Episode Title: "Mutha"
Writers: Denis Leary & Evan Reilly
Director: Peter Tolan
Previously on "Rescue Me":
Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) was continuously revisited by his own mistakes in the form of his daughter, Colleen Gavin (Natalie Distler) who became an out of control alcoholic like her father. Tommy went to extremes to get Colleen sober, earning him the gratitude of his estranged wife, Janet (Andrea Roth); who then invited Tommy back to her bed. Meanwhile, Tommy's ex-lover, Sheila (Callie Thorne) attempted to get his help talking her son, Damien (Michael Zegen) out of remaining a fireman.
Tommy's attempts to do so were wildly unsuccessful and in the end, Damien was badly hurt in a fire… causing him to be paralyzed with possibly severe brain damage. And to top things off, Tommy discovered that Janet was pregnant and apparently trying to keep it a secret from him.
In Sheila's apartment, Tommy cares for the invalid Damien. But as soon as Tommy leaves the room, Damien rises and grabs a knife while preparing to stab Tommy in the back. The vision of Damien disappears when Sheila returns suddenly. Later, Janet sees her doctor about her new pregnancy and gets her medical advice. Outside, Tommy waits in the back of Janet's car and startles her. She admits that she intended to keep the baby from him. When he tells her that he wants to have this kid, she tries to elicit a promise from him that he will be a more normal father to this child. Tommy then angrily rants and tells her that normal was dead and buried on 9/11,
Incensed, Janet orders him out of the car. When she tries to drive off, Tommy leaps on to the windshield and he is ultimately thrown from the car in front of Janet's doctor. Embarrassed, Janet invites Tommy to get back into the car. Five months later, Janet is very pregnant. And she is apparently now very good friends with Sheila; much to Tommy's disbelief and horror. He seems especially unnerved when they continuously laugh at him over a private joke between themselves. Tommy is also unnerved by Colleen's new job as a waitress at the bar now owned by Teddy (Lenny Clarke) and Mickey (Robert John Burke).
However, Colleen insists that she is still sober and that Teddy and Mickey hold AA meetings after work; which they exclude Tommy from. Back at the firehouse, there hasn't been a fire in 13 days and the boys are getting restless. Black Shawn (Larenz Tate) asks for advice about whether he should take his relationship with Colleen to the next level and he gets some encouragement from an unexpected source. Back at Sheila's home, Tommy gets some unexpected insight into how Janet sees him as a "walking hard-on." He later tries to incorporate what Sheila told him while speaking to Janet. But he pushes it too far and she realizes that Sheila tipped him off that she wanted to refrain from sex.
Back at the bar, Black Shawn takes Colleen into a side room and he proposes to her in a heartfelt way. She says yes easily and they embrace. However, as soon as he leaves the room she begins downing shots before taking out a large bottle of wine. When Tommy finds out that Colleen fell off the wagon, he is livid at Teddy and Mickey. He even tells them that their punishment will be harsh and justified. Tommy discovers Colleen passed out in the side room. Alone with his thoughts, he pours himself a drink and sips it.
Several of Tommy's deceased friends and family appear as ghostly visions. They all encourage Tommy to return to his alcoholic ways just to deal with the pressures of life, in addition to the upcoming 10th anniversary of 9/11. As they raise a toast to him, Tommy spits out the liquor. He then goes back out to the bar, grabs the shotgun and begins shooting up bottles… sending the crowd into a panic. As Teddy and Mickey duck beneath the bar, Tommy continues to unload his weapon into their establishment. He then retrieves his daughter and goes home.
With "Rescue Me," the audience has become so trained to expect Tommy Gavin to do the wrong thing and screw up that in the rare instances that he doesn't, it's a true surprise. Spitting out that liquor while his ghost's egged him on may have been one of the most courageous things that Tommy has ever done in the series.
Of course, he followed that up by firing a weapon in a public establishment in front of dozens of witnesses. And let's be honest, if this was reality he'd be going to jail for a long time. But that's Tommy Gavin for you. Why go for the restrained reaction when there's a shotgun conveniently lying around?
Some of the early feedback for this episode seems to have some viewers complaining that Tommy is too neutered now by the twin influences of Sheila and Janet. But the other way of looking at it is that Tommy is now acting like a real family man. He's always loved his family, but now Tommy really does seem like he's trying to change and become a better father. It's a truly commendable transformation. Is it completely legitimate? Probably not. But the effort counts for a lot.
9/11 has been the shadow over this series from the very beginning, but it was rarely so well defined as it was in the car between Tommy and Janet. Her belief that Tommy should get it past it has merit, even if she said it too harshly. And yet the audience is completely on Tommy's side as he lays out in detail why "normal" died for him when it happened. It was a very powerful moment that underscored a recurring theme of the show; namely Tommy's inability to give up his ghosts.
Because Tommy's been such an arrogant jerk in the past, it's easy to see why Colleen, Teddy and Mickey excluded him from their mini AA. But it was still a stinging rejection from people who should let him in, even if he's torched his bridges with them before. The new dynamic between Sheila and Janet was unexpected and it worked well here. Their previous tension made for good drama, but it's refreshing that the writers are actually trying some different interactions for the final season.
Black Shawn's proposal to Colleen was actually a very sweet moment that seemed like it was leading to happier times. But then if the show really did that, it wouldn't be "Rescue Me" anymore. "Rescue Me" has been a tragedy in slow motion for so long that signