The hit Showtime series Shameless is highlighted by a colorful cast of eclectic characters. Though the cast is led by the always magnificent Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher, there are a number of characters in this vast ensemble that audiences are able to latch onto, relate to, and love as their unapologetic favorite. Whether it’s the utterly shameless Frank Gallagher, the unpredictable Ian Gallagher, or even supporting turns from characters like Mickey Milkovich, there are more than a dozen characters among the cast whom audiences can find themselves attracted to. However, above anyone else among the cast, one name that frequently falls off the tongues of fans when naming their favorite character is the name “Lip Gallagher.”
Played with tenacity, grit, and unassuming vulnerability by Jeremy Allen White, Lip Gallagher has always been one of the more compelling, rich, and well-layered characters from the Shameless crew. He’s got the natural cool of John Wayne, the tender vulnerability of James Dean, the volatile rage of James Cagney, and the smart-ass wit of every Aaron Sorkin character all wrapped up into one captivating character. An all-too-smart-for-his-own-good hood rat from the mean streets of Chicago, Lip has had longtime viewers glued to their seats for seven seasons to see if he’ll ever manage to make it out of the hood and live up to his true potential. We sit back and bite our teeth knowing that there will always be several obstacles keeping Lip away from the promised land, including his own ego, his cockiness, and the fact that he will always live in the shadow of his father’s alcoholism. The many character traits, the dilemmas, and the nuanced character development of Lip Gallagher have helped make Shameless into must-see TV. There are a number of moments from the show where Lip as a character proved to be shocking, daring, and even a bit savage. Here are some examples.
15. Pissing On His Dad…Literally
In the penultimate episode of the Season 1 finale, Frank is so doped up on drugs that he couldn’t stop Karen from forcing herself onto his limp body. Essentially, she sexually assaulted him, but when word of the liaison got back to Lip, all he needed to know was that his dad had banged his girlfriend. That was enough to get Lip to beat the holy hell out of his old man. Despite being broken and battered, Frank still wanted to apologize to his boy. Despite all of the times he has hurt his children, he would never do so purposely, at least not in this way. Despite not wanting to sleep with the Jackson girl, to begin with, Frank takes full responsibility for what happened between them, continues to apologize, and begs for his son’s forgiveness. Lip’s response? He pees right on top of his father’s head. And understanding the rut he’s caused, Frank allows it to happen as a means to get Lip to understand how sorry he was. The two still weren’t on good terms, but then again, they never were, to begin with. Given how shameless the Gallaghers treat each other, this is the closest they ever came to father-son bonding in the show’s history.
14. Grand Theft Auto: Chicago Polytechnic University
Despite never being an advocate for the academe, Lip always took his school duties seriously, especially upon arriving at university. He always prided himself on his college performance, and when he got locked out of one of his midterms for being late in the “Strangers on a Train” episode, he took it personally. Because he was late to class, he wasn’t allowed to come in to take his class or retake it. Furious, he walked out of his campus building, grabbed a shovel from a truck, and proceeded to smash out the windows of a few parked cars. Granted, given how there were no repercussions for Lip’s actions and how he avoided punishment after evading campus security, the whole situation felt preposterous. In fact, it came off more like a level of Grand Theft Auto where if you evade the police long enough, you lose stars (aka wanted level) and get to walk away from your crimes scot-free. Still, Lip’s savage anger was felt loud and clearly regardless.
13. Getting Expelled From High School
In the “Parenthood” episode from Season 2, Lip expresses his desire to drop out of school, but Fiona wagers to her younger brother that if he finishes high school, she’ll finally get around to going back herself and getting a GED. Lip takes her up on her offer, but then, he realizes that the nauseating boredom and triviality of high school is too much for him to endure for another two years. So, while bored in one of his classes, he thinks of a way to guarantee he won’t have to go to school ever again. He decides to get himself expelled. After telling his teacher continually and defiantly “F*ck you,” he picks up the chair he’s sitting in and chucks it out of the nearest window.
12. Sleeping with His Professor
Starting in Season 5, Lip started to have a unique relationship with his college professor, Helene Robinson. Yes, Lip actually found himself his own Mrs. Robinson. Anyway, as if the all-too-on-the-nose reference to The Graduate hadn’t made it obvious, what made this relationship so unique was that the two were sleeping together. Lip was willing to risk everything that he had started with his college career for the sake of this professor, whom he managed to fall in love with despite her teacher status and marriage to her husband. That risk ended up biting Lip in his backside the moment he got sentimental and took a picture of the cougar while she was naked in his bed. The picture on his phone was found by his ex, Amanda, who, in an act of revenge, managed to circulate the pic around the campus. Word got back to the campus board, effectively putting an end to their affair.
