Now that the Season 9 finale of Shameless has aired, it seems like as good a time as any to go back into the show's history and dissect the strongest and weakest episodes. We can learn a lot about the show's previous triumphs and failures, even if they're merely the opinion of a couple of unabashed Shameless-nerds on the internet. Doing this is one of the ways that we can tell if we're still truly engaged with the series or have just gotten used to following the misadventures of the Gallaghers and their South Side neighbors. After all, this is entirely possible given that the show has been on for so long. And we have to be honest with ourselves; the show hasn't always been as stellar as it once was. Look no further than Ian's Season 8 storyline, or the characters of Sammi and Kassidi for proof of that.
Throughout the show's history, the storyline of Shameless has certainly experienced notable peaks and valleys. Specific episodes of the past have done a very good job saving the series (as well as its characters) from heading in a direction fans weren't excited about. Other episodes have done the opposite of this. In this article, fans will find an assortment of episodes that have actually saved the story, integrity, and quality of the series along with others which have done grave harm to a series that we all obviously adore. Without further ado, here are 15 Episodes That Saved Shameless (And 5 That Hurt It).
20 Hurt: Found (Season 9, Ep. 14)
The recently aired "Found" was Emmy Rossum's final episode as Fiona and it just didn't do her justice. It felt rushed and lazy. We simply saw Fiona fly off into the sunset without a new turn, a big final moment, or a twist. Fiona has been the core of Shameless. Her exit should have been a dramatic shift. But with the exception of a well-earned final exchange with Frank, it all felt down-played.
Jeremy Allen White's Lip continues to be strong, allowing us to feel confident heading into Season 10. However, his love-interest, Tami, is abysmal. In this episode, she continued to be annoying and downright mean. Then there's Carl and Debbie, both of whom were given big touching moments that their characters needed. However, the actors proved that they're not polished enough to step into Rossum's shoes.
19 Saved: Lazarus (Season 4, Ep. 12)
Unlike "Found", "Lazarus" was one of the best season finales Shameless has done. It managed to give us everything we expect from a season closer. This includes tying up each storyline while leaving room for the next season, having a splattering of hilarious and touching moments, and even boasting a superb indie soundtrack.
Additionally, "Lazarus" could have worked as the series finale as it left the characters in places that did justice to their arcs. "Lazarus" teased at a touching reunion between Lip and Mandy, gave Fiona a well-earned redemptive arc after a season of poor decisions, and even brought Frank back to a place where he could raise a bottle and mock the Heavens for not being able to take him out. Honestly, this episode is everything that's great about Shameless.
18 Saved: Hurricane Monica (Season 2, Ep. 9)
The Gallagher mother, Monica, roared back onto the screen in this episode from the Second Season. Although this wasn't the first time we saw her, it certainly was the most effective when it came to endearing us to her. We saw a lot of positive sides to her in this episode, including her notable bond with Ian. The episode also gave us a bunch of truly hilarious Sheila Jackson moments including when she believed her house was haunted and her first tryst with the lovable character that was Jody Silverman. This episode gave us a break from all the heavy drama by giving us a ton of laughs at the antics of some of the show's most colorful characters.
17 Saved: Just Like The Pilgrims Intended (Season 2, Ep. 11)
All of Season 2's storylines came to a satisfying, funny, and gut-punching head in this penultimate episode. This included Monica's storyline which took a far darker turn than what fans were expecting. The result of her actions, seen at the end of a Thanksgiving meal, gave us a glimpse at what growing up with (and without) Monica would have been like for the kids. The events of the dinner also set-up the finale beautifully.
Additionally, the episode found Lip struggling to prepare himself to be a father to his and Karen's baby. This led him to make a cheer-inducing decision to head down a different path than Frank. However, this proved to be irrelevant thanks to another manipulation on Karen's part; the newborn baby wasn't even Lip's ethnicity.
16 Saved: Nana Gallagher (Season 1, Ep. 10)
Although we saw much of the reasons why Karen turned out the way she did throughout the first nine episodes of Season 1, none were as effective as the hilarious and aggravating Purity Ball scene in this episode. This is where Karen became fully open and honest in front of her father and his friends and was quickly shut down for her ideals. This episode was also notable for Ian's character for two reasons. Firstly, he found out that he wasn't Frank's biological child and secondly, he told Lip the truth about his relationship with Mickey. Besides all of the heartfelt drama, the show is full of typical Gallagher shenanigans such as Frank using Carl in an insurance scam.
