The season four premiere for Showtime’s acclaimed Shameless, a remake of the UK program of the same name, gave a balanced look at where Gallagher and Co. is heading this season. While most are moving on to greener pastures – Fiona (Emmy Rossum) is dating her boss Mike (Jake McDorman) and Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is starting his first semester and Chicago PolyTech – some are stuck in sticky situations – Veronica (Shanola Hampton) is pregnant after her husband got her mother pregnant and Debbie (Emma Kenney) is trying to grow up too quickly.

The episode opens up on a bleak, autumn Sunday morning. Fiona in her role as caretaker makes sure her siblings – meaning Carl (Ethan Cutkosky), Debbie and Liam (Brennan and Blake Johnson) – are settled while she goes out with her promising new boyfriend. You can’t help but smile as Fiona settles into effortless banter with Mike and his family. After the past three years of ups and downs with Jimmy/Steve (Justin Chatwin) – who is supposedly dead after last season’s finale – it looks like Fiona may finally have a healthy relationship with someone who genuinely wants the best for her. She also completes three months at Worldwide Cups, meaning her benefits kick in and she gets to pick a 401k plan. The past three years (and beyond) have been rough for Fiona as she worked odd jobs here and there to support her siblings and it looks like she’s getting her break. Rossum plays Fiona perfectly, giving her an easy charm, wit, and hardworking attitude. I can’t wait to see where Fiona, one of my favorite female characters on television, goes this season.

What Fiona isn’t too happy about is her deadbeat dad Frank (William H. Macy) returning after receiving a life-threatening diagnosis at the hospital last season. Found during a raid at a drug den, he’s brought back home under the condition that Carl be solely responsible for Frank and keep him locked in his room. Carl’s caring side is not one often seen; usually he’s the dangerous Gallagher (Fiona tells Mike that she’s kidding when she tells Carl not to burn down the house while she’s gone, but mouths to him ‘No, I’m not’). This season, however, he seems to be taking a cue from the more caring Debbie and wants to take care of Frank. It’s a strange turnaround, but I’m certainly intrigued.

Debbie, the 13-year-old younger sister, is hanging out with a new crowd these days and is becoming more daring. She and her friends go to an arcade in racy clothing to flirt, and Debbie meets a nice high school boy with a car. Could this be her first boyfriend? Kenney, given her young age, plays the role of an adolescent girl struggling with what it means to grow up and develop an interest in boys with surprising sincerity.

Veronica, meanwhile, finds herself pregnant and two years of trying and being told it wouldn’t happen. Additionally, she and Kev (Steve Howey) are already financing her pregnant mother, who Kev slept with so that their baby would have genes from Veronica’s family. I can’t help but wonder if this storyline was planned, or if it’s because Hampton herself is expecting in real life. Kev and Veronica may be side characters but I always enjoy them and find their storylines compelling as well. Howey and Hampton are always entertaining.

All of these arcs and others – including Mickey (Noel Fisher) struggling with missing Ian (Cameron Monaghan) and Lip discovering the challenges of the collegiate world – makes it obvious that this season will be like the others: funny, exciting, and never boring. The actors are back in top form, delivering the characters that fans of the show have come to root for and against. It’s as if last season never ended – though it was a painful nine-month wait until now.

The fun premiere episode set up the season, giving the audience a balanced look at what each character is up to this year while also raising plenty of questions that will hopefully be answered. Will V’s mom give up her and Kev’s baby? Are Carl and Debbie switching roles in the Gallagher household? Will Ian ever return? Will we get concrete proof that Jimmy/Steve is dead? I’ll definitely be tuning in to find out, impatiently waiting for next week’s episode.

Shameless airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime.

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More on Shameless:

Shameless – Season One

Shameless – Season Two

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