If the season premiere was "everything that is brilliant about 'Rescue Me' -- and some of what is frustrating about 'Rescue Me,'" episode two was a little less of the former and more of the latter.
On the plus side, you have the ongoing smoke-out contest and the debate over "kitty" vs. "can" (particularly brilliant when Lou was yelling at everyone from the bathroom), a very nice scene in the locker room where Franco explains why he's taking the lieutenants exam, pretty much the entire club sequence and Tommy's duct tape date afterwards, Jerry with his wife, and Tommy going all Seth Bullock on his brother at the end. Someone asked last week whether Tommy would go more berserk about Janet and Johnny or Garrity and his sister, and since he clearly recognized what was up with those two when he saw him take her cherry (literally) but chose to wail on Johnny instead, I think we have our answer to that one. (I haven't seen the previews, but how badly do you think Johnny is going to wind up? Smashing a guy's face through a car window can't be good. You would think Ryan O'Reilly would be the one fighting dirty in a situation like that.)
On the negative side, you have the show's problem with writing female characters flaring up worse than usual. The scene where Tommy's older daughter declares that she's become born again because it's the cool thing to do at school ("Blow jobs are so last year, Dad!") is the sort of thing that might have seemed interesting in the writers' room but played out as a bad "SNL" sketch. (Though it did allow Charles Durning to give a perfect delivery of the line where he asks her to tell Jesus to lay off.) Sheila's a doormat, Janet's a cheating nag, Tommy's sister is nuts, and while the girl Tommy had to duct tape shut was funny, the pattern is making me really uncomfortable. The Susan Sarandon character could go either way (a really cool love interest for Franco or someone who turns out to be crazy and manipulative), but then, I thought Diane Farr had potential to be really interesting, and they ruined her pretty damn quick.
As someone said in the comments for last week's review, "I think the women are portrayed as the men see them, not necessarily as the women actually are." I'll take the charitable view that that's what Leary and Tolan are trying to do, but what it does is make the show seem like it's just as misogynist as Tommy and the guys. We're two-plus seasons in, so I know this isn't going to change, but as long as it makes me uncomfortable, I'm going to keep mentioning it.
It's been a few weeks since I saw this episode (I'm deliberately saving the DVD screener of episode three until closer to air date so my thoughts are fresher), so I'll move on to a few random thoughts and then open it up for comments:
- I've seen perfect spit takes with drinks, but Lou with the cigar in the opening scene may be the greatest spit take I've ever seen involving a solid object.
- Speaking of Lou, the scene where he pours his heart out to his oblivious doc-turned-vet buddy would have worked better if we'd met the guy before. (Apologies if we have, but if so, he didn't leave much of an impression.)
- The bit with Probie's old friend pressuring him to transfer to another house to avoid being "Probie" forever is interesting, even though you know he's not going to leave. Wasn't Garity a Probie in that house once upon a time? And how long is the FDNY probationary period, anyway? Is the show taking place in a much more condensed timeframe than the episodes have aired? And whatever happened to the "New Mike" nickname? The Features department's summer intern is named Steve, and he's sitting next to an editor named Steve, so I'm starting a movement to call him "New Steve." (Old Steve actually likes the idea of being known as Old Steve, which led to many Julia Louis-Dreyfus-themed jokes.)
- "We're going to have Chink food and birthday cake. You can't have a disaster with that combination." Were truer words ever spoken?
- Best part of the Lotus scene: Tommy on his way to hit on Susan Sarandon when Garrity mentions she reminds him of his mom.
- Tommy's younger daughter has had more material in the last two episodes than the first two seasons combined.
- While I don't like either one of them or how the show depicts them, I did like seeing Sheila try to help Janet up during the fight, only for that to devolve into a mini-fight of its own. Also a nice touch having Maggie concerned entirely about spilling her drink while one of her brothers is trying to kill the other one. Speaking of which...
- Where was the third Gavin brother, the one played by Chase from "24" for a few episodes in season one when Dean Winters was otherwise occupied? Wouldn't he want to, you know, go to his dad's birthday party?
- The song playing over the beat-down was "Bonnie Brae" by The Twilight Singers.