Romantic couples have never truly been the element of Shameless that have made the series work or fall apart. What's really made (and makes) the show work so well is its focus on the relationships between the Gallagher family members. That, paired with the impeccable chemistry between cast members, has made the show truly standout in a television environment that's currently flooded with great material.
But after the recent announcement that Emmy Rossum will be leaving Shameless after the end of this current ninth season, it's fair to worry about what will fill the enormous hole she'll inevitably leave if the show continues. It's possible that a romantic partner for one of the other characters will step in and take over some of the roles that Emmy's Fiona Gallagher occupied.
Romance has always been a big part of the show, even if it's been explored in completely unconventional or inappropriate ways. We've seen Emmy, Lip, Ian, Debbie, Carl, Frank, and even Vee and Kev engage in various relationships that have added so much to a show that worked so well without them.
However, there have also been romantic storylines, as well as characters, that just haven't worked and actually may have hurt the show slightly. Although, that's hard to say since it's so good without them.
This list explores the various romantic partners that the characters have been entangled with over the course of eight successful seasons, and which ones have helped the show along or damaged it in some way.
Here are 8 Couples That Hurt Shameless (And 12 That Saved It).
20 Saved: Kevin and Vee
Without a doubt, the best romantic relationship that's ever been explored on the show is one that's been fairly stable since it first aired. Sure, Kevin and Vee have hit some rough patches, mostly surrounding the babies and Svetlana, but for the most part, they've been the rock that's held things together.
They also act as the comedic foil for everything else that may be going on in the Gallagher family. They offer insight, support, and love to all of the characters, even Frank at times.
Steve Howey and Shanola Hampton play these two characters with such love, depth, and skill that we should be forever thanked for their contribution to the Shameless universe.
Besides, how many times have you seen an intimidating, muscly, "guy's guy" authentically portrayed as a soft, highly emotional and sensitive soul?
19 Hurt: Lip and Mandy
There are two main reasons why the Lip and Mandy relationship hurt the show. These reasons are separate from the great acting ability of Emma Greenwell, who played Mandy, as well as Jeremy Allen White, who may just be one of the show's best actors.
Both have to do with the fact that the relationship made Lip somewhat unlikable. First of all, Lip spent most of their relationship being a complete jerk. Initially, he was too emotionally tied up with Karen to be able to treat Mandy with any respect. Then he kept getting distracted by his other passions and duties.
In short, Lip could have been way nicer to Mandy.
Mandy's flaws also played a part. Sure, she had a soft and sensitive side and came from an incredibly messed up and abusive family, but she also paralyzed Karen by hitting her with her car.
18 Saved: Ian and Mickey
There has been so much written about these two characters and the relationship they had online that it's basically impossible to add anything of value to the discussion. To sum it up, the Ian and Mickey relationship is one of the best television romances ever.
Mickey was one of the roughest characters on television. He was a violent criminal, but also absolutely adored Ian only wanted the best for him. He had his back in so many ways, especially when Ian went through the worst of his bipolar disorder.
Ian and Mickey's relationship was also not a stereotypical gay relationship. Both characters were written with sensitivity and romance, sure, but they were also edgy, bad, and honest all at the same time.
17 Hurt: Fiona and Robbie
Fiona spent most of her life as the surrogate mother to her brothers and sister due to her neglectful parents' addictions. This took a lot out of Fiona and made it hard for her to let loose in her adolescence. But when the character of Robbie was introduced, that all changed.
On one level, it's good that Robbie's character existed on the show because it gave Fiona a completely new storyline where she engaged in heavy substance use, criminal activity, and selfishness. On the other level, it made us angry with her.
Because of Robbie, she kept messing good things up.
Instead of making things exciting, it was just frustrating.
16 Saved: Lip and Karen
Laura Slade Wiggin's character, Karen, is a very polarizing character in Shameless' history. On one level, she was completely unlikable and downright mean. She was an alternative take on "the girl next door." In fact, she was a downright sociopath.
When you think of some of the things she did on the show, such as initially rejecting her baby with down-syndrome, lying to Lip about the identity of the child's father, endlessly manipulating him, she could be the most hated character ever. But she added something to the show.
Her relationship with Lip made us love him. It made us understand him. Because of Karen, we saw something we loved in Lip. She, after all, was really our first introduction to him.
