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Shameless [US], “Aunt Ginger” (1.03) and “Casey Casden” (1.04)

Debbie and little Casey Casden walking down an alleyway.
A review of the episodes, “Aunt Ginger” (written by Nancy M. Pimental and directed by Stephen Hopkins) and “Casey Casden” (written by Cindy Caponera and directed by Todd Holland), after the jump…

“Why is Mandy Milovich crying? Who did what to Mandy Milkovich!?” – Fiona Gallagher

The show spends a lot of time building Fiona as the hero who sweeps in and constantly fixes the kids’ messes, so the line above really encapsulates how every moment of her life, including a cute moment with cop boyfriend (briefly) Tony is again interrupted by her family. That, and Emmy Rossum‘s reading of the line always makes me laugh. The mix of frustration and “what is it this time?” and general ‘mom-ness’ into it is brilliant.

Shameless has a big cast, and it’ll take some time before it can service all its characters. Carl, for now, is merely a walking punchline (for those who think budding serial killers are funny…?), and Liam’s a baby, so the next ones in line for development after Fiona/Steve/Lip/Ian are Debbie and Veronica/Kev. Both of these stories featured little Debbie in a big way, first with her bonding with ‘aunt Ginger’ and then kidnapping a child, while Kev got some focus in “Casey Casden” (1.04) as we learn that he’s marrying Veronica – that is, once he deals with his secret current marriage.

“Aunt Ginger” (1.03) was a very strong episode, for a number of reasons. The cast was well-serviced, with good stories for Fiona, Debbie and Ian. Even other characters got great moments, like Lip taking the beatdown for Ian and not going down without a fight. It introduced a fun new character in Mandy, Ian’s classmate who is utterly shocked that a boy could not want her, who becomes a best friend when he outs himself to her. Debbie’s bonding with aunt Ginger, or at least the fake aunt Ginger, was really heartwarming, which made her reaction to losing her all the more powerful.

Debbie’s intense connection to Ginger, someone who liked to pay her attention, cook with her andtalk to her for long stretches at a time, is one of the reasons “Casey Casden” (1.04) works pretty well, even as ridiculous as it is. In the crush of the Gallagher family, a sensitive girl like Debbie seems to often get overlooked; where Lip and Ian have each other, Debbie doesn’t have someone to share that intense sibling bond with. Liam’s too young, Carl’s a budding sociopath, and Fiona’s become their surrogate mom, so Debbie often gets left out. So she craves someone – it’s why she first likes Steve, and its why her bond with Ginger develops so strong so fast, and its why she takes little Casey Casden without considering the consequences. She sees a kid crying, with nobody paying them attention, and she knows how it feels – because she feels it all the time. So she “rescues” him, and the gang have to come up with a scheme to get him back to his parents.

As “Casden” felt like a pretty Fiona-light episode, it rested largely on the ensemble, and it didn’t feel like many characters got ‘showcase moments’ like in previous episodes. The closes we come to that here, I feel, is Debbie using the money from Casey’s father to buy a new water heater for the family. Everyone got scenes, but no moments really hit home, beyond that and Kev’s proposal to Veronica, which was sweet.

You likely won’t read much about the Frank side of the show in these reviews. I don’t like the character, and the diversions to Sheila’s residence really feel like diversions, so I barely remember what goes on there at end of episode. William H. Macy, Joan Cusack and the rest are doing good work, but that entire plotline doesn’t appeal to me, really.

I do have one worry, beyond the uselessness of Frank. That’s two family appliances being replaced (plus the truck Steve offered Fiona) with a windfall of money and three kidnappings inside of four episodes, so I’m hoping Shameless isn’t going to go to the same wells over and over again. But as long as it keeps fleshing out these characters in new and fun ways, I’m not worried.

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