Saying Goodbye to Fiona on Shameless
It's been nine seasons and it still feels too soon.
It’s over, isn’t it? Why can’t I move on?
I’ve known for months that the time was coming when Emmy Rossum would leave Shameless for hopefully brighter pastures and opportunities, and yet, as the season comes to a close, I’m finding it really hard to let go of the character I have been rooting for all these years—of course, not as hard as Emmy herself, who has talked to Entertainment Weekly about leaving the show she’s been on since 2011:
“I was 23 when the show started and it’s been pretty remarkable the confidence that it’s given me. It’s been a long, wonderful journey and I’m so close to my Gallagher family that to walk away is quite bittersweet, but it did feel like it was time for the character to spread her wings and that there was less need for her. I never want something to just feel like a job and so I’m leaving while I still love it.”
When asked why she felt like now was the right time for her to leave, Rossum mentioned long hours and how young she was when she started, but really just wanting the show to leave Fiona on a high note and using that as a platform for her exist:
“I always wanted Fiona to leave on a high note and I’ve campaigned for that since the beginning. Fiona is not only close to my heart, but I think kind of like a pillar of strength in the family. But at the same time, I love the messy darkness that she falls into. I love the chaos that she craves and attracts and it’s much, much more exciting and thrilling to play her when she’s going through s— and when she’s combusting than when she’s a successful property owner. So, selfishly, I feel two ways about it. As an actor, I want to play a mess, it’s more fun, it’s more expansive, especially taking her to the lows that she went this year, which are so much lower than she’s ever been.”
That low has led to having Fiona deal with her alcoholism, something she has inherited from her parents and shares with her siblings, but most of all Lip. Still, it’s important to have shows where women are allowed to be messy and flawed, especially when the literal piece of human garbage that is Frank Gallagher not only spawned you. but manages to keep coming out on top.
“There have really been two distinct cycles for her over the nine seasons. We’ve watched her ascend and gain some traction in her life in the first few seasons, and season 4 really took a dip with drugs and jail time, and then she built her way back up, became the manager of a restaurant, a property owner, and then her hubris led her to bite off more than she can chew. And when she lost it all, the same old demons and coping mechanisms came back with her anger, her inherited trait of alcoholism. And so it’s been really fun to play those dynamics, especially because they are so different from who I am.”
For me, Fiona is up there with many tragic Shakespearean figures—always being pulled down by her fatal flaws, while trying to do the best she can. If there was a character who so perfectly embodied the phrase “the path the Hell is paved with good intentions” it’d be Fiona. At her core, Fiona was trying to break the cycle for herself, her siblings, and even sometimes for her own parents.
Fiona embodies all the single moms, teen parents, and hardworking women in the world who are caught up in a vicious reality of toxic family relationships, addiction, and poor judgment based on years of untreated emotional issues. Watching Fiona struggle has been painful, cathartic, and frustrating. I’ve felt every rise and fall so personally, not because I see myself in Fiona, but because I know I’ve lacked the strength she has on the show.
The things she’s been through and not allowing herself to stop her are truly inspiring, and while she never becomes a fully realized “heroine,” she is someone I root for immensely. Much like Betty Draper, Fiona is a product of her environment, and while that is not an excuse, she gets called out for it way more than a lot of other characters because she’s expected to always put herself second.
How Shameless will continue without her, I do not know, but I do know that Fiona Gallagher deserves a happy ending. Well, as happy of an ending a Gallagher can get.
Only two episodes left!
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