Allen White) — who the show repeatedly likes to kick when he’s down — whether it’s about the unplanned pregnancy, or the Gallagher house he can’t fix or sell.
And then there’s Debbie (Emma Kenney), who seems to be headed for a Thelma & Louise style-road trip with criminal fling Heidi (Shakira Barrera), her daughter in the back seat. What? After complaining all season about the possibility of having to leave the Gallagher house, this makes no sense.
Then there’s poor Liam (Christian Isaiah) who is unsure of Frank’s fate or his own considering he was previously told he could live with Lip and Tami (Kate Miner), but their own plans are unclear. But maybe the biggest cliffhanger of all involves Carl (Ethan Cutkosky), who ran into his former hookup, Tish (Chelsea Alden), in the penultimate episode, and she is hugely pregnant, a fact never brought back up in the finale. Will Carl step up to the plate?
Sure, not every finale can have a satisfying conclusion, but they also don’t need to leave already muddied waters even more unclear. It’s understandable that the Gallaghers would continue to face struggles, but did it all have to be so wishy-washy? Let’s just say, we’ll be thankful for the good times.