Thursday, August 24, 2006

Rescue Me: Love and death

Finally got to "Rescue Me" last night and started writing my review before fatigue set in. And before I was coherent enough to start writing this morning, I skimmed a couple of blogs and message boards, plus my in-box, and was surprised to see so much vitriol directed at what, to me, was the best episode of the season and one of the better (albeit stranger) hours this show has ever done. More after the jump...

Understated isn't a word you often associate with Denis Leary, or with anyone who works on the show, but I thought this week's episode was superb because it had so many opportunities to go over the top and almost never did. Even the opening sequence, with Tommy and then Janet and the girls finding out about Johnny was done with the music overriding any sounds of weeping or wailing. And Tommy's confrontation with the shooter could have gone in all kinds of obvious and/or cheesey directions -- Tommy kicking the guy's ass, Tommy yelling at the guy, Tommy trying to make the guy feel guilty, etc. -- but instead Tommy realized there was no point to doing anything (save the prepare-to-be-a-prag bit at the end). He arranged for the death of the drunk driver who killed Connor, and it gave him no peace.

The two highlights of the less-is-more approach: Tommy's Dad excusing himself and then struggling with the bathroom door (Charles Durning absolutely destroyed me, both in that scene and the one where he apologized to Rosemary), and Tommy and Lou silently working in the kitchen as they listened to the answering machine messages -- and everyone who saw a message from Johnny coming, move straight to the head of the class. (Someone on TWoP raised an interesting question: is the fact that both Gavin brothers left each other apologetic voicemails around the same time a corny coincidence, or did Tommy send his after Johnny died as a ploy to get Janet's attention? Would explain why Tommy imagined Johnny's eyes opening wide when he mentioned the message.) And, as always, I got chills by the casual appearance of the ghosts, especially Jimmy taking Connor under his wing (in a better way than Tommy's done with Damian).

(UPDATE: Vis a vis the chronology of exactly when Tommy left that voicemail message, I asked Leary and Tolan about it on a conference call, and Denis said, "We, I think, would prefer to leave that to next season." Hmm...)

The beef people seem to have is with Maggie and Sean's wedding -- not only the fact that the priest would agree to do it, but that the entire crowd of mourners would stick around and be enthusiastic about it. But it worked for me, because it seemed to fit into Tommy's Dad's request for a celebration instead of a sad day. Everyone on this show has been through so much horror; why wouldn't they want to find some excuse to be happy, even if it's wildly inappropriate?

I've been waiting long enough to post this, and I have a screener of the season finale I want to get to, so on to the quick hits:

  • Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye is a Gavin? Another gem observation, courtesy of TWoP (really, I have no insights of my own when it comes down to it): the Gavins, like the Kennedys, are an Irish clan where the men have a habit of dying tragically young, and like the Kennedys, there's a sister named Rosemary who was shunned for having a disability. No way that's not intentional.
  • Not sure which was the funnier part of Sean and Maggie's marriage: "Mr. and Mrs. Gavity" or the two of them consummating the marriage in the bottom bunk bed.
  • Noticeably absent from the funeral: Marisa Tomei as Johnny's ex and James Badge Dale as Timo, the cop brother who popped up a few times near the end of season one when Dean Winters wasn't available. Cable drama budgets being what they are, I understand not being able to get Tomei to do a wordless cameo, but what's Chase from "24" doing to keep him away?
  • Did I miss an episode? When did Mike go from being conflicted, if not in outright denial, about his interest in men, to gleefully hitting on that brother and sister?
  • It hadn't even occurred to me that Franco's girlfriend looked like Keelah, but now I can't not see it. They say that women tend to marry men like their father, but this reversal is skeevy.
  • Doesn't seem much point to Lou and the nun, save that it's creating even more promise of his life that will no doubt be dashed when he and Tommy wind up staying in the firehouse for some reason.
  • Good to see Chief Reilly's son again.
  • Bored with Teddy and Patti D'Arbanville. Not that I would trade Scurti or McGee for Lenny Clarke (who was, I believe, supposed to play either Lou or Jerry but had another commitment), but I really wish he could be in the firehouse (ala "The Job") instead of off in his own pointless subplots.
Off to watch the finale, to be followed tomorrow afternoon by a Leary/Tolan conference call. Can Leary injure me through the phone?


Anonymous said...

Given dead Johnny's reaction to Tommy talking about his message, and the fact that when he played it, it sounded almost exactly like Johnny's real one, I thought maybe Tommy sent his after the fact too. Which I don't really get - if he wants to get close with Janet again, his love for his kids and the responsibility he feels for Janet's baby (regardless of whose it is) would seem to be enough.

That said, I'm with you on the quality of the episode. Thought the pre-credit sequence was a knockout, and I agree the wedding seemed to fit with Pa Gavin's no-crying edict. Would've liked to see a little more of the Chief, though.

Toby O'B said...

Charles Durning left me with a lump in my throat when he laid down the edict about Johnny's funeral.

The worst part of seeing an actor of his calibre still so on top of his game is the fear that we could lose his talents at any time.

Here's hoping we have Mr. Durning around for a long long time.

