Death comes for us all, and it comes a little sooner for lifelong drug addicts self-medicating their bipolar disorder with methamphetamine. So while the death of wayward Gallagher matriarch Monica in the season 7 finale of Shameless may not have come as much of a surprise to her family, and (with a couple of exceptions) they may not be all that broken up about it, but as we rejoin the clan for season 8, it seems that the loss — and the windfall from the huge stash of crystal meth Monica left behind — is prompting some changes.
Fiona, the oldest and thus the one with the clearest memory of Monica’s abandonment, is not showing any signs of feeling the loss, but does seem to have resolved to make some changes and to look a little more earnestly for a grown-up relationship, swearing off Tinder and getting serious about fixing up the rundown building she bought last season, which just so happens to come with some legacy tenants.
Still struggling to stay sober, Lip continues to work the twelve steps while learning the art of motorcycle maintenance from his sponsor, who advises against trying to get back with Sierra, which is easier said than done when an ICE raid forces Lip into service at Patsy’s. Complicating matters is the stunning coworker at the garage who won’t give him the time of day, but I’m guessing it won’t be long before she softens.
Despite having found some stability working as an EMT, Ian is still pining for Trevor, who is still leery of Ian’s intentions after the whole almost running off to Mexico with his fugitive ex-boyfriend thing.
Debbie is fully owning her stuff across the board, working long hours as a toll-booth attendant to support herself and Frannie and taking welding classes (because welders make bank); Carl has done a full 180 from his criminal past (with the exception of selling everyone’s share of the meth), attending military school and installing both a flagpole and a Jacuzzi in the backyard; and Liam is starting to catch on to why they let him into the fancy private school.
Kev and Veronica, meanwhile, have found other jobs after losing the Alibi to Svetlana’s scheming. But the now-frequent neigborhood ICE raids give V an idea of how to get it back, while Kev resorts to less dignified means of making up the lost income.
And despite having recommitted himself to Monica just before her death, Frank is looking at her passing as a liberation. Reasoning that she had possessed his soul since he was 20, and that his many misdeeds in the interim were the result of her influence, Frank considers himself a new man, and sets about making amends for all his transgressions.
It seems the Gallaghers may be on the cusp of finally breaking out of their collective pattern of self-destructiveness and perpetual poverty. Which can only mean that things are either about to go spectacularly pear-shaped, or that this long-suffering family is closing in on their own unlikely happy ending.
Season 8 of Shameless begins at 9pm ET Sunday on Showtime; all past episodes are available on-demand.