Major spoilers below for anyone who didn't watch Shameless' series finale on Showtime, so be warned!
After eleven seasons of boozed-up, dysfunctional mayhem from the entirety of the Gallagher family, Showtime's longest-running drama Shameless came to its bittersweet and darkly comedic conclusion with its series finale titled "Father Frank, Full of Grace." Fans had tons of expectations going into that finale, with the largest one hinging on Emmy Rossum returning as estranged daughter/sibling Fiona. That didn't happen, sadly, and the finale also surprisingly left things pretty open-ended for a variety of main characters. Well, except for William H. Macy's Frank, of course.
The Gallagher family patriarch and anti-role model Frank met his maker in a predictably strange and subdued fashion, which was capped off in one of the greatest mid-credits scenes in all of television. But before we get to that, let's talk about the glaring absence of one Emmy Rossum.
Why Emmy Rossum Didn't Return For Shameless' Finale
As Shameless fans are well aware, Emmy Rossum took absence from the Showtime drama back in March 2019 for the Season 9 finale, with Fiona rounding up some money and taking a plane ride the hell away from the rest of the Gallagher clan, never to return again. (At least during the show moments that viewers were privy to.) Though fans were strongly hoping for producers to find a way to bring Rossum back into the fold, it sadly did not happen. However, executive producer John Wells says that there definitely was a concerted effort to showcase Rossum's Fiona one final time, even though it didn't work out. Here's what he told TVLine:
Yeah, and she very much wanted to [come back], and we worked and worked on it. She lives in New York with her husband, and we managed to time it just at the wrong time, unfortunately. We hit the second or third time everything shut down with two-week quarantines. So just the timing didn’t work out. It was disappointing for all of us, and especially for Emmy, but with her other obligations, she couldn’t go back and quarantine for two weeks in New York after being in Los Angeles. It’s sad. A minor inconvenience given the major tragedy of the pandemic, but sad for all of us, nonetheless.
As John Wells implied, the COVID pandemic has obviously taken serious tolls on untold numbers of people around the world, so a TV finale isn't the biggest victim here. But still, removed from that grander context, it was hugely disappointing to go through the entire finale without seeing Fiona pop up at some point. Even if it would have just been a Zoom call with Emma Kenney's Debbie or something. Sigh.
How Shameless Ended For Frank And Others
William H. Macy's Frank definitely had the most eventful finale, at least in terms of experiencing permanent character changes. The episode started off following up on his couch-set overdose from the previous episode, and in true Gallagher form, none of the family members did much to check on Frank's vitals or his general well-being. They just left him to his devices, and only Christian Isaiah's noticed whenever Frank got up and shambled out into the world.
Frank's issues were likely a mix of drugs in his system, his dementia, and his somewhat surprising COVID-19 diagnosis, and he looked like death warmed over, fittingly enough. After taking an ambulance ride from a church to a hospital, Frank found solace in a flashback-filled trip down memory lane, though none of his children found solace in the note he left before shooting up that last time, considering they didn't find the note at all before the credits rolled.
After Frank passed, his ghostly form floated above the heads of his family and friends inside The Alibi, watching over everyone until he made his grand exit by floating up into the ethers. It was an oddly supernatural moment for Shameless, but just in case that was too sweet of an ending for Frank, the episode's mid-credit moment added some hilarious punctuation to his death. As Frank's body was being processed inside a crematorium, it was so full of alcohol that it exploded the whole building.
Other characters' stories featured far less closure. Cameron Monaghan's Ian and Noel Fisher's Mickey, who'd recently moved into their own digs, discussed the notion of having children at some point. Mickey was haunted by the notion that he might fail as a dad, while Ian was more optimistic about the concept, even tossing the idea out there that they could potentially adopt someone less fortunate within the Noel's fam. Meanwhile, Debbie got horny for Shakira Barrera's criminalistic Heidi, but viewers never got to see if Debbie accepted Heidi's offer to leave Chicago on an expansive road trip.
Speaking of moments that weren't confirmed or otherwise, viewers were left in the dark about whether Jeremy Allen White's thirst-trapping Lip and Kate Miner's Tami will be having a child together, as it wasn't revealed in full whether Tami was pregnant. Lip was also having issues trying to sell the house, and likely wasn't going to make a proper amount of money off of it, so that's another blow against him. It also looked like The Alibi might get sold off, too, with Steve Howey's Kevin and Shanola Hampton's Veronica looking into their options. So it was somewhat surprising when Ethan Cutkosky's Carl and his fellow cop buddy (played by Joshua Malina) talked to Kevin about buying it and turning it into a cop-friendly bar. Of course, that was another plot strand that was left open-ended.
Given how many characters' stories didn't have proper conclusions, fans might have suspected that the creative team was setting up one or more spinoffs to hit Showtime at a later date. However, John Wells doesn't make it seem like that's the case at all. In his words:
No, not really. The idea was to leave it looking like life, where you really don’t know what’s going to happen next, and let the audience members who have close relationships with a lot of the characters fill in the blank that you want to fill in. You can’t be wrong about what you think happens next. You’re going to have fun arguing about it or thinking about it, but it is for you to fill in the rest of the story for the Gallaghers, with the exception of Frank. I’ve been involved in a number of long-running shows. I just think it’s true to life, and just as a viewer, I always feel that I like that feeling. Just walking away from the ER [on ER], or there’s a new administration starting in Washington when Bartlet’s flying off and Santos was going to be president [on The West Wing]. That’s what I like in a story, so that’s what I did. I get to decide. [Laughs.]
For John Wells, it's more interesting to leave a story off when the action is still taking place, as opposed to letting things drift off after all the explanations have been laid out. It certainly gave viewers more to discuss by way of what they think will happen next for the characters, but it also likely made viewers pretty aggravated that so many story strands were left hanging.
Perhaps Shameless will one day live on in some other form, but for now, the Showtime drama has officially capped off its eleven-season run. While waiting to see everything that the cast is doing next, R.I.P. Frank, and we'll hopefully see you soon, Fiona!