‘Shameless’ Season 11 Series Finale: Did Frank Actually Die?

Showtime’s long-running series, Shameless, concluded with the series finale on April 11, 2021 and the death of Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy). However, viewers are skeptical about whether he was indeed dead. The showrunner and executive producer John Wells weighed in on the plans for Frank’s ending.

Shameless after Frank dies played by William H. Macy
William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher in ‘Shameless’ | Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME

‘Shameless’: How did Frank Gallagher die?

During Shameless Season 11, viewers watched as Frank Gallagher began forgetting things. It started small but quickly escalated to the point where he was diagnosed with alcoholic dementia. However, he kept forgetting that he had dementia. 

In Shameless Season 11 Episode 11, Frank’s son Liam (Christian Isaiah) is tasked with taking care of him. He writes things on his father’s arms to help him remember that he has dementia and who to call if he gets lost. Liam also tries to make him happy by doing “Frank things” with him, like scamming strangers for money.

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Frank began to understand what was going on with his body. So, he got a tattoo across his chest that read, “Do not resuscitate.” Later, he wrote a suicide note to his family and attempted to overdose on heroin. In the Shameless series finale, he woke up and wandered around southside Chicago. 

He eventually stumbled into a church and insisted on lighting the candles like an altar boy. The priest called an ambulance, and later Frank woke up in the hospital during the Shameless series finale. He eventually returned positive for COVID-19 and died in the ER after the nurses and doctors discovered the “DNR” instruction on his chest. Although there’s no direct explanation for his death, viewers can surmise that he died from complications of COVID-19 and excessive drug and alcohol abuse.

‘Shameless’ Season 11 series finale: Did Frank really die?

Although it was a very Frank way to die, fans still weren’t sure if the Shameless series finale meant the Gallagher patriarch was actually dead. His body was in the ER, and he was dreaming that he was sitting at the Alibi drinking a massive beer. Eventually, in his dream (or maybe as a spirit), he floated up on his barstool above his family. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner John Wells confirmed Frank is actually dead.

“We planned on alcoholic dementia when we were only a few days from shooting when everything shut down in March [2020],” Wells began. “Bill [Macy] and I had always made a deal that there would have to be consequences for all of Frank’s abuse to his body, between the drugs and alcohol. We arrived at alcoholic dementia and had written more than half the season when we shut down.”

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However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the showrunner decided to change the story a little bit. 

“With all the comorbidity that Frank had, Bill and I both talked about it,” he continued. They agreed, “‘It would be unrealistic to not have anybody in this community actually suffer severe consequences of the pandemic.’ And Frank seemed like the logical choice. It could have been one of many things; it was the last thing that pushed him over the cliff, but he was barely hanging on. It’s not like we took out the healthiest individual you’ve ever seen. It seemed unrealistic to do something about the south side of Chicago and people living barely above the poverty line and not have anybody succumb to this horrible pandemic.”

Is that the end of ‘Shameless’?

The last episode of Shameless Season 11 aired on April 11, 2021, and wrapped the series’s end. In an interview with TVLine, Wells added that there isn’t any hope of a Shameless spinoff for Frank or the rest of the Gallaghers.

“No, and I watched them bulldoze the sets into a dumpster, so I don’t think anybody’s anticipating it,” Wells told the outlet. “We’d have to see. I haven’t really given it any thought.”

Shameless is over but available for streaming on Showtime if you want to see for yourself how Frank dies.