Shameless fans know that the Gallaghers are at their best when they’re united, and that their time to shine always comes when they’re plowing through adversity. They’re survivors, and the act of surviving is the driving force of this series. So what happens when they’re actually somewhat on their feet but separated, either literally or figuratively? Season 4 seems determined to explore that scenario as we see the characters dealing with their issues apart, rather than together.

Developed by John Wells, based on a British series by the same name, Shameless centers mainly on the Gallaghers, a working-class family living in Chicago. As mentioned, the characters are more or less separated with the issues they're dealing with at the start of Season 4, so I thought it best to approach this breakdown accordingly. The information ahead comes from the first two episodes of Season 4 and includes some updates, but no major spoilers.

Fiona (Emmy Rossum)
Fiona’s on the rise. Jimmy may have dropped off the face of the earth, but that hasn’t stopped Fiona from pushing forward. Not only is she making decent money at her cup-selling job, but she and Mike have made some steady progress in their relationship. And yet, as I watched the first two episodes, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it will be before this relationship completely implodes. As into Fiona as Mike seems to be, Fiona seems determined to shield Mike from the rough edges of her background and home life. It feels like she's cast herself in a role and she's determined not to break the illusion, lest she scare Mike off. The fact that she isn’t ready or willing to show him the real her causes me to doubt the longevity of their relationship.

Frank (William H. Macy) and Carl (Ethan Cutkosky)
We’ll put Frank and Carl together because the first two episodes have their stories pretty closely intertwined, as Frank returns home in desperate need of medical care and Carl is the only one who cares enough to try to help him. Yes, even Debbie, who has adored her father unconditionally in the past, has turned her back on him. We’ll get to her in a minute. While Carl attempts to help his father get alcohol into his body by whatever means possible, the young lad has also discovered the pubescent obsession with self-love. Between his determination to care for his father and his new masturbatory hobby, Carl’s pretty busy. Frank, meanwhile, is on a downward spiral, health-wise and he’s in desperate need of his family’s help. When he doesn’t get it, he decides to take matters into his own hands, which leads to an interesting reveal at the end of the second episode.

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