By the end of the third season of Shameless, I couldn’t stand Jimmy Steve and I was happy to see him go, but it was then he had his finest moment. Fiona Gallagher deserved better than him in so many ways. Jimmy Steve had always treated Fiona and her siblings like they were a shiny new toy his parents bought him to keep him entertained while they tended to their own lives. That isn’t to say he didn’t love Fiona or that he didn’t care about her siblings, only that he cared about himself and chasing after new thrills more than he cared about them. I think he wanted to be the guy who comes in, saves the day, and stays, but in the end, he just didn’t have it in him.
He proved this time and time again when his green card wife and her cartel running father came back into the picture early on in season three. Rather than come forward and explain the situation to Fiona, who would have understood considering all the crap Frank has heaped on their lives, he chose to keep it to himself. He kept it from her not because he was protecting her from the truth, but because Estefania and her father brought back the excitement and thrill that had been missing in his life since he decided to play house with Fiona.
And I get that, I really do. Real life is boring. Real life consists of going to a job that you may or may not like, but even if you do like it there are days you would rather be doing anything else but your job. Real life consists of washing dishes, paying bills, folding laundry, doctor’s appointments, homework, petty arguments over who is supposed to wash the dishes, and nights watching TV. Real life is made up of occasional moments of excitement entwined with long periods of boredom. I don’t blame Jimmy Steve for wanting something more out of his life than just watching Liam and paying for Carl’s braces. Hell, I very seriously doubt Fiona would have blamed him either because I’m positive Fiona wants more out of her own life than take care of her five siblings and working crappy jobs that paid her next to nothing.
But the thing is Fiona knew this and Jimmy Steve refused to believe it. He wanted Fiona and a life filled with excitement. And if Fiona had left with him at the end of the first season he probably would have gotten just what he wanted. Except, Fiona would never have been able to leave her siblings. Even today as she slowly builds a life for herself without her siblings she is still intricately tied to their lives and she always will be. Jimmy Steve, on the other hand, will never have a real life. He will always chase the thrill. It’s his addiction. It’s what he’s shameless about. He needs it more than he needed Fiona.
When Jimmy Steve showed up at the end of season four I wasn’t one of the fans who were happy to see him. In fact, I was pretty irritated that they had ruined what was arguably Jimmy Steve’s best moment from all three seasons. When “Order Room Service” originally aired I kept seeing how if that was his final moment it wasn’t worthy of Shameless. Somehow viewers had confused the meaning of the word shameless with outrageousness. And granted, that’s partly the shows fault. They did such a good job of showing how outrageous we can be when we’re pushed to our limits. But the truth is the act of being shameless doesn’t have to mean threesomes with wives and mother-in-laws or having sex with a woman to the point her heart gives out or hitting people with cars or any of the other hundreds of acts committed by theses characters.
Sometimes it means loving someone so much that you’re willing to sacrifice everything for them. Sometimes it means plagiarizing great speakers to help the person you love. Sometimes it means wandering off late at night so you can let the sunshine in. Sometimes it means walking away from a relationship that means everything to you because it hurts too much to stay. Sometimes it means you get an ambiguous ending because life itself is shameless and we don’t always get closure.
Before Jimmy Steve stepped on to that boat he had never had to face any real consequences. He had always chosen to run or his family, the family he claimed to despise, bailed him out. In the moment Beto told him to be a man, just this once, we saw all his fake bravado drain out of him until all that was left was Jimmy Lishman. And he could have gone out that way, but he didn’t because somehow, someway Jimmy disappeared and Steve stepped up.
In a way, Jimmy Steve had always been two people and he had waffled between who he wanted to be. Did he want to be Jimmy, the guy who lived on the nice side of town who followed in his family’s footsteps or did he want to be Steve, the guy who ran directly into the path of danger and excitement?
He chose to be Steve. He squared his shoulders and walked towards the unknown. This was to be his finest moment because it was the one time he was truly honest with himself about who he was, what he had done, and what it all meant.