Shameless 4.06 “Iron City” Recap

by Shilo Adams / February 16, 2014

shamelessFiona arrives at the station and has both her mug shot and fingerprints taken, while at the hospital, Lip and the rest of the family anxiously await word on Liam. A nurse comes out looking for Fiona, as she can only disclose medical information to legal guardians, and Lip convinces her to update him on what’s going on. While his levels are settling down from where they were when he arrived, the hospital has him on an assortment of medications meant to combat seizures, a rising temperature, and unsteady glucose levels, but they’ll allow any immediate family over the age of 18 to see him. Since that’s pretty much Lip, he gets led to Liam’s room and finds his brother strapped down to a hospital bed and breathing through a ventilator. The nurse discloses that he had an overdose of cocaine and had become agitated to the point of hurting himself, hence him being tied down; she also warns Lip about the possibility of his brother suffering intellectual declines due to the overdose and how he’ll have to seek a pediatric neurologist to assess how much damage Liam’s brain took.

Over at the precinct, Fiona gets put in a holding cell before being loaded into a transport van bound for the Cook County Women’s Jail. The next thing to worry about is finding her a lawyer and as Lip pours over Liam’s admissions forms, all asking about insurance, occupation, and how his stay will be paid for. He doesn’t want to get Fiona a lawyer and won’t accept Kev’s offer to front him some cash for one, citing that he doesn’t believe that what happened was an accident and making a point to mention the quantum physics quiz that he’s missing due to what she did. Elsewhere, Frank learns about what happened to Sam’s mother (diabetes taking her foot, a double mastectomy due to breast cancer) as he waits to see his own doctor, Dr. Zabel. This is Frank’s 56th hospital visit and he informs Zabel about the sweat lodge, causing the doctor to mention that holistic medicine will often times kill you faster than western medicine. But things turn serious when Zabel tells Frank that he’s dying due to cirrhosis and renal impairment, among a list of other ailments, and that he should seriously consider finding a religious hospice with a focus on helping the indigent.

Fiona gets called up to do her intake interview and she inquires about using the phone to figure out what’s going on with her brother. However, the officer in charge continues asking questions, confiscates her personal belongings, and brings her to a nearby room for the strip search, the last of which finally breaks Fiona and causes her to cry. Fiona then puts on the uniform, just as Kev arrives back at the Gallagher’s to find Veronica. Debbie and Carl went to bed at around 2:00, so neither of them will be going to school that day, and V laments the fact that none of them saw Liam. Kev rationalizes that it was the combination of booze and noise before saying that it’s not their responsibility to keep track of the kids. When Veronica calls him on that, that Fiona doesn’t have the ability to keep up with this many kids at once, he clarifies that what happened was nobody’s fault and assures her that things would be better when they have their own kids.

Sheila wakes up and immediately begins looking after Running Tree’s children, all but one staying in Karen’s room the previous night. She tries to greet them in their native language and makes them food that she feels like they’d be more comfortable with, but she’s still not understanding that the younger ones are not as entrenched in the Menominee culture as Running Tree is. The family will be leaving the house today and returning to the reservation 90 minutes away and she mentions how she wants to come visit, though one of the kids confesses that rather than having acres of land and whatnot, they live in a double-wide trailer behind the casino. Lip receives a collect call from Fiona while still at the hospital and hesitates in taking it; he accepts, though, and gives her a quiet update on Liam’s status, being sure to mention the possible permanent brain damage and how he was strapped down to protect himself. She breaks down and he hangs up when the nurse comes out to see him.

Lip gets taken back to Liam where he sees that his brother is no longer strapped to the table and seems to be returning to normal. The nurse mentions how his levels are all just about right and that he’ll only be there another day or two before being released, except that Lip also has to meet with a woman from social services who asks questions about Frank’s whereabouts. If he can’t round up his father and bring him to the hospital, Liam will likely be placed in foster care and shamelessthere’s no way for him to become the boy’s guardian, since that process takes too long and Liam would be taken before the paperwork was processed. Meanwhile, Frank is decidedly not into the idea of going into hospice and while he tries to roll his wheelchair through gravels, Sam asks him why he didn’t want to be her dad and why he never asked about her mother. The two, he recalls, didn’t end on good terms and it’s not as if they were in anything resembling a committed, stable relationship at the time of conception; despite Sam’s mother assertions of loving Frank, he remembers bending her over a dryer while high on peyote, though he asserts that something beautiful and special came out of the encounter. At that memory, he reluctantly agrees to at least tour a hospice home, much to Sam’s delight.