BTW - he also had the funniest line for me. When Red observed that the Gavin family is really messed up, Mike Gavin replied,

"You're telling me? That's why I'm getting out."

Anonymous said...

The "realistic" answer to Keelah and the girlfriend would be that Franco has a type he's attracted to, so Keelah's mother and the current girlfriend are similar, and Keelah looks like her mother.

What's the thing about Catholics not getting married outdoors "unless there's a good reason"? I've never heard that before, but I'm not Catholic so that means nothing.

Anonymous said...

Fuuly agree with all. Killer episode, all the more so for understatement, a technique rarely used on this show.

BTW, anybody know what song that was during the opening scene where the cast learns the news, one after the other?

Steve B.

Anonymous said...

I definitely think Tommy left the message after Johnny was dead; it never occurred to me otherwise.That was a hard scene to watch since Tommy sunk to an all time low, using his brother's death to get Janet back.
I am also totally bored by the whole prison/marriage plot.Enough already.
I really adore this show but feel it has been trying my patience this season.
And Tommy is going to string Sheila along some more? How ridiculous...

Anonymous said...


I am not sure you should be watching this show. Maybe you should stick with something a little happier like Gilmore Girls.

Anonymous said...

jon, lots of cell phone voice mails only tell you the date and time sent after another round of "To save this message, press #, to delete, press ##," etc.

i don't recall hearing about an edict against outdoor weddings in my catechism classes, but i'm pretty sure Catholic weddings are supposed to be done in a Catholic church.

I think the timing of Tommy's phone call was left ambiguous on purpose. It does seem weird that he would place the call after the fact to woo Janet, though, and then turn around and decide to run off with Sheila.

I thought the wedding was hilarious. Didn't have any problems with them getting married right after Johnny's funeral at all.

Anonymous said...

It's very, very possible that Tommy would leave a message after the fact to try to get Janet back, but the more I thought about it, another theory presented itself.

Tommy heard his brother's message stating that he was sorry and was backing off of Janet and that Janet was still in love with Tommy. Now that his brother has died, and we know Tommy is still in love with Janet, he feels guilty for a) having fought with his murdered brother, whom he loved which is why the betrayal cut so deep and b) sleeping with Janet behind his brother's back and c)feels a familial obligation to take care of her (almost as if she was his brother's widow) now that she's pregnant (whomever's baby it is) and sees another chance to right his previous wrongs by taking care of his family.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree about the high quality of the episode, yet I couldn't enjoy it for what it was because I kept seeing the blatant plot machinations that were setting up next week.

Even before I saw the previews for next week, I was dreading the seemingly inevitable reunion of Tommy and Janet, with him ditching Sheila and the idea of running away. Even putting aside the loathsome prospect of watching Tommy and Janet back together next season, which I don't know if I'll be able to handle, that ending will bother me for copping out on what has been the best ongoing plot of the season.

This whole season, Tommy has seen numerous reasons why he needs to get out of the FDNY. I'll feel shortchanged if after all that, he simply changes his mind in the season finale, and everything returns to the status quo. I think, for a true payoff to this storyline, we need to see Tommy quit and run off, at least for now. Next year, we can deal with all the characters in their new lives and see how they get drawn back into the FDNY.

This season has certainly had some ups and downs, but I would love to see the show close it out on a high note, instead of the writers taking the easy way out.

Alan Sepinwall said...

On the call with Leary and Tolan, I asked whether Tommy left the message pre or post-mortem, and Leary said, "We, I think, would prefer to leave that to next season."

Tolan confirmed that the Kennedy parallels with Rosemary were intentional, and that an early cut of the funeral scene had Maggie describing Rosemary as "like that Kennedy sister they put in an institution."

Anonymous said...

No mentions here on the Bill Belichick sighting? Admittedly a lighter comment here, as compared to the others above, but worth throwing out. Another Leary fave added for good measure.

I found it odd that the guys even had an ansering machine at home - too contrived. I thought they only used cell phones. I felt that the messages they received seemed more suited for cell phones, unless each person didn't want to catch them live.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Belichik (and Phil Esposito) didn't come up on the call, but only because a friend of mine couldn't get into the electronic queue for some reason.

Two other things of note:

1)Tolan called his infamous stint on TWoP (or, as he called it, "that fucking website") the biggest mistake of his life. (Leary, who's known Tolan a while, suggested that there might be some bigger doozies he's not mentioning.)

2)I asked about Tommy's karmic payback for The Incident, and whether they felt that it came with Sheila raping him, Johnny dying, or something that happens in the finale (no spoilers), and Leary said that it hadn't happened yet, and would take place sometime in the middle of season four.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, TWoP's been taken over by a cadre of humorless assholes, which magnifies the misogyny and stupidity that was already evident there. The few rational voices left frequently get shouted down by the nattering nabobs of negativity and then banned by the insufferably smug moderators. It was a no-win situation for Tolan and I hope he's learned his lesson.

Anonymous said...

did tommy gavin die in the season fanalie

Anonymous said...

That's the cliffhanger: Will he and/or Sheila die in the fire? Tune in next season to find out!