11. Telling Off Monica
Among other things, Monica was a terrible mother for abandoning her kids and leaving them alone with an unstable drunk. All of her children realized this at some point and held Monica accountable for her sins whenever she decided to randomly visit them every so often. All of the Gallagher kids have told off Monica at least once (maybe a handful of times each), but one of the most savage exchanges between Monica and one of her children came from Lip in one of the earlier seasons. In the first season episode, “But At Last Came a Knock,” Monica approached Lip about how much she missed him and how badly she wanted to reconcile. A man of few words who didn’t want to hear any more of Monica’s BS, Lip told her, “Next time you’re thinking about dropping in, don’t. You f*cked up our lives enough already.” Sometimes, less is more, and this is a perfect example of that sentiment.
10. Pummeling His Girlfriend’s Ex
In Season 7, despite getting expelled from college, things were looking up for Lip for the fact that he was dating a loving and supportive girl named Sierra. Sierra even convinced Lip to try to go back to college, although when he tried to get his case appealed over what happened with Helene, the local university rejected his plea. The episode “You Sold Me The Laundromat, Remember?” was a bad time for Sierra’s ex and baby daddy to pay a visit. When Lip, already angry, sees the guy hassling Sierra, Lip doesn’t hesitate to unleash fists of fury on the man in a drunken blind rage. Ian is barely able to pull Lip off the guy and when he does, he nearly catches a beating for his troubles. It’s one of those episodes that highlights the ticking time bomb that is Lip Gallagher.
9. Emotional Call to Karen
At the end of Season 2, after having and giving up her baby only for her mother to steal her back, Karen bailed out of town without much of a hint as to where she was going to go. By the 5th episode of Season 3, “Sins of the Caretaker,” Karen’s absence was still eating away at Lip, who couldn’t help but call her as things at home continued to get stressful for him. Karen didn’t answer, so he left her a message. He started off calm, mildly providing an update on the goings-on of the neighborhood. Then, halfway through his message, his passive aggression dissolved into unrelenting anger as he lashed out at the “selfish, ignorant, heinous piece of dog sh*t” as he called her. Before hanging up, he berated her for leaving town — and most importantly, him — and never coming back. This call inadvertently inspired Karen to return a couple episodes later, which also, in turn, inspired Lip’s current girlfriend, Mandy, to run over Karen with a car.
8. Leaving Home
After getting expelled from high school in the “Parenthood” episode, Fiona informs Lip that his guidance counselor, Mr. Healy, got Lip enrolled into another school, but Lip refuses to go. The two argue, with Lip being adamant about being done with school while Fiona is deadset on getting everyone in the Gallagher household through school until they get a diploma. Despite being the brains of the family, Lip doesn’t want to be the “golden goose” that everyone expects him to be. Then, Fiona gives Lip an impetuous ultimatum: go to school or leave the house. Lip storms upstairs, and seconds later, he returns with a bag full of his belongings. He didn’t have anywhere else to go and would return to the Gallagher household by the season’s end, but in that moment, Lip’s bold move stunned even his sister.
7. Lashing Out Against Professor Youens
For the majority of Season 6, Professor Youens was like a mentor to Lip — a father figure, if you will. And like Lip’s own father, Youens was a sad old drunk. Lip often played assistant to the professor in and out the classroom, even going as far as to cover for Youens when he was late because of a hangover or didn’t show up at all for the same reason. In the episode “Sleep No More,” Lip realized he had had enough of this one-way relationship. On top of still dealing with the bad fallout from his breakup with Professor Robinson — as well as realizing Youens was trying to distance himself from his protege — Lip let loose on Youens. Lip emasculated the professor in front of his students and, above all else, embarrassed the old man. It cost Lip his job working for Youens and, eventually, his position on campus.
