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The Wildest Moments From Shameless Ranked

Very few shows are able to blindside their fanbase quite like "Shameless" did during its decade-plus long run. The tale of the dysfunctional Gallagher clan definitely made for a riveting, if exceptionally problematic, television series. Adapted from the United Kingdom series of the same name, the American version definitely established itself as its own entity. Featuring the likes of William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum, Cameron Monaghan, Emma Kenney, and Jeremy Allen White — the show was loaded with stellar performances.

The show never once sugar-coated the lives of its characters, showing them all at one time or another at their absolute lowest. From addictions to mental illness to financial struggles to familial abuse, this wasn't a show heavily predicated on sunshine and rainbows. Over the course of its run, "Shameless" had its fair share of intense moments that fans still discuss today. These are just a few major ones, ranked from mildest to wildest, so be warned — there will be spoilers ahead.

This article mentions self-harm, mental illness, sexual assault, and addiction.

Ian blows up a van

It says a lot about "Shameless" that someone blowing up a van for LGBTQ activism doesn't even crack the top 10 wildest moments on the show. Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) goes through some sizable ups and downs over the course of the series. By far one of his more bizarre arcs involves his stint as a wildly celebrated LGBTQ Jesus stand-in. Amidst his brief relationship with Trevor, a trans youth center operator, Ian becomes very hands-on with the cause. Of course, this is Ian we're talking about, who makes an increasing spectacle of himself season by season. The height of this sees Ian really dive into his gay messiah role, helping save kids from conversion therapy.

However, as often happens for the Gallagher siblings, things go completely off the rails in a big bad way. Being off the meds prescribed for his bipolar disorder, Ian took matters unnecessarily far — blowing up a van in the process! Opting to listen to Fiona, Ian chooses to plead not guilty by reason of insanity and serve his two years. Blowing up a van while operating as queer Jesus definitely makes for an intense scene — and we're barely getting started. 

Meet Aunt Ginger

In the show's early seasons, it's revealed that a huge source of Frank's (William H. Macy) income came from his Aunt Ginger — more specifically, from her Social Security checks. After Ginger drops dead from a night of substance abuse with Frank, the patriarch of the Gallagher clan sees fit to bury her in the yard while continuing to collect her cash. With the federal government close to discovering the ruse, the family has to find a new Aunt Ginger. This requires finding a woman old enough to be Ginger willing to go along with the charade.

Thanks to V, who's working at a nursing home, the family "recruits" an old woman whose mind is rapidly declining. To further cement this gargantuan snow job, the family then spends the day recreating key family events with their new Great Aunt Ginger. The scheme actually manages to pacify the Feds, who, despite maintaining some admittedly fair suspicions, leave the Gallaghers in peace. This in turn means that Great Aunt Ginger has to go back to the nursing home, much to Debbie's sadness. It makes for a fun, albeit twisted, story of the family coming together to fix one of their family member's screw-ups.

Mandy's hit and run

Many recurring characters come and go from the roster of "Shameless" during its 11-season run. One such character is Mickey Milkovich's sister Mandy, originally played by Jane Levy in Season 1 and later by Emma Greenwell. The character at first plays a very minimal role in the show's main plot, merely serving as Ian's ally. This changes when, partway through Season 2, Lip and Mandy begin a very bizarre and undefined relationship. Things are complicated further due to the consistent toxic meddling of Ian's on-again, off-again girlfriend, Karen Jackson (Laura Slade Wiggins).

Smart though he is, Lip develops a severe addiction to Karen and her psychotic charms, often bending over backward for her needs. Karen, acting especially cruel, wants Lip wrapped around her finger, and plans to get herself knocked up (again) in order to do so. Her big mistake is in calling Mandy to gleefully and sadistically tell her about this plan, much to Mandy's aggravation. This results in Mandy texting Karen for a meetup from Lip's cell phone. With Karen en route to the park, Mandy then hits the gas and slams Karen with her car, giving her severe brain damage. Karen Jackson definitely learns the hard way not to mess with Mandy Milkovich or anyone whom she cares about.

Frank takes a plunge

The conclusion of Season 6 is definitely one of the more heartbreaking and emotionally draining, especially for poor Fiona (Emmy Rossum). Things are looking good for the eldest Gallagher sibling at first, as she seems headed toward a beautiful wedding with her loving fiancé Sean. However, Frank doesn't approve of their approaching union and looks to derail the entire thing. Not content with abusing Sean's bathroom products, Frank sets off on a hunt to find anything to tarnish him in Fiona's eyes and he most certainly succeeds.

