When we picked up with the Gallaghers for Season 8, Lip was maintaining his sobriety. He's landed two jobs, one as a mechanic and the other as a busboy at Patsy's Diner. His sponsor checked in on him regularly and gave him tips to fight the urges when he felt like he needed a drink to get by.
The problem, as it almost always has been for Lip, is the girls. Lip's heart still belongs to Sierra (Ruby Modine), and he made some pretty extreme choices for her instead of focusing on himself. Sierra has moved on, or backwards, to her ex in order to give her son a better life. She made it seem like they were only talking again to get a better custody arrangement, but then she showed up with her ex back at the apartment as Lip was putting their son to sleep, because he offered to babysit for free. The awkward encounter should have prompted Lip to figure out how to get comfortable with himself, but he couldn't give up.
The Gallagher kids — minus Fiona (Emmy Rossum) — all moved their crystal meth inheritance from their mom and were swimming in cash for the premiere. Lip used his money to bail Sierra out of her mounting bills and then paid his former professor back for sending him to rehab. One of these is an investment in himself and the other is a sign that even Sober Lip still has things to figure out.
Giving the check to his professor is an investment in Lip's future, one that hopefully allows our resident genius to use that brain of his for good instead of just neighborhood scams that only allow him to barely get by. The issue with Lip playing savior to Sierra is that when she's unable to save him back, he ends up in a downward spiral. That's what happened with Karen (Laura Wiggins) and Helene (Sasha Alexander). The only one of Lip's romantic partners who was able to return the favor of being his lifeboat was Mandy (Emma Greenwell) — but that's an essay for another day.
Lip's sponsor tried to tell him that he needs at least six more months of focusing on staying straight before he can start taking on other people's baggage, but Lip has a habit of thinking he's too smart to have to follow the rules. Sierra is obviously not ready to be the woman that Lip needs right now to make sure that he makes the most of his potential, and the more he invests in her — financially and emotionally — the harder his stock is going to crash.
Lip managed to avoid hitting the bottle in the premiere, but it was a close call and there's only so many running routes on the south side of Chicago. At the end of the day, Lip's heart is even bigger than his brain. He's doing well to keep is brain off the booze, but he needs to get his heart straight as well or else his path to redemption is going to lead him right back to the gutter — and that's the last place anyone wants to see him end up.
Shameless continues Sundays at 9/8c on Showtime.
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