I'll be honest: I'm writing this review before the fifth series has finished, but it's already clear that this one (twice as many episodes as usual) is not merely up to the usual high standards - it is, if anything, better still!
Apparently one-dimensional 'joke' characters like the Maguire sons Shane and Mickey are given meaty, fascinating storylines (not a little moving, at times). As always, everyone is flawed but no one is entirely unsympathetic - I'm really getting to like the Maguires, which I never thought I would (though Monica, the Gallaghers' mum, remains the least likable character).
Who would have thought that a character as central to the series as Lip (probably, along with Frank, THE central character) could disappear off to university and life carry on happily without him? He does appear - indeed, there is something very realistic about his estrangement from Mandy, the mother of his daughter - but he's no longer central to the action. If there is a new 'central' character, it looks as though Carl is stepping up to fill his shoes, though that would be unfair to Debbie, Ian and the others.
What is demonstrated in this series is how much of an ensemble piece Shameless is: everyone has their moments and everyone's contribution is excellent. And that, of course, is as it should be: it's all about community and helping one another out, after all. Shameless goes from strength to strength.