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How COVID-19 Reshaped The Final Season Of Shameless

Now that we've had a little bit of time away from the final season of "Shameless," fans can hopefully agree the series' swan song was nowhere near as underwhelming as many believed when it premiered. Some might even agree that, even in the absence of Emmy Rossum, the ending of "Shameless" was about as pitch-perfect as any diehard fan could've hoped. Series creator John Wells later revealed that he initially had every intention of bringing Rossum's Fiona Gallagher back for a final round of South Side shenanigans but her return was ultimately thwarted by COVID-19 lockdowns that made it impossible to get Rossum from New York to Los Angeles for the final season shoot (per The Hollywood Reporter).

In a separate THR piece, Wells confirmed Rossum's abandoned return wasn't the only narrative arc they had to rethink in regard to the final season of "Shameless," noting the production was actually forced to shut down mere days ahead of rolling camera. "We were three days away from shooting when everything went to hell in March," Wells said, adding that the pandemic ultimately led him and the "Shameless" creative team to reshape the entire final season.   

John Wells says the entire final season was re-written when COVID-19 hit

John Wells told The Hollywood Reporter, "We rewrote the entire season over Zoom." In fact, during the 2020 interview, Wells admitted the series finale had yet to be scripted as he and the "Shameless" creative team weren't finished digging out from those rewrites. The choice to rewrite was, however, made with good reason, as he'd always envisioned the show as a relatively legitimate representation of the times in which viewers were actually living. Wells noted, "We try and make it as specific to the time when we're shooting it."

More pointedly, Wells expressed his belief that the idea of going ahead with the last season of "Shameless" — without including how COVID-19 was affecting the poor and working-class communities depicted — just didn't feel right. Fortunately for Wells, it seems the final season rewrites did not involve ditching any major storylines that had already been plotted out. "We didn't end up completely scrapping any storylines," he said, adding, "but we did adjust them to what's going on."

That included Gallagher patriarch Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) ultimately succumbing to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the economic impact of the pandemic indeed played havoc with pretty much every other member of the Gallagher household. In sewing COVID-19 into the fabric of the season, Wells and company managed to deliver one fierce final blow in their ongoing dissection of the socio-economic divide in America. In and of itself, that helped make the reshaped final season of "Shameless" one to remember.