Rescue Me’s sixth season (we’ve been allotted the first four episodes) kicks off as any fan of the show would expect it to – with Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) lying on the barroom floor where we last saw him. Bleeding out from multiple gunshot wounds inflicted by his Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke). I don’t think I’m really ruining anything here by giving up this piece of information – Tommy doesn’t die. Or at least, he doesn’t stay dead. Within the opening moments of the show, Tommy goes to an otherworldly place that may be heaven, or more likely, somewhere else, and is soon brought back. It’s what he sees and feels during his flatlining moments that fuel much of these opening episodes. More after the jump:
In what will inevitably be compared to Tony Soprano’s Purgatory-esque experience in the “Join the Club” episode of The Sopranos, Tommy’s afterlife experience is personal and wildly disconcerting (for those who found “Join the Club” a somewhat belabored exercise in philosophy and existentialism, fear not; the duration of Tommy’s roundtrip to the otherside and back is a fraction of the mafia boss’). The galvanized Gavin soon starts applying a newfound look on life. The disquieting effect this has on everyone in his world – from his brother firefighters at the house, to his not-so-estranged wife Janet (Andrea Roth) to his on-again-off-again affair with his dead cousin’s wife Sheila (Callie Thorne) becomes the engine that drives the show’s plot and thematics.
A series that chronicles the life and times of a company of New York City’s firefighters in a post-9/11 Manhattan, Rescue Me manages to be all at once hilarious, dramatic and poignant. The show unfurls like a social commentary, not just on the lives of this PTSD-riddled battalion, but on an entire culture living in newly-paranoid and wounded times. By this season, nearly a decade after the tragedy at the World Trade Center, it’s interesting to see how that incident continues to redefine the lives of the people of New York City and those civil servants hired to protect them. The show’s ability to cross flawlessly between high comedy and serious drama and back again plays like a how-to on crafting a range of emotional beats, leaving us laughing at one moment and on the verge of tears at the next.
As in seasons past, Rescue Me’s greatest strengths are not in its plot or highly-tense firefighting sequences. Rather they’re the character moments, the interactions of highly-damaged people, most wanting nothing more than to make it to another day. The show’s signature comedic/dramatic tone is prominent as ever and what keeps Rescue Me so great is its undying fearlessness to take on any topic, no matter how taboo. The first four episodes of season six alone manage to touch on alcoholism, religion, drug use and high school blowjob contests. In the spirit of the show, nothing is too sacred for the men of Ladder 62.
Still going strong after six years, Rescue Me continues to fearlessly step outside the polite, predictable, “safe” confines of what’s typically expected from television. After this many seasons, it still manages to trump all other shows in its unique balance of drama and comedy.
Rescue Me airs Tuesdays at 10 on FX