Fiona receives a visit from her public defender Maria, who gives her a very quick rundown of what’s about to happen. Fiona’s going to have the charges read in court; she’ll please not guilty; the bail will be set; she’ll receive a preliminary hearing date; and bond will be posted, allowing her to get the heck out of jail. When Fiona gets in court, though, she’s taken aback hearing the two felonies that she’s charged with before pleading and she finds that her bail is set at $100,000. Of course, she doesn’t have to pay that in full – the family just needs to come up with 10%, which could be reduced should Liam recover. Lip yells at Debbie when she starts mentioning selling stuff and she runs out, likely to catch a bus. Unapologetically, Lip simply tells Carl that he should go to the hospital and continue monitoring Liam’s progress while he and Kev go find Frank. For his part, Frank isn’t in a good place right now, as he’s surrounded by death on his tour of the hospice facility. Though the caretaker mentions bringing personal items, the assorted staff on call, and the music that fills the facility thanks to one of the volunteers, Frank gets overwhelmed and leaves.

While Deb makes it to Matty’s apartment, Lip and Kev arrive at Sam’s trailer and beat on the door to no avail. Kev tries to convince him that nobody saw Liam at the party and that it wasn’t Fiona’s fault, but Lip doesn’t want to listen and gets back in the truck. Back in the jail, Fiona meets again with Maria, who tells her that she looks strung out and that Liam is doing better. There’s also a way for her to avoid doing any more jail time – give up who sold her the coke. The authorities don’t want to go to trial if they don’t have to and the identity of the dealer could be used as a bargaining chip to get her home quicker. However, Fiona refuses to give up Robbie’s name. Kev makes it back to the Alibi where Veronica tells him that there’s been no sign of Frank; she’s been trying to do their books to see whether they have enough assets to get the bond for Fiona, only to find out that they’re far from being able to bail their friend out.

Lip watches as Terry gets dragged out of his home on a probation violation and brought back to jail. Mandy was also there and he fills her in on the Liam/Fiona situation before asking that she find Ian and pass along the information. Carl goes home to find Chuckie watching porn and eating McDonald’s on the couch; he walks upstairs to find Sam and an unconscious Frank, who took four Oxys and two Valiums. He learns from Sam about the impact the sweat lodge had on Frank’s system and runs into Lip downstairs, where he informs his brother about the existence of Sam and Chuckie. The reason he went ahead and left the hospital was that Liam was said to be resting comfortably and he didn’t have a phone to call Liam due to Fiona confiscating it. The two eat some burgers and Lip heads back out to the hospital, calling Debbie on the way after learning that she didn’t come home. At the hospital, his roommate brings him some food and his study material, including his B+ paper on Immanuel Kant.

The next morning, Sheila, having said goodbye to Running Tree’s family, decides to pay the reservation a visit earlier than she anticipated, not even noticing that Carl burned down the sweat lodge the night before. At the jail, Fiona gets bonded out by Mike after Carl called him in desperation. He put up his condo as collateral and tells her to mail the check to pay him back, as he doesn’t want to see her again after he drops her off at home. Debbie receives a text from Lip about Liam getting out of the hospital and she brings Matty along with her, almost getting her brother and her pseudo-boyfriend into a fight in the middle of the hospital. However, all is better once Liam gets brought out by the nurse and while the family happily says their hellos to Liam, relieved that he’s okay, Fiona arrives to an empty house.

