Shameless has had an amazing lifespan that most shows only dream of experiencing. Not only has the series been on Showtime for nine years and has helped to anchor the network for the past decade, but it’s also proven itself to be truly fearless television. It’s expected for characters to change and evolve on shows that go on for this long, but Shameless really tries to get the most out of its stories and really develops its characters.
This can be dangerous for some shows, especially when the end product barely resembles the original series, but Shameless has been very thoughtful about its evolution. It’s one of the few series out there that gets stronger with each new season, and even though it’s nearly had ten seasons, it feels like the show could probably go on for another decade if it really wanted.
Not only is Shameless a powerhouse in storytelling, but it’s also helped put a lot of incredible actors on the map, such as Jeremy Allen White and Cameron Monaghan, while also allowing established names like Emmy Rossum and William H. Macy to really show off what they can do with a character. Shameless has maintained a solid track record throughout its nine seasons, but just like any other show, it still has its occasional misfires. Also, with Emmy Rossum recently announcing her departure after the show’s ninth season, the show may be finally starting to come to an end.
With that said, here are the 13 Plot Twists That Hurt Shameless (And 12 That Saved It)!
25 Hurt: Kevin, V, & Svetlana Become A Couple
Kevin and V’s relationship has grown and matured during the show’s many seasons, but they’ve more or less always been a successful couple. Shameless tends to focus on the creative ways that Kevin and V’s lives become more complicated, instead of splitting the couple up.
One of the most surprising twists happens when the two become close to Svetlana and decide to become a three-person couple together in the show’s seventh season.
Svetlana initially proves to be indispensable with their kids, but the disadvantages of this arrangement slowly come forward. It’s a wild ride while it lasts, but it feels like a gratuitous storyline, progressive as it may be.
24 Hurt: Professor Youens Falls Off The Wagon & Goes To Jail
While Lip finds himself struggling through college and with his sobriety, he latches onto Professor Youens for support. It doesn’t exactly work out, however, and it’s a bitter way to knock down Lip’s self esteem.
It’s crushing to see Lip's role model just bottom out and tell him to abandon him. It also leaves Lip questioning if he’ll be able to retain his sobriety. If this man can’t do it, then how can he? They have such a strong bond that it’s rough to see their relationship end on such a sad note, especially after Youens opens so many doors for Lip.
23 Saved: Debbie Has Franny
It may have looked like the sharks were circling around Shameless when little Debbie Gallagher became pregnant and had a child of her own. Moves like this can be incredibly risky, but Shameless actually works through this story with finesse. What begins as a deeply questionable, spiteful move on Debbie’s part actually allows viewers to catch a glimpse of sweeter side of her.
Entrapment is never the foundation of a proper relationship, but even if Debbie has decided to go it alone as sole Franny’s parent, she continues to prove what a competent parent she is. She could give Monica a run for her money, at least.
22 Hurt: Karen And Frank Become Romantic
Karen Jackson is certainly one of the more reckless characters on Shameless, but her actions come from a place of pain and neglect. Because of this, her actions make sense according to her character. Karen makes a wealth of bad decisions, but this is an especially bold way to work out her issues with her father.
Not only does Karen get together with Frank, but she also posts it online for her own dad to see, too.
While this may be Shameless at its most surprising, the fact that Lip and Karen have history before she gets together with his dad is like salt in the wound. It's creepy and mean.
21 Saved: Monica Returns
The return of the Gallagher matriarch has been hinted at since the start of the series, but it doesn’t make “Hurricane Monica’s” entrance any less surprising. It’s only fitting that Monica’s unexpected appearance comes at a terrible time for Fiona and company. Monica’s manic behavior is in full swing and it’s difficult to watch some of the younger Gallaghers let their guard down around her before everything falls apart.
Monica causes a lot of feelings come forward among her family, but the fact that she’s there to reclaim Liam is especially rough. However, in the end, all of this does cause the family to come together. In the end, they're stronger when they're united.
20 Hurt: Debbie Shows An Interest In Women
Shameless consistently proves itself as one of the more open-minded and inclusive shows on television. All sorts of modern relationships are featured in the show and the series always operates out of a careful place of respect. In this sense, it’s not that Debbie’s confusion about her orientation is poorly handled - instead, it feels like a random decision that’s made in the ninth year of a television show.
The show’s ninth season has a full conversation about this topic and tries to determine what Debbie really wants. At the moment, she knows that she finds a certain comfort in women. However, we'll have to stay tuned to find out whether this development sticks or not.
19 Saved: Jimmy/Steve Leaves
Shameless’ earliest seasons deserve a lot of credit for making some seriously bold decisions that helped the show develop and avoid getting stale. Right from the beginning, it seemed like Fiona and Jimmy would be the series’ defining relationship. They were far from perfect (especially in Jimmy’s case), but they were learning and changing.
Then, Shameless pulled the rug out from under everyone’s feet when Jimmy (or Steve, take your pick) left the show in its third season, with his fate looking very questionable.
