The most recurring question I ask myself when I’m watching something is “Why that shot”? Chased in frequency by “What’s that shot trying to tell me?” Especially if there’s no dialogue in it. That means I have to access the visual text, and in the case of this scene from Hope Springs Paternal (4.08) Ian’s facial expression.
Why did I need to see an MS followed by an MCU of Ian’s face here? (That’s a camera Mid Shot and Medium Close Up for you moving-image-convention noobs) His standalone expression is a little inscrutable to me. But placing it in the context of the scene—Mickey pouring coffee that he offered Ian at breakfast the morning after their (sober) reunion—I can project a sense of disbelief and uneasy delight. It contrasts nicely with the expression of nonchalance on Mickey’s face. It makes you want to tell Ian: dude, it’s just coffee, why are you looking at him like that? But of course, it’s a big fucking deal.
In the scene Mickey drops his guard. Actually, he done been dropped his guard for a while now, walking around the Gallagher house like he’s always been here. Comparing this moment from the one in the dugout two seasons ago, I see a more emotionally mature and secure man. He’s stopped sweating so hard over the little things. And the not so little things. He’s beyond being bothered if his actions read as tender or romantic. Like wearing Ian’s boxers. (Which means he had the opportunity to take his pants off. Which means they had sex last night. While everyone was home. Kinky. Full disclosure: in my mind midway through getting his dick sucked Ian probably pushed Mickey off and pulled him onto the bed. Ahem.) Don’t tell me Mickey doesn’t think the boxers mean anything. I told you he’s highly perceptive. He could have put his jeans on. But no, he put on Ian’s boxers. Isn’t that like, the punk rock equivalent of the clichéd sex shirt?
Let’s sit on Ian’s face a little longer. (OMG that’s what she said. Wow, that came out wrong… THAT’S ALSO WHAT SHE SAID! Okay, I’ll stop.) Delighted disbelief aside, there must be something else going on…
Hey. Wait. Does his expression also seem a bit sheepish to you? Like maybe he’s thinking he didn’t have to come on so strong the night before. Like maybe he was wrong about having to be so conditional about their renewed relationship. Could he just be sweet again? Mickey’s being sweet. Quietly so, and not out of character for him, but definitely sweet. He didn’t have to give him coffee—he’s not his keeper—but he went out of his way to offer it. "Hey, want some more?" That’s not really a question. Mickey was already walking the coffee pot over. He’s already decided Ian could use a refill. That’s phatic communion, and it speaks volumes.
Ian is adjusting to all this. The air hanging between them is still a little awkward because it’s been such a long time. He’s always wanted Mickey to want him like this but it’s a little surreal that he’s getting it. Does this mean he can kiss him whenever he wants now, wherever he wants? Does this mean they can be together in public? That Mickey can come out of the closet? In his head he’s probably thinking it’s finally happening. It is happening.