15 Saved: Long Way From Home (Season 3, Ep. 7)
This Season 3 episode had one of the most touching moments in the show's history; when Fiona attempted to convince the judge that she was the right guardian to take care of her younger siblings. The scene, as well as what led up to it, really encapsulated why Emmy Rossum is the heart of the show. Of course, no emotionally engaging moment on Shameless can go without a series of intense and hilarious antics. In this case, it was forging a will of the Gallagher's long-lost Aunt Ginger and even finding a body to pose as her. With the help of most of the show's main characters, a plotline that could have easily gone down a silly road was brought to a satisfying point.
14 Saved: Survival Of The Fittest (Season 3, Ep. 12)
Season 3's finale ended a bunch of storylines in a huge way. Firstly, everyone knew that Karen over-stayed her welcome after she was hit by Mandy. It all just got boring and repetitive once she lost her edge. Getting her to leave town at the beginning of the episode was a very smart move. Not only did Shameless free us from her, but Jody as well.
Additionally, "Survival of the Fittest" ended Jimmy's storyline in a truly engaging and open-ended way that probably should have remained a mystery. This opened the door for a completely different Fiona in Season 4... It's just too bad that Fiona ended up being a total wreck.
13 Hurt: Strangers On A Train (Season 4, Ep. 4)
On one hand, we wouldn't have the incredibly rewarding Season Four finale, "Lazarus", without "Strangers On A Train." But on the other, fans were really unhappy about Fiona's fall from grace. She was truly an authentic moral compass for the show, even though she showed faults. But this episode took things up a notch. Although Fiona had done bad things before, she really started to spiral downward in this episode. Of course, we could all blame Robbie for introducing Fiona to a negative lifestyle, but Fiona was the one who ultimately made each decision. From a story perspective, one could argue that we needed this episode, but the general consensus is that this whole arc was a total nightmare.
12 Saved: Familia Supra Gallegorious Omnia! (Season 6, Ep. 12)
Whether you were a fan of the Fiona/Sean storyline or not, you'd have to admit that the Season 6 finale found a way to bring it to a dramatic climax. Of course, this wasn't the final time we saw Sean, but it probably should have been. After all, how could you top Frank revealing Sean's hidden pleasures to Fiona during their wedding? The wedding scene in this episode is one of the strongest in the show's history thanks to a, particularly selfish Frank and an unbelievably devasted Fiona. But the finale also featured a development in the touching relationship between Lip and Professor Yuens that was reminiscent of Good Will Hunting, and Debbie making the right decision to be there for her sister.
11 Saved: The Legend Of Bonnie And Carl (Season 4, Ep. 9)
Other than Liam, Carl's character easily took the longest time to develop. For the most part, the first three seasons of Shameless presented him as a funny but barbarous little creep incapable of truly loving anything. But "The Legend of Bonnie And Carl" finally gave him dimension and an incredibly redemptive story arc. Not only did he show a deep and authentic interest in his first major crush, Bonnie, but he also showed compassion for a family that was clearly worse off than his own. After all, Bonnie and her siblings lived out of their car. But the episode wasn't just a touching, it was full of hilarious antics between the pair and in the supporting storylines to do with Debbie's jealousy and Mickey's loyalty to Ian over his own son.
10 Saved: The (Mis) Education Of Liam Fergus Beircheart Gallagher (Season 8, Ep. 5)
Generally, Season 8 was full of predictable, over-used, and downright awful storylines that most fans seemed to dislike. But the show did manage to nail a couple of the episodes, especially when it came to plots involving the newly developed Liam. It's a shame that it took so long for the show to use the character substantially, but now that they have, there's no going back. This episode continued the wonderful (although shortlived) bond between him and Frank. The antics surrounding Frank's clean and upstanding role in society were hilarious and a nice departure from what we've seen prior. But his involvement in Liam's education, as well as the upper-class women at the school, were wonderfully entertaining.
9 Saved: Father Frank Full Of Grace (Season 1, Ep. 12)
This season finale for Season 1 dealt with the fallout from Karen's relationship with Frank and how that affected both Lip and Karen's father, Eddie. Although there were moments of levity, most of the episode was spent on drama; something that the show does considerably better than even their funniest moments. But even in the highest moments of tension between Frank and Lip, where Frank showed genuine affection for his kid, the show still managed to make us laugh as Frank accepted the consequences of being with Lip's first love. Additionally, the episode found Fiona debating whether or not to leave town with Jimmy after Tony found out about his criminal dealings. In short, the episode had something for everybody.
8 Saved: There's The Rub (Season 4, Ep. 5)
Shameless managed to take Fiona's downward spiral to a new height. But there was a notable casualty... Liam. Without getting into too much detail, Fiona's partying habits seriously put Liam at risk in this memorable Season 4 episode. Although fans weren't happy with what had been going on with Fiona, this was the event that truly shook her to her core, causing the change she needed to get better. It's just too bad that the changes didn't stick and she reverted to her old ways later on. However, this was one of the rare moments in the show where we saw actual consequences to the lifestyle that Fiona, Kev, V, and some of the others live.
