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What Happened to Karen on Shameless? Does She Die?

What Happened to Karen on Shameless? Does She Die?

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As the title suggests, Shameless is a show about some of the lowest depths a desperate person can reach. With a huge, intertwining cast of characters, the Showtime hit has more twists and turns than a daytime soap opera.

One of these characters, Karen Jackson, featured heavily in the show for the first two seasons before leaving the show entirely in the third. While in a complicated relationship with the young Lip Gallagher, Karen married someone else, got pregnant, and wound up in a coma.

Her storyline is a complicated one, just like most of the characters on Shameless. But we’ve got the definitive guide about what happened to Karen, including whether or not she’s still alive.

What Happened To Karen On Shameless?

Mandy Milokvich intentionally runs over Karen with her car in season 3 of Shameless and leaves her for dead. Karen survives the attack but suffers brain damage and leaves for Arizona to recover.

Karen Jackson is a teenager and classmate of Lip Gallagher’s on Shameless. She carries on a “friends with benefits” situation with Lip, who ends up falling in love with her. She also has sexual interactions with other people and even marries Jody Silverman.

Karen gives birth to a baby boy in season 2, but the father isn’t Jody or Lip. Karen’s mother, Sheila, decides to raise him as Karen has no interest in the baby. Karen threatens to leave, but Sheila insists on keeping the baby, Karen makes good on her promise.

Screenshot of Karen in the Shameless TV series

After running away, Karen returns in episode seven of season 3 and tries to rekindle her previous romance with Lip Gallagher. However, Lip is seeing Mandy Mikovich, and even though he and Karen have sex, he still chooses to stay with Mandy.

Karen continues to try and sabotage their relationship and directly threatens Mandy. In episode nine, Karen goes to meet Lip in the park after receiving a text that she thinks was from him. Instead, a car slams into her, gravely injuring her before speeding away.

Karen survives the attack but suffers permanent brain damage and an extreme personality change. The doctors say Karen will likely never recover, but Jody thinks she could have a better chance somewhere else. So, Jody takes Karen and Karen’s son, Hymie, to live in Arizona.

Does She Die?

Karen does not die on Shameless but suffers brain damage from the hit-and-run Mandy orchestrates.

After Mandy hits Karen with a car, the doctors put Karen into a medically induced coma. When she wakes up, it’s clear she’s suffering brain damage. She’s much calmer than she was before the attack and can only give short, one-word answers to questions.

Close up of Karen in a hospital bed after being hit by a car

The doctor’s reveal that while Karen can remember things from before the attack, she can’t make any new memories.

Karen leaves the show when Jody decides to take her and Hymie to Arizona to help Karen recover. The show never indicates that she died after leaving, so it’s likely she’s still alive. However, Karen never comes back to Shameless, so her fate is technically unknown after season 3.

Does Lip Find Out That Mandy Injured Karen?

Lip does discover that Mandy is the one who tried to kill Karen in order to save her own relationship. He doesn’t approve and breaks things off with her.

When Lip visits Karen in the hospital, Sheila explains that Karen had been excited about Lip’s last text.

Lip realizes that someone else used his phone to text Karen the night she was hurt. He pieces together that it was Mandy, his current girlfriend but doesn’t confront her right away.

It’s only after he realizes the extent of the damage that Mandy did to Karen that he breaks up with Mandy at Mickey’s wedding.

What Happened To Lip And Karen’s Baby?

Karen gave birth to a baby boy with Down Syndrome who turns out to not be Lip’s son at all. Instead, the baby, Hymie, is likely the son of Karen and Lip’s classmate Timmy Wong.

Lip and Karen in a campervan in Shameless

Karen wanted to give the baby up for adoption and had a pair of foster parents picked out. However, they backed out when they discovered that the baby had Down Syndrome.

Shelia, Karen’s mother, takes care of the baby, causing Karen to run away. But eventually, Timmy Wong and his parents decide to take care of the baby themselves.

It’s later revealed that Karen asked the Wongs to take Hymie away from Sheila so things could back to the way they used to be for Karen.

After Karen suffers brain damage from Mandy’s attack, Jody takes her and Hymie to Arizona. The show doesn’t make it clear why the Wongs allow Jody to take Hymie despite having no legal custody and Karen likely being less fit to care for the baby because of her injuries.

Who Is Karen’s Actor? What Is She Doing Now?

Laura Slade Wiggins played Karen Jackson on Shameless for the first three seasons. She continued to act on TV and in movies since leaving the show.

Close up of actress Laura Slade Wiggins who plays Karen in Shameless at the Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase World Premiere on March 10th, 2019
Credit: Eugene Powers/Shutterstock.com

Neither Wiggins nor the showrunners explicitly explained why Karen was written off of Shameless. However, Wiggins has said in some interviews that the nudity on the show made her uncomfortable.

Talking to Parade, Laura Slade Wiggins said that star Emma Rossum helped her and others deal with the idea of nudity on the show.

“But once everything started to air I think it kind of freaked me out a little bit,” she said. “I didn’t end up going to do the show for too much longer but I think, in some ways, that was good, because the nudity definitely puts you in a space where you’re really worried about what you’re eating.”

Wiggins said that she’s struggled with body image in the past. However, she told Cryptic Rocks that being on Shameless was an invaluable teaching tool.

 “That was probably the closest I will ever get to an acting school. It was very eye-opening […] It was a very well-oiled machine, plus they had all these great actors coming in.”

Since leaving Shameless, Wiggins has had guest appearances on numerous TV shows, including Law & Order: SVU, CSI, The Tomorrow People, and Chicago P.D.

Laura Slade Wiggins has also had roles in films like Starving in Suburbia (2014), Rings (2017), and Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (2019).