Friday, August 24, 2007

"He's this giant cloud of pink gas": Rescue Me

Another flawed episode of Rescue Me, but ultimately quite successful I thought. This season is slowly righting itself from its very muddled middle--I'd probably place it on a par, quality-wise, with season three if things stay good. Oh, and if you've noticed that I've just been using the publicity shots of cast members for my last like, five reviews, well, it's cause FX are useless. Useless.

Anyway, first let's tackle the weakest thread in this episode. Take a guess what it was. Surprise surprise, it's the endless saga of Janet and her no-name baby! Which is apparently officially called Wyatt or Elvis, depending on who you talk to. Me, I prefer Elvis, but I've always wanted to meet someone called Wyatt. Janet has the baby again after sneaking it out of Sheila's arms, but Tommy and Sheila seem to have concocted an evil plan to get it back, the specifics of which the audience is currently unaware, and...oh, who am I kidding. Nobody cares about this. I don't even think the writers care about it. They shoulda just written Andrea Roth out of the show after season two. It really would have made things a hell of a lot easier. Tommy's wheedling with his increasingly irritating daughter Colleen just takes up minutes, too. Every time, they insult each other for a couple minutes before Tommy gives her lots of money in exchange for information. We get it. He's a weird father. Sigh.

Happily, most everything else was pretty good! The firehouse stuff had one really good scene: the single-take conversation between Tommy and Lou in a burned-out building, which contained the kind of epic crudity we expect from those two put together. The best part probably being Tommy casually shoving Lou out of the way of a gigantic falling pillar. There's been a lot of super-long takes this season: have the writers just stepped it up a notch in terms of challenging the cast, or is there more improv stuff going on? I can't really tell. But not only was there the Tommy/Lou bit, but there was ANOTHER long speech by Tommy, following on from his mournful soliloquy on the rooftop last episode. Whereas last week's monologue was truly impressive stuff from Leary, this week's was more of the typical firefighter rant that he often writes for himself, the sort of no-nonsense "you can cram your political correctness up your ass, cause the FDNY are goddamn heroes" stuff, but with an ounce of charm. Plus, he was shirtless, just to hit the manliness home, I guess. While the speech was somewhat self-serving, at least Leary and Tolan were aware enough to have the other firefighters comment on Tommy's growing nuttiness the instant he left the room.

The funniest stuff in the episode was probably the Gavin family AA meeting--an idea I'm surprised they didn't cook up sooner, cause it's nice to include the peripheral Gavins like Priest Gavin and Lawyer Gavin, plus they get to fit Sean in as an honorary Gavin as well, and his ruminations on faith and addiction are never short of illuminating. Also hilarious. Point is, a bunch of Gavins bickering in a room is always gold. It's too bad Dean Winters can't join in anymore, cause he was probably the best bickerer they had, but Tatum O'Neal and Charles Durning do a pretty good job even without him. Durning had an even better scene, however, where he reminded Tommy of Tommy's childhood fears of heights and bees, and how his mother tried to cure him of them. Not sure where there going by bringing up the spectre of Tommy's always unseen mother, who died in the first season, but it led to a really great (and for me, really harrowing) final scene in which Tommy has to rescue a window-washer on a scaffold fifteen stories high in the middle of Manhattan. Now, I have a tremendous fear of heights, and they somehow worked in some really dizzying shots that looked pretty darn real, so I kinda had my hand in my mouth that final scene.

What seems to be going on, and the heights thing is just part of the mix, is many of Tommy's fears are being dredged up, all somewhat connected to fear of death, something he's never really displayed before. I guess the Chief's suicide kicked it off, but the strange faceless ghosts he's been seeing, the heavy religious imagery and situational humor of the last couple episodes, and the brushes with death he's had (both on scaffolds), as well as his fairly depressing home life....well, all honesty, I'm not sure if there is really a totally unifying theme. It's really the same old mix of Rescue Me angst: booze, broads and Jesus. It's always good Catholic fun to watch Tommy wrestle with it, and I hope we get more of that and less of the Janet/baby stuff. Not optimistic, just hoping.

So, we're in the final stretch now. The obligatory Jon Scurti-penned episode is next week, I think, then the final two, in which (I'm guessing) a horrible series of events will befall several characters on the show. Well, I'm just going by experience!

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