Mikhailo Aleksandr Milkovich broke out of prison and before he headed down to Mexico to start his new life on the beach (where I hope he will be wearing a lot of sunscreen), he had some important business to take care of. He was going to get his man back.
I’ll admit, at first I wasn’t crazy about the prison break story-line. I would have preferred to see Mickey released due to a mistrial, or another scenario that would have made a long term Gallavich relationship more plausible. Pragmatically, Mickey being on the run, doesn’t bode well for Ian and Mickey ending season seven as a couple, unless Cameron Monaghan is planning to leave Shameless. Since I am all about Gallavich being end game (more on that later) the fact that I would support a story-line that makes it more difficult for them to be together seems counterproductive, however, I appreciate that Mickey’s escape brings back the “shit talking, bitch slapping, piece of South Side trash” that Ian and the viewers fell for.
John Wells’ writing in “Love Songs in the Key of Gallagher” and “I Only Miss Her When I’m Breathing” portrayed Mickey as so vulnerable that his heart was left twitching and bleeding on that visiting room floor. Mickey’s gorgeous and intricate character arc made the writing believable; however, that level of vulnerability (including, but not limited to, that fucking travesty of a chest tattoo) made Mickey a victim and not the scrappy survivor we knew so well. The guts and audacity it takes to bust out of prison shows strength that had otherwise been taken from Mickey. Now, it’s not the most respectable thing to do, but this is Shameless, and we are allowed to root for the escaped convict, especially if that convict is Mickey. The prison break scenario was a way to give Mickey back some of the pride that Wells had stripped from him.
“Miss me?”- Mickey
Handling the return of a highly regarded character in an epic, yet genuine way was a weighty task, but Dominique Morisseau met the challenge with fervor and finesse. Morisseau’s writing grounded the unrealistic circumstances surrounding Mickey’s escape, by making the story-line equal parts exciting and tender. Not only was the grand scope of the episode well done, but Morisseau’s focus on the finer details was masterful. Throughout the episode, Morisseau showed that Ian’s decision to go with Mickey was not impulsive. He thoughtfully contemplated his options and considered the implications. Mickey gave Ian countless outs, not hounding or pressuring him. When it came down to it, Ian made his own choice.
Morisseau also did justice to the most anticipated reunion in Shameless’ history. Mickey brought Ian to a place that was nostalgic to them and referred to it as “our spot.” After all, they had reunited under those same bleachers once before. Back then Mickey had taken the big step to admit to Ian that he had missed him. Years later they stared at each other in awe, eyes soft, not believing that the other man was actually there, that this was real. In typical Gallavich fashion they bickered a little, rough housed, gave each other shit, and then reverted back to the tenderness that they so desperately missed.
At their second meeting, when Mickey said “Knew you’d come, knew you’d come,” and held onto Ian tightly, a wounded character was given a healing and meaningful homecoming. Mickey returned to the only loving home he had ever known, the one that existed within Ian. No house could provide Mickey or Ian with the safety they found in each other’s arms. Growing up, they didn’t know that type of security. They fought for it. They built it.
There was recognition and bewilderment in their eyes that though things had changed between them on the surface, the depth of the connection in their souls had not shifted. Between them, there was an overwhelming realization that time and circumstances could not unravel the ties that bound them together. It was a living, breathing representation that there is no way to move on from someone who lives inside of you.
“I can’t get him out of my head”- Ian
Ian opening up to Fiona about his internal conflict regarding chasing love or staying in Chicago was an incredibly well written scene by Morisseau. Knowing the Gallaghers’ sibling relationships, it would have seemed more likely for Ian to go to Lip for guidance. Even if Lip hadn’t been otherwise indisposed, Ian needed to have this conversation with Fiona. Though their romantic relationships have been different from one another, Fiona and Ian have a history of seeking comfort and security through sex. They both have a need to be cared for, even though they often reject the assistance. Perhaps Ian recognized that he and his sister share these qualities, and maybe it allowed him the intimacy to ask the most astute and reflective question we have heard a Gallagher utter in a while, “What if nothing ever gives you that same thrill again? Would you still feel like you dodged a bullet?”
Ian is a man standing at the precipice of a decision that will change the rest of the life. Does he take the leap to be with the person that his heart wants, giving up the only life he has ever known? Or does he remain on stable ground and turn away from the man he loves to live a ‘respectable’ life in Chicago with his family? Though I don’t agree with Fiona’s advice, I understand why she gave it. She wants to see her brother continue to succeed in his career, be healthy, and not live a life fearing who could be lurking around the next corner. Nevertheless, this is Shameless and there’s a significant chance that even if Ian were to stay in Chicago, he would still find a way to screw up his life completely. Why not be with his soulmate while he’s messing up?
