We’ve watched the young characters—and actors— of Shameless grow up before our eyes, and so it’s remarkable to be in the seventh season, seeing little Liam old enough to go off to school by himself, Ian dealing with the vagaries of a grown-folk relationship, and Lip completing his first stint in rehab (but maybe not his last). Sunday night’s premiere, “Hiraeth,” further solidified that Shameless is the kind of show that engenders familial ties in viewers, our vested interest in the working-class Gallagher family’s ever-tenuous well being as urgent as Fiona’s (Emmy Rossum)—though perhaps a bit more hopeful.
But as the Gallagher kids grow up—in spite of their absentee addicted patriarch Frank (the brilliant William H. Macy) and his catlike ability to never die—Fiona seems to be letting go, just a little bit, in the service of forging her own path. Temporarily destroyed, no doubt, by the way her wedding was sabotaged by Frank (and, you know, Sean’s heroin addiction), she’s back to brass tacks with a “Warrior” tattoo, telling Lip (Jeremy Allen White) that she’s done with dating and focusing fully on her future, which is to say, focusing on what she always is—making enough money to keep her large family afloat. And yet, having had a taste of freedom in her quieter moments with Sean, she also seems to be sloughing off the motherly instincts, remembering she’s just a big sister. She doesn’t have to pick up after Debbie (Emma Kenney), goddammit.
Deb, though, is coming into her own as best she can, now an exhausted teen mom to baby Franny who’s lonely enough to talk to some bougie adult moms at the rich person playground. But she’s still a high schooler, and after being snubbed, she devises both the ultimate revenge and the best Craigslist scam on television: stealing offensively overpriced prams—the $4000 Silver Cross Balmoral, which is actually fucking real?!?!?!??!—and flipping them for cash to employ a “night nurse,” who will take care of Franny through the night so Deb can enjoy high school rested and pleasant. Kenney, as Deb, is just getting better, using the character’s sweet nature and innocent moon face as a gateway into felony criminal mischief. “I found it in the park!” she tells Lip, cheerily.
Surely this will backfire later in the season, but it’s a delicious little storyline that exemplifies the way Shameless spoofs the culture and impulses of rich people (or, hell, even middle class people) while letting the Gallaghers win in their own little industrious, scammer ways. The thing about Shameless is that, even if you think stealing and hustling is wrong, its impulses play to the Robin Hood effect—intrinsically good people behaving badly in the name of survival—but never without nuanced consequences. (Recall the way young Carl’s party crib, funded by his gun-running business, was brought back to reality after his best friend Nick beat a kid to death.) It’s a brilliant play and why Shameless is so great, the way it effortlessly toggles between drama and comedy, and usually doesn’t distinguish between the two. Besides, though, who buys a $4000 baby stroller and then leaves it unattended in a public park?! Only people who can afford to lose it.