Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Beat down like it ain't nothin'

So, is every "Rescue Me" episode this season going to end with Tommy dramatically walking away from the rest of the ensemble? More after the jump...

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.
What say you?


Anonymous said...

In the full minute between Tommy realizing what was going on and finally leaping over the table, I could feel my face getting hot. I felt like I was sitting there, waiting for whatever was going to happen to happen. Leary is good.

I didn't think Franco's little monologue about private school for his daughter really worked. It all made sense and everything, but it took way too long for Tommy to say something stupid.

"'We're going to have Chink food and birthday cake. You can't have a disaster with that combination.' Were truer words ever spoken?"

Considering what ended up happening, I'll say yes!

I'm starting to like Sheila. Callie Thorne was great in that first scene.

Edward Copeland said...

Enough with the musical montage endings. Is that too much to ask?

Anonymous said...

They may not portray women well, but are there any positively portrayed men on this show?

Anonymous said...

I don't know, I think they may have gone too far this time. Tommy isn't supposed to be a "bad guy" protagonist like Tony Soprano or Vic Mackey. He's massively flawed, but we're supposed to like the guy. I think I'm going to have a hard time laughing at Tommy's wacky antics after watching him savagely beat his brother like that.

Anonymous said...

I think Tommy's savage beating of his brother makes total sense for the character. Considering they are actual brothers and within the dynamics of their firehouse/policeman brotherhood backgrounds, this kind of betrayal is much, much worse than finding out your wife/husband is cheating on you with just anyone. When Tommy and Shelia were "found out", remember how everyone reacted? And she was just his cousin's wife.

Alan Sepinwall said...

"They may not portray women well, but are there any positively portrayed men on this show?"

No one gets a 100% positive portrayal, but the guys are at least allowed to display both good and bad sides. Tommy's really good at his job. Franco is looking out for his daughter. Probie and Garrity are decent guys at heart, just stupid. Etc., etc., etc. The women are almost uniformly shown in a negative light.

Anonymous said...


As an aside, check out the web-only episode on FX's Rescue Me site. It is a freakin' classic.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, the guys are depicted as lovable rogues, whereas the gals are mostly... well, I don't think Alan would want me using the word here.

Anonymous said...

I think every ep should end with a musical montage and Tommy walking away from the rest of the cast. Think of it as Rescue Me's nod to Police Squad!, which ended the same way every ep (with everyone doing a fake freeze-frame).

I can't believe I'm actually like Sheila this season. It's even causing me residual like for Callie Thorne. I think my head might implode from this.

Tommy's other brother is hanging out with Chuck Cunningham and the missing Martin brother on All My Children up in the Martin's attic.

I don't think it matters if we've seen Lou's friend before because it was just a microcosm of how no one takes him seriously, which we saw earlier in the ep when Chief was pressing him about borrowing money and Lou kept trying to tell him that he didn't have money to lend. True, Chief is too caught up in his own troubles to pay real attention to Lou, but then again, when has anyone except Tommy really listened to what Lou was saying? And even Tommy doesn't always do that. Lou's arc is the one that scares me the most. He's spiralling downward and no one is noticing. How sad.

Anonymous said...

JM, thanks for pointing to that webisode. Holy cow, can Leary and Tolan write a comedy scene! The scene near the end with the multiple injuries clinches it.