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'Rescue Me:' It's not my fault

Before I begin my recap of the season finale of FX's "Rescue Me," a word about the review of last week's episode. I wrote that review based on the episode itself in which it was unclear whether the character of Damien died in a fire. After I posted it, a reader commented -- rather obnoxiously but that's neither here nor there -- that Damien indeed was dead as was revealed in the preview of the upcoming episode. I subsequently adjusted my review to acknowledge this.

However, despite what the preview implied, Damien didn't die. He was severely brain damaged and in a chair, but still very much alive. I regret that I did not stick to my original review, which was correct. In the future, I will review only what is in the episode that is airing that night.

DAMIEN Now on to the episode at hand. As "Rescue Me" winds down its remarkable run, Tommy Gavin is still trying to find his path. He's not drinking, but that doesn't mean he's sober. Tommy, like most Gavins, is white knuckling it when it comes to staying off the sauce. The inner peace that comes to many who surrender and acknowledge their powerlessness over alcohol eludes Tommy because surrender isn't in his vocabulary. He thinks he can out muscle his addictions. Tommy has never recognized that drinking is only a symptom of his illness, not the problem itself which is why  Leary's portrayal of an alcoholic is both compelling and frustrating at the same time. Leary captures the angst of the kind of drunk who just doesn't get it and whose inability to recognize that he needs to change more than his choice of beverage makes those around him all the more miserable and on edge.

However hard Tommy is trying to turn over a new leaf, as usual he's wasting his efforts on the wrong people. He is spending all his time with Sheila, who is convinced that Damien can beat the odds and learn to walk again and function. When she's not doting over Damien, she's reading self-help books and talking to her shrink trying to convince herself that it is not her fault that Damien is so damaged. Mickey, Tommy's cousin who had been with Sheila, has dropped her out of frustration over her inability to accept that Damien will never be the same again.

Tommy's constant attention to Damien and Sheila is touching. Unfortunately it is coming at the expense of his relationship not only with his wife, Janet, but also daughters Colleen and Katy. In another only in the world of "Rescue Me" does this happen storyline, Tommy, who has gone all of a couple of months without a drink and maybe a week or two more than Colleen, is actually serving as her sponsor. One doesn't need to be an expert on substance abuse and recovery to know this is a train wreck waiting to happen. In no time at all, Tommy's blowing off his daughter who, despite her poor choice in sponsors, seems to be trying to keep it together. He also misses Katy's dance recital as well.

Back at the firehouse, the guys don't seem to be all that shaken by Damien's plight. Lou, who should feel guilty because he knew he was too weak for active duty but went into the fire anyway and that ultimately led to Damien's injuries, is surprisingly without conscience. He even tries to persuade his doctor to provide a clean bill of health to the FDNY so he can stay on the job. 

Lou has always been the soul of "Rescue Me," so as a fan it is distressing to see him showing so little remorse over his part in Damien's demise. Lou was the one who seemed capable of calling Tommy on his garbage and own up to his own flaws. Perhaps Lou's as yet unexamined role in what happened to Damien will be a plot point when "Rescue Me" returns next year with its final nine episodes. If not, then Tolan and Leary are missing a golden opportunity to bring some fresh tension to Ladder 62.

While much of the season finale was bleak, having a character who can only mumble and shake is too good an opportunity for the black humor Leary and Tolan are famous for. Tommy dumps Damien on the crew while he tries to get to Katy's dance recital. The guys decide to take Damien to a bar with them where they discover that even a brain-damaged Damien is still a chick magnet. "He's the ultimate wingman," declares Franco. "He attracts chicks and he won't mess with your game."

This season of "Rescue Me," as anyone who has read my recaps on a regular basis knows, was at times frustrating. Sometimes one invests too much in the characters of shows and perhaps I have done that with Tommy and the gang. Tommy doesn't behave the way I think he should and it bugs me. He keeps doing the same things over and over again expecting the results to be different, and not only is it sad to watch, it doesn't always make for good television.

But there was enough in this season to keep any real fan satisfied. The dark humor was as deranged as ever and the blackout episode stands among the show's best.There were particularly strong performances from Callie Thorne who plays Sheila and Adam Ferrara as Needles.

