SHAMELESS 1.02 ‘Frank the Plank’

Frank Gallagher finds himself stuck in Canada and then handcuffed to a bed.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

SHAMELESS 1.02 'Frank the Plank'

Episode Title: "Frank the Plank"

Writers: Paul Abbott and John Wells

Director: John Wells

Previously on "Shameless":

The Gallagher family of six kids and one absent, constantly drunk father, Frank (William H. Macy) were rocked when oldest daughter Fiona (Emmy Rossum) met and fell for a car thief named Steve (Justin Chatwin), who actually seemed to care more about the family than Frank does. Around the same time, the oldest brother, Phillip "Lip" Gallagher (Jeremy Allen White) discovered that his younger brother Ian (Cameron Monaghan) was possibly gay. To test out his theory, Lip brought Ian to one of his study sessions with Karen Jackson (Laura Wiggins), who happily gave Ian a blow job under the kitchen table.

Unfortunately, Karen’s clown obsessed father Eddie Jackson (Joel Murray) caught them in the act and chased the Gallagher brothers out of the house before abandoning his family. Lip later learned that Ian was having an affair with his male, Muslim boss at the corner store, but he later promised to keep his brother’s secret.

Story:

Steve drops by the Gallagher home and brings food as they gather to watch some kind of fishing show (Deadliest Catch?). Meanwhile, Frank enjoys his time at the local bar before he encounters Eddie, who violently headbutts him in the nose. Eddie tells him to pass it on to Ian and to keep him away from his daughter. When Frank gets home, he headbutts Ian and bloodies his nose as well. Steve stands up for the family, but Fiona throws him out rather than allowing him to fight Frank. And although Steve follows Fiona’s wishes, he stalks Frank the next day with his car.

Soon enough, Frank turns up missing. But what worries the family is that it happened on the day his disabilities check was scheduled to arrive and they tear up the neighborhood looking for him. When a dead body turns up in the area, the entire family races over to see if it’s him and they actually cheer when they see that it’s not. Meanwhile, Karen and Lip discover that Steve saw Frank the night before but didn’t say anything. Finally, we see Frank, trapped in Canada without a passport (which he never had) and locked up in a Canadian jail. Fiona works out that Steve kidnapped her father and punches him for his trouble before ordering him to bring Frank back.

Steve enlists the help of a smuggler with an RV to bring Frank back across the border. When they arrive back home, Frank is greeted by a crowd of neighbors waving Canadian flags. He angrily moves past them and begins packing his bags. Fiona warns him not to touch one of "her kids" ever again, which he scoffs at even as he withers under her gaze. As he shuffles off to find a new place to stay, Lip explains to him just how little he contributes to the family, but Frank refuses to listen. Eventually, Frank ends up at the bar and encounters Eddie again, who offers him a beer to make up for the headbutt.

As Eddie relates his problems with his agoraphobic wife Sheila (Joan Cusack), the wheels in Frank’s head turn and he races over to Sheila’s house with a bouquet of flowers. He worms his way into the home and actually manages to seduce Sheila, but she turns out to be the more sexually aggressive of the two. She handcuffs him to her bed and breaks out a fearsome looking dildo, which she proceeds to use on Frank despite his screams of protest. Later, as he tries to sneak out of the house, he sees the great meal she’s prepared for him and decides to stay, much to the horror of Karen.

However, Steve is not as lucky and can’t seem to get Fiona’s forgiveness. He gives the family a large car as a "peace offering," but Fiona is more offended than anything else and tries to give him $80 for the dryer he bought with a promise to get the rest for him later. He tries to tell her that he doesn’t want her money, but she doesn’t want him anymore.

Breakdown:

While watching this show, I ran into an odd gender schism about Steve. A friend of mine insisted that he’s basically stalking Fiona and I don’t agree with her. If Fiona had no interest in him and he followed her anyway, then yeah, he’s a stalker. But a stalker wouldn’t care about the entire family the way that Steve seems to. Clearly, he’s a young man of big gestures like buying a dryer, stealing a car and Shanghaiing an abusive father. And for the most part, they’ve all backfired on him because Fiona has too much pride to accept any "charity." And to be fair, sending Frank to Canada was going way too far.

My theory is that Steve is in his own way, just as messed up as the Gallaghers. I suspect that he came from a broken home and sees the mostly functioning family as something that he never had and obviously wants. In that regard, I find myself rooting for him to win Fiona back and get the forgiveness from the rest of the family.

William H. Macy was barely in the pilot, but he was all over the place here. And the writers wasted no time in making Frank incredibly unlikable by striking his son, which from the reaction of the family, isn’t that uncommon. In fact, when Steve was standing up to Frank, the little girl Debbie (Emma Kenney) actually grabbed a pan and looked like she was going to hit Steve to defend her father! And the way that the family panicked when it looked like Frank could have been dead or injured shows that they love him almost undeservedly. 

Frank was also at the heart of the best comedic moments in the episode, from his stint in Canadian jail to his ultimate fate at the hands of Sheila. I loved the constant Canada references used to taunt Frank, including the crowd of people waving Canadian flags in front of his home. But Macy’s best comedic scene came in the bar where you literally see his plan to woo Sheila forming on his face as he listens to Eddie talk about her. Frank’s desperate use of his "safe word" was also hilarious and pretty karmic payback for everything that he did. But if anything, he came out ahead. 

Emmy Rossum also continues to be impressive as Fiona. She’s definitely a strong character in her own right and I loved her silent, scolding stare down of Frank that finally caused him to whither away. She also openly acknowledged her "mother" role in the family by calling her siblings "my kids." That’s a very telling statement. She’d never abandon her family because she loves them, but it’s that same love that’s going to crush the rest of her life unless she finds someway out. In a way, that makes her rejection of Steve’s intentions towards her somewhat surprising. It’s almost like she’s afraid to be really happy.

Of course, Fiona has some legitimate issues with Steve now and is justifiably not going to forgive him so easily. But I like watching the two of them together and I’m curious to see how they’ll reconcile. I also want to see how Sheila reacts to meeting Frank’s entire family. That’s going to be a fun scene.

"Shameless" actually took me by surprise this week. I was expecting it to be solid, but instead it was great. And I always love watching great TV.

Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.