Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rescue Me: Take me out to the ballgame

Spoilers for the "Rescue Me" season finale coming up just as soon as I give a dog a bone...

And so the most disjointed season of the already disjointed series ends on... a disjointed episode. I suppose if you're going to be wildly inconsistent, you may as well be consistent about that. Or something.

I really have no idea what story or stories Leary and Tolan were trying to tell this season. Chief Reilly's suicide went nowhere. The insurance scam went nowhere. The baby storyline sort of went somewhere, then got to that insane, out-of-character moment at the river's edge, and then all but disappeared. (What happened to Janet and Sheila each assuming that the other was going to give up Elvis/Wyatt for good?) Nona (remember Nona?) was here because why? And on and on. There were some threads that got followed all the way through the season, or close to it -- notably Tommy quitting booze -- but for the most part this year felt as made up on the spot as your average "24" season. The difference is that, when "24" is working, you don't care that the storylines keep shifting abruptly because there's a gun in somebody's face; it's much harder to pull that off with a character-based show that's never been big on plot on the first place.

The last few episodes felt particularly random, with the introduction of the drunken crew that works out of the same firehouse and Tommy's out of the blue decision to start playing extracurricular fireman in his cousin's old coat. I suppose an argument could be made that the fragmented, seemingly random pacing was supposed to reflect Tommy cracking up under the strain of sobriety, but if that's what the writers and directors were trying to convey, it didn't really work. There were too many scenes where Tommy was just the same ol' Tommy, beating off the hotties with a stick (and getting to act out a caveman fantasy with Gina Gershon in the finale), busting balls at the firehouse, harassing Colleen's boyfriends, etc.

This series started off with a very clear mission statement: depicting life in the FDNY in the wake of 9/11, through the eyes of an extreme personality case. They moved off of that a long time ago, and while they shouldn't be obligated to make WTC references forever (it was actually jarring to see a snippet of Tommy's WTC lobby dream from season one's "Inches"), I don't think the story of Tommy Gavin, irresistable chick magnet has been nearly a worthy enough replacement.

Outside of Tommy dangling the baby over the river for the sake of a misleading cliffhanger and the writers blowing off Tolan's promised emotional fallout to the Chief's death, there wasn't anything about this season that especially angered me. The flip side, though, is that very little excited me. I used to use the old "girl with the curl" cliche with this show, talking about how the good stuff was so good that I put up with the bad stuff (even though it was very bad). Now the show just seems lost, and I'm not sure I'm going to search hard for it if/when it comes back next summer.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

They lost me after Jerry had a salad for dinner and a bullet for dessert. Thanks for watching so I didn't have to. Sounds like I didn't miss much.

Anonymous said...

The best part of last night's finale was Franco's bonding with Richard and helping Richard get married (which also sticks it to Natalie for turning out to be such a flake). Besides the sad ending at the baseball game, it was the only thing I really paid attention to last night.

So who was the shadowy figure Tommy kept seeing? Was that resolved last night, or forgotten like so many other plot threads? Like I said, I didn't pay that much attention since the ep was all over the placed. I'm not even sure I'll bother re-watching it to see what I missed, which is probably the saddest thing for me, given what a huge fan of the show I've been.

It's still not too late for them to pull a Bobby-steps-out-of-the-shower explanation for this season....

Donlee Brussel said...

*Spoiler Warnings*

Sigh. I thought the show couldn't sink any lower after they killed off the Chief. I was proven wrong when for the next 8 episodes, nothing happened that we hadn't already seen before. And then the show sank even lower, by taking away my favorite character on the show.

Charles Durning is such a phenomenal actor and I am grateful that at his age he's still delivering such great work, but it was very disappointing to see his character, the only one left that I had an emotional bond to, leaving the show in yet another one of their trademark "ironic" music for serious situations montages.

Worse still was the twist of Black Sean dating Gavin's daughter. The show needs to stop trying to tease out reveals that everyone sees coming a mile away.

