Unless you have ever stood in the doorway of your worst fear it is impossible to understand the journey Sheila Jackson(played by the incomparable Joan Cusack) has gone on over the last three years. Sometimes it is a major event that causes someone like Sheila to retreat so far into their own world that they are physically unable to leave it. Sheila’s house became her safe place. The place where she was in control. All the dirt of the chaotic outside world was left on her doorstep.
Her world, while by no means perfect, is filled with the activities and people that she loves and enjoys spending her time with. Insisting that her world be bright and shiny leaves her unable to see the darkness that lurks in both her husband and daughter. The thing about walls, be they physical or emotional, is that the law of nature dictate they come down. No matter how many stop-gaps you have in place to prevent that from happening eventually they will fall. Sometimes it is through an act more powerful than ourselves, and sometimes it is through small, seemingly inconsequential self-acts, that bring their downfall. For Sheila it was a combination of the two acts.
The first major event occurred when her husband, Eddie, discovered the daughter he had foolishly believed to be the picture of virginal innocence had performed a one-woman show and Sheila’s world erupted into to chaos. The second event, while just as major, perhaps even more so than the first was when Frank Gallagher came knocking on her door. In an oddly poetic way it is Sheila, through her willingness or perhaps carnal need to accept Frank into her life, who does the most damage.
Perhaps subconsciously she was ready break free and Frank was merely the excuse she had been looking for, perhaps not. One thing for sure, it wasn’t until Eddie emotionally attacked Karen that Sheila found the strength to explode out of her house in a blinded rage as she drove Eddie away from her and her daughter. Over the next year Sheila only grew stronger until the moment came when she told Frank he needed to leave. She had had enough. It was in that moment that you knew the Sheila, who first peered through the chain-linked door at Lip, was gone and she was never coming back.
For a brief second it looked as though Sheila might retreat back into herself when she discovered that Karen was the one who called Mrs. Wong and said that Hymie was being raised in an unsafe environment. To know that the daughter she raised could hurt her like that was almost more than she could bear. It wasn’t until a girl by the name of Debbie Gallagher came to sit by her side in her darkest moment that she came to understand that when placed in comparison Sheila Jackson did the best that she could. Yes, she did have her faults, and yes there were a number of ways that she failed Karen as a parent, but no one could ever say that she didn’t love her daughter.
Some mothers are incapable of loving their children the way they deserved to be loved. Sheila was never that mother. She loved her daughter to the point that she was willing to sacrifice her own happiness with Jody so that he could take Karen away for the help that Sheila was unable to provide. For a second it looked as though she was going to unofficially adopt her way into the Gallagher family, but then we come upon a scene where Sheila has opened her house up to the neighborhood women for a “fun with toys” party. No matter what happens in the future you can’t help but believe that Sheila Jackson is going to be just fine.
Most Shameless Moment: Having sex with her daughter’s husband.
Least Shameless Moment: Kidnapping Hymie from the hospital.