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Frank’s Death & What Happens To The Other Gallaghers


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  • Frank Gallagher dies from COVID-19, a fitting end for a character who considered himself part of Chicago’s history.
  • Lip sells the Gallagher home for a mere $75,000, showcasing his ongoing struggle and bad luck.
  • Ian and Mickey are on the path to a stable life, considering starting a family despite their troubled pasts.



A decade of South Side chaos concludes in the Shameless ending, which includes Frank Gallagher’s death after he bids farewell to his boisterous progeny. Created by John Wells, Shameless debuted in 2011, following the Gallagher clan growing up (more or less) into responsible adults with jobs, families, and extensive criminal records of their own. By the finale 11 seasons later, the series had to tie up various subplots for the extensive ensemble cast. The moment Frank Gallagher dies was a long time coming, but his COVID-19 arc is far from the only story tied up at the end of Shameless season 11. Shameless may be over, but it ended on a fittingly dramatic note.

The final episode of Shameless opens with the family finding Frank hovering near death on the couch after his attempted suicide from a heroin overdose. Aside from Liam, no one seems to care if he lives or dies. Though many fans hoped Fiona would return for the Shameless ending, she only appears in flashbacks as Frank looks back on his life. Throughout the episode, Frank’s condition worsens until he eventually succumbs to COVID-19 and passes away. However, where Frank’s Shameless story ends, there’s a sense the lives of the rest of the Gallagher family are just beginning. Shameless ends differently for each of the Gallaghers, with some characters heading into better futures than others.


Shameless: How Old The Characters Are At The Beginning And End Of The Show

Shameless aired on Showtime for 11 seasons between 2011 and 2021, but how old were the Gallagher kids at the start and end of the show?

Frank Gallagher Died From COVID-19

No One Noticed And Frank Died Alone

Frank with an oxygen mask on in a hospital bed.

While a Frank Gallagher death scene by the end of Shameless wasn’t a massive surprise given his lifestyle, few could have predicted at the start of the series that he’d fall victim to a pandemic. Shameless ended with Frank Gallagher diagnosed with alcoholic dementia, and his mental faculties quickly begin to deteriorate, leading to forgetfulness and confusion. Resigned to death and wanting to go out on his own terms, Frank injects himself with a massive overdose of heroin in the penultimate episode of the series, leaving a letter for his family that goes unnoticed by everyone except Franny, who simply draws all over it with her crayons.

The patriarch of the Gallagher clan even goes as far as to get “DO NOT RESUSCITATE” tattooed in bold letters on his chest, leading to confusion among the hospital staff about whether the instructions are legally binding. Despite surviving this overdose, Frank is shown to be living on borrowed time, with his COVID-19 infection merely tipping the scales. In a sense, falling victim to coronavirus is appropriate for a man who considered himself as much a part of Chicago city’s high fidelity as its streets and buildings. The pandemic will be remembered as a pivotal moment in Chicago’s history, and now Frank Gallagher is a part of that history — albeit in a rather grim way.

Before being taken to the hospital, Frank goes to the church where he was once an altar boy and looks up at the statue of Jesus. The moment echoes a similar scene from the Shameless season 6 premiere, in which Frank goes to the same church to look for answers after the death of Monica, the mother of his children and the love of his life. Although Fiona may not have returned for the finale, Frank’s final stumbling journey through Chicago was nevertheless a tribute to her memory.

The first place Frank visits is Patsy’s Pies, the diner where Emmy Rossum’s Fiona used to work, and, with his memory failing, his first instinct is to seek out Fiona. In his final hours, he believes the nurse at his bedside is Fiona, and the last words he speaks before Frank Gallagher dies from COVID-19 are addressed to his eldest daughter: “You cried a lot as a baby. You’re mad all the time… But so beautiful.”


Shameless’ Gallagher Family Tree Explained

The Gallagher family was already quite large when Shameless began. Here is the full family tree of the troublemaking Gallagher clan over 11 seasons.

Lip Gallagher Sells The Gallagher Home

Lip Finally Gives In On Who He Has To Be In Life

Lip’s story in Shameless was compelling, heartbreaking, and wholly frustrating. As Frank puts it in his final farewell speech in the Shameless finale: “Lip, you’re smart as a whip. You just can’t seem to get out of your own way.” From the start of the show, Lip Gallagher’s story sets him up with the best shot at lifting himself out of poverty. He is exceptionally intelligent with a gift for math, engineering, and science, was accepted into MIT, and ended up going to Chicago Polytechnic with a scholarship. Lip is not as burdened with parenting his siblings as Fiona was, and as such, has more of a chance to pursue his dreams.

