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The Absolute Worst Thing That Debbie From Shameless Has Done

With Showtime's fiery family dramedy Shameless having just wrapped its 10th season on the cable network, the series has officially encompassed roughly half of series star Emma Kenney's life. The young actor was just 10 years old when she landed the role Debbie Gallagher on Shameless, and in her decade on the series, fans have watched her character grow from a precocious, outspoken kid into a strong, intelligent young woman with a fierce moral compass.

Okay, so that statement is not entirely accurate. Surely, nobody would dare argue Debbie's strength, or even her intelligence. But if we're being completely honest here, she's often just out to provide for herself (and, of course, her daughter Franny). As Shameless barrels along towards its 11th and final season (the second without long-time star Emmy Rossum), it's become clear that the show's writers and producers have been trying to position Debbie as the new Fiona (Rossum) in the Gallagher household — even if it's getting more and more obvious that she's actually becoming the new Frank (William H. Macy).

Debbie has spent much of the show's ten-season run amassing a cringe-inducing slate of back-stabbing deeds and self-serving exploits, and outside of Macy's dodgy paterfamilias, Debbie has become the one Gallagher on the series who most frequently lives up to the show's title. Some of those deeds have been decidedly worse than others, of course — and even as Debbie's misdeeds continue to mount, few of them have been worse than her deeply improper relationship with the kind-hearted, wheelchair-bound Neil. In fact, pursuing that relationship may well be the worst thing Debbie has ever done. 

Debbie's relationship with Neil was wrong on so many levels

Now, if you've been following Debbie and her increasingly brazen acts over Shameless' run, you've probably got a firm appreciation of why her relationship with Neil (played with pitch-perfect naiveté by Zack Pearlman) was the very definition of "shameless." But if you've been checking in with the show a little more casually, you're likely wondering exactly what it was the made her relationship with Neil so despicable.

First things first, Neil turned up in the seventh season of Shameless as brother to supporting player Sierra (Ruby Modine). His story is a bit of a tragedy in and of itself, and not only because he's been confined to a wheelchair since a sports-related accident in his youth. Seems the same accident left him slow-witted due to a serious brain injury — one that also causes him to frequently blurt out whatever is on his mind, even if it's wildly inappropriate. 

Combined with his wild beard and awkward looks, Neil's general state of being is initially quite off-putting to Debbie. Neil's accident, however, also left him with settlement money that ensures he's reasonably comfortable and independent in life. That last fact ends up making him quite enticing to Debbie, who seizes an opportunity to saddle up and move in on Neil's apartment, Neil's money, and even his heart — even though she's still quite open about being repelled by him. As if shamelessly taking advantage of a kindly, mentally-challenged, wheelchair bound man for his money and apartment weren't enough, Debbie actually took matters even further by frequently using Neil as a babysitter for her infant daughter so she could go out partying with her friends. 

Debbie's done a lot of terrible things on Shameless to date

Sure, Debbie and Neil had a few magic moments, but the entire setup was beyond sketchy, and easily stands as one of Debbie's lowest moments on Shameless. It also didn't last long, with Debbie getting her just desserts when Neil's nurse swooped in and stole the man's heart herself. 

It was hardly the first time a scheme had backfired for Debbie, though; it so happens that the perpetually scheming character has been served just desserts on quite a regular basis. We've mentioned her darling little girl Franny a couple of times already, and while there's an argument to be made that many of Debbie's misdeeds have come in service of providing for her child, it's worth remembering that Franny herself is a result of Debbie's attempt to trap her boyfriend Derek (Luca Oriel) into a life by her side. We should also point out that Debbie's dalliance with Derek came not long after she essentially date-raped her much older, would-be paramour Matty (James Allen McCune).

There are other devious doings in Debbie's narrative, of course. We didn't even touch on the fact that she lied to her sister about her boyfriend's real identity and criminal activities. Or that she tried to seduce a married man and his wife into letting her move into their home. Or that she temporarily kidnapped a toddler when she was a preteen. Or that she almost vengefully drowned a girl at a neighborhood pool. Or that she tried to steal one of her brother's girlfriends. Or that she fraudulently used her other brother's social security number to open a credit account in Shameless' 10th season. There's more, but it should probably be clear by now that Debbie may well be the worst character on Shameless — and that's saying a lot.