Better late than never, right? For viewers like myself who were growing restless with Shameless’s fifth season so far, “Crazy Love” is a breath of fresh air. Not only is this handily the best episode of the season, it also sits comfortably among the very best episodes of the series to date. The process of setting up the various plot bombs that go off in this episode has been scattershot and tedious to say the least, but the payoff here is so good that it’s hard to hold a grudge.
Ian takes center stage this week, as his psychotic break throws most of the rest of the cast into crisis and imbues the episode with a crucial sense of purpose and momentum. It’s probably no coincidence that an episode that skews dramatic is more favorable to me, but man, what I wouldn’t give for Shameless to be consistently on this level. As it stands, this episode is packed with emotional gut punches, and is just astounding on a scene-by-scene basis.
How good is “Crazy Love”? I’m even amenable to Jimmy/Steve, that’s how good. As annoyed as I’ve been by this character’s continued presence on the show—and even as Fiona quite deservedly beat the shit out of him, I was still rankled by it—his reappearance ultimately serves to force Fiona to come to terms with several of the more complicated aspects of her life, and the resulting conflicts and scenes really are tremendous.
Emmy Rossum has been wanting for a truly great showcase this year, and “Crazy Love” gives it to her in spades. Her confusion and indecision with regard to Jimmy/Steve belies a fragility to the character that has been on the backburner recently. This is a side of Fiona that she does not let others, or the audience, often see, and so this is yet another way in which Jimmy/Steve brings out the worst in her. And so the pair of sex scenes toward the episode’s end function as two sides of the same coin—or, really, as the same side of the coin. Rossum’s performance as Fiona begins crying at Jimmy to stop fucking her is stunning in its tragic beauty, and her silent sex with Gus is somehow even more affecting. Just really great stuff in the Fiona department this week, as finally her story is firing on all cylinders.
Speaking of firing on all cylinders: the writing for Ian this year hasn’t done a truly great story justice at all times, but Cameron Monaghan brings it in this episode, and the writing rises to the occasion as well. His trip to Florida with baby Yevgeny has the feel of a darkly comic road trip, but pulls of a pretty amazing narrative feat, becoming more desperately sad with each new incident. Ian’s pit stop at a convenience store is particularly heartbreaking (though one wonders why no one thinks they should call the police at this juncture), and his final freakout at the police is bad news through and through.
But the real hero of this story is Mickey Milkovich. Noel Fischer has spend the past several seasons earning his promotion to series regular over and over again, and I’m not sure that he has ever made a stronger case than he does in “Crazy Love.” His panicked reaction to Ian’s initial departure, his hesitant acquiescence to bringing the rest of the Gallagher clan in for help, and his final heartbreaking goodbye to Ian as he checks into a mental health facility show so many shades to this wonderfully complex character, and Fischer is constantly revealing a new facet, a new layer, a heretofore unsuspected moment of depth. He carries more than his share of the emotional weight of the episode—I can’t compliment this performance enough.
If I had to quibble with “Crazy Love,” it would be on two scores. First, I still am not feeling it with Carl this season, and I worry that a story that has been played for laughs thus far (questionably so) will take a sharp dramatic turn that the show is not equipped to handle.
Second, I really wish the show would have the balls to kill off Frank. His boy is thoroughly rejecting his liver, because he is too irresponsible to take his medicine, and because he is willfully poisoning his body, because he is a selfish prick of a man who, frankly, deserves to die. Instead he gets a third chance at life, and will re-learn the same lessons he has time and again, and presumably will thumb his nose at god at the end of it all anyway. If that’s the story we’re telling, fine, but there’s no value in telling it over and over again the way Shameless has been so determined to.
Those are quibbles, though, and so much of “Crazy Love” is too arresting to worry much about them. Even the scenes with Frank have a haunting beauty to them. The episode is a visual home run too, with some beautiful shots of the Florida landscape, and a great tracking shot of Ian checking in to the facility that echoes Fiona’s arrival at prison in “Iron City.” In many ways “Crazy Love” feels like the true beginning of the season, and it’s a welcome one indeed.
- Lip has been such a non-entity this season. I really would like for that to change. But hey, he’s an RA now, so there’s that.
- Kevin’s scene in the park is played for laughs, but is also a pretty clever riff on his conflict with Veronica. In so many stories their roles would be reverse, and V would complain that Kev was insufficiently devoted to the kids.
- “Shouldn’t somebody call the police?” Suddenly Jimmy/Steve is reasonable. Of course the Gallaghers all shout “NO!” in unison.
- Debbie’s first day of high school goes about as expected, as suddenly everyone wants to fight her. This story is on slow burn, but again, I’m so happy for an age appropriate love interest here that I’m fine with things slowing down for poor Debs.