Shameless was never intended as an instruction manual on how to escape poverty, however. To show Lip living the meritocratic American dream of being lifted out of the South Side by the strength of his intelligence would arguably have been a betrayal of a show that’s more about struggling and hustling to survive within the trappings of poverty than about escaping it. At the end of Shameless, Lip has decided to sell the Gallagher house for a mere $75,000 — a far cry from the $250,000 he was offered by a developer before he pushed too hard and lost that deal.

Lip is still stuck on the poverty line, working a food delivery job to support his girlfriend Tami and their son Freddie. What’s more, Tami reveals that she may be pregnant again, and she and Lip discuss the necessity of getting an abortion, since they can barely support the child they already have. From the outside, the ending of Lip’s story in Shameless might not look like a success, but his final conversation with Ian pushes aside his relentless string of bad luck and bad decisions to assuredly point out everything good that Lip has done.

Unlike Frank, Lip was a devoted father to his son and worked hard to put food on the table and a roof over Freddie’s head. Ian also tells Lip that the rest of the Gallagher kids see him as the closest thing they have to a dad and offers to let Lip take his cut of the house sale to get set up in his new life with Tami. Lip may have lost the dream of wealth and job security, but he’s kept hold of what’s most important to him throughout the series right until the finale of Shameless: his family, whether by blood or otherwise.


Shameless: 20 Things Wrong With Lip We All Choose To Ignore

Lip is one of the most popular characters in Shameless, but his tragic genius may make him the most problematic member of the Gallagher family.

Ian Gallagher & Mickey Are Planning To Start A Family

Ian & Mickey Seem The Most Stable When Shameless Concluded

Shameless Series Finale Ian and Mickey embracing

Ian’s rocky road to married life in Shameless has featured multiple felonies, significant prison time, an escape across the Mexican border, and countless punches thrown. Yet, at the end of the series, Ian and Mickey seem to be closest to a secure and settled life. Shameless season 11 saw proud South Side “barbarian” Mickey confronting the realities of married life as he and Ian move to a luxury West Side condo, start running their own legitimate security business, and even consider the possibility of children.

In the Shameless series finale, Ian and Mickey go to Kev and V’s apartment to pick out some furniture for their apartment, and Ian suggests that they take a crib, sparking a conversation about the possibility of having kids. Mickey is averse to the idea, admitting that he’s afraid he’ll be a bad father. His fears are understandable, given what an abusive father, Terry Milkovich, is shown to be. Terry’s death-via-nun earlier in Shameless season 11 was part of the journey toward Mickey breaking free psychologically from the worst parts of his heritage. Despite being treated terribly by Terry, Mickey went out of his way to make sure his father was cared for after being paralyzed and mourned him after he died.

In the penultimate episode of Shameless, Ian and Mickey agree to a compromise between trying to have a better life and staying true to their South Side heritage, with a prime example being that Mickey is allowed to pee in the pool but isn’t allowed to steal from their neighbors. The question of fatherhood is a lot more difficult in the context of their continuing story, though. Ian and Mickey both admittedly had terrible fathers, and their last attempt at parenting — when they were living with Svetlana and Mickey’s son, Yevgeny — ended poorly. Mickey is still reluctant at the end of the series, but a couple of possibilities are floated: adopting one of the many neglected Milkovich babies or adopting Tami and Lip’s second child.


Shameless: 20 Things Wrong With Ian We All Choose To Ignore

Ian Gallagher has always been a favorite character on Showtime’s hit series Shameless, but sometimes fans ignore his more problematic behavior.

Debbie Gallagher Is Starting A Life Of Crime (And Franny Is With Her)

Debbie Proved Frank Was Right About His Concerns For Her

In the opening of Shameless’ pilot, Frank describes Debbie as being “sent by God” and a “total angel.” By the finale of Shamelss, however, his estimation of her has changed. “You remind me of your mother, and not in a good way,” he says. Like Ian, Monica had bipolar depression. Unlike Ian, she was unable to get on a consistent medication schedule, and as such, ended up being largely absent from her children’s lives as she flitted from one adventure to the next.