15 Saved: Frank and Monica
How do you get an audience to empathize with a father who does everything possible not to take responsibility and look after his children? Well, you start by making him downright hilarious, driven to achieve his goals (no matter how selfish they may be), and add in a dash of intelligence. But that's not quite enough and the writers of Shameless knew that. Therefore, they added in a tender, if messed up relationship with the mother of Frank's children.
Frank loved Monica. There's no question about that.
Some of the best parts of Frank's journey wree him trying to keep his wife around. It added even more dimension to a character that, thanks to William H. Macy, has stuck around longer than anyone expected.
14 Hurt: Lip and Helene
Though Lip has certainly made a lot of poor romantic choices, Helene is almost certainly among the worst. Without a doubt, Lip was subconsciously tackling his "mommy issues" by getting with his college professor, Helene Runyon.
Although this is a story trope that's been explored many times before, it was still slightly surprising that Lip would risk all that he fought for by engaging with an ongoing relationship with a married woman who happened to hold power over him due to her career.
Helene was also not all that special as a character, so it was hard to love or dislike her. Instead, we just sort of forgot about her, which is almost the worst outcome.
13 Saved: Fiona and Steve/Jimmy
It's fair for some Shameless fans to believe that these two characters are absolutely meant to be. After all, they have gone through a lot together-- probably more so than any of Fiona's other romantic partners.
Jimmy/Steve was also Fiona's first major romantic relationship explored on the show.
Fans loved Jimmy/Steve so much that he was brought back after his intended demise.
Jimmy, played effortlessly by Justin Chatwin, was also an intriguing character. Not only was he charming and likable, but he also went through some strange story arcs where he got tangled up on his criminal history. Additionally, the chemistry between the two actors was impeccable.
12 Hurt: Carl and Dominique
Of all the characters on the show, with the exception of Liam, it's fair to say that Ethan Cutkosky's Carl has been the most under-written. Usually, he's relegated to the comic relief in episodes that are heavily dominated by the real struggles of his siblings or father.
In recent years, he has been given a bit more to do, but he still hasn't reached the same level of depth as other characters, including his sister Debbie.
One significant misstep was the romantic storyline between Carl and Dominique.
The only thing interesting about it was the relationship that Carl had with Dominique's father.
His daughter, on the other hand, treated Carl like dirt and didn't really have any engaging reasons for doing so.
11 Saved: Lip and Sierra
Adding the beautiful and talented Ruby Modine to Shameless was one of the better decisions that the writers have made. Her character, Sierra, added some much-needed heart to Lip's storyline, which was pretty much void of an engaging romantic interest since Mandy left.
Sierra has really been the only other romantic interest that has matched the importance of Mandy or Karen in Lip's life. Although she's far from perfect, we understand the reasons why she's stumbled so many times. The writers also have room to improve upon some of the aspects of her character that haven't been fully explored.
Lip steps into himself when she's around.
She betters him. In a sense, he learns how to love again because of her.
10 Hurt: Lip and Eddie
Eddie could have been a more engaging character had the writers given her more to do, but they didn't seem all that interested in her to begin with which made the audience feel the same way. What little personality she was given wasn't all that likable or fascinating. She was good at her job, dressed with some edge, cared for her family, and was rude. That's pretty much all one can say about her.
Sure, she added in a few moments of comedic relief due to her rather intense and violent way of getting physical with Lip. At the end of the day, to us, she was exactly what she was to Lip; a distraction from the real romantic struggle with Sierra.
9 Saved: Carl and Bonnie
Adding the Bonnie storyline into Shameless was a stroke of genius. Up until this point, we seldom saw any real dimension to Carl, which was fair enough since he was pretty young up until then. Still, as stated earlier, he was and still is one of the most underwritten characters on the show.
Adding in his romantic relationship with Bonnie made us care for him in a far deeper way than we ever had before. In part, this had to do with the fact that Bonnie was homeless and lived in a car with her family, but it also had to do with the fact that the two really did seem to care for one another in a truly sweet way.
8 Hurt: Fiona and Gus
If you don't remember Gus, he's the man that Fiona decided to marry after only a week of dating.
The two impulsively tied the knot and things went truly bad after that.
Fiona was unfaithful to Gus and he was vindictive and vengeful toward her afterward. It became really hard to sympathize, or even empathize, with her choices in that situation.
On both of their parts, the quick jump to marriage was just so dumb that we kind of wanted there to be fallout for both of them.
Finally, Gus himself was dull. Sure, he was a good guy, but the character himself didn't add the spark of energy that Fiona's other love interests have had.
7 Saved: Frank and Bianca
Other than Monica, there has really been one other human relationship that Frank's had that endeared him to us. That relationship would be the one he had with the terminally ill doctor, Bianca.
