Thursday, August 16, 2007

"You've taken the Costner thing a little too far": Rescue Me

No doubt this season has been MONSTROUSLY erratic, but yesterday's ep "Animal" was a standout, in my opinion. Some seriously strange stuff, but also some absolutely terrific scenes and all-around nice work by all the firemen.

I'll admit it certainly started oddly. That would be Gina Gershon, who had a wordless cameo last week depositing a card into Tommy's pocket, having rapid and bizarre 'sex' with Tommy before retreating to a leopardskin beanbag and shrieking "DON'T TOUCH ME!". The significance of this scene mostly eluded me, except for adding to the disproportionally long list of female deviants Tommy's encountered over the years, and I guess just adding to Tommy's general frustration. Interestingly Tommy's actually been relatively level-headed this year. Usually the seasons have him either recovering or building up to a breakdown, and while I'm sure crazy stuff is gonna go down before the season is out, he was almost the voice of reason in this episode.

First off there was the Gavin intervention--it was nominally for Maggie and Uncle Teddy, but it just degenerated into an airing of grievances and vices among the whole clan, including Sean Garrity (I love that he's a Gavin now), Charles Durning and that funny laywer cousin. Of course, Tommy and priest cousin, the two officially sober Gavins, start out as the pious lecturers but are quickly accused of hypocrisy by the rest of the clan for arguing that things can only get better. It was a great scene, and it reinforced the episode's central theme, which seemed to be: life sucks, especially if you're a Gavin, and there's no fixing it. Think about it. There's the poor no-name baby (who was alternatively called "Elvis" by Sheila and "Wyatt" by Janet this week), there's Tommy's increasingly decrepit father, Maggie seems to be entering a spiral of insanity unrivaled even by her, and Janet's reverting to her evil nomad act from season 2. Sidenote: in the big monologue I'm about to check out, Tommy praises Janet for being a great mother to his kids. Really? I mean, maybe when they were together pre-9/11, but Janet's repeated kidnapping of the kids and general neglect and depression really casts a huge shadow on what's supposed to be her big redeeming feature. Honestly, when she called Tommy from a motel room having nicked Elvis/Wyatt and Katy, I just wanted to shake her. She really sucks!

OK, let's talk about Denis' probable Emmy clip this year, shall we? After all, the season 3 episode he submitted for the Emmys this year is the one where he gives that long monologue in the bar. In this episode, Tommy gets a raving call from the increasingly despondent Mike, who has combined pills and booze to combat his loneliness & depression about his mother's death. Tommy chases Mike onto a roof, sits him down, lights up, takes a drink, and delivers a speech about...well, just about how messed up death is. It's actually hard to get across how Leary got this speech so right, but he really does seize your attention with stuff like this, doesn't he? Delivered in one long take, and low-key throughout, but I'd like to find a watcher who wasn't dazed by that. Sorta bundled up Tommy's major traumas: survivor's guilt over 9/11 and the loss of his son, but didn't lay it on thick like the aforementioned bar monologue last season or the "gosh, ain't we just ridiculous" marriage therapy scene earlier this season. Sure sold me on the episode, and it's stuff like that that makes me forget the more ridiculous portions of this show. Course, the speech ends with Tommy throwing himself off the roof, but they weren't dumb enough to make it a cliffhanger--Tommy had just hopped onto the fire escape below, which immediately destabilizes, throwing Tommy into mortal danger. As much of a compromise as the Rescue Me boys can rustle up, I guess. They'll never quite let the ridiculousness go.

Other stuff:

-The firehouse stuff was great. The fire scene was short but powerful, and no indie rock! Larenz Tate and Jerry Adler are really growing into their roles, and I would like to see them on board for the long haul. Franco and Lou finally discovering that the rumors were true about what the Chief was packing was hilariously done.
-Maybe Susan Sarandon isn't gone for good! Anyway, thank God Franco's boring fiancee is history. Maybe the reason most of the women on this show act so nuts is because they just can't write more realistic female characters?
-Anyone else notice the Samantha Bee cameo as Tommy's real estate agent? She was in the background the whole time, but I'd recognize that voice anywhere. Leary & Jon Stewart are pretty good buddies, I hear.
-Totally minor final point, but Tommy's pratfalls amongst the beanbag furniture at Gina Gershon's place were extremely amusing. Who knew Leary was a funny physical actor?

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