You would think as time goes by these Spotlights would have become progressively easier, but they only seem to be getting harder. Which is fitting considering the brazen comedy of Season 1 has given way to the heart-wrenching drama of Season 3. While still funny in its own right, Shameless has grown tremendously over the past 3 years. This is painfully clear in the literal and figurative growth of middle child, Ian Gallagher, portrayed with an underlying mixture of poignancy, anger, and hopefulness by Cameron Monaghan.
When we first met Ian, he was a soon-to-be outed 15-year-old who works – most likely under the table – at the neighborhood’s five and dime store after school and on weekends. Not only did he work, he also participated in his school’s ROTC program because he harbored a dream of joining the military to become an officer. As it turned out the only person who knew Ian was gay was the married man he’s having an affair with. That was until a useful hiding place and fateful trip to the Kash & Grab lead to his older brother, and best friend, Lip discovering the two and their mismatched shoes.
Ian was visibly upset and angered over the possibility of Lip outing Kash to his wife, Linda. So much so that he didn’t hesitate to confront Lip and demand that he not say anything. In Ian’s mind, Kash wasn’t taking advantage of him because he knew exactly what the two of them meant to each other. As it turned out Kash cared a lot more about Ian than he did about Kash. This was abundantly clear when Ian repeatedly blew Kash off in favor of the growing feelings he had developed for Mickey Milkovich and even more so when he rushedto Mickey’s side after being shot in the knee by Kash.
In the beginning the only two people who knew about Ian’s relationship with Mickey were Kash, who abandoned his pregnant wife and children early in Season 2, and Lip, who had no intention of outing Mickey to anyone for both Ian’s sake and the fact that other than how it effects Ian, Mickey being gay meant very little to Lip.
It’s in the second season that we learn that Ian had become even closer with his “beard/best friend” Mandy – Mickey’s sister – and Mickey himself. Somewhere along the way they went from being “fuck buddies” to friends without either of them verbally acknowledging the transition. However it wasn’t until Ian was faced with the possibility of losing Mickey that he truly came to understand how much Mickey meant to him and unlike with Kash, who he thought he had loved, it was Mickey who he had fallen in love with.
Unfortunately, it was also around this time that his dreams of becoming an officer in the military by going to West Point were quickly slipping through his grasp. However, it wasn’t until he came face to face with the knowledge that it was people like Lip the military was looking for. Of course knowing that Lip had everything Ian ever wanted in his reach and was willing to throw it all away for a girl who wasn’t capable of loving anyone let alone Lip only succeeded in bringing that resentment Ian had been harboring for some time to its boiling point.
Up to this point, there were only three people who knew Ian and Mickey were gay, but none of them understood how they felt about each other. Well no one that is until Monica appeared and figured out that Mickey wasn’t just a random hook-up, he was the person Ian loved and he had gone to jail rather than face the possibility of his father finding out he was gay. In a moment of fear and panic Mickey lashed out at Ian and declared he felt nothing for him.
In order to escape the constant heartache, as well as the insanity that had become his home-life, he sought refuge and comfort with Ned, Jimmy’s father. However, whether it was Ned or some random kid at school nothing and no one was able to keep Mickey off his mind for long. Luckily, for Ian it started to become clear that Mickey felt the same way about him through small moments like Mickey beating up Ned out of jealousy and sharing their first kiss.
Unfortunately, it was just as they were beginning to acknowledge their feelings Mickey’s father discovered them together. Upon Terry seeing his son with another guy he proceeded to attack Ian before turning on Mickey after he had attempted to save Ian. To make matters worse, Terry forced Mickey to have sex with a prostitute while Ian sat by helplessly.
Not knowing what to do, Ian tried to be there for Mickey even going so far as to confront him when he discovered Mickey was getting married. All he wanted was for Mickey to tell him that he loved Ian and that it would all be okay. Unfortunately, Mickey was unable to give Ian what he wanted and resorted to violence to get Ian to back off. Despite what happened Ian knew deep down that Mickey loved him. So against his brother’s advice and with the very real possibility of having his heart irreparably broken he went to Mickey on his wedding day in the hopes that Mickey would call everything off and leave with Ian.
Mickey tried to reassure Ian that nothing would change for them and they would still be able to be together regardless of whether Mickey was married. But for Ian it was too late. He needed something more than Mickey was able to give him and although deep down he understood Mickey’s actions he could no longer live with them. It had finally happened, he had been broken and the only thing left to do that was in his power was to leave the heartbreak behind and with it the family and friends he loved dearly.
Most Shameless Moment: Having an affair with two different married men.
Least Shameless Moment: Help Veronica scam dairy products from the delivery guy.