Shameless (US): Frank the Plank   Rewatch 
June 18, 2014 10:17 PM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

The one where Frank goes missing.

This is most notable as the episode where Frank and Sheila (William H. Macy and Joan Cusack) meet, they have a sexual encounter (in which Sheila doesn't respect their "safety word"), and Frank starts to stay at Sheila's house. We also learn about Sheila's inability to leave the house, and we get much more of a sense of her character than in the pilot.

It's the first episode with the opening credits and the theme song, "The Luck You Got" by the High Strung. This sequence quickly lets the viewer know that the show is going to be edgy: there's smoking, nudity, sex, masturbation, male and female characters using the toilet, etc.

Tony starts to become a significant character in this episode. It's the first time he shows an interest in Fiona. A connection between the two was hinted at in the previous episode (the pilot): Fiona gazed at Tony meaningfully as he left the house, right after the interrupted sex between Fiona and Steve. (The actors dated in real life from 2011 to 2013.)

This episode introduces a major theme of the show: feckless attempts to solve your problems with violence. Eddie bloodies Frank, Frank bloodies his son Ian, and Fiona punches Steve in the face.

After Frank comes home from Toronto, we see him doing a poor job of relating to his younger daughter, Debbie, though he eventually seems to realize this and they have a brief tender moment. (It's as if he's aware that Debbie has done kind things for him, like placing the pillow underneath his head when he was lying on the floor unconscious in the previous episode.) The actor who plays Debbie, Emma Kenney (11 years old at the time), really starts to show her acting prowess in this episode.

Frank walks the streets ranting about his history with drinking, which is the first time we see him speaking bluntly about this.

There's one scene that's just between Lip and Frank, and another that's just between Lip and Steve. In both scenes, Lip is fearlessly speaking truth to the other. This establishes Lip as a strong character, and sets up the Lip/Frank and Lip/Steve connections, which will become more important later in the series.

Near the end of the episode, a classic line from Fiona to Steve, in response to his lavish gifts: "We don't need your charity."

At the end of the episode, Karen sits down at the breakfast table and stares at Frank, which is apparently the first time they've ever seen each other. Karen clearly has something in mind about Frank.

Foreshadowing: When Lip confronts Kevin in the bar, Lip mentions that he did Kev's taxes for him because Kev couldn't understand them.
posted by John Cohen (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wiki link.
posted by John Cohen at 10:31 PM on June 18, 2014

The one where Frank goes missing.

posted by shakespeherian at 7:27 AM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

... from the United States.
posted by John Cohen at 8:31 AM on June 19, 2014

How about this: The one where Frank goes missing, and his family cares.
posted by John Cohen at 8:32 AM on June 19, 2014

I admit this episode is a little mystifying to me, because the universal freakout the Gallaghers have over Frank being missing doesn't make sense in light of their later attitudes towards him. I mean by season two, none of them seem to care about Frank (except Debbie) or where he is, and Lip and Ian at times seem to actively wish he was dead. And this is without a terminal event in the meantime that would cause this sudden change. I feel like in the beginning episodes of the show, they meant to portray Frank's relationship with his children in a much different manner, but they changed course somewhere near the end of season 1. I think originally there was supposed to be this family loyalty and love between them, despite Frank's crap, but at some point they changed their minds and brought out the anger most of the kids have for him more.

I also was quite mystified as to why Fiona was so angry about Frank being left in Toronto. He practically broke Ian's nose. He's a useless drunk. And being left in Toronto is not the worst thing that could happen to a person. Hell, he was probably safer on that park bench in Toronto than he would have been on any of Chicago's park benches.
posted by katyggls at 11:19 PM on June 19, 2014

I see two main reasons for having this plotline in the show (aside from that it was only the second episode and they might have been copying the UK show — not sure if that's actually true, since I haven't seen the UK show):

(1) The fact that this plotline about Frank seems to go against his kids' usual attitude toward him might have been exactly why they wanted this to happen. Characters acting out of character is a feature, not a bug. It makes the characters and their relationships more complex and interesting.

A few episodes later, Monica will be introduced, and it needs to be crystal clear that the kids have a much more negative attitude toward her. It's more interesting for the kids to have a complex relationship with their dad and to utterly detest their mom, than for them to utterly detest both of their parents.