In Shameless season 11, Debbie shows warning signs of being a similarly poor mother to Franny — leaving her alone without any confirmed childcare to go off on a drink and drugs binge, and starting a relationship with Heidi, a violent ex-con who greeted Debbie by pointing a gun and threatening to shoot her daughter if she didn’t cooperate. Debbie’s future seems most at risk of imminent disaster in the Shameless series finale out of all the Gallagher children. She drives around with Heidi to help her find a car to steal and ends up having to make a quick getaway from a man wielding a shotgun with Franny in the car.

Later, Heidi announces that she’s leaving to go and do some more crime down in Texas and invites Debbie and Franny to come along. The show ends with Debbie Gallagher questioning her decision, but with the sale of the Gallagher house and her track record of impulsive decisions, she’ll likely go looking for trouble. As Frank puts it in his farewell letter: “Good luck in life. You’re going to need it.


Shameless: 20 Things Wrong With Debbie Gallagher We All Choose To Ignore

Debbie Gallagher was one of the most innocent members of the family at the start of Shameless, but now she has become as bad as Frank.

Carl Gallagher Is Still Trying To Be A Good Cop

Carl Didn’t Have The Police Career He Had Hoped

Shameless Series Finale Kev and Carl

In the most surprising turnaround from Shameless season 1, Carl ended up becoming a police officer and working the parking enforcement beat after getting tossed out of several different departments. This is likely a good thing. If Carl Gallagher is going to be armed with a weapon, then handing out parking tickets is probably the safest place for the young Gallagher. In Shameless season 11, Carl was repeatedly frustrated by his job as a cop, which wasn’t the action-packed justice-dealing role he’d hoped for. First, he was paired with Officer Tipping, who refused to take any call that sounded remotely risky.

Then he was partnered with Officer Janes, who seemed like the tough mentor figure Carl was looking for until it became clear she used her power for acts of pointless cruelty. A stint with a pair of Vice detectives also ended badly when Carl realized they were corrupt to the bone and ran a racket wherein they shut down legal cannabis dealers to prop up the black market. Carl’s cop storyline has been a continual journey of disillusionment. He realizes that the reality of being a police officer isn’t anywhere near as cool as TV shows and movies made it out to be.

Then he pledges to use his position to help the poorest in his neighborhood and hold the wealthy to account, but is quickly slapped down for trying to rock the boat. As a commentary on real-life police corruption and brutality, Carl’s story highlights the difficulty of trying to be a “good cop” in a system that’s broken from the top down. In his bottom-rung role handing out parking tickets, he enacts some small protest against the gentrification of the South Side by handing out parking tickets to the wealthy, but Officer Tipping warns him that soon even that will be taken away from him.

Of all the Shameless Gallagher siblings, Carl’s is the story that feels most unfinished — even in a finale designed to leave an open-ended story. This is largely due to a subplot in which he was raped by a girl called Tish, who had sex with him without a condom despite his protests. An unclear amount of time later, he met Tish again and discovered that she was pregnant, but whether Carl is the father is left unanswered by the series. Carl is already a father several times over, via an artificial insemination scheme from a couple of seasons ago, so there are now quite a few illegitimate children who could potentially pop up again in his future.


Shameless: 10 Best Things That Happened To Carl

Shameless isn’t a show where good things happen often. So, when they do, it means even more, which is the case with Carl Gallagher.

Liam Gallagher Moves In With Lip After Shameless Ends

Liam Believed He Might End Up Homeless

Liam Gallagher is very jaded for his age, which is understandable given that he hasn’t had anything resembling a parent since Fiona left the Gallagher household. When he heard about Lip’s plans to sell the Gallagher house, Liam’s first assumption was that he would be homeless and would get no help from his siblings, so he began proactively preparing himself for life on the streets. Though darkly comedic, the episode is also a sad sign of how the youngest Gallagher has been left behind by the rest as they focus on their own lives. When asked by a social worker who his legal parent or guardian was, Liam seemed to have no idea.

