Whether the writers of Shameless realized it or not when they were storyboarding the third season they had sealed Fiona Gallagher’s fate. At lease in the minds of fans that is. The moment Fiona sat before that court and asked to be granted sole legal responsibility for her younger siblings she ceased to be just their sister. Storywise it was a brilliant move and Emmy Rossum’s performance in this scene tore your heart out.
Up until this point in the story, Fiona was just a hardworking young woman who was doing her best to keep her family together despite overwhelming odds. Through no fault of her own, the audience placed her on a pedestal from which she inevitably fell from when it became clear that Fiona Gallagher was not their mother and she was never going to be. Their mother was a bipolar drug addict who was more interested in partying than she was in her own kids. Monica Gallagher flitted in and out of her kid’s lives wreaking as much havoc as she could before leaving them heartbroken and alone.
And yet despite all of that the few times she showed herself to be a halfway decent person she was praised as though she were the greatest mother to ever walk the earth. Meanwhile, Fiona was torn to pieces whenever she failed to measure up in their eyes. It no longer mattered that at 23-years-old she was incapable of truly understanding what it meant to give up her entire life for another person.
Where once her sacrifices seemed noble they were now expected. In the blink of an eye, her journey had become superfluous to theirs. Her needs, her wants, her expectations were no longer important if they did anything to take away from theirs. If she did anything that even hinted at putting herself first she was labeled as selfish, uncaring, neglectful. It doesn’t seem to matter that sometimes in order to put your family first you have to put yourself first.
The only ones who seemed to fully grasp just how much Fiona’s life was going to change were Jimmy Steve and the judge. Everyone else just figured it would be business as usual. In season five the writers tried to reestablish Fiona as just the sister who was there to make sure the house didn’t burn down but who had her own shit to do. Except it was too late, Fiona Gallagher belonged to them now. Her life, for all intent and purpose, had been forfeited.