Also, even if it would be more realistic or justified for the kids to totally shun Frank, the fact is he's a central character on a TV show. It might be a rather bleak TV show, but it still can't be too bleak. Viewers watching the show as it aired would be mostly familiar with Frank as the person who ended up passed out on the floor (at the end of the pilot), causing Fiona to break down over the stress of needing to hold the family together because Frank is always MIA. After showing us such a stark picture of Frank from the beginning, I think the show wanted to show us the other side: while his family might be pretty used to Frank being away, they still care about him at least when he's in dire circumstances. (Another example: a few episodes later, he's hunted down by two men over an insurance fraud scheme, and the family all helps him out by faking his death.) It isn't a huge mystery: the kids are human beings — they care about their dad.

(2) The plotline is only superficially about Frank; it's really about Steve and Fiona. I think the people making this show felt they needed to do something very early on to send up a huge red flag about Steve. And it had to be really shocking, in order to override the many reasons we tend to want to see these characters to get together: they're obviously drawn to each other, they're both very charming, Fiona is a very sympathetic character who could use a supportive partner, Steve is very generous and might seem to be a reasonable fit with Fiona in certain ways, etc.

Yes, the first episode had already given us a reason to think Steve is bad news: he's a career criminal. However, that's so common on TV that it doesn't make the same impression it would make in real life. Yes, Steve might have made a fool of himself at the nightclub — but he was standing up for Fiona against two unsavory characters, the purse thief and the bouncer. Anyway, a TV audience is not going to remember every plot point from one episode to the next.

So, it's not enough that there were some red flags about Steve. He needed to make an attempt to impress Fiona that would be so far over the line that Fiona would be furious at him, tell him off, and punch him in the face, and we'd still sympathize with Fiona. That way, when Tony, a very different type of man, starts competing with Steve to woo Fiona, the audience is in suspense about whether she'll choose the one who's nice and sweet but unexciting (Tony), or the one who's more exciting and breaks all the rules but has no sense of boundaries and drives Fiona crazy.
posted by John Cohen at 3:22 PM on June 20, 2014

If that was their intention, I think they failed, at least with me. To me Steve came across as still a mostly sympathetic character, and I didn't think for even a second that Fiona would actually end up with Tony instead of Steve. Also, I read Tony pretty early on as an entitled "nice guy" creep, who really wasn't as sweet and nice as he pretended to be, but maybe that's because I'm a woman and more attuned to that.

From what I've heard people say about the UK version, the first 4 or 5 eps of the US version are almost carbon copies of the UK version, but then they veered off in their own direction, as far as both plot and characterization. My guess is that's what's to blame for the early uncertainty about how the kids feel about Frank, Frank's uneven characterization (lovable scoundrel or narcissistic jerk).
posted by katyggls at 9:18 PM on June 20, 2014

A few episodes later, Monica will be introduced

Wow, really? If you had asked me I would have been pretty sure in my recollection that Monica didn't show up at all until after the first season.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:40 PM on June 20, 2014

If that was their intention, I think they failed, at least with me. To me Steve came across as still a mostly sympathetic character, and I didn't think for even a second that Fiona would actually end up with Tony instead of Steve. Also, I read Tony pretty early on as an entitled "nice guy" creep, who really wasn't as sweet and nice as he pretended to be, but maybe that's because I'm a woman and more attuned to that.

IIRC the first time I watched through I really wanted JimmySteve to be the great match he seems to be at this point, although something in the back of my head was noticing the red flags. By probably midway through the season though I hated the fucker.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:44 PM on June 20, 2014

I'm not crazy about Steve (Jimmy, jack, whatever) either, but I just don't buy the idea that we were supposed to find Tony preferable. I also don't buy that we were supposed to think Steve was a horrible person for dropping Frank off in Toronto. It was funny. Frank deserved it.
posted by katyggls at 12:10 AM on June 21, 2014

Well, leaving someone in a foreign country without a passport is a pretty horrible thing to do.

I've always found Steve intolerable.
posted by John Cohen at 12:56 AM on June 21, 2014

He's a tourist. He's the guy Pulp wrote 'Common People' about.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:42 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Notice the significant song that starts playing when Karen meets Frank at the end: "She's a Guillotine."
posted by John Cohen at 7:34 PM on March 17, 2016

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