After four full seasons of the unabashedly uncomfortable situations in “Shameless,” you wouldn’t think much could surprise us viewers. But it seems the writers are shamelessly ambitious. Season four’s finale aired last Sunday, and it was a bit of a doozy.

For one thing, Frank is back, and in a story arc that is reflective of their similarities, so is Fiona. Frank regains his consciousness after having a successful liver transplant and Carl busts him out of the hospital, while Fiona gets out of prison on a technicality and receives some tough love from her parole officer.

By the end, Fiona has reclaimed her role as den mother to the Gallagher clan and Frank is back to reacquainting his liver with a poisonous amount of alcohol.

Frank’s relapse was a real disappointment to me. This season we got to see Frank more vulnerable than ever before, and I really thought he would end up making some sort of change to his life – any change at all, I’m not picky. Instead, he’s passing on his degenerate tendencies to his already arguably sociopathic son, Carl.

These aren’t the only family connections. After the triumph of Mickey’s coming-out brawl, his relationship with Ian is put under new stress when Ian starts displaying symptoms of bipolar disorder, a mental illness that also afflicts his mother, Monica.

When the family realizes that Ian is manic depressive, it prompts Fiona and Lip to have a candid heart-to-heart that reinforces the recurring theme of this season: family. Lip explains that, just because they’re related to Frank and Monica, that doesn’t mean they will someday become Frank and Monica. Fiona then immediately proves Lip right by doing something Frank has never done: taking responsibility for her mistakes.

While it’s all well and good for Fiona that she’s maybe finally getting her life back on track, I have a feeling that the writers have something a little more sinister in store for next season. There was a scene at the end of the episode that kind of flies in the face of believable story arcs by reintroducing Jimmy/Steve/Jack(?) in the last 10 seconds of the episode.

For those of you who don’t remember, Jimmy/Steve was the guy who got into it with some Brazilian drug lord, and we were all led to believe that he was lured onto the drug lord’s boat, shot, chopped up into little pieces and dumped into the Great Lakes. Well guess what: That didn’t happen.

Even after John Wells, the executive producer of the show, promised everyone that Jimmy/Steve was definitely dead, he makes a “surprise” appearance, and I’m thinking we can expect him to cast a shadow over Fiona’s glimmer of hope in season five.

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