Apr 08 2013

A Superb Ending. Review: Shameless Season 3 Finale – “Survival of the Fittest”


Season 3, Episode 12

Air Date: Sunday, April 7, 2013, 10 pm ET/PT on Showtime



Be the fabulous narcissist you are and do it for yourself.” – Fiona

Where, exactly, is Frank going?

Where, exactly, is Frank going?

As season finales go, “Survival of the Fittest” does an excellent job of wrapping up story lines, and leaving us to wonder what’s next for Shameless. With no cliffhangers, though, the episode feels more like a series finale than a season finale. Ian (Cameron Monaghan) enlists in the Army for four years; Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is off to MIT; Karen (Laura Slade Wiggins) leaves with Jody (Zach McGowan) for parts unknown; Frank (William H. Macy) is given a do or die sentence; and Jimmy (Justin Chatwin) apparently is dead. We already know Shameless will be back for a fourth season, most likely next winter, so the question is whether these characters will return or be written out for good? With so much in flux, let’s do an in-depth analysis of the characters and where they stand.

Veronica and Kev

Carole’s (Vanessa Bell Calloway) admission to Vee (Shanola Hampton) and Kev (Steve Howey) that she was pregnant with someone else’s baby the whole time she and Kev were doing the nasty is quite a mind blow. While my first reaction was to yell at my TV screen, “Ugh, how disgusting!” I had to reconsider given Carole’s explanation for the reason she lied the entire time. Do you believe her, or do you think she was in it for the pure enjoyment of having sex with a younger man, even though it was her daughter’s live-in boyfriend? I’m not sure I buy the whole walking-off-arm-in-arm scenario, although I most certainly enjoyed Kev’s imitation of the fetus.

Sheila, Jody, and Karen

While it looks like Karen (Laura Slade Wiggins) is gone for good when she and Jody (Zach McGown) pile into his van, what is the likelihood that the writers will bring her back next season as a newer, nicer version of herself? Is that even imaginable—is it possible the therapy camp she’s headed to could reverse the brain damage she suffered in the car accident? Or does Karen’s eye roll, when Sheila bids her goodbye, signal what I’ve been thinking all along—she’s faking? And what will become of Sheila (Joan Cusack) now that her “baby” is gone? Will her sex toy parties be enough to keep her occupied?

Ian and Lip

Lip is a bona fide high school graduate and Fiona (Emmy Rossum) couldn’t be happier. It’s been a long haul for him and as much as he doesn’t want to show it, he’s proud of his accomplishment. You can see that in the smirk on Lip’s face after folding up his diploma and shoving it in his back pocket, and the way he and the rest of the Gallaghers party to celebrate his graduation despite his earlier protestation of a party.

After Mickey (Noel Fisher) refuses to tell Ian to stay, Ian joins the Armed Forces using Lip’s identification as proof of age. The scene with Ian and Mickey is probably one of Fisher’s best. His being unable to admit his feelings for Ian, other than his choked up, whispered “Don’t…”—or his homosexuality, for that matter—is not only sad, but tremendously hurtful to Ian. Running away from your problems, however, never solves anything. And once Lip registers at MIT, the jig will be up for Ian. You can’t be in two places at the same time—in the Army and away at college. This presents some interesting scenarios: Will the Army kick Ian out once they know he’s falsified his identity? Will Ian’s actions cost Lip his “full boat” scholarship? Will Lip even go to college, or will he decide to stay with Mandy (Emma Greenwell)? While it appears Lip and Ian have left for good, I doubt TPTB (the powers that be) at Shameless will let them ride off into the sunset. After all, we still have the unfinished story lines between Ian and Mickey, and Lip and Mandy.

Fiona and Jimmy

 Beto (Bernardo de Paula) hands Fiona a wad of cash and tells her Jimmy is gone forever.

Beto (Bernardo de Paula) hands Fiona a wad of cash and tells her Jimmy is gone forever.