Fiona was devastated, but the greater tragedy was that she didn't know just how bad things were for Jimmy that forced him out in such an abrupt way.
18 Hurt: Fiona Gets Together With Her Boyfriend's Brother
Fiona has more or less gotten her act together in the later seasons of Shameless, but there are plenty of moments when she has acted in such a way that it’s hard to not yell at the screen. Admittedly, Fiona and the rest of the cast are so captivating because they make mistakes and backslide in realistic ways. It’s just upsetting when Fiona completely self-destructs every time she panics about something.
Fiona finds herself with Mike, who’s perfect on paper, but she ultimately falls for his more adventurous brother, Robbie. Fiona cheats on Mike more than once, and though this is debatably during the most haphazard time in her life, but it’s still a low blow.
17 Saved: Karen’s Baby Isn’t Lip’s & Shiela Swoops In For The Rescue
In the second season of Shameless, it looks like Lip’s future might include a lifetime of playing house with the very pregnant Karen. Lip steps up and does the right thing, but he’s none too pleased about it. However, when the baby is born, we soon discover that it isn't Lip's.
Karen’s baby also has Down Syndrome, which causes the adoptive parents to back out and brings out the worst in Karen. At the last minute, the all-loving Sheila solves this problem by taking the baby for herself and exits the series with him in the process.
16 Hurt: Frank Catfishes His Daughter For Her Liver
Frank’s parenting abilities may range from awful to the truly egregious, but it’s a little ridiculous that one of the times that he shows the most affection to one of his children happens when he’s also deceiving them. Frank’s failing liver sees the unscrupulous character pull out all of the stops to survive. One of these methods of survival involves his estranged eldest daughter, Sammi.
Rather than owning up to Sammi about being her father, Frank pretends to be a viable date for her.
Its truly twisted, but miraculously, when the truth comes out, she still supports him.
15 Saved: Frank’s Failing Liver
Nobody likes to drink more than Frank does, so it’s a serious blow when he’s diagnosed with Hepatitis-C and we discover that he has a quickly deteriorating liver. He’s left in a situation where a drink will end his life and he’s in desperate need of a new liver.
This is a rather grueling arc for Frank to get through, but it does improve him in some subtle ways. Unfortunately, he quickly reverts back to his old self once he’s out of the woods. However, season nine has at least brought Frank’s liver condition back to the forefront and things may once again become bleak for him.
14 Hurt: Mickey Leaves
Shameless is full of a lot of unexpected relationships, but one that’s resonated particularly strongly with viewers is Ian’s romance with Mickey. These two come from a very Montagues and Capulets sort of place, but for a while, it really does seem like their destructive but giving relationship could work out.
Mickey and Ian’s relationship meets an unfortunate end, however, like most relationships in the series, and he completely leaves the picture. Though he is still missed, on the bright side, his absence has allowed Ian to evolve in some fascinating ways.
13 Saved: Lip Becomes A Parental Guardian
Lip may be convinced that he’s a bad guy, but as hard as he tries, he continues to get various responsibilities and tests of character thrown into his lap. Lip’s messy love life is a relative constant throughout the series, but season nine sees some unfortunate events saddle Lip with a child, so to speak.
The young girl, Xan, isn’t Lip’s biological daughter, but he still steps up when he finds out that she doesn't have anyone else.
His stint looking after Xan catches both Lip and the audience off guard, but it’s quite beautiful to see him rise to the occasion and step up as a guardian. He consistently makes the responsible decisions during this arc.
12 Hurt: Frank Uses Liam As Gambling Wager
It’s one thing to be a bad parent who has good intentions, but there’s really no excuse for using your child as collateral in a bet. Then again, it’s a little impressive to see just how good Frank is at rewriting the book on bad parenting.
Frank is stuck with a massive $10,000 debt, which he knows he’ll never be able to truly pay off. Out of desperation, Frank puts up baby Liam as collateral until he can figure out what to do. Frank does end up finding a solution, but he’s incredibly lucky, as things could've gone much worse.
11 Saved: Carl Straightens Up And Flies Right
It’s almost surreal to go back to Shameless’ first few seasons and look at how young all of the characters were. While all of the characters have undergone tremendous change, = this is especially true for the youngest members of the Gallagher clan.
Carl’s a perpetual bad boy and a loose cannon during his young years. When he decides to shift his priorities and becomes interested in the military, his character improves in drastic ways. This motivated and inspired Carl is a lot more entertaining than the previously useless Carl we got to know. This positive development also sticks, and the later seasons of the show have continued to push Carl further down this patriotic, passionate path.
10 Hurt: Mandy “Deals With” Karen
Jealousy and insecurity make up a dangerous cocktail, and it comes together with truly horrible results when Lip gets caught up in a love triangle between Mandy and Karen. Mandy is unable to cope with Lip being with someone else, and so she desperately runs Karen over with her car, leaving her mentally handicapped.
This is especially violent, even for Shameless' standards, especially when Mandy, who orchestrates the whole thing, ostensibly gets away with it.
All of this happens just so Mandy can manipulate Lip, and far too many good people get hurt for no reason.