On the day of the ceremony, just as Fiona was walking down the aisle, daddy dearest drops a sizable bomb on Fiona: that Sean, a recovering addict, had slid back into his old habits and hid his relapse from Fiona. Hurt and betrayed, Fiona immediately breaks off the relationship. Sean leaves, bequeathing Patsy's Pies to her in the process. Meanwhile, the rest of the Gallaghers — with Kev, V, and Svetlana in tow — see fit to get revenge on Frank. This results in all of them tossing Frank into a car trunk and throwing him off a bridge into the icy waters below. This is definitely a shocking way to end Fiona's arc with Sean and to close out one of the show's more pivotal years.

Sheila helps Frank's mom

Peggy Gallagher, Frank's birth mother, is a character who leaves a definite impression despite only being in a few episodes. Seen briefly in Season 1, she takes on a more central role in Season 2 following her release from prison. It's here she finally meets Debbie, Carl, and Liam, who are all a bit perplexed by her. During this arc, Peggy bribes her grandchildren with various gifts and even starts a meth lab with Carl. Sheila, currently engaged in a bizarre relationship with Frank, quickly develops a sizable dislike of Peggy due to her constant disrespect.

At one point, their mutual animosity reaches such a fever pitch that Peggy fires a gun at Sheila in her own home. Following this, Frank and Fiona learn that Peggy isn't long for this world due to a legitimate cancer diagnosis. Not wanting to prolong her own suffering, Peggy makes nice with Sheila and gives her permission to kick her. Sheila then opts to smother her with a pillow, aided by her entire body weight, which finally sends Granny Gallagher to the pearly gates. This is, of course, a huge relief for Frank, who's now finally free of his abusive mother. He even cheers her demise.

Carl's friend Nick goes to jail

Leave it to "Shameless" to be occasionally horrific when it so chooses to be, with this scene serving as a prime example. Following his time in juvie, Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) is released for good behavior at the beginning of Season 6, only to adopt a new gangster lifestyle. Now running guns for his various connections, Carl is enjoying a moderately lavish life with his buddy Nick. Nick is a friend who Carl had made inside who was released due to recently having turned 18. Nick, clearly a disturbed and underdeveloped boy, had been in juvie for killing his father for selling his bicycle for drugs.

Nick's new bike, acquired thanks to Carl, means the world to him, making up for a childhood he never got to have. However, things take a disturbing turn when Nick's bike is stolen by another South Side kid. While out for a drive, he sees the thief and — after ditching Carl at a party — pays him a visit. This results in Nick bludgeoning this literal child to death with a hammer (off-screen, thankfully). A justifiably horrified Carl, taking Nick's advice, runs just as the cops arrive to take his friend to jail. This is enough to scare Carl out of the gangster life and definitely leaves a sizable mark on the minds of fans as well.

Fiona cheats on Mike

For the longest time, Fiona is the most responsible and ethical Gallagher sibling — comparatively, anyway — and often makes marginally decent choices. One such decision is snagging a job at World Wide Cup, a company specializing in bulk orders of cups. This job leads to Fiona starting a very charming romance with her boss Mike, a genuinely sweet and uncomplicated dude. However, the word uncomplicated doesn't tend to mesh with Fiona for very long, and things accordingly fly off the rails in short order. During a get-together with Mike's very fancy family, Fiona is introduced to Mike's problematic brother Robbie.

Robbie, a recovering addict, gets Mike staggering drunk while out with him and Fiona. While Mike recovers in the next room, Robbie and Fiona chat in the next room. Eventually, Robbie kisses Fiona. Shockingly, she immediately engages with Robbie sexually, only to be interrupted by an oblivious Mike. This is, at this point in the show's run, a truly unexpected and heinous move by Fiona. Her actions here are the catalyst for her eventual downward spiral in Season 4, which leads to Liam's cocaine exposure and her subsequent arrest. This moment signals to fans what level of moral stability they should expect from the once-sound Fiona.

Mickey comes out

The romance between Ian and Mickey Milkovich (Noel Fisher) gradually becomes one of the show's main focal points. Their evolution from undefined hookup buddies to a loving married couple is an unforgettable ride to be sure. One of the major highlights en route to their eventual relationship as official boyfriends is Mickey's coming out moment. After his sexuality is discovered by his neo-Nazi father, Mickey is forced into sex and eventual marriage with a Russian escort named Svetlana. Things become even more complicated when it's revealed that Svet is pregnant and Mickey is going to be a dad. Ian isn't too happy about his boyfriend being yanked away but is even more hurt by Mickey's inability to be open about his homosexuality.

