Showtime’s Shameless wrapped up its best season yet on Sunday night with moments of catharsis, clarity and a huge cliffhanger.
Hopefully, you stuck around past the initial closing credits, because that’s when a car drives up to the Gallagher house. “Jack, are you going to go inside?” the female driver (played by Dollhouse‘s Dichen Lachman!) asks. Before the man sitting in the passenger seat even turns around, you already know who it is, but that doesn’t make the reveal that Jimmy/Steve (Justin Chatwin) is alive any less thrilling. (The episode’s title, “Lazarus,” could also have been a giveaway had Frank not had his own near death experience and rising.)
The twist — which not even star Emmy Rossum knew about! — was actually kind of validating. Just earlier in the episode, as Fiona was making her way through the house, I found myself wondering what Jimmy/Steve would think of what her life has become. Would he even fit into it anymore? Whatever the answers, it doesn’t seem we’ll find them out any time soon. Jack replies that he won’t be going inside the house tonight.
Even without that surprise, Sunday night’s finale would still have been a terrific finish to an even better season. This year, the show allowed its characters to evolve and really plumbed their emotional depths. And no one had a richer arc than Fiona, who gets out of prison early in the episode because of overcrowding. Her parole officer (played by Regina King, the master of tough love) hooks her up with a job at a diner run by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and tells her she needs to take responsibility for her own life.
RELATED | Shameless Renewed for Season 5
“It’s all me,” Fiona later says, sitting on the steps with Lip. She can’t blame Frank or Monica or nature or nurture anymore for what’s happened.
“You’re not perfect, Fiona,” Lips offers her. “None of us are.”
Meanwhile, another family crisis hits when Mickey can’t get Ian out of bed. Unfortunately, the Gallaghers are all too familiar with this kind of behavior. “Is this family ever going to catch a break?” Fiona wonders. When she suggests it could be bipolar disorder, like their mom had, and that Ian might need to be hospitalized, Mickey freaks out and insists that Ian stay with him.
“I can take care of him!” he exclaims. “He’s f–king family.” How’s that for coming a long way?
But while even Mickey has evolved, a recovering Frank may be back to his old ways. While Sheila and Sammi fight over him, Carl whisks him out of the hospital and brings him to an icy bank. Despite being told by his doctor that he can’t drink alcohol, he takes a swig from a bottle and yells into the void, “That all you got? That’s it. I’m still here, you f–ker! I’m alive! You see me? You see me standing here? You lost, asshole.” Then he offers the bottle to Carl. “A little nibble won’t hurt you,” he says. Wanna bet?
Elsewhere in the hour:
* Lip and Amanda’s “relationship” gets even weirder as she buys him a fancy suit for her sorority’s pining ceremony so she can make all the other girls jealous. (Anybody else think for a second that this was some weird mass marriage ritual?)
* Carl’s sorta girlfriend Bonnie abandons him after he tries to give her a present.
* Sheila loses her petition to gain custody of the five Native American kids.
* And Debbie? She’s still obsessed with Matty.
Shameless fans, grade the episode via the poll below, then hit the comments to back up your pick and sound off on Jimmy’s surprise appearance. Plus: Did the show lose its guts by not killing off Frank?