9 Saved: Lip Develops A Drinking Problem, But Also Becomes The Best Character
Shameless finds a well of new content when Lip begins to worry that he may be turning into Frank due to his reckless drinking. Though he screws up in some major ways, it leads to him rediscovering himself. After this, he realizes that he has a drinking problem and works to get better so that he doesn’t turn into Frank.
Lip was a bit of a screw up and renegade when the show began, but his ability to deal with these difficult issues in mature ways has helped him become easily the best character of the series. Many viewers were waiting for something to push his character to new depths.
8 Hurt: Frank Doesn’t Tell Dottie About Her Heart Transplant…Then Finishes The Job
Frank has done some of the most despicable things during Shameless' run, but it’s somehow still surprising to see just how callous he can be and what he’s willing to do to push himself forward. Everyone knows that Frank puts himself before everyone else, but it’s his “relationship” with the terminal Dottie that demonstrates his true depravity.
Frank denies Dottie crucial information that would save her life, and he does so for purely selfish reasons. If his isn't enough, he also goes on to help her pass on by making her heart work too hard in the bedroom. It’s an awful way to get rid of a character.
7 Saved: Fiona Becomes A Landowner And Hits The Big Time
Since the Gallagher family is generally viewed as lower class, Fiona has always believed that dreaming of better life would be a waste of time. However, this doesn’t stop her from doing it. Fiona strives to do something with her life, to feel important, and to not let her family hold her back.
She is finally able to make a go at this when she takes a risk and buys a laundromat, and later, an apartment complex.
Fiona’s endeavors as a savvy landowner become her focus in the later seasons of the show and it’s quite a different look for her. Surely some people never expected Fiona to get this far.
6 Hurt: Fiona Gets Engaged… But Not Married
Dermot Mulroney’s Sean enters Shameless as a pained, but stable and responsible influence in Fiona’s life. It’s compelling to watch them get closer, and their relationship becomes one of the sweeter experiences that Fiona has had. The two become engaged and the show really makes it feel like Sean will stick around and become a part of the Gallagher family.
Because of this, it’s heartbreaking when Sean relapses right before his wedding and breaks her trust forever. It’s a harsh ending that feels out of place. Sean could have left on much better terms, and in the end, it feels like his exit was only done to shock audiences.
5 Saved: Jimmy/Steve (Briefly) Returns
If one of the greatest, most surprising tricks that Shameless ever pulled off was taking Jimmy/Steve out of the equation, then it’s next best surprise is bringing him back into the picture.
Shameless’ fourth season ends with the massive bombshell where we discover that not only is Jimmy still alive, but that he’ll be back in the show for at least a little longer. The show’s fifth season explores this idea in depth and looks at how much Fiona has changed since they last saw each other. It’s a huge surprise, but it gives their relationship the closure that it needs.
4 Hurt: Lip Lets Sierra Go
Lip has had a lot of romances throughout Shameless’ run, but his love story with Sierra is one of the best that the series has ever seen. However, Lip goes out of the way to help Sierra’s ex-boyfriend with his drinking problem. He takes pity on him and tries to help them work things out because of their history and the fact that they have a kid together.
Sierra comes back to Lip, but he surprisingly goes above and beyond by encouraging her to give her ex another chance.
This could have been Lip’s happily ever after, but instead, he chooses to be the bigger person, as frustrating as that may be.
3 Saved: Lip Goes To College
One of the reasons why Shameless is such a compelling series is because there’s always hope that the Gallaghers may do something important with their lives, even though the family and the people around them may leave a lot to be desired.
Shameless becomes extremely emotional when Fiona begins to encourage Lip to rise to his potential and escape the shackles of their family. Lip is nervous and scared about this new pressure, but he eventually decides to go to college. Soon, we discovered that he is a dedicated student when he actually applies himself. It’s really satisfying to see Lip succeed and come into his own. However, the abrupt, crushing end to his college life hits just as hard as his acceptance.
2 Hurt: Frank Calls Child Protective Services On Fiona
The Gallaghers aren’t perfect, and as much as they may despise each other at times, they all know the power of family and they’d rather stay together than get split up into foster homes. The fear of child protective services and foster care has been a threat during the show’s beginning, but it never felt like the show would ever actually pull the trigger on the issue, let alone that Frank would be the cause for this strife.
In what’s easily the most evil revenge scheme in the entire show, Frank calls child protective services out of spite. Fiona is utterly broken by Frank’s actions here and their relationship never really recovers from it.
1 Saved: Ian Gets Diagnosed
All of the Galaghers have been through the wringer, but it wouldn’t be hard to argue that Ian has seen some of the worst of it. One of the most serious storylines that the show has ever explored is the reveal that Ian’s manic behavior is actually a result of him being bipolar, much like Monica.
Ian’s condition opens up a slew of new storylines and precautions for future seasons, but it’s also the first time that the character really steps up and becomes something greater. It marks a dark but fulfilling turn for Ian.
Are there any other plot twists that hurt or saved Shameless? Let us know in the comments!