Rescue Me – " Hell " – Single Episode review
I just wrote about "Rescue Me," as a whole, and want to review a single episode as a contrast. This week’s episode, titled, "Hell," is nominated for convenience and that it was outstanding. As I mentioned, there were two lives hanging in the balance at the end of "Twilight,", the previous week’s episode.
Tommy’s brother, on a stakeout, was shot, and his station chief had a heart attack while having sex with a lady he’d met, who was an illegal alien and left instead of calling 911. The show starts with a montage of Tommy, set to music, as he gets the news about his brother, identifies the body, tells his wife (who was living with Johnny), and kids, and generally looks over-whelmed. It is life devastation on the level of Sipowicz on NYPD Blue, and throughout the show they dip into that well. To keep the whole hour from being a sob-fest, lighter moments are spread in between shattering revelations.
Tommy goes to the firehouse where everyone is wondering where and the chief both are, and tells them his news, as well as setting up logistics where the firehouse is taken care of and everyone is able to go take care of more business. Tommy takes his buddy Lou with him to tell his father, who is living with Lou’s Uncle in a sort of old man’s frat house.
He tells his Dad, who is given a glass of whiskey by his housemate, and his father asks to be excused to go into the bathroom for a moment of privacy. It is just one of the moments in this episode, not overly acted at all. In a show of extreme dysfunction, every performance is done under-stated.
Interspersed are two of the younger fire fighters, one who has recently been in a gay relationship and seems to be struggling with his sexual identity. They are in a bar where the straight firefighter explains how much better his partner has it because he can hit on anyone, anytime, simply because he’s gay. It is symbolic of the male-oriented dialogues that weave through the story lines, tongue-in-cheek not overdone.
Another side plot is Franco, who is involved with a complicated girl ( I leave it at this because like everything else in this show, nothing can be simplified into a quick line), that takes a picture out of his daughter’s bedroom and points out that she is the spitting image of his daughter.
Amid all of this, the Chief, Jerry, is found at home, taken to the hospital, and wakes up some time later with his son at his bedside, did I mention that they sometimes start something up and seem to change their minds?
Tommy sets up the funeral. When he returns home, there are two messages from his brother on his answering machine, as his brother tries to mend fences, work out their differences, to a machine. One of the solutions he offerd out was that maybe he shouldn’t be with Tommy’s wife. In the funeral home, with his brother before anyone else has arrived, Tommy says he wishes he knew if his brother got the message that Tommy left for him. Only his wife hears him, and asks him what the message said.
Then they are picking up his brother’s personal belongings, where Tommy takes out the cellphone and plays his message, "unheard" on the speakerphone. Tommy tells him he’s sorry for beating the shit out of him at his father’s birthday party when he found out that his wife and brother were together, and tells him he can’t help it. He loves her so much. His wife is right there as the message plays. It is riveting.
Then comes the funeral, with bagpipes and tons of people. Tommy is sitting in the front row as his cousin, who died in the World Trade Center, watches from the side, joining Tommy’s dead son, beside the preacher and taking him away before the vision ends. Just then, as if another one of Tommy’s ghosts, a young woman appears and gets the attention of Tommy’s sister. It turns out to be Tommy’s other sister, a deaf mute that was sent away as a youngster and comes back for the funeral. Fittingly, the long lost sister seems to be the best adjusted of the lot.
In any given episode this show takes chances and makes sloppy mistakes that would mean death to most shows, but I have read that it has already been renewed for at least one year. Maybe it is the heart beneath all the sordid and cluttered plots that keeps this show breathing, like a victim these men drag out of a building.