Over the course of the past 6 seasons of Shameless, we have learned undeniable truths about the Gallaghers, the most pervasive being that they are fighters. They claw and scrape their way through life trying to keep ahead of the wave of problems that is always threatening to crash down on them. In “Familia Supra Gallegorious Omnia,” Ian lifted his burden bravely and held it on his shoulders.
Similar to prior season finales, the episode was full of formidable struggles for the Gallaghers. Ian’s conflict in the “I am Handicapped” scene was particularly striking. Writer John Wells did an exemplary job weaving the fabric of who Ian was, is and will become into this incredibly moving scene. Ian stood in front of his supervisor as a man with purpose. “I’m not leaving until I get my job back” he stated pointedly, and we were reminded of the boy he was in the past. He was the Gallagher that had lofty goals and was motivated to reach them. He was in ROTC and had aspirations of attending West Point.
The man advocating for himself was firm and steady. He did not resemble the Ian we met upon his return from the army. That Ian was erratic and impulsive. We didn’t want to believe it, but we knew why. Like his mother, he would suffer from Bipolar Disorder. Though manias and crashes ravaged him and left him barely recognizable, Ian wrapped his denial around him like an armor battling those he loved and surrendering to his disease.
It was not until we witnessed this passionate plea for his job, that we could believe that the determined Ian we once knew was back. What is so awe-inspiring about this scene is that his vulnerability is what makes him stronger than he has ever been. Ian’s perceived weakness is what will make him an empathetic EMT. He asks his boss “you think that since I’m bipolar, which I am managing by the way, that I can’t do this job where half the people we deal with are mentally ill?” and we are reminded of the tenderness he has demonstrated towards his family and the Milkoviches throughout the seasons. And then we get it, he needs this job because it will connect him to who he once was, and who he wants to become.
An incredibly poignant moment comes when Ian’s states that “It is illegal to discriminate against someone who is handicapped and I.. I am handicapped. It’s not my fault, I didn’t do anything to bring this on myself, I have a disease.” It’s apparent that he is not only admitting this to his boss, but also to himself. It is the first time we see Ian accept his diagnosis without shame or guilt. We can begin to see glimpses of a man who recognizes that he can have success and fulfillment in his life.
It must be said that this scene was powerfully acted by Cameron Monaghan. There was variability in his inflection as he spoke words that would have a great impact on people who suffer, or love someone who suffers, from mental illnesses. He beautifully portrayed an air of softness while commanding the screen. His temperament was raw yet careful in a way that was both inspirational and heartbreaking.
Regardless what happens with Ian’s EMT career, this scene will remain one of the most pivotal in his character’s maturity and development.
Written By Sarah