Shameless Review: “Tell Me You Fucking Need Me” (5×07)

tell me you fucking need me shameless

After a much needed kick in the pants, it’s nice to see Shameless mostly keeping up the momentum. “Tell Me You Fucking Need Me” is perhaps more interesting in concept than it ultimately is in execution, but the concept is so strong, and goes so far in uniting the several disparate elements of the season to date, that it’s sufficient to make a for a satisfying episode.

Obviously the episode is named for Sammie’s plea to Frank, right after she shoots him in the arm in the middle of the Gallagher living room and starts literally pouring salt in his wounds. This is quite the scene, to put it mildly. On the one hand it is outrageous in the way that Frank stories so often are, but on the other it taps into the unbridled, unabashedly crazy pathos that also often runs beneath the surface of the show. Sammie’s assault on Frank comes after a particularly galling speech in which Frank admonishes Lip on the nature of adulthood and responsibility, which nicely sets up the audience for wanting to see Sammie put a bullet in her dad. Her place on the show has been somewhat extraneous for a while now, but with this latest, absurd development, she brings into relief many of the other conflicts in the show, too. All of the other Gallaghers have moved away from Frank, emotionally speaking, but the same basic needs continue to drive them in their new relationships.

“Tell me you fucking need me.” Who has been more driven by the need to be needed than Fiona? Until very recently she was the lynchpin of the Gallagher clan, the only thing keeping them together, but now she’s rarely even home, and Sammie has basically usurped her role. Subsequently Fiona is floundering a little bit. To her credit she immediately comes clean with Gus, and they give it an honest attempt at mature discussion. Sure, instead Gus punches Jimmy in the face, but it turns out Jimmy deserved it. The episode ends with Fiona rejecting Jimmy, and, presumably, deciding she’ll finally make it work with Gus in a real way. Has she realized that Gus needs her? Does it feel good for her to need someone else, for once in her life? These are the questions that are worth investigating; they’re the questions that made this latest (and hopefully last) go-around with Jimmy worthwhile.

“Tell me you fucking need me.” Mickey fucking needs Ian, and he needs Ian to acknowledge that need, and reciprocate it. But Ian is in no shape to verbalize any of that right now, and that inability is crushing Mickey. The scene where Mickey and Fiona visit him is heartbreaking. It’s expertly shot, too, with the camera work mimicking Ian’s utter lack of focus, zipping around the room, zooming on the background, barely registering Fiona and Mickey. It ends with Ian announcing that he’s tired and leaving them, mere minutes after greeting them.

Sometimes need can be alienating, until we acknowledge it and begin to let it go. Lip has spent this season trying to rid himself of his need for his Gallagher identity, his need to be seen as a specific person, a hood rat made good rather than just a normal college kid with normal problems. He makes a major step in that direction today, after the Gallagher clan’s inability to even forward a simple piece of mail jeopardizes his entire college career, in a deceptively simple way—he opens a P.O. box. Lip is his own man, with his own (almost an) address.

“Tell me you fucking need me.” Veronica needs Kevin, doesn’t she? But she needs him in a way that she can’t vocalize, because, I think, deep down, she knows that it makes her a shitty person. She can’t deal with the fact that Kevin has prioritized her children over her, without acknowledging that it means she hasn’t prioritized her children over herself. It’s selfish, full stop. I’m still fascinated by the idea of this marriage dynamic, but I think the story has started to fail in the execution. How far can this feud really go? Does V really have no attachment at all to her children? Was she so uninterested in starting a family in the past, and we in the audience just didn’t notice? The obvious answer is no, and I think the show fully intends the answer to be no. But with that being the case, the huge extent to which their fight ahs consumed their relationship becomes pretty unreasonable as far as the narrative is concerned. Svetlana’s introduction to this whole mess exacerbates the issue—if Kevin will accept a blowjob from her, why not just fuck V in the first place? The idea is great, but it’s time to start bringing this story back around to a conclusion.

More than anything, “Tell Me You Fucking Need Me” slows down the pace a bit after last week’s breakneck caper, and it’s mostly to the show’s credit. I love these deeper dives into the character’s needs, the emotions that drive them and what they need from themselves and from each other. This is a solid character piece, with some questionable plotting but raising questions so engaging that it hardly matters.

Stray Observations:

  • OF COURSE Chuckie has explosive diarrhea in the mornings. At any rate, Chuckie and Carl attending school together deserves a spin-off. Chuckie is the best visual gag Shameless ever devised, and he gets some choice dialogue this week too: “I painted this! And no one made fun of me! And Uncle Carl made me his slave!”
  • “I got you nunchucks and condoms.” “I know, I got one on right now.”
  • V and Kevin’s babies are fucking adorable.
  • These scenes at the psych ward are ROUGH. Ian is completely out of it—why do we treat mental health patients like they’re in prison? The parallels that Shameless is drawing can’t be coincidental.
  • I will never tire of hearing Mickey self-identify as Ian’s boyfriend.
  • Debbie gets a boyfriend! This story has been slight, but the scene where he kisses her is super cute anyway.