Tonight's "Rescue Me" was the last of this season's episodes that I watched in a quick burst back in January, so I'll offer up some very brief thoughts after the jump, and, time permitting, we can go a little deeper starting next week...
"Sheila" was, I thought, the strongest of these first five. While I think the series overdoes Tommy dream sequences in general, his nightmare of suitcase bombs and 9/11-style dust falling all over the city was effectively disturbing, and felt nicely tied to the renewed focus on the falling towers. Beyond that, the writers continue to rehabilitate characters who had turned into nothing but broad (and often annoying) comic relief, as Garrity is diagnosed with kidney cancer from his time working at Ground Zero, while Sheila gets a look at the 9/11 footage of Jimmy and makes peace with Damian's decision to join the FDNY. (And enlists Mike to be his mentor, a very promising idea for the former probie.)
When I complained about the bar and some of the other comic scenes last week, some readers suggested that they needed the laughs as relief from the more intense scenes. I don't disagree on that broad point. What made "Rescue Me" so good in its early days was its mix of the utterly tragic and the completely silly. My problem came when certain characters became nothing but walking punchlines, so stupid (Garrity, Mike) or crazy (Sheila), that they ceased to resemble actual human beings, and suddenly the joke wasn't funny anymore. Sean getting cancer isn't going to make him stop being funny, but it's also going to make those funny scenes more effective, because I again get to believe that he's a person and not just an excuse for cheap laughs. Great work from Steven Pasquale, who's rarely (if ever) been asked to go to a dark place like he did tonight. And this is two weeks in a row where I didn't really hate Sheila.
And a good chunk of the episode's comedy came from a good source in the return of Michael J. Fox as crazy Dwight. One of the many shames of Fox's Parkinson's diagnosis is that he doesn't have the time, or focus, or both, to perform much anymore, and a character like this is a reminder of what a great comic actor he is. This is a weirder character than he usually plays, and he's absolutely nailing it, with Denis Leary graciously playing straight man to him most of the time.
What did everybody else think?