When I first started on this Shameless journey I thought for sure that out of all the characters on the Showtime dramedy Carl and Debbie would be the easiest to write about. However, like all things Gallagher this turned out to be easier said than done. In fact, the more I watched the more I felt overwhelmed by the responsibility I had placed on myself when I started this series. What if I wouldn’t be able to aptly convey the importance of their characters to our readers who may not be familiar with the show? But what worried me the most is would I be able to give them the justice they so richly deserve.
Like many viewers I never really paid much attention to Carl and Debbie. They were always just there in the background. I was always more focused on Fiona’s struggle to keep her family from drowning, Lip’s fight with his better demons, and Ian falling in love for the first time. Carl was always this little kid who liked to melt action figures and Debbie was always the annoying little sister. I never saw Carl’s loneliness or Debbie’s search for normalcy. I never saw that out of all the Gallaghers they just might be the one’s most hurt by their parents abandonment.
Carl, may very well be the Gallagher most maligned by first impressions. On first viewing Carl, played by 13-year-old Ethan Cutkosky, is nothing more than a kid in desperate need of parental supervision. For the majority of his, along with his sister Debbie and younger brother Liam, life he has been raised by their older siblings Fiona, Lip, and Ian. Between the three of them they have made sure that Carl has had food to eat, goes to the doctor, and a roof over his head. They have essentially provided his basic needs. Which is more than his parents ever did for him.
His mother, Monica, split on the family from the time Carl was eight years old and, the two times she has returned to the family she allowed Carl to drive a car which he crashed and he had to witness her attempted suicide as she bled out on the kitchen floor during Thanksgiving dinner. Being Frank’s son is no picnic either. When Carl broke his arm after an ill-fated attempt at a stunt, Frank had the foresight to use his son’s injury to his own selfish advantage by having Carl crash his bike in to the car of the guy who had been following Frank around with a camera trying to bust him for faking worker’s comp injuries.
It’s safe to say that with parent’s like Frank and Monica, Carl could be screwed up even more. But it is thanks to his older siblings sacrificing their time, energy, and love to make sure that they are providing him with the best life they can. Yes, it may not be much but sometimes not much is needed when love, loyalty, and devotion are involved.
In the very beginning of the series Debbie Gallagher, played by 13-year-old Emma Kenney, is described by Frank as being sent from the gods. However, we soon learn that description is a bit of an exaggeration. Except not by much because she is extremely mature and grounded for her age. So much so that she has trouble relating and socializing with kids in her age group. This is due in large part because she is shouldered with responsibilities most don’t see until they reach their early 20s, if then.
In order to make life at the Gallagher house possible each sibling, with the exception of Liam, is expected to find a way to earn money. Debbie accomplishes this task a myriad of ways from tricking people in to thinking they are donating to charity to operating a summer daycare service. Early on Debbie, for the lack of a better word, kidnaps a little boy during his birthday party. At first it is implied that the reason behind this action is because she is jealous that little Casey has two parents that cared enough about him to throw him a birthday party, but it wasn’t until the end of the episode that you realize she had used the reward money for “safely” returning Casey to buy a hot water heater for her family. So I can’t help but to wonder if her motives were solely based on her need for parents that love her.
Growing up is never easy. You feel awkward 90% of the time because often you feel like you’re not in control of your thoughts, emotions, or body. Now imagine what that’s like for Debbie. She has to go through the puberty without a mother to guide her through those years. She has to worry about whether or not they will have enough money to pay the electric bill the next month. Yes, Fiona does the lion’s share of the work, but that doesn’t mean Debbie doesn’t share in the responsibility or the worry that any moment her whole world is going to come crashing in on her. She worries because it’s happened. A lot. And what makes it worse is that the reason her young life is always perched on the edge of a cliff is because the very people who are supposed to love her and protect her are often the ones causing the damage. Frank in a drunken hissy fit called family services to report the abuse that he had caused which led to Debbie being separated from her siblings. The only people who had consistently loved and supported Debbie throughout her life.
No matter what happens in Season 4 I know that I will no longer be taking Carl and Debbie for granted.
Carl’s Most Shameless Moment – Renting out a room in the Gallagher house to a hooker to earn money for the Squirrel Fund.
Carl’s Least Shameless Moment – Shaving Frank’s head because he believed it would make his father healthy again.
Debbie’s Most Shameless Moment – Claiming to have been “touched” by her cousin Patrick so that he wouldn’t take the house from the Gallaghers.
Debbie’s Least Shameless Moment – Taking care of Sheila during her “code pink” moment.