Whenever I write about Shameless, I profess it to be one of the queerest and most progressive television shows on right now. Earlier this season, I lamented the use of a violent rape joke spat toward a lesbian couple, Lisa and Lisa, but was grateful to see the character of Kevin (Steve Howey) coming to their defense. Although the Lisas disappeared the rest of the season, another kind of queer relationship developed between Kevin’s wife, Veronica (Shanola Hampton) and Svetlana (Isidora Goreshter), Mickey’s Russian wife who was a sex worker but now bartends at Kevin and V’s bar, The Alibi.
Svetlana and V have interacted sexually before, as have Svetlana and Kevin, as Svetlana considered it part of her “wifely duties” when she moved in with the couple last season. But she wasn’t a part of their relationship, romantically, until now. In the back half of Season 6, Svetlana laments that her greed card will soon expire as her marriage to Mickey, a convicted felon, is no longer valid. Kevin is still married to his ex-wife, which means V is available, which Kevin is unsure about but V and Svetlana see as no big deal. They get married (off-camera) at the courthouse, announcing it later that night after celebrating Fiona’s upcoming nuptials.
As V and Svetlana (now affectionally referred to as “Lana” by V) grow closer, Kevin’s irritation grows. He is asked to sleep on the couch so the women can be prepared for immigration to stop by at any time, which they do. And they have done their homework on one another. They know each other intimately, in all senses of the word, as in this week’s episode, Svetlana and V make love, twice, and V realizes it’s not just playing house. She has feelings for Svetlana, and she tells Kevin how she feels.
Kevin is hurt, but also intrigued. Mostly he’s confused, because he’s turned on but also unsure about how this polyamorous relationship could work. (The end of the episode has the three of them sitting and creating a schedule for them all, and gleefully he finds he’ll get nights alone with Svetlana, too.)
Kevin and V have been one of the strongest couples on Shameless, despite some hiccups in Season 5 when their twins were born and V felt like the baby girls became more important than her feelings. But they always reconcile, fully invested in a future together and with a highly palpable sexual chemistry. What’s been most interesting about this new development with Svetlana, who previously confirmed she sleeps with men to get what she wants but prefers the company of women, is that V is so surprised she’s able to connect with someone like she does Kevin. She’s found something in Svetlana that she responds to in a way that she doesn’t want to let it go, and she luckily has a partner who is open to opening up their relationship.
Outside of shows like Sister Wives or Big Love, polyamorous relationships are rarely explored on television. (It’s worth noting the new DirecTV series You, Me, Her is about a similar set-up. Review forthcoming.) And while it does seem like this is a storyline that might not end so well for Svetlana, what I’m most thrilled about is how the show is handling Veronica’s feelings for another woman. V is not worried about what it means for her identity, nor is Kevin flippant about it because it’s a woman vs. a man. He’s just as jealous of his partner spending time with someone else, but it’s further complicated (or, perhaps, eased?) by the fact it’s someone he is also attracted to (though physically more than emotionally; V is both).
With the season finale next week, it’s hard to say how this relationship will be wrapped up, or if it will be something we’ll continue to see play out in Season 7. But on a show where sexuality is multi-layered and treated as a fact of life, much like issues of class and race, I remain hopeful that the ballad of V and Lana won’t end with one of them dying or subverting to some kind of heterosexual normative like Svetlana secretly trying to steal Kevin for her own.