Season three has been filled with raw emotion for many characters, but particularly so for Fiona and Jimmy. Now that she knows Jimmy isn’t coming back, she finagles a full-time job at World Wide Cup. I don’t blame her; after all, who wouldn’t want all the benefits associated with the job? But who else thinks something will happen that will cost her that job next season? Courtesy of Mark Mylod’s impressive directing, I get the distinct impression working at World Wide Cup is going to end up with Fiona feeling like a caged animal, particularly when Connie (Maile Flanagan) tells her, “Congratulations, Fiona. You remind me of me; 22 years ago I started here, at that very desk,” and the way the camera pans over Fiona’s and her co-worker’s cubicles, making them all look like mice in a little maze. Rossum is fantastic as Fiona, but especially so in “Survival of the Fittest.” She does an excellent job portraying Fiona as she handles Jimmy’s disappearance, going from denial to angry, to bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance, much like people do with death. And that’s what the writers would have us believe—that Jimmy is dead. But are we certain he won’t be back? Isn’t it possible Nando (Pêpê Rapazote) has forced Estefania (Stephanie Fantauzzi) and Jimmy to move to Michigan so Jimmy can go to med school without any interference from Fiona?

Frank and his kids

One of the most touching scenes of "Survival of the Fittest."

One of the most touching scenes of “Survival of the Fittest.”

As usual, I’ve saved Frank for last. As I said in last week’s review of “Order Room Service,” and as is evident in “Survival of the Fittest,” Frank finally becomes a real parent. What joy he takes in Lip graduating high school! Of course, that leads to Frank becoming deathly ill after the drunken celebratory dinner and fun skating trip he and Lip share. Lip is a lot like Frank—after all, it’s his suggestion to “dine and dash”—and I’m afraid he is unable to attend college and become the middle class person Fiona and Mandy have been championing all season. But it’s Carl’s (Ethan Cutkosky) scene at Frank’s hospital bedside that was the real emotional kicker for me. The honesty of the love between father and son, when Carl says, “shaving your head…so the sun rays can heal you like they did with my cancer,” shines brightly through the mere utterance of those words, to say nothing of how the scene closes with silent smiles between the two, and a kiss on Frank’s cheek before Carl leaves. This scene alone warrants my five-star rating of “Survival of the Fittest.”

Let's hope Frank takes Fiona's words to heart.

Let’s hope Frank takes Fiona’s words to heart.

And then there’s Fiona’s visit to the hospital where she lists for Frank all the reasons he should stop drinking. Not only is the scene comical, it’s sad. Again Rossum does an excellent job with the way she makes you experience what Fiona is feeling, right down to the tears. And let’s not forget Macy, not only in “Survival of the Fittest,” but throughout the entire season. He’s gone from his usual raucous, shameless self, to a caring parent, and then finally, as a man facing death unless he changes his habits. It almost seems like he’s considering what Fiona tells him—until he says, “But what if I don’t want to change?”

And therein lies the crux of the show for next season. Can Frank change? Does he want to change? Can he really become the kind of loving, nurturing parent all the Gallaghers need? What exactly does the final scene of the episode mean—with Frank stumbling down the snowy streets of Chicago, wearing only his hospital gown with his ass naked for all the world to see?


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All photos © 2013 Showtime/CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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© 2013, Linda. All rights reserved.


Love TV, movies, and books--mostly mysteries, with a good love story thrown in every now and then. I have four adopted dogs who I adore. I love trying new recipes, and enjoy eating what I make. English language perfectionist. Reading in bed, Italian food, warm weather, the beach, all types of games = favs!


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    • Bergereen on July 29, 2013 at 8:52 am
    • Reply

    Hi ! Great review and great episode. I can’t wait for season 4 !
    I loved the scenes between Franck & Lip, and Franck & Carl… so touching. This is the first time that Franck is not pissing me off. I am so sad about Fiona, and about Ian & Mickey too… This is the first time too where I felt bad for Mickey. I am sorry for Karen but she is not going to miss me and I like more Mandy. I hope that Lip is going to go to college. I am happy for Kev & V.

    I hope that they all will be back in January, except Jimmy if he is really dead (I heard that the actor who played Ian would be back half time ?!).