When Jimmy/Steve was brought into the conversation, it continued to establish parallels in Fiona and Ian’s experiences; however, their circumstances aren’t as similar as they seem to be on the surface. Fiona didn’t regret giving up Jimmy/Steve because she made the right choice. He was selfish, entitled, and habitually proved his unworthiness. On the other hand, Mickey was selfless, constantly putting Ian’s needs above his own. When Ian was sick, it was Mickey who cared for him in ways that his family couldn’t. It was Mickey who stood by him, accepted him, forgave him, and loved him. It was beautiful. If Mickey could have taken all of the pain from Ian, he would have. Mickey became the steel in Ian’s backbone and the blood that pumped through his heart. Fiona should recognize that Mickey would give up his life to protect Ian. He proved that. He did that.
It is obvious that the writers are seeking to present a comparison of what Ian’s life would be like with Mickey, a fugitive on the run, versus Trevor, an upstanding citizen. It’s no coincidence that in the episode where Mickey returned, we saw Ian visit Trevor in his office for the first time to hear more about the admirable work he does for the community. Morisseau attempted to solidify Ian’s relationship with Trevor by showing the couple as domestic and connected. Unfortunately, the writing prior to this episode didn’t give enough depth to their relationship to make an emotional attachment believable.
The thing is, personally, I like Trevor. The writers have done an injustice to his character by focusing so heavily on his and Ian’s sex lives. There were moments of Ian learning more about the LGBTQ+ community as well, and showing growth in that way, but that’s as intimate as googling. Viewers can only pull from what we can see and if the writing centers on the logistics of their sex life, we are going to think of them as friends with benefits at best.
Trevor can’t begin to understand the depth of Ian’s struggles at this point in their relationship, and we can’t necessarily blame him for that, but never seeing a conversation regarding Ian’s bipolar disorder immediately made their connection shallow. Trevor not grasping Ian’s relationship with Monica at all and making light of Ian’s very real struggle didn’t help matters. Just like we shouldn’t blame Ian for his ignorance regarding LGBTQ issues, we shouldn’t blame Trevor for his. He needed to learn, too, but the writers dropped the ball on that development in favor of spice that became suddenly bland as soon as Mickey entered the picture.
It is truly a compliment to the writers that it would be unbelievable, no matter what his criminal status may be, that Mickey would ever be looked at as a bad partner for Ian. I mean, he’s always been a criminal, right? At least Mickey went to prison because he sought to defend Ian. All the other adult characters in Shameless have participated in criminal activity, exclusively for their own benefit. Viewers have been on the South Side for seven seasons, immersing ourselves in the Gallaghers’ world. It shouldn’t be surprising to writers that fans of Shameless would be compelled to show loyalty to one of our own. We’ve learned the code. The question is, have they?
“Is this goodbye?”- Mickey
Shameless is not known for giving its characters storybook endings. As much as this option would offer stunning closure for Ian and Mickey’s love story, it is a difficult conclusion for both of the characters’ individual arcs. Mickey’s life has already been shattered. He made the decision to seek revenge on Sammi and there were ramifications. The writers chose the prison break scenario, which in turn exiled Mickey from his family and any chance he had at one day building a relationship with his son. On the other hand, if Ian wants to be with Mickey, he has to be leave everything he knows and worked for behind. The men would be abandoned in a foreign country, always looking over their shoulders, with only each other to lean on. That’s not a fairy-tale ending. That’s a Shameless ending. Ian going back to Chicago to live a simple life of clocking in and clocking out, while making dinner plans with a significant other is the conventional happy ending. That’s the ending that doesn’t take a risk; the vanilla conclusion.
Now before I continue, I need to note that when writing television pieces I aim to delve deep into the psyche of characters, see all sides, weigh the possible scenarios, and remain as open-minded as possible. Having said that, there is only one way this can go to remain authentic to both Ian and Mickey’s characters. They need to, at some point before the series concludes, end up together. The final scene of “Ride or Die” would have been the perfect ending for Gallavich; two boys, who had fallen in love on the streets of the South Side, were now men deciding that as long as they were together, they were home. Fade to black.
If for any reason the writers’ goal is not for Gallavich to be end game, they burned themselves by having Noel Fisher come back. When Noel and Cameron are on screen together they become Mickey and Ian. The Gallavich relationship was written beautifully, but it was the acting that sold the story. Noel and Cameron have chemistry that is undeniable and won’t be duplicated. Their spark lights television screens on fire. If you add to that the complex and layered history their characters have shared, you’ve ignited an inferno. Allowing these insanely talented actors to work together again effectively killed any future relationships the writers may try to give Ian, making them look like a BIC lighter low on fluid in comparison.
It would be incomprehensible and disingenuous for Ian to choose not to be with Mickey. If the writers do not end the story of Gallavich with Mickey and Ian together, it would seem that logistics had more to do with the storyline than creativity. That said, despite wherever their stories may take them from here, Ian and Mickey will always have “Ride or Die”; an episode that honored their indisputable bond and did right by them.