Season two finds the Gallagher family still living in their squalid states, but you no longer have to feel cold every episode. The frigid winter Chicago air has given way to summer. The kids are out of school and Fiona's (Emmy Rossum) workload is doubled trying to keep everyone busy. The summer must be spent wisely. Everyone has to pull their weight and contribute money to the Squirrel Fund (a coffee tin full of cash for the tough winter months ahead). Since this is 'Shameless,' however, nothing goes according to plan.
The second season tries to outdo the first at every turn. It's more perverse in its humor and insane in its plotting. There are key plot points that, if they were in any other show, would cause an audience to throw up their hands in frustration and exclaim, "Well, this show just jumped the shark." With 'Shameless' it's easy to take the absolutely ridiculous in stride – like for instance when Carl shoots a bald eagle in their yard with a discarded gun he found – because it's 'Shameless and we expect and welcome it.
The entire family seems to be dealing with even more issues this season, if that's at all possible. Fiona is faced with the prospect of getting back together with Steve (Justin Chatwin), except he's shown up with a new Brazilian wife. Ian (Cameron Monaghan) finds it increasingly hard to deal with his sexuality since his unlikely partner doesn't want anyone knowing about them. Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is one of the strongest focuses of the season. He wants to get back with Karen (Laura Wiggins), but after she gets married, he simply wants to have an influence in his baby's life. Frank (William H. Macy) is still devoted to extracting money from anyone he possibly can. He hooks back up with Shelia (Joan Cusack) in hopes of getting his hands on her late husband's life insurance money. Except when he mother Peg (Louise Fletcher) shows up his entire world changes. If you thought that Frank was a terrible person wait until you hear the narcissistic hate-filled things that come out of Grammy Gallagher's mouth.
This show has a unique way of setting up the most improbable character pairings just to see what comes of it. It's a pinball narrative that thrusts people together that you wouldn't necessarily put together. For instance, Shelia and Peg are complete opposites, so naturally the show pairs them up to see what will happen. The conclusion may surprise you.
Along with these wacky couplings, the show is always able to focus on the hilarious and serious at the same time. Its humor is the kind you're not really sure you're supposed to be laughing at, but you do anyway. You've heard the term "nothing is sacred" thrown around with shows like 'Family Guy' and 'South Park'. 'Shameless' takes it to a completely different realm. Everything is fair game. And 'Shameless' takes an aim at it all.
What's so admirable about this show is the way it handles its characters. Because it's a comedy you'd expect each episode to be a half hour sprint. Instead a full hour is devoted to each episode, which leads to detailed character arcs, humorous asides, and honest-to-goodness "I can't believe that just happened" scenes in just about every episode.
If anything the writing and plotting has gotten stronger in the second season. It's a beautifully chaotic hour of television.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Shameless: Season 2' comes to Blu-ray on two 50GB Blu-ray Discs. They're packaged in a standard keepcase that slides into an outer slipcase. Contained inside is a small pamphlet that lists the episode numbers, their titles, and synopses. The set is region free.
Like the first season the second season of 'Shameless' has grittiness to it. Although, the grittiness in question doesn't mean the presentation looks awful. On the contrary, the 1080p picture provided by Warner Bros. looks quite stunning.
The Gallagher family lives in the slums, but that doesn't mean that the video has to look like crap. This is a sharply refined picture. Lines and edges are cleanly defined. There are occasional times where flatter blacks occur and dull that clarity (most of the time this happens in the dimly lit club scenes). Outside, the weather and image quality are near perfect. Detail shines under the welcomed sun. Sweat forms on brows. Frank's disheveled hair and two-week stubble are accurately lifelike. The precision of the presentation catches some of the more subtle aspects like Fiona's overall beauty juxtaposed by the bags under her eyes from working multiple jobs to keep the house running. Dirt, blood, and grime are perfectly visible on faces and even under fingernails. Frank has some dirty ass fingernails.
Some noise appears on occasion. Again, it's the darker scenes that are the culprit. It isn't horribly bad noise, but it is noticeable. However, it isn't constant and is more like the exception to the rule rather than the rule. Banding, aliasing, and all those other bad compression related maladies are nowhere to be found. If you liked the first season's presentation you'll love this one too.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track afforded season two is every bit as surprisingly engaging as the first season. The Gallagher household is full of voices, most of them speaking simultaneously. With the show's fast and furious dialogue delivery it's crucial that the mix prioritize effectively. It does.
Conversations off screen, which aren't the main focus, are housed in the rear speakers as ambient sound. Even with all the voices and activity going on around the main dialogue sequences, not a word is lost. Numerous characters chime in and the mix deftly adds their two cents into the seemingly chaotic soundfield.
The rear channels house a ton of sound. Busy city streets, car horns, gunshots, the elevated train, yelling, barking, and sirens. This is a varied and lively track that just keeps on impressing every episode. Some of you may notice a couple hiccups in the show's sound from time to time. There are a couple times where dialogue comes in much lower and flatter than expected. It only happens a handful of times and I'm convinced it has more to do with the way the show is filmed and recorded than the mix itself.
It's raunchy, deplorable, and doesn't have a modicum of good taste or decency. 'Shameless' isn't for the easily offended. If you can accept its outright absurdity, then there is a wealth of intricate character designs and outrageously fun plotting waiting for you. The second season is just as fun as the first. With its strong video and audio this second installment comes strongly recommended.