The sixth and penultimate season of ‘Rescue Me’ premiered last Tuesday on FX. The series has been announced to end after Season 7. This sixth season will also be shorter than normal, with only ten episodes. I happen to think that last year was one of the show’s best in terms of juggling the wild swings between comedy and tragedy. However, it ended with a cliffhanger in which the show’s writers seemed to paint themselves into a corner. The premiere episode ‘Legacy’ spends most of the hour working its way out from that plot twist.
As we last left things, Uncle Teddy had shot Tommy in the shoulder and was forcing everyone in the bar to sit there and watch him bleed out. I doubt anyone will be too surprised to find that he survives. Would there be a show without Tommy Gavin? The episode opens in an ambulance. Tommy actually flatlines at one point, and has a kind of cheesy but also kind of haunting vision of waking up in a field of bodybags with all the firefighters who died in 9/11. He’s then transported to a personal hell, a burning building that he can’t escape. He’s resuscitated and wakes up before the opening credits.
The main action picks up a month later. Tommy sneaks out of the hospital a week early with a bag full of morphine that he stole. Cousin Mickey is there to pick him up, and gives him a scare with a crazy ride the wrong way down the highway. He pretends to be driving drunk, but is actually dead sober. This is the first in series of events where other characters attempt to force Tommy to straighten up.
It turns out that brother Johnny’s old partner was able to sweep the shooting under the rug as a drunken accident. No one was arrested. Mickey brings Tommy straight to Uncle Teddy for a sit-down. Teddy claims that he walked away that night because he decided to leave Tommy’s fate in God’s hands. He won’t do so again. He makes a direct threat that if he ever sees Tommy drink again, he will shoot him again.
Meanwhile, the recession has caused budget cuts in the fire department. The shooting incident, although not a criminal matter, has left the firehouse in a bad light. The Chief’s been demoted, and the house is in danger of being shut down. Lou proposes that they have a public cookout for PR purposes, to drum up community support. Unfortunately, he’s beaten to the punch by a rival firehouse.
Tommy goes home and finds things there a complete mess. Janet doesn’t trust him with the kids. She tells him that if he’s going to drink, he should do so there while she’s present, so that she can make sure nothing bad happens. She’s taken the same approach with oldest daughter Colleen, who is clearly already an alcoholic. The plan doesn’t seem to be working out all that great.
Sheila later visits Tommy and delivers one of her patented crazy/brilliant monologues about how much she both loves and hates him. She ends by demanding that Tommy find a way to get Damien out of the fire department, whether Damien wants out or not.
In a quest for a drink, Tommy makes a stop at the bar. Cousin Eddie bought the place out after the shooting and has been profiting from the legend of the event. He’s even kept the chalk outline and blood stain on the floor. He tells Tommy that there will be no more free drinks. If he wants a drink, he has to earn it by posing for pictures with patrons and telling stories about being shot. After Tommy does so for a while, Eddie hands him a Scotch. Before he can drink it, Tommy looks up and sees Teddy at the other end of the bar. Eddie points out to the crowd that Teddy was the shooter. One of the idiot patrons distracts Teddy for a moment, just long enough for Tommy to slip out. He leaves the drink on the bar.
The episode ends with Tommy visiting a church between services when no one’s around. He sits in a pew, and we see that he snuck a bottle out of the bar with him. He starts drinking in the church, with the statue of Jesus staring down at him. After a moment, he gets up and goes to sit next to the altar, drinking and smoking, in defiance of God and the world. It’s a pretty powerful image, but we discover that it was just a fantasy. Tommy is still sitting in the pew. For a second, we’re left wondering how much of it was a fantasy. Did Tommy not actually drink at all? That question is answered when Tommy pulls out the bottle again and takes a big swig.
Denis Leary is looking pretty old and haggard this season. While that’s appropriate given the subject matter, it’s also a little disconcerting.
All things considered, I think ‘Legacy’ is a pretty good episode, but not one that I loved. I feel like we’ve tread a lot of this ground before. The episode is entirely focused on the negative consequences of Tommy’s alcoholism, with little to none of the bracing humor that makes this show so great. It’s also very Tommy-centric, and doesn’t give many of the other cast members any time to shine. I suppose that’s necessary to resolve a lot of the issues from last season’s finale. Hopefully, the next few episodes will return to normal form.