Not wanting to be Mickey's secret "mistress," Ian's ready to break things off with him for good. However, Mickey then stands before his entire family and loudly proclaimed that he was gay for the entire Alibi to hear. This results in a brutal fist fight with his homophobic father, causing the latter's re-incarceration. Despite the bloody brawl, the moment is cathartic for a battered Ian and Mickey, who are relieved that they can finally date openly. 

Debbie gets pregnant

One bone that many fans have to pick with "Shameless" writers is Debbie's character arc, especially towards the middle of the series. Once puberty kicks in, Debbie (Emma Kenney), the adorable moral compass of the Gallagher clan, becomes increasingly unlikable. She gets more delusional, annoying, and downright problematic. Her quest for womanhood even leads her to sexually assault her older friend Matty while he's passed out — without really understanding what she did.

She one-ups this decision a season later with her subsequent boyfriend Derek. She really sees a future with him — so much so that she lies to him about being on the pill and gets herself pregnant, effectively trapping him. Sean's parents relocate him to Florida following the revelation of the pregnancy. In another shocking move, Debbie refuses to get an abortion, even loathing Fiona for asking her to do so. This leads to Fiona basically telling her that if she chooses to have the baby, she'll be completely on her own. For many viewers, all these insufferable decisions really ruined Debbie for them. Debbie's daughter, Franny, is indeed an adorable addition to the cast, but the road to her arrival is definitely an aggravating one.

Lip's downward spiral

Lip Gallagher (Jeremy Allen White) is an expert at shooting himself in the foot. In the show's early seasons, the character is known for his legitimately high IQ, with the entire family flagging him for eventual success. Despite some sizable hurdles courtesy of one Karen Jackson, Lip eventually gets into MIT, which is where he spends the next few seasons. However, his time in academia brings with it a new slew of problems, many self-engineered. After starting a steamy relationship with Helene, an older professor of his, Lip's decision-making abilities nosedive.

Due to the machinations of his spiteful ex-girlfriend Amanda, Helene loses her job, which ends her fling with Lip. With his lady love gone, his finances in the toilet, and his resident advisor job being terminated, Lip's grasp on reality begins to erode. Not only does his drinking increase but his downward spiral even extends to his relationship with Professor Youens. 

Youens had served as a genuine male role model for Lip in place of Frank, making his snide dismissal of Lip all the more damaging. Following an assault on Youens' car with a crowbar and a subsequent fight with campus security, Lip is expelled. Despite this, Youens still takes some level of responsibility for Lip and drops him off at rehab — even paying for his treatment out of pocket.

Karen takes advantage of Frank

Karen Jackson's distinct brand of narcissism and nymphomania defines the show's early seasons. A sizable subplot in Season 1 stems from her toxic relationship with her father and Sheila's husband Eddie. Disgusted with his daughter's debauchery, Eddie departs but returns later in the season for an attempt at reconciliation. This attempt comes in the form of a purity ball, in which it's required for any girls in attendance to disclose their sexual histories. Karen's disclosure — which is far lengthier than those of the other girls — enrages Eddie, who then verbally lashes out at her and degrades her publicly.

Following this, Sheila finally kicks Eddie to the curb for good, while Karen opts to double down on her behavior. Donning a new emo look, Karen begins a web blog called Daddyz Girl in which she publicly besmirches her father. This reaches its apex when Frank, zonked out on pain medication, stumbles down to the basement where Karen's crying. After snagging a few of Frank's pills, Karen commits the ultimate defiant act by having sex with a discombobulated Frank. As an added act of shamelessness (see what we did there?), Karen even films it and releases it on the web. It's a nauseating scene for sure and definitely helped set a standard during the show's inaugural year.

Monica's Thanksgiving incident

What makes this moment stand out is just how unexpected it truly is. Monica Gallagher is the textbook definition of a train wreck, bringing ample chaos with her throughout her infrequent series appearances. During Season 2, Monica resurfaces after Frank comes to her following the death of his mother, rekindling their relationship. This time around, certain truths come to light about Monica, mainly her severe bipolar disorder.

Her condition manifests in spending the family's hidden squirrel fund, a coffee cup stuffed with emergency cash, on various extravagances. But that's only an amuse bouche compared to what comes next, specifically in the episode "Hurricane Monica." Everyone in the Gallagher clan, Frank and Monica included, is sitting down for a Thanksgiving meal and everything seems relatively okay. This lasts until Monica excuses herself and goes into the kitchen for a moment, then opts to slit her own wrists. The whole sequence is played completely straight and with no music to speak of, further heightening its gritty reality. In a show chock-full of over-the-top, emotionally cathartic, and highly problematic moments, this one definitely takes the cake.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.