Karen Jackson is a former main character. She is the only child of Sheila and Eddie Jackson. Her mother Sheila became agoraphobic sometime during her childhood, which at times can negatively affect their relationship. In the episode Nana Gallagher Had an Affair, Karen explains that she lost her virginity when she was 13 years old, and has been sexually active ever since. Her manipulative actions towards Lip and other people in her life including Hiram, make her one of the two main antagonists of Season 2.
Karen is a petite, blonde girl who often wears jeans, t-shirts, and hoodies. She goes through a brief phase where she dyes her hair black, pierces her nose, has "Whore" tattooed on her arm, and wears all black.
Karen is introduced as a sexually ambitious girl, who is best friends and lovers with Lip. Karen seems bored with life and only finds interest in sleeping around. Karen takes care of her mom and tries to protect her from her dad and the outside world. In the next two seasons, Karen's personality changes for the worst. She becomes more bitter and resentful. She starts to use people, lie, and take advantage of them to get what she wants.
However, these shifts were to mask her vulnerabilities, as she was devastated when her own father called her a whore. This caused her to feel angry to the point that she decided to destroy his possessions and sleep with Frank and send a recording of it to him. She was touched when Lip stated he loved her but felt guilty at sleeping with Lip after just sleeping with his father, being hurt her mother rejected her, and being sad when Lip decided to end things with her permanently. It is suggested that she truly loved Lip, as he was the only person besides her mother to accept her.
Karen is considered a sociopath, so much so that Lip even thought she was possibly faking part of her brain damage after her accident and thought the "real Karen" was still in there. But she said she isn't able to feel anymore and didn't know who hit her after she was told. It is possible that it will wear off or it might be permanent.
Throughout the Seasons
In the Pilot, she is introduced as Lip's tutoring student and the neighborhood bad girl. Apparently, "science just turns her on" and she is happy to repay Lip's tutoring with sexual favors. Karen's father leaves after catching her giving oral sex to Ian, which she only does at Lip's request to see if Ian is actually gay.
Karen and Lip develop a sexual relationship, with Lip clearly falling in love with her, but she refuses to be his girlfriend. Karen couldn't find who she wanted to be through Lip.
During But at Last Came a Knock, Eddie makes a deal with Karen to go to his church's purity ball, in hopes of getting her to stop having sex. She agrees to go in exchange for a car.
In Nana Gallagher Had an Affair, she gets ready for the dance, has dinner with her parents, and takes a picture with her father. At the dance, they have fun together and almost reconcile. However, Eddie calls Karen a whore when she admits her extensive sexual history at the ball, as required by the purity ball's program. After this, Karen returns home and vandalizes her dad's room. Karen finds comfort in her mother and tells her what happened. In response, an angry Sheila gains strength to go outside and force Eddie out of their house, and Karen begins to break down.
The next day, Lip finds Karen in the basement spray painting the words "Fucking Asshole" on the wall. She is amused to hear from Lip that Ian isn't Frank's son, saying, "Dads are stupid." Lip confronts her and calls her a whore, causing her to kick him out. That same night, Karen starts a video blog confronting her dad. She then cries before she is found by a drunken Frank. Frank tries to comfort her, but she shoos him away before calming down and taking his pills before she rapes an unwilling and incapacitated Frank. She sends the video of the act to Eddie and his coworkers. Eddie kills himself as a result because he feels he's failed as a father.
In Father Frank, Full of Grace, Lip visits Karen and apologizes for his earlier words, and she forgives him by having sex with him. She feels guilty and tells him to leave after saying they should be friends and he reluctantly complies, though kisses her. Karen breaks up the kiss before it could progress further. Very soon, Lip learns about the video and becomes enraged at her and nearly hurts Frank, but forgives him after he lets Lip urinate on him. Karen catches up to Lip and tells him of what really occurred and apologizes for what she did.
In Summer Loving, she learns that father died but does not feel any remorse. Karen tells Sheila that she took advantage of Frank, not the other way around, and the police subsequently stop their investigation of Frank for statutory rape. She also thanks Frank because she believes that he killed her father. To get even with Eddie, she urinates on her father's grave as a final revenge. Frank calls Karen Jackson “a beautiful mess."
In Can I Have a Mother, she is exasperated with her mother still being afraid of going outside, especially when she is given a party by her mother. During the party, she is shocked Lip shows up. His grandmother Peggy Gallagher crashes the party, and Karen is worried when Peggy nearly shoots her mother. Karen is pregnant with many believe Lip is the father. However, Karen herself says she does not know the father of the baby though she assumes it is one of her old teachers. Karen decides to sell the baby, going to extreme lengths to find someone interested and willing to pay the most money, despite Lip's pleas for the baby to go to a good home.
In the season finale Just Like the Pilgrims Intended, Karen gives birth to the child, and to Lip's surprise, it is not his. The baby is of Asian-American descent, and has Down Syndrome. Lip exits the delivery room and tells the would-be adoptive parents the situation, with their reaction suggesting they no longer want the child. At the end of the episode, Sheila abducts the baby from the hospital.