I kept half expecting the show to end on a non note like so many other episodes this season.

Alan, for my money, I hated this season with a passion, because it was relentless mediocre and went absolutely nowhere.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Alan. This season was a test for all the RESCUE ME fans. I'm wondering how many followed it though to the finale. A few weeks, I didn't care if I missed it, then caught it in repeat during the week. Even then, I would question myself why make myself sit through the episode. Answer of course, was that I was hoping the show would redeem itself. Well, the finale has come and gone, and no redemption was in sight.

The show was built around 9/11 aftermath and like Alan said, that can't be the topic every single episode. But, the writers took it so far away from a realistic look at firefighters in a big city to weekly character vignettes. And, each vignette had nothing to do with any of the others. And none healthy enough to keep us from doing other things while watching tv. Each character that we grew to like was turned into a ridiculous parody of its former self. No one was left unscathed.

All women were depicted as moronic losers, who for some reason find this skinny neurotic Tommy Gavin irresistable. Strange women even approach him with phone numbers. What did they see in this loser?

In the beginning of the series, I recall some articles in the NYC papers that the majority of the firefighters thought the show was loosely descriptive of how it really is. With this season, I would really like to know how the NYFD feels about being portrayed as complete alcoholic losers. The firefighting scenes this season show irresponsibility in every episode.

Of course, I will watch it next season (the last?), but I am praying that Leary and Tolan listen to their fans and come back with a worthwhile reason.

Thank God we still have the SHIELD!

Shawn Anderson said...

The shadowy figure was Tommy himself. Beforehand (thanks to the voice, which was obviously Denis Leary's digitally lowered) I was guessing he represented the ghost of Tommy's faith, which he buried in the rubble 6 years ago. Telling that we still don't have a clue why he's seeing a ghost of himself.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

Basic storytelling just seemed to go out the window this season -- when did Tommy leave his crapshack apartment and start sleeping in the storage area? Why were there suddenly all these other, heretofore unseen firefighters? We didn't get a glimmer of explanation until Lou's line about double shifts -- but why the double shifts?

At this point, they should just give Richard a spinoff and forget the rest of the lot...are there even any Gavins we care about to kill off for next season's finale?

Anonymous said...

I stopped watching after the episode following Jerry's suicide when I realized the only effect it would have on the characters is Leary getting to deliver an extended monologue. They went against everything that character stood for in order at best get a cheap shock or at worst get rid of a castmember they didn't get along with. It's good to know that I apparently made the right decision.

Shawn Anderson said...

Do we know if the show is even coming back? I haven't heard news yet of a renewal... and past seasons always seemed to get renewed about 50-75% through the season.

If it is a series finale, I guess ending it with "Let the Good Times Roll" is somewhat fitting.

Speaking of The Cars, why all the beantown references? Lemonheads, the Green Monster, Yaz... I realize Leary grew up less then an hour from Boston (Worcester,) but I don't remember anything being said in the past about the Gavins being from there.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm done with this show now. I made a list after last night's episode of series that have made the move from "appointment television" to "shows I don't watch," and most of them were shows I just gradually lost interest in (Mad About You, Nip/Tuck). Only The X-Files and Rescue Me started this strong and wound up so weak -- and at least The X-Files had the excuse of losing its stars!

I'm just glad Mad Men and Flight of the Conchords redeemed the summer.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I should say something about Durning. I'm not too upset at the death of Tommy's Dad; he was an old guy in poor health (and therefore won't produce nearly as much Tommy angst as Johnny or Connor's murders did) and he only appeared occasionally, so the show's not losing that much.

But boy was he good. Whenever Durning was on screen talking to Leary, I was briefly reminded of why I used to love this show so much. One of the best, most understated performances of a long and distinguished career.

Shawn Anderson said...

Also, for anyone interested, you can find the original version of the song "The Man They Call Yaz" (that Tommy and his father sang at the end) here.

Anonymous said...