This vacuum may have been why Liam ended up getting closer to Frank in the final season of Shameless. Frank is Liam’s biological father, and Liam defaulted to him in his search for a parent figure, since Frank is technically his father, even if he has no other qualifications. Of course, what happened is that Liam ended up acting more like a parent in their relationship. After finding out about Frank’s dementia diagnosis, Liam took him out for a day trip to relive Frank’s glory days and try to bring him back to himself. And when Frank wakes up from his overdose and wanders out of the house, Liam is the only Gallagher who goes looking for him.

There is hope for Liam, though. When Lip finds out that his little brother is afraid of being made homeless, he reassures Liam that he can come and live with him, Tami, and Fred. This offer is somewhat complicated by the fact that Lip doesn’t have a new place to move by the Shameless ending, and he is worried he can’t afford to support another baby on his and Tami’s income. While Liam’s situation is worrying, it’s also realistic. Household insecurity and instability are key problems for children living on the poverty line; a 2014 report (via The Washington Post) found that 2.5 million children experienced homelessness annually in the US.


20 Things Wrong With Shameless We All Choose to Ignore

Showtime’s Shameless is almost always completely shameless, and fans accept too many things they shouldn’t.

What Happens To Kevin & Veronica At The End Of Shameless

Veronica Decides It Is Time To Move On

Veronica at the bar in the Shameless Series Finale

The characters of Shameless have been fighting a losing battle against the South Side’s gentrification for years, and Kevin and Veronica are two such personas that hold out until the end. The coronavirus pandemic caused a year of uncertainty as The Alibi Room was subjected to a cycle of lockdowns and re-openings until its proprietors lost track of whether they were supposed to be closed or open. To make up for slower foot traffic, Kev and V pivoted their business to becoming a legitimate cannabis vendor, which was enough to keep the South Side’s favorite dive bar above water.

Outside of work, V entered the world of politics with hopes of motivating Black voters to fight against gentrification and rising rents at the polls – only to discover that many of the neighborhood’s Black residents had already moved away. When Veronica’s mother, Carol, announced that she was going to join the exodus and relocate to Louisville, Kentucky, V at first vehemently opposed the plan. But a trip to Louisville made it clear that a better life was possible there. It provides a political landscape where Veronica could make a difference; a bartending job where Kev could make a lot more money than The Alibi had been pulling in; and a growing Black community that includes Carol and many of the Fisher family’s friends.

Moreover, with Fiona gone and the rest of the Gallaghers planning to move away, the ties that once anchored Kev and V to the South Side are proved to be increasingly weakened across Shameless‘ final two seasons. In the Shameless ending, Kevin and Veronica are trying to find a buyer for The Alibi Room with contrasting attitudes. V is entirely unsentimental about what’s done with the bar, while Kev tries in vain to keep it intact. An offer comes in that, between the remaining mortgage and taxes, will leave them with a modest sum of around $30,000.

Veronica struggles with the decision of whether to take the deal or hold out for a better offer that might never come. Officer Tipping, in attendance at Ian and Mickey’s anniversary party, suggests to Carl that they could pool their money, buy The Alibi, and turn it into a cop bar to save it from its fate as a yoga studio or tanning salon. The series ends with the hope that The Alibi will survive this way, but does not guarantee it.


Shameless: 18 Things About Kevin & Veronica’s Relationship That Don’t Make Sense

Kevin and Veronica are Shameless’ best couple, but fans seem to forget that they definitely aren’t without their fair share of flaws.

The Meaning of Shameless’ Final Scene & Ending Song

The Ending Mirrored Shameless’ Premiere

Shameless Series Finale Ending Song

The final scene of the Shameless series finale brings the show full circle. The very first scene of the pilot episode had the Gallaghers, Kev and V, and their South Side neighbors throwing an impromptu gathering around a burning car, while Frank Gallagher introduced the members of his family in voiceover. As the finale winds down, the patrons of The Alibi troop outside to enjoy the sight of a Tesla on fire, in a final defiant middle finger to the gentrification of the neighborhood.

They round out the celebrations by singing Spoon’s “The Way We Get By,” which played at the end of the pilot episode. The song’s lyrics — which refer to getting high in the back seats of cars, committing petty crime, partying, dancing, and having sex — describe a way of survival for a generation lacking hope or direction.


Shameless: 10 Things You Forgot From The First Episode

Showtimes remake of Shameless had a good run, but fans reflecting on the show’s history might have forgotten these things about the first episode.

