Ever since watching the third episode of Rescue Me on a DVD screener a couple weeks back, I’ve been in denial about the show’s final scene. After watching it again, though, that denial is a lot harder to sustain.
(Big ol’ spoilers a-comin’.)
My wishful thinking about the final scene involving Chief Reilly stems largely from the fact that Jack McGee is among my favorite performers on the series, and his confrontation with his rapidly approaching autumn years has been among the strongest elements of Rescue Me lately, going back into last season. So if that gunshot we heard after the screen went black Wednesday was what it appeared to be, I’m not happy.
As I watched the episode the first time, I was almost hoping the show was pulling a swerve on us. Maybe, I reasoned, another character has reached a breaking point, and that was what we heard. After viewing the episode again, though, it’s really hard to read the ending that way. (And, in fact, FX is confirming that the Chief is gone.)
Part of me wanted to believe the Chief would still be around, I think, because the rest of the episode was strangely flat. Even the guys-sitting-around-the-house scenes, which often make me laugh out loud and almost always have a live-wire energy to them, felt muted tonight. There were a couple of highlights, like Lou’s manhood check as Tommy and Mike discussed the finer points of skin care, and Mike’s "We could call it bro-mancing if it makes you feel better," but there wasn’t a great deal of snap to this one.
The notion that the baby will only calm down when Janet is badmouthing Tommy is a cute one, and in keeping with their twisted pathology. But I have bad feelings about our final look at Janet tonight, slumping over and sobbing with the child in her arms. She and Tommy have already lost one child and are on the verge of alienating eldest daughter Colleen forever; do they need to go down this road again?
Or maybe they, or at least Tommy, have already lost Colleen. Lou’s suggestion that Tommy take a beating to win his daughter back was the sort of deeply cracked but potentially brilliant idea that, in firehouse logic, probably seemed like the right thing to do. That it wasn’t, though, came off as more sad than funny.
Not so much sad as just puzzling is Tommy’s round-and-round with Jennifer Esposito’s Nona, the volunteer firefighter who saved him from the house fire at the end of season three. It’s been nine months since then, so shouldn’t she have gotten the message by now that this badly messed up guy is just not all that interested? Unless there’s something more to what happened in the fire, I just don’t get it.
And speaking of that fire, it’s also a little hard to figure out what Sheila’s up to with her insurance-money scheme. The early scenes with Callie Thorne and Denis Leary were shot in such a way to suggest that maybe she died in the fire, but lately, as she’s interacted with her own volunteer rescuer and spoken with Tommy on the phone, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Or if so, the show is changing the rules by which Tommy sees dead people in a big way.
Maybe all that stuff will make sense as the season progresses; the show has pulled out of tailspins before, and I rather hope that it will again. Regardless, though, I shouldn’t let this post end without a little appreciation of Jack McGee. A former real-life firefighter, McGee brought real depth to the Chief’s character and effortlessly handled all the heavily dramatic stories thrown his way. Here’s to you, Chief.
How are you liking the season so far? Will you miss the Chief?