"Shameless" Episode 2 "Frank the Plank"

1/20/2011 Posted by Admin

"Shameless" Episode 2 "Frank the Plank"

Television Review

By our guest blogger, Nick Hanover

Just as I thought it would, "Shameless" is beginning to become its own show, with its own visual style and narrative structure. The series' second episode spent its first half exploring the idea of ritual and patterns, framing the life of the Gallaghers through their daily habits, beginning with a quick montage of what happens in the bathroom all day and continuing from there to the Alibi Room, Frank's favorite haunt, and so on.

The show uses similar montage sequences all throughout the episode and while it's not exactly a new idea, their approach is different. It's also a much more effective way to communicate how the lives of the Gallaghers are structured than the pilot's clumsy voice-over narration (which they appear to have given up entirely on). The montage sequences effortlessly establish how caught up in habits and patterns the Gallaghers are and how necessary they are to the success of the family-stealing milk and supplies from the milkman by offering him an impossible-to-ignore diversion, or raiding the neighborhood's newspapers for coupons before anyone can wake up.  All of these are much-needed cogs in the Gallagher family machine.

During the Gallaghers' evening ritual of watching "Deadliest Catch," the narrative of this particular episode is introduced as well (or at least, its first half is). After running into Joel Murray's Eddie Jackson at the Alibi and getting headbutted for his son's transgressions from the pilot, Frank comes home and returns the favor to Ian, setting off Steve in the process. Steve attempts to take Frank to task but the family begs him to butt out and so he does--at first.

For the next 30 minutes, give or take, the episode is highly entertaining and effective, focusing on the family's desperate attempts to find Frank after he doesn't come home to cash his disability check, which they've taken as the ultimate omen since it's the only thing Frank can remember to show up for. Steve is bewildered by the family's reaction to Frank's disappearance, viewing Frank as a weight that drags the family down. The search for Frank introduces us to more of the Gallagher's neighbors and peers, while also offering up a larger sketch of their pocket of Chicago. It's a tightly paced, well-written set-up and it has a great pay off, one that really should have ended the episode.

Instead, we're treated to 30 more minutes or so of plot dragging. Fiona and Steve fight because he, well, kidnapped her father and dropped him in Toronto. Frank is angry and takes it out on the kids and winds up back at the Alibi, where he once again runs into Freddie.  This time Freddie confides in him and accidentally sets the wheels in motion for Frank's next plot--seducing Joan Cusack's Mrs. Jackson.

Almost nothing that's introduced in the back half of this episode would seem to have much importance for the rest of the series as a whole. It doesn't offer any new glimpses of Gallagher life, only reiterating things we've long since gotten. Worse, it brings in a twist that's so awkward and poorly written that it can't help but fall flat on its face. Agoraphobic Mrs. Jackson, you see, is really kinky as all hell and in particular appears to have a thing for pegging. Though she basically rapes Frank, it's all in "good fun" and now he's her kept husband.

"Shameless" almost seems to think that it has to drop things like this insane, insensitive plot development (which almost undoubtedly will not continue outside this episode or, at the furthest, the next) in order to make its title seem more fitting. But it doesn't. I don't think viewers are looking for this show to shock them with needless nudity (once again courtesy of Kev and Veronica) or pointless, out-of-nowhere kinkdom, but are instead looking to the shameless definition that matches the kids' morals, a survival tactic they've absolutely had to adopt. If the show can stick to plots like its first half and learn to let go of the second, we'll be on our way to something great.

Conversation Starters

* Bet you never thought you'd see Joan Cusack holding up a gigantic white dildo, eh?

* Do you think there's any particular reason why Frank has such a hatred of Canada or was it just a result of his situation? Either way, the Canada barbs were hilarious.

* Does anyone honestly think this thing with Frank as a kept husband is going to continue longer than this?

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