Karen returns home from the hospital, knowing Shelia had taken the baby, and tells Shelia that the baby needs to leave. She calls the police on Sheila, and after the cops refuse to take the baby from Shelia because Karen does not want to take care of the baby, meaning he would go into foster care and cost taxpayer money. Karen has an argument with Sheila about the baby. Karen gives Sheila an ultimatum: either the baby goes or Karen does. Sheila pleads with Karen but is unable to change her daughter's mind and ultimately decides to keep the child. Karen keeps her word and leaves her mother's home. Sheila names the baby Hiram, after Sheila's father, with the nickname of Hymie.
During The Sins of My Caretaker, Lip calls Karen and insults her by listing the tirade of acts she has done to him and tells her to stay gone.
In Long Way From Home, Hymie's biological father, Timmy Wong, and his mother show up at Sheila's home to take Hymie. Sheila is initially resistant, but eventually decides that her home is not a proper place to raise Hymie because of Jody is relapsing on his sex addiction. Sheila allows Timmy and his mother to take Hymie. Later, Karen returns home and apologizes to Sheila for leaving and for making Sheila choose between her and Hymie. She expresses interest in Hymie, and implies that she came back for her child. However, it is later revealed that Karen contacted the Wongs and told them to take Hymie away from Sheila so she could return home.
During Where There's a Will, Karen goes to see Lip at his house. Ian tells her to stay outside because Mandy is inside with Lip and that he will tell Lip where to meet her. Lip meets her under the railroad, and Karen tries to make amends for how things ended with him. She tells him that she listened to the voicemail that he left her, in which insulted her, and reveals she hit rock bottom. Lip does not show her any reaction, and simply tells her that he is with Mandy now. Disappointed, Karen tells him that he deserves happiness and sadly watches him leave. She later meddles with Lip and Mandy's relationship by posting a photo of her with Lip on Facebook and glaring at Mandy in the school hallway. She meets up with Lip who inquires about her story and she asks what he wants before they have sex. While they have sex, Hymie's paternal grandmother visits Sheila and tells her that Karen called them to ask that they get Hymie. Sheila confronts Karen, and Karen tries to dodge the question. Her mother becomes distraught, and Karen claims that she intended to help them get back to the way things were before Hymie was born. Sheila storms out, unable to talk to her.
In Frank the Plumber, Karen thinks she and Lip have reconciled their relationship. A day later, she is excited to see Lip at her house and tries to talk with him, but he tells her that he has chosen Mandy over her because Mandy has his best interests at heart and genuinely loves him, whereas Karen does not seem to have the same kind of love and respect for him. Lip moves to leave but she stops him and tries to change his mind. Lip apologizes for leading her on and walks off. Karen is devastated at losing the one other person other than her mother that she thought she could count on. The rejection from her mother upsets her as well, so much that she lashes out at her mother who sits on a couch for days. Her previous rejection from Lip leaves her so upset that she calls Mandy, thanking her for applying to colleges for Lip so that Karen herself could leave with him, and also that all she has to do is trick Lip into one unprotected encounter, and she will have him back. While this was unlikely to happen, Mandy becomes furious about Karen's threat, having already shown clear insecurity about her relationship with Lip because of Karen. Later, Sheila visits Karen in her room and tries to reconcile with her by apologizing for not properly being there for her while growing up. This seems to work, as both share tears and connect again until Karen receives a text message supposedly from Lip asking to meet at the park. It is later revealed that Mandy was the one who sent that text using Lip's phone. Karen, not knowing this, kindly brushes her mother off and goes to meet up with him. As she crosses an intersection a car passes by, nearly hitting her. She dodges and directs her middle finger at the car, only to turn around and be rammed by a second speeding car in a hit and run. She is rammed and flipped completely on top of the car, landing on the road unconscious it as it speeds away.
Karen survives the accident and is hospitalized with severe injuries and placed in a medically induced coma. Lip visits the hospital twice, once with Debbie and once alone. When Sheila tells Lip on one of his visits that Karen was excited about Lip's text, he discovers that someone used his phone to text Karen. Sheila explains the Karen lit up when she got the text and that it probably made her so excited that she didn't look both ways. Lip asks if he could look at the phone, and Sheila gives it to him. Lip is shown thoughtfully looking at the text on the blood covered phone. Afterwards, Jody tells Sheila that they need to watch Karen one at a time, and that she needs rest on an actual bed. Sheila agrees. Karen's finger twitches when Jody touches her leg, and Jody remembers that Lip said to use things that Karen likes to bring her out of her coma. Jody then starts giving her oral sex, causing Karen to wake up. Jody believes that he discovered the cure for comas and explains to the doctors what happened.
After she awakes from the coma, Karen's personality dramatically changes. According to Jody, she can only recall memories from before the accident, but cannot make any new memories. She also answers most questions in monosyllables. Jody also remarks that it might wear off, but she may never recover. Lip visits her and sees she can still recall him and a few other memories that he mentions on his next visits. Sheila notes Karen seems so much "happier," presumably because her old, selfish personality is gone. Lip reveals to Karen that it was Mandy who ran her over and Karen amicably digests the news. She then follows up a few moments later claiming she does not know who hit her. She is able to barely pronounce Mandy's name. During one of Lip's visits, Sheila tells Lip that Jody and Karen plan to travel to Arizona to help Karen recover and plan to bring Hymie along. Lip does not appear to react to Sheila upon hearing Karen is leaving possibly forever, but it's obvious any chance of a future he had with Karen is gone forever.
In Sparky, Lip lists Karen as one of his crazy romantic partners to Ian when discussing how Gallagher men attract odd partners.