7 Saved: Sins Of My Caretaker (Season 3, Ep. 5)
Much like "There's The Rub," this episode had consequences to the hilarious antics of the Gallagher clan. Most of the episode played out like any other; each character went on a somewhat unrealistic quest to achieve a goal that somehow overlapped with what the other characters were dealing with. But the last five minutes of the episode, where a social worker comes to the Gallagher house, flips everything on its head. Suddenly, what we've seen prior got thrown in our faces, forcing us to consider the real-world ramifications of the characters' actions. What ends up happening is something chaotic and quite bad for the Gallagher family; the kids are taken away from Fiona and one of the most engaging storylines is triggered.
6 Hurt: Can I Have A Mother (Season 2, Ep. 6)
Most of this Season 2 episode was filler instead of getting to the actual story. The stuff with the grandmother felt like an obvious choice for the show and didn't really go anywhere too – well – shameless. And although Kev and V finally rid themselves of their Mormon castaway, Ethel, her departure felt elongated and dull. The character was merely a plot device to get Kev and V thinking about having kids of their own. So, why would the writers have wanted to spend so much time with her in her final episode? At the end of the day, "Can I Have a Mother" just felt like it was buying time until the next chapter. On the plus side, the Lip/Karen stuff worked well.
5 Saved: Happily Ever After (Season 7, Ep. 11)
Even though Frank and Monica had done so much that harmed their children's childhood, audience members seemed thrilled that the pair decided to renew their vows and officially return to each other. Like the audience, Carl, Ian, Debbie, and Liam wanted to support their parent's decision, even though Lip and Fiona had entirely different thoughts on the matter. In the end, none of the conflicting perspectives were relevant as this was the episode that ended Monica's storyline for good. As sad as her sudden passing was, it brought out some of the best performances in the show's history; specifically, William H. Macy's Frank who showed a real deep hurt when he lost the love of his life.
4 Hurt: Southside Rules (Season 5, Ep. 10)
This Season 5 episode hurt Shameless for one very specific reason; Debbie's daughter Franny. "South Side Rules" was the episode that Debbie tricked Derek into having a baby with her, to begin with. This launched a storyline that's easily one of the weakest in the show's nine-year history. Not only was Derek utterly forgettable, but Debbie was made even more unlikable than she had been previously. This is truly a bad mark on the history of the show. It's too bad since the episode had stronger qualities such as Ian and Mickey getting over their problems in the most "South Side" way ever, a hilarious conflict between Carl and Chuckie, and the continuation of Frank's genuinely touching relationship with Bianca.
3 Saved: May I Trim Your Hedges? (Season 3, Ep. 3)
Although the rest of South Side's male citizens don't seem to care, Lip's fury with a new neighbor quickly turns into one of the most flirtatious and downright audacious moments in the show's history. In this quintessential storyline, Lip tries to reveal that his rather attractive neighbor is still up to some bad behavior by pretending to be younger and doing yard work for her. What ends up happening is about as boundary-pushing as the show can get. This is with the exception of the other main storyline where Frank makes his son, Carl, pretend to have an incurable illness in order to benefit from it. Frankly, this Season 3 episode truly lives up to the show's title.
2 Saved: Cascading Failures (Season 3, Ep. 6)
This Season 3 episode managed to showcase two of Shameless' greatest strengths in the early years, the tension between Frank and Fiona, and Ian's storyline. This was amongst a rather complicated arc involving Jimmy's desire to become a good domestic partner for Fiona and an inconsistent love-triangle with Lip, Karen, and Mandy. The most notable highlights from this fantastic episode were Mickey's father finding out the truth about his son and Ian's relationship as well as Fiona coming to terms with an even bigger revelation, that Frank was the one who called Social Services on her and the kids. Of course, we also got to see what Carl would be like as the adopted son on a wealthy and high-class couple of guys.
1 Hurt: Occupy Fiona (Season 8, Ep. 7)
Fiona can't be held accountable for why this Season 8 episode hurt Shameless so much. After all, the episode's faults mostly have to do with Ian's overblown religious leader storyline. It's just too bad that the storyline was brought into conflict with Fiona's in a way that made her out to be a selfish, money-grubbing, opportunist. But, the show definitely spent more time dragging Ian's name through the mud as he continued to be unreceptive to his family and friends' reasoning. Oh, by-the-way, "Occupy Fiona" was also the episode that introduced Carl and Shameless fans to one of the most irritating and unlikable characters in television history... Kassidi. So, yeah, it's safe to say that this episode definitely hurt the show in multiple ways.
Which episode do you think saved or hurt Shameless? Let us know in the comments below!