Shameless‘ writers have a way of putting viewers through the wringer. Soon after a Gallagher takes steps to better their life or circumstances, they stumble backwards in a spectacular fashion. It’s heartbreaking, but realistic. Between the unremitting cycle of poverty and shoddy parenting, forward progress can be an unattainable dream. The Gallaghers, being the scrappy bunch they are, persist. They claw their way towards success and custodianship over their life’s direction. A new Gallagher has joined the battle for reclamation. In “I Am a Storm,” Carl Gallagher showed that he has aspirations to make something of himself and that he is a force to be reckoned with.
In Shameless‘ early years, young Carl was swath with psychopathic tendencies. His character was either utilized for comedic relief, delivering pithy one-liners or as an exhibit of Fiona’s struggles in raising the family. In season three viewers were invited to meet another side of Carl. He was tender and sensitive towards Frank, a man mostly void of redeemable qualities. One of my favorite Shameless scenes to date is in season three’s finale “Survival of the Fittest.” Carl shaves Frank’s head in the hospital so that the sun rays could get in to heal Frank. It was a beautiful, poignant scene that cemented Carl as a multifaceted, powerful character.
It was not a leap that Carl immersed himself willingly into the South Side’s criminal underbelly. He had always shown a propensity towards violence, which was skillfully juxtaposed by the fact that aside from a few school yard brawls where he mostly defended his family’s honor, he was not a violent boy. This dichotomy was further explored through Carl’s friendship with Nick. Though Carl was in the business of selling guns, which are historically tied to violence, the tragedy brought by Nick’s brutal, blood thirsty actions shook Carl to the core. Nick’s story wasn’t thoroughly explored, but his impact on Carl will stand to be a crucial turning point in Carl’s character development.
Though, Dominique proved herself unworthy of Carl’s devotion (he cut off his foreskin for the little cheater for fucks sake), their relationship brought something more important than sex or love into Carl’s life. Their relationship brought her father, Sergeant Luther Winslow. Carl and Luther didn’t hit it off right away. Luther was protective of his daughter and Carl had a past that indicated he was someone worth suspecting of wrongdoing. As time passed on, Carl proved himself as a man that could be trusted, respected.
The scenes between Carl and Luther in “I Am a Storm,” were hopeful and impactful. Carl had someone believing in him, relating to him, and directing him in a way that he hadn’t experienced previously. As I watched, I silently admonished myself for never considering that Carl could be more than he had been before. I hated that I hadn’t synthesized all the signs that had been pointing towards redemption, towards a greater calling. I always saw the potential in Fiona, Lip and Ian. How did I miss it in Carl?
I got chills when I realized that Carl could be the one that makes it out and makes something fantastic of himself. I’ll patiently root him on while keeping my fingers crossed that military school or something of that ilk works out for Carl. I’ve seen the structure and purpose change the lives of so many kids that had been delinquents. I love this avenue for Carl. Maybe it’s time for him dust off Ian’s old ROTC uniform.
It is important to note that much of Carl’s appeal can be attributed to the strong acting work done by Ethan Cutkosky. Ethan has the stunning ability to portray innocence in his eyes, even while Carl is posturing. He is a fine comedic actor with a clear capacity for timing, but his raw vulnerability and portrayal of a careful hope is where his talent shines the most brightly. Ethan is a joy to watch.
Here’s hoping Carl finds a way to take military school by storm, showing his strength and capacity to achieve. He has the momentum, now he needs to push.