6. Lashing Out Against Fiona
Lip has had shouting matches with his sister, Fiona, for as long as the show has been on the air. But the verbal beatdown that he gave her in the 7th episode of Season 4 was the most enraged we had ever seen Lip up until that point. In the past few episodes, Lip was forced to become the head leader of the family after Fiona had accidentally let her baby brother, Liam, get a hold of and digest half a gram of her boyfriend’s cocaine. The moment briefly put Fiona in jail while forcing Lip to balance out running the family with his work and his school life. The stress and pressure were mounting on Lip’s shoulders, and when Fiona returned home from jail, he just let her have it. Lip visibly sees and turns red as he barks at Fiona for selfishly making this whole situation about herself rather than considering what she was doing to the people around her. It was a verbal lashing that Fiona needed to hear, but that didn’t make it any less savage on Lip’s behalf.
5. Taking the Kids Away From Fiona
Just one episode after Lip had viciously scolded Fiona for her irresponsibility, it seemed like Fiona hadn’t learned her lesson. While having a heart-to-heart with her best friend, V, Fiona managed to get smacked out of her mind after running through five bottles of vodka within an hour. Not only did Lip come home to find a drunk Fiona, but she was also so drunk that she had allowed food in the oven to burn intensely, nearly burning the house down. Lip could barely contain his rage, but he wasn’t going to give his sister another lecture. He did that the previous episode, and it taught her nothing. So Lip decided to take things a step further. He grabbed all of the kids in the house and promised Fiona that unless she started taking things seriously and getting her act together, she would never see the kids again. This talk actually got through to Fiona this time as she finally was able to clean herself up for the sake of her family.
4. Breakdown Over A Breakup
Lip was lucky enough that he was still allowed to remain on campus after his affair with Helen, but without being allowed to be with the woman he loved (but didn’t love him back), Lip was in shambles. His life started to spiral downward; he started to get drunk more frequently — not unlike his father — and had even more drunken outbursts. His stress from papers and constant hangovers came to a head in the 11th episode of Season 6, “Sleep No More.” This was the same episode he gave a verbal lashing to his mentor, Professor Youens. Shortly after their blow-up, a drunken Lip thought it would be a bright idea to bust out Youens’ car windows with a bat. However, unlike that GTA-lite moment from “Strangers on a Train,” pulling this stunt actually had consequences as Lip quickly got caught, arrested, and expelled.
3. Willingly Assaulted by Ex-Sex Predator
In the Season 3 episode “May I Trim Your Hedges?,” word breaks that a convicted child molester has moved in across the street. Lip decides to round up the neighborhood boys to rough up the old pervert. Turns out that sex predator isn’t old or even a guy. Ex-teacher Blake is actually a young woman in her mid-20s who just likes ’em young. Lip still wants to make sure this pedophile gets her just desserts, only, he decides to feed her something other than punishment. After seducing her while masquerading as a pre-teen, Lip learns a few new tricks in the bedroom from Blake, who massages his junk with peanut butter and shaves him with Nair. Eventually, Lip’s girlfriend, Mandy, finds out about Lip’s after-school special and convinces Blake to leave town after digging the sex offender a grave on her lawn.
2. Telling His Alleged Baby’s Mother To Get An Abortion
For the first couple seasons of Shameless, Lip Gallagher and Karen Jackson had an on-again-off-again relationship. Above all else, they just fooled around. Lip would always catch feelings while Karen only wanted sex. Their relationship took an interesting turn in the second season when Karen wound up pregnant despite engaging in a non-sexual relationship with Jody from her Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings. We later found out that the baby’s father was Timmy Wong, but at the time, all signs pointed to Lip being the father (even though Karen never said he was). As much as he loved Karen, he recognized how messy of a situation it was for two underaged kids in school to have a kid while one of those kids was already in a relationship. Lip let his concerns be known in the “Can I Have A Mother?” episode when he was bold enough to tell Karen to get an abortion. Understandably and rightfully, Karen responded simply by slapping Lip and walking away.
1. “Be A Good Boy, Come For Grandma”
As if that episode title isn’t creepy enough, this episode lent itself to one of the creepier moments from the show’s history. After his relationship with Professor Robinson is forced to close out, it seems like Lip’s sex drive has hit a dead end as well. He talks about his situation with Sammi’s (Lip’s half-sister) mom, Queenie, and Queenie has a strange, non-traditional remedy in mind. Being of the hippie-lite mindset, Queenie starts telling Lip about his chakras and proceeds to massage his feet, promising the possibility of not only fixing his situation, but also helping him reach climax just from a foot massage. Bizarrely enough, the whole thing works, and just as Lip is moments away from doing his deed, Queenie demands that the young man “come for Grandma.” Even by the show’s standards, that’s pretty gross.