The Final Shameless Mid-Credits Scene

Frank Didn’t Get The End He Hoped For

Frank gets cremated in Shameless

It wouldn’t be an in-character Shameless finale without the traditional mid-credits stinger. Though Frank Gallagher imagines himself rising over Chicago as he says farewell to his family, his actions over the past 11 seasons don’t bode well for his chances of getting into Heaven. Frank gets a suitably undignified end as a pair of morgue attendants push his body into the cremation chamber while complaining about the smell.

A moment after they close the doors on Frank Gallagher, an explosion blasts them across the room, and they look into the chamber to find it empty except for the flames. The incinerator then belches out an urn with Frank’s name and date of birth and death on it — the implication being that he’s gone straight to Hell to close out Shameless‘ season 11 finale.

It’s fitting that Shameless ended on such a Frank-centric note. Despite his sins arguably more than earning him a place down below, for audiences, he was the linchpin of the show throughout, the corrupt center upon which the world of Shameless spans. For his part, William H. Macy was understandably emotional when Shameless was over, and took to Twitter to reach out to fans when the final episode aired, citing the finale of Shameless and the death of Frank Gallagher as a watershed event.


Shameless: 10 Hidden Details About Frank Everyone Missed

Shameless’ patriarch Frank Gallagher is an open book, but there are still some hidden details about him that even fans don’t know or remember.

Will There Be Shameless Season 12?

Season 11 Was The End For Shameless

Frank Gallagher standing in front of a burning car in Shameless

With Frank Gallagher providing the ultimate Shameless character exit at the end of season 11, it’s hard to imagine the series coming back for another season without him. Unfortunately, Shameless season 12 is out of the question, as the show’s cancelation was announced in January 2020. Season 11 eventually made it to release after pandemic-induced delays, but the decision to end Shameless there has stuck. Showtime felt that Shameless had run its course through 11 seasons and that it was best to end on a high note. Showrunner John Wells admitted to being disappointed by this decision, but he also touchingly affirmed that Shameless will never really end:

“It’s a family, and the thing that has worked best about the show — beyond being able to satirize things and have some laughs and have some dramatic moments — is that these people care about each other and depend upon each other. And, in some way, the show will end with them still being that family. No matter how screwed up they are, we all wish we had them as a family. They’re supportive, care for each other and always ready to punch each other but they are always going to be together, surviving together” (via Bustle).

With such an emotional ending to Shameless season 11, it does indeed feel like the right time for the series to end, but it’s also comforting to know that, at least in Wells’ mind, the characters are still carrying on and their themes will still resonate. However, at the moment, their lives won’t be seen on-screen in Shameless season 12.

The Shameless Finale Was Weird Without Fiona

What Happened To Fiona?

Veronica and Fiona sitting on a stoop in Shameless.

While Fiona was shown in flashbacks during all the Frank Gallagher series finale moments, it was still weird not having her around. Fiona Gallagher was a mainstay on the show before Emmy Rossum’s season 9 exit, and while Shameless was an ensemble cast effort, she often felt like the main character. The UK Shameless‘ Fiona left the show early as well, but she left during season 2, having hardly enough time to grow as attached as audiences did to Emmy Rossum’s iteration.

While it was nice that the Shameless series finale included Fiona in some capacity, it would’ve been better if she could have shown up in the flesh to witness the Frank Gallagher death scene. However, the reason that Emmy Rossum couldn’t come back for the finale was the same reason that Frank Gallagher died: the COVID-19 pandemic. Reportedly, timing surrounding the pandemic was the issue, and Rossum wasn’t able to go film in Chicago and California, only to go back to New York for a 2-week quarantine. So, while Fiona wasn’t in the Shameless series finale, her impact on the show was felt, and at least audiences got to see her again in flashbacks.


Shameless is a Black Comedy, Family Drama created by Paul Abbott and starring William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum, and Justin Chatwin. The premise follows the Gallagher family and their closest friends as they deal with a not-so-helpful father, Frank Gallagher. His children each find their own path, growing into their own flawed people without much guidance or help from the family patriarch.

Release Date
January 9, 2011

William H. Macy , Jeremy Allen White , Justin Chatwin , Ethan Cutkosky , Joan Cusack , Emmy Rossum , Emma Kenney , Cameron Monaghan , Noel Fisher , Steve Howey , Shanola Hampton


Paul Abbott

John Wells

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