    I never noticed what you said : Karen is maybe faking (truly possible), maybe that Jimmy is not dead… you are an investigator ^^

    Sorry, I just finished the season 3 so I post my comment now, but I have just one question : what about the 2 parents (adoptive family of Carl and Liam) who wanted to adopt them ?
    Sorry for my English… thanks !

    • Bergereen on July 27, 2013 at 4:47 pm
    • Reply

    Hi ! Great review and great episode. I can’t wait for season 4 !
    I loved the scenes between Franck & Lip, and Franck & Carl… so touching. First time Franck is not pissing me off. I am so sad about Fiona, and about Ian & Mickey too… First time too where I felt bad for Mickey. I just wanted to say “go back and talk to him”. I am sorry for Karen but she is not going to miss me and I like more Mandy. The “good news” were only for V & Kev and for Lip… I hope that they all will be back in January, except Jimmy if he is really dead (I heard that the actor who played Ian would maybe be back half time ?! Not possible…).
    I never noticed what you said : Karen is maybe faking (truly possible), maybe Jimmy is not dead… you are an investigator ^^
    Sorry, I just finished the season 3 so I post my comment now, but I have just one question, so I hope that it’s not too late : what about the 2 parents (adoptive family of Carl and Liam) who wanted to adopt them ?
    Sorry for my english… thanks !

    • Joanna on April 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm
    • Reply

    The show is based on the British Shameless that has been on for I believe 8 years or more. I’ve watched a couple of the original British shameless episodes on netflix and it is practically the same script. So I think they will probably have many more seasons of the show knowing this unless, William H. Macy decides to leave or one of the other main characters like Emmy Rossum. I am tempted go and see if Jimmy is alive or dead by watching the rest of the British episodes. But I think I won’t cause that would be too big of a spoiler.

    1. Hi Joanna,

      Thanks for your comment. I can’t imagine either Macy or Rossum leaving the show given how popular it is. If I were you, I wouldn’t want to know either. I want to see it unfold on the show so I can watch with sweet anticipation.

    • Ben on April 10, 2013 at 6:53 pm
    • Reply

    As the original British version ends its 11 year run, it is interesting that only Frank remains and the focus of the show has shifted to a different family as other Gallagher characters left the show. I wonder if this is telling us something about where the American version is going, so all bets are off about what happens to the characters and when. It’s a show that keeps you guessing and keeps surprising you, so be ready for anything next season. It’s terrific and Rossum and Macy deserve Emmys.

    1. Very interesting, Ben. I haven’t kept up with the British version so I was unaware. I read on Cameron Monaghan’s twitterfeed, though, that he has not yet been confirmed for next season. Of course, that could just be a ploy.

    • Bill on April 10, 2013 at 1:41 pm
    • Reply

    Emmy Rossum is so good it’s scary. The acting on Shameless is phenomenal and the show is vastly underrated by the academy.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree, Bill. Thanks for the comment!

    • Ben on April 10, 2013 at 1:04 pm
    • Reply

    If Frank does not return then I think the show will end or at least change. He is the heart of this show. These are his children and in one or another they are all like him. The only way Frank would not return would be if Macy decided not to come back. There are always parallel stories going on with this show, and Jimmy and Karen are one of those parallels. Jimmy is the love of Fiona’s life, and Karen is the love of Lip’s life. They both left and came back, and now they are both gone again. I expect that at sometime (not next season maybe) they might return, but the writers are taking a chance with characters leaving and coming back and leaving and returning, unless it becomes a common thread. Karen is too wily and manipulative for one to think she is now out there somewhere. Her mind is going all the time. I expect to see her again. The show needs her and Lip together on and off.

    I’ll be watching for Nurse Jackie (great) and Big C, but the big one, and my very favorite is the Borgias. Now – there’s a show.

    1. Thanks for the additional comment, Ben. You make some excellent points about Jimmy and Karen, although I don’t agree that Frank is the heart of the show. I think Fiona is. However, I don’t think Frank will be written out of the show. It just wouldn’t be the same. Besides, you know the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” The writers would be wise to adhere to that old adage.