Additional thoughts and observations:
-It’s always a tiny bit strange to see Shameless smother its comedic side and go full dramatic, if only because the show makes such a point about embracing both of its identities, but this episode was pretty tremendous because of the relative seriousness and the rawness in the writing from creator John Wells. While I generally don’t mind the show’s zaniness and all that, I think it can somewhat detract from just how powerful a drama it can be and episodes like this are a good reminder that Shameless is one of the best dramas on television.
-The show has been using an interesting directorial device that I don’t recall being terribly prominent in seasons past. The scene where Fiona walks to the holding cell and Lip walks to see Liam were intercut in a way to show the similarity between their situations, how they were both being led into something that they wish they didn’t have to deal with; Shameless has used this multiple times this season (most notably after Debbie tries to hook up with a boy in the bathroom) and it feels like it’s suggesting a theme of this season is how, ultimately, this family is all on the same journey and dealing with the same emotions.
-Another theme of the season seems to be about belonging – Fiona and work/Mike; Lip and college; Ian and the Army; Sheila and the Menominee; Frank and Sam; Carl and Frank; Debbie and Matty. That sense of fitting well with the theme is the only reason I’m not more put off by Sheila’s storyline than I am – she’s lonely, she’s a little stir-crazy without a baby to take care of, and she idealizes the tribe mentality of Native Americans to the point of not being able to see that Running Tree’s family is just as screwed up as her own.
-What I’m most curious about going forward is how Lip’s relationship with Fiona is impacted due to what she did and how she inadvertently sabotaged not only his future, but the future of the entire family. As nice as it is to see the family bond and to witness just how deeply they care about one another, Lip and Fiona have had arguably the most tension between them since the beginning of the series and that’s only increased in the last couple of episodes. I like that he’s not going to let her off the hook and I think that by having her string of poor decisions spat back in her face by someone who loves her and who won’t walk around eggshells with her, she’ll be able to finally turn the corner and love herself enough to make the positive changes it looked like she about to make this season.
-Fiona Is the New Black? Orange Is the New Fiona? Shameless Is the New Black? What can we call Fiona’s stint in jail?
-So, I might have felt for Frank this episode and I never feel badly for Frank. He brings so much of the shit storm that is his life down on his own head, but watching him deal with his own mortality was pretty wrenching, especially with the genuine moment where he says he doesn’t want to do hospice and Sam taking him back home to sleep. Frank has such an immense life force that for a while, it seemed like he would outlive every one of his children, me, you, Cher, cockroaches, and the world itself, which makes the realization that not even the great Frank Gallagher can outrun liver failure and the clogged up bureaucracy of the American health care system all the more painful to watch.
-No Mickey, no Ian. It feels like they’re purposefully holding back on those two before bringing them crashing together later this season.
-Do you think this is the last that we’ll see of Mike this season? Are you surprised that he would bail Fiona out after everything that happened between them? And how idiotic is Fiona for not giving up Robbie’s name in exchange for her own freedom? I know that she’s got this hood mentality in her that precludes “snitching,” but she’s not Fiona, single girl from around the way; she’s Fiona, guardian of and sole provider for each of her siblings, meaning that she shouldn’t abide by some inane unwritten code because it’s not just her she’s hurting. She’s harming each and every one of her siblings by not doing what she can to get out of jail and help clear herself out of the justice system, all for some guy who can make her cum.
-I like how this episode used Carl’s personality in an interesting way, as he sets a fire out of revenge for what the sweat lodge did to his father. It’s a way to play up who the show has made him out to be in a non-obvious, oddly endearing way. Plus, the episode went against expectations by keeping the fire contained in the front yard and not completely enveloping Sheila’s house while she slept.
-Again, I was super happy that Lip got the B+ on his paper. Hopefully he’ll be able to continue college in some form or fashion while Fiona gets her legal situation lined out because he has such potential and was finally figuring out how to balance his time between working, studying, and relaxing. Rooting for you hard, Lip Gallagher. Don’t let me down.
-Next week on Shameless: Lip is faced with being the Gallagher guardian, while Frank continues to be out of commission due to his illness.

Shilo Adams is a contributing editor for ScreenFad whose work has appeared on TVOvermind, TVHackr, and KSiteTV. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @shilo_adams.