SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Father Frank, Full of Grace,” the series finale of “Showtime,” available on-demand now.
This review appeared in Variety : https://variety.com/2021/tv/recaps/shameless-series-finale-recap-1234948212/
After 11 seasons of debauchery, drinking, and downright denial, “Shameless” and the Gallagher crew said farewell in the April 11 series finale, “Father Frank, Full of Grace” with an expected ending and more than a few lingering questions about the surviving characters.
The episode followed immediately on the penultimate episode’s final moments, with Frank (William H. Macy) having overdosed on the family sofa and not one member of the household even slightly concerned that the patriarch may have finally exited this world. Only Liam (Christian Isaiah) had any insight as to his dad’s mental health status when those heroin needles reappeared, but rather than call an ambulance, the family collectively decided to grab a cup of coffee and carry on with their day as they waited to see what would become of Frank. Of course there were plenty of big life decisions to be made in the meantime, so when Frank woke up and wandered off, no one other than Liam took note. This was a series finale and Frank had come close to meeting his maker many times before, after all, and there were other stories to follow.
Debbie never explicitly made a decision as to her future by the end of the episode, but it seemed clear that she was willing to follow this newfound love interest to whatever sad end it would bring her and her daughter. So much for all of the internal work she did last week to understand why she just can’t find a good relationship, huh?
Ian (Cameron Monaghan) and Mickey (Noel Fisher) were the opposite of that, as they pieced together the furniture for their new lives outside of the Gallagher residence.
While the previous week’s episode dedicated ample time to their new living situation, this week introduced their future (off-screen) plans by posing the question of kids. Forever in search of normalcy, Ian was all for the idea, while Mickey seemed gutted by the notion of being a crappy father. Will the couple ever go down that baby road? Fans will never know for sure, as this couple’s storyline wrapped with the one-year anniversary of their wedding, which was celebrated with a mask-free surprise party at The Alibi. But, fan fiction following their adventures to adopt to take in one of the neglected Milkovich brood, which Ian posed as an option, will surely be in abundance.
Speaking of The Alibi, the bar took up a surprising amount of finale time with its own storyline in Sunday’s episode, as Veronica (Shanola Hampton) and Kevin (Steve Howey) fielded an offer to sell and the locals wondered if it would be the last great establishment to fall victim to the gentrification going on around them. However, after Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) spent the episode doling out parking tickets to rich folks who were abusing disabled persons parking spots, he and his new police bud Arthur (Joshua Malina) mused about what a great cop bar the place could be. They called Kevin over to talk pricing — but that negotiation will remain privy to only those involved, as nothing concrete came of it by the time the end credits rolled. Those who want to imagine the Alibi won’t fall to the fate of Patsy’s Pies can certainly do so, and doing so may also imagine a better future for Carl, who became an unexpected positive force for the family in the later seasons.
Then there was the Lip of it all. His character has had so many ups and downs over the years, and in the episodes leading up to the finale, things were on the downswing. His attempt to sell stolen bikes went south, with the cops coming to his house; he had to hide and then dispose of an infamous painting Frank stole; he lost out on a deal to sell the house to a developer, and he re-introduced alcohol into his life, even if he didn’t slide down the slippery slope he did years prior. In the finale episode he fumbled through delivering food while chewing on his own problems, namely that he may be a father again. (The series failed to resolve whether Tami, played by Kate Miner, truly was pregnant, let alone what they would choose to do if she was.) Arguably, things were looking a bit brighter when an old friend from the neighborhood expressed interest in buying the vacant lot next to the Gallagher house and Lip asked him how much he had for his house, too. The answer was only $75,000 (a far cry from the $200,000 he could have received from the developer), but Ian offered to give Lip his share if the deal closed.
And don’t think we forgot about Frank! The biological patriarch got the biggest sendoff of them all as the show followed him through a daze that could have been due to brain damage from the recent OD, his recently-diagnosed dementia or his surprise new diagnosis of COVID-19 — or some combination of all of the above.
Frank visited a church, at which he seemed to think he was an altar boy, and the priest called an ambulance for him. Taken to the hospital for one final time, Frank spent his final moments alone, remembering his family (including Fiona, a.k.a. Emmy Rossum) through flashbacks from the show’s earliest episodes.
As the episode wrapped up, his family was celebrating at the Alibi while he was dying in the hospital. No one was alerted to his status, just as no one found the note he’d left before shooting up in the penultimate episode. The audience, though, was treated to his words, as Macy read them in voiceover. Frank’s final words were observations about and advice to his children, including that Lip all-too-often gets in his own way.
In the end the hospital-gown-clad character instead reprised his seat at The Alibi as a ghost of sorts, watching over his beloved, even though no one could see him. Then, as he floated up out of the bar, over the streets below and eventually over the city itself, the remaining characters broke out into a rendition of “The Way We Get By” while a luxury car went up in flames.
“People say you can’t drink your troubles away,” Frank said in the letter. “I say you’re just not drinking enough. Guess that’s it. Not much left to say really. Except time’s precious. Don’t fucking waste it. Have a good time. I sure as hell did.”
It was a death that felt inevitable, but between the other-worldly element of him floating above the city and the additional mid-credits scene of the crematory oven exploding while processing his alcohol-riddled body, it was a death that did come not without the quintessential dark humor of this series.
And while the finale left many questions concerning the fates of the remaining Gallagher clan, one thing viewers know for sure is that these characters are no longer constrained by the addicted man who was without a doubt more of a dead weight than an anchor. Now that they’re free of him, maybe hope can finally prevail.
Or perhaps not. Those fates are obviously up to the audiences to decide.