Always one to stay in relationships past the point of reason, I have to reluctantly consider that Rescue Me may be beyond...rescue? I adore Leary, and adored the first few seasons of this program. The combination of raw humor and raw pain was irresistible. However, this season I found myself reaching for laughs - absurdly grateful when something was even a little funny, and bored when they weren't. It didn't even make me cry, as the show so often did in the first two seasons. There were too many unanswered questions, loose ends, and implausible twists this time. So, while I'm relieved that the season has ended, but I'll probably be back next summer because I'm not ready to admit that it's...over.

Shawn Anderson said...

Chief Riley's suicide only seemed to serve as a way to bring in a check on Tommy. Riley had to much history to put the clamps down on Tommy, and most just chalk it up to "Tommy being Tommy." So Chief Feinberg was necessary to get us to season 6's psychiatric help.

That's my problem with this season, though, is that in hindsight, it appears that the first half was spent mopping up last season, and after that they moved to setting up next season. This season was an elevator ride between floors.

Anonymous said...

I loved this show. The first episode's hero monologue from Leary. Leary's monologue in the bar which resulted in his getting a free tab. There were some great moments. But I gave up this season after Gina Gershon appeared. I didn't think the show could get any more ridiculous after the Jennifer Esposito stuff, but I turned off the episode after Leary went to Gershon's apartment for the first time. That was it. The last straw. The show is too dopey and inconsistent. It seems as if Leary writes now so that he can make out with hotties, and if an actor objects, he eats a gun. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Alan, you said everything I had been thinking (but, of course, in a much better way.)

I was so disappointed after last night's episode, but my disappointment had been growing for some time. Funny, some of my family that I had gotten into watching the show don't quite understand the way I feel. I think its because they weren't around for seasons 1-2 and can't see how far the show has fallen.

afoglia said...

It was during the scene with Lou and the other shift that I realized how bad the show had gone downhill. I had no idea what was going on. Lou was wondering about the ghost, but hasn't he seen Tommy/Keefe at the scenes of fires. In the previous episode? And so Lou's working second shift, but what about Mike? And have we ever seen that dog before?

And what about Sheila and Wyatt/Elvis? Why was Tommy so set on taking the baby from Colleen to give to Sheila for babysitting? And why does Sheila not just refuse to give him back?

This season was a mess.

The only good part was "the baseball as an analogy for life" speech.

PS: Does anyone think Leary and co. expected this episode to originally air on Tuesday, 9/11, as would be their usual time? That would have made the flashback much more resonant.

Shawn Anderson said...

Lou only saw Tommy in Cunningham's coat a few episodes back, when the crew was too drunk to work. I think we all assumed he put 2 and 2 together the last episode (though he still hadn't seen him as Jimmy,) but apparently not.

Tommy's set on taking the baby from Colleen to give to Sheila for babysitting mostly because it's his part of the deal for the insurance money (and - unspoken - because he feels he owes it to Jimmy and her after she lost their son through a miscarriage.)

Most of these scenarios are not really believable, but you can usually overcome it with tight scripting and direction. Instead, though, the series at times feels unintentionally cryptic, via messy story planning.

Take the finale's opening scene (which they usually do well) when Tommy reads the newspaper clipping on the wall of Cunningham being honored for Tommy's rescue wearing his jacket a few episodes ago. The way they did it was meant to be subtle, which is fine, but it was written, propped (Cunningham's face was photoshopped terribly on the article) and shot so poorly it didn't really work unless you watched it HD DVR/Tivo (and paused it.) I can't imagine they wanted an 'easter egg' there.

Or am I the only one who had to stop, replay and pause the opening scene to fully get it?

Chip said...

This season was like a baseball game... Long, boring stretches interrupted by bursts of excitement.

Anonymous said...

Some of us tried to salvage the season with speculation at television without pity, but to little avail. It would seem we were projecting meaning or purpose where there was none. The entire season seemed wayward or missing in action.