"Rescue Me" is due to come back some time next year and the series finale will likely take place around the time of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Tommy and the gang are still battered and bruised from that Tuesday morning. The question isn't whether they can heal, it's whether they want to heal or would prefer to keep picking at their scars and making themselves and everyone around them bleed. 

-- Joe Flint

 Photo: Michael Zegen as Damien in "Rescue Me."

Comments () | Archives (5)

Great review of season but no talk about the cliffhangers?...real fans aren't watching the show just to get through it to the series finale, it's the stories and characters themselves that got 'em this far...not how the season was shaped to creator's approval...you touched on Lou's dilemma and I also agree that it's very odd that no one in the entire house, in addition to sheila, are aware of the reason Damien was where he was b/c of Lou...but that just seem to foreshadow a plot line for the final season which is lazy on their part...

also the pregnancy...i didn't DVR and rewatch to see the date on that pregnancy test but if it's for now...i think the show's heading to add another gavin and this time is almost undoubtedly a boy just for the show's sake....

and finally, the biggest cliffhanger yet (which we're now at third episodes with one) was Damien grabbing Tommy's arm..i see that as going 1 of 2 ways with this show..1) damien actually died at that moment and tommy is talking to another guilt ghost without booze or 2) damien was faking until then and snapped out of it...either way let's hope this last season is heavy on the characters and light on the 9/11...no need for another franco-centric episode detailing that...

I'm new to the show tracker, but you really do a great job with reviews, Joe. I usually don't leave comments; with such accurate recaps & opinions, however, I might break my code of silence more often. Any way, you might see why I don't usually leave comments - I have trouble focusing & everything ends up coming out at once. Still, I know you do enjoy reader comments. So here we go. Just some random thoughts.

* I think you've given this last season of Rescue Me more credit than it deserves. Or maybe I'm just tired of the plot lines that Leary & Tolan have recycled. The longer this show goes on, the more I must suspend my disbelief. I know TV is TV & fiction is fiction, but this show has been playing the same tune since the end of Season 3 with a few exceptions of brilliant story telling. One constant, though, is how the show keeps testing its audience's patience.

* How much tragedy can befall one man? 9/11 (along with his cousin dying), his wife leaves him, he gets back with his wife, his son dies, wife leaves again (& sleeps with his brother), his brother dies, his dad dies, his wife has his brother's child, he gets shot, & on & on & on we go.

*Must I add that all the while he is being haunted by his dead cousin, his dead son (different age, though), any person he couldn't save from a fire, his brother, his dad, etc? Oh, & all the while he is battling alcoholism? & still in love with his wife & his cousin's widow? I understand that we're dealing with tragic (by definition) characters who keep repeating themselves - but no one is this idiotic or persevering. Why are Tommy & Janet still trying to make it work?

*I agree with the review with the comments about Lou. How could such a story line be dodged?

Some more random comments about this season (some of this stuff might have been brought up by others before):

*Are we supposed to believe that Tommy is through with drinking now? I felt his decision to give up the sauce once & for all was very anti-climactic.

*Why is there still no story involving Wyatt yet they still include him in discussion? Why even invent such a character & storyline a couple seasons ago? It feels like the writers just want to brush him under the rug. Now they're saying Janet might be pregnant again? Seriously?

*The tragedy that is Damien's damaged state really is great story telling. It was a left hook that I never saw coming. Both the injury last week & his disability now. But to skip 2 months ahead in the action? Some shows can pull this off (The Sopranos comes to mind), but Rescue Me does it randomly & therefore gives the impression that the writer's have ran out of things to say. Maybe it would have been better to end the season with last week's episode & then start back up with last night's episode next summer?

*Why hasn't there been any music in the last several episodes? Just more signs of dried up writing.

Thanks for the comments. I left out Janet's potential pregnancy and maybe I should have included it. Who knows, maybe it will turn out to be Franco's kid.

As for Damien and it being a dream. I too thought that but also thought that would be a pretty weak stunt to pull.

Appreciate the comments.

You. got. it. wrong. PERIOD. Watch it again. Loser.

Hello, This message is for Joe Flint. I was wondering if you heard anything about the content of the final 9 episodes of Rescue Me? Specifically I am hoping that Susan Sarandon and the actress that plays Franco's daughter will return to close out that story line. We have not heard anything from Franco's daughter since season 4. Thanks


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