Well, dammit. No fooling around this time, no fake-outs like last year.
Chief Jerry Reilly is dead.
I confirmed it with people at FX after watching the episode, and Matt Seitz did an interview with Jack McGee (and Peter Tolan) for Television Without Pity.
I'm of two minds on this. On the one hand, McGee was always an odd fit for this show. The part was written for Lenny Clarke, which suggests they had something much funnier in mind, and while McGee was good for the occasional crude rejoinder (in this episode, I liked his retort to the guys' suggestions of what he should wear to the wedding), Jerry as played by McGee was the least overtly funny "Rescue Me" character, someone who was often kept out of those famous kitchen scenes, part of the ensemble and yet apart from it.
But, dammit, he was an amazing dramatic actor, money in the bank on any storyline Leary and Tolan ever handed him. I still think back to that bit from the end of season two, after Mrs. Chief tried to kill herself with a straight razor, and Jerry's in the car with someone (either Franco, or Lou, I forget), talking about what an unbelievably raw deal this Alzheimer's thing is, and the entire scene is shot from the back seat, so all you can see is the back of McGee's head and, on occasion, his eyes in the rearview mirror -- and still he killed with the scene.
As I've been saying the last few weeks, I feel like Leary and Tolan have run out of interesting dramatic storylines for these characters, so maybe the death of the Chief should serve as some kind of clean break from the series' comedy/tragedy hybrid style. I'm not saying they should never do a heavy moment again, but that they should save those for when they have a good idea. Instead, I imagine that Jerry's death will be used as an excuse for the other characters in general and Tommy in particular to wallow.
In talking with Matt, he also complained that he didn't buy that Jerry would kill himself -- and that McGee agreed with him. I believe it a little more than they did -- again, he's always been isolated to an extent from the other characters, his wife is in a home and doesn't know who the hell he is, he'll never be completely comfortable around his son (though he made a good effort at saying goodbye with that toast), and now he's had his job as an active firefighter taken away. What else did he have to live for?
Some thoughts on the non-Chief portions of the episode:
- I would like Nona a lot if it wasn't for her completely irrational romantic pursuit of Tommy, a much older, divorced, drunk who isn't interested and admittedly looks like a hag. Even if it's played as an emasculating joke, her physical and emotional toughness makes her seem like the character that I always wish Diane Farr had been playing. (One question: they shot the scene where Nona picks up Tommy in such a way that you could never see Jennifer Esposito's face. I know she's not a twig and Leary's pretty damn skinny, but does anybody think she could actually carry him like that?)
- I dislike Tommy and Janet scenes in general, but the moment where he realized the baby calmed down whenever she criticized him was a nice bit.
- Speaking of Lenny Clarke, they might as well put him and Lenny Venito into a spin-off, because the Teddy/prison guard stuff felt like part of a completely different show.