Frank gave Bianca a goal in her last days on earth that allowed her to actually live for once. Sure, she lived incredibly unhealthily during her final days, but she found a spiritual awakening that was only possible because of Frank.
Frank was also allowed to use his skillset for the good of someone else for the first time-- maybe ever.
The whole plotline felt fresh and unique and really added another dimension to William H. Macy's wonderful character.
6 Hurt: Ian and Caleb
Although Caleb was apart of one of the best scenes in Shameless history-- Fiona's wedding to Sean and the scene that followed that depicted Caleb and the Gallagher clan throwing Frank off a bridge-- he really wasn't all that interesting.
This hunky firefighter was there to indulge a lot of audience members fantasies, as well as Ian's, but other than that, he really didn't add a whole lot to the story.
Ian and Caleb didn't seem to have a whole lot of chemistry.
When their breakup did happen, it didn't really hit home in a way that the writers had intended.
5 Saved: Carl and Kassidi
Sammi Hanratty's Kassidi may just be the most widely disliked love-interest since Karen. That's basically due to the fact that she's downright insane. Pair that with her being obnoxious, needy, and annoying, and you have a character meant to be hated.
We're supposed to root for Carl in this situation, and Kassidi's personality allows that.
In addition to this, Kassidi, who's from the upper class, allows Carl to truly understand the unhealthy environment he grew up in. In a few episodes, we see her being utterly enamored with the South Side lifestyle as well as the horrible things that the Gallaghers are used to seeing. Moments like when she posed with the body seemed to have been a bit of a wake-up call for Carl.
Therefore, it's quite a good thing indeed to have Kassidi around for the upcoming season.
4 Saved: Ian and Trevor
The addition of Trevor is a complicated one. For one, he does seem completely determined to achieve his goals (even if they're good ones) even if that means stomping over Ian's or other character's desires.
Additionally, he seems like a somewhat forced replacement for Mickey, who is certainly the most well written of Ian's romantic partners. Elliot Fletcher, who plays Trevor, has had his work cut out for him since being cast.
On the other hand, Shameless has taken giant steps forward by casting a trans actor in a dynamic trans role. Even the scene where Ian breaks the news of Trevor's past to Lip is handled in a natural way.
This not only does good by the trans community but also by the forward-thinking characters on the show.
All in all, Ian and Trevor's relationship is for the good of the show. Here's hoping they can do something even more interesting with it in the upcoming season.
3 Saved: Fiona and Sean
Many audience members didn't like the Fiona/Sean relationship because they claimed that the writers were trying their hardest to recreate the energy that Fiona and Jimmy/Steve had prior. Fiona has had a lot of romantic partners throughout the show's history and very few have come within a mile of the likability of Jimmy/Steve. but Sean was the closest.
In part, why Sean was such a great character had to do with the fact that Dermot Mulroney played him so pitch-perfectly. If they had not cast such a great actor for the role, it may not have worked so well.
Having said that, Sean was also an engaging character struggling with addiction. Not only did he play a foil to Fiona after her battle with partying, but he gave her the opportunities to rise up and take command of herself as a businesswoman.
2 Hurt: Debbie and Derek
Debbie becoming pregnant and raising her daughter as a single mother was certainly a bold story choice for the writers to make, however, the way it came about was a little polarizing.
First of all, the storyline involved Debbie refusing to terminate her pregnancy even though Fiona was adamant about it. Though the choice had interesting consequences that added more levels of dimension to her character, it didn't make Debbie come across as remotely intelligent or likable.
Even worse was her relationship with Derek that preceded all of this. Derek always came across as incredibly bland and unlikable.
It was hard for us to root for Debbie constantly wanting to make it work.
When he walked out on her to avoid his responsibilities as a father, it pretty much sealed the deal.
1 Saved: Fiona and Ford
The actor who plays Ford, Richard Flood, has been promoted to a series regular for Fiona's final season on Shameless, telling audiences everywhere that there's a lot more of their relationship on the way. This may be a good thing since Ford is one of the more engaging of Fiona's love interests. He's certainly one of the better ones we've been given in a while.
In part, it has to do with how quiet and mysterious Ford is. It makes us lean forward and pay attention, much like what is happening for Fiona as the two develop their relationship.
Additionally, he has allowed her to step into her role as a landlord, as opposed to distracting her from her own desires.
Who's your favorite couple on Shameless? Let us know in the comments below!