      I hope you’ll be reading our reviews of Nurse Jackie and The Big C. Judy and I are also big fans of The Borgias. Unfortunately, neither one of us has the time to review it.

    • Cassie on April 10, 2013 at 2:44 am
    • Reply

    Hi, this is my first time coming across your review of the episodes. I wanted to point out something that I don’t think anyone else mentioned. As we now know after correcting it, Carole lied to Kev and Vee about being pregnant after their first session. While she claims that she just loved the idea of being loved and needed by her daughter, I can’t get an image from an earlier episode out of my head. A few episodes back, at the very end (not sure which one) Kev gets a text from Carole and he first tells Vee the truth, then lies after he sees her angry reaction. The text was something along the lines of (cant sleep, thinking of you…. or something of that nature.) I think Carole was having way too many emotions overcome her within this situation. Also, Kevin didn’t stay with the truth about Carole’s text! Could he be cheating with Carole? Or was he worried about Vee and Carole’s relationship? Or maybe he didn’t want to screw up all the time spent trying to get Carole pregnant. What ever the reason, I think we are going to hear more about that in the future.

    1. You make a good point, Cassie. I remember the text you’re talking about. While I don’t think Kev is cheating on Vee with Carole, I wouldn’t write off the possibility of a problem between the three next season. Wouldn’t that be shameless!? 😉

    • Bryan on April 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm
    • Reply

    vee’s mom is not pregnant w/ someone else’s baby. it is Kevins. she got preg. on their first time and just wanted to keep doing it. you’re a reviewer and missed that? awful.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Bryan. There’s no need to be disrespectful, though. Everyone makes mistakes, and unfortunately, I missed on this point.

    • Niketa on April 9, 2013 at 9:18 am
    • Reply

    Hi. Great review! The only thing is that I don’t think Carol is pregnant by ‘someone else.’ She seemingly got pregnant the first time she and Kevin tried, but didn’t take a test and led he and Vee to believe that she wasn’t… Thus ‘baby making sessions’ round two…

    1. Thanks for the positive comment, Niketa. You’re absolutely correct. I went back and re-watched the episode, and have no idea how I missed that. Kev and Vee will make great parents, don’t you think?

    • Sean on April 9, 2013 at 12:59 am
    • Reply

    Veronica and Kevin: No, silly, Kevin knocked up Vee on their first try, she wasn’t already pregnant. She just didn’t want to stop so she didn’t tell them.

    1. Yes, Sean, I realize that now. Thanks for the comment.

    • Aaron on April 8, 2013 at 8:49 pm
    • Reply

    Solid review, but I believe you misread the Kevin and Veronica Situation. Carole didn’t say she was pregnant with someone else’s child. What happened was she got pregnant the first time they tried, but she hid that fact so they could keep trying, whatever her reasons.

    1. Thanks, Aaron. I appreciate your comment. I guess Carole was just enjoying herself a tad more than she should have!

    • Ben on April 8, 2013 at 8:38 pm
    • Reply

    This show is about family, so of course all of them will be back. I don’t expect either Ian or Lip to stay away too long. In addition to the false ID, one needs a high school diploma (no GED) to go into military service these days, so that is another catch, especially since it is supposed to be produced before even getting on that bus. There are enough reasons for both of them to return and go back to their ways. This is “Shameless,” after all, and the show needs all of them back to act accordingly. Frank can’t carry it by himself, and this is about a family trying to rise above their status, so they will have to stay there in the long run for this show to succeed or not become something else. Can’t wait.

    1. Excellent points, Ben. I had no idea an actual high school diploma is required to join the Army. I guess that’s what ‘they’ call “taking license.” I, too, fully expect everyone to return, except for Karen, although that is a possibility as I pointed out in my review. What do you think about the show returning without Frank, though? I can’t wait either!

      Please keep watching and commenting. If you’re as much a Showtime fan as I am, I’ll be watching and reviewing Nurse Jackie next, and Judy will be doing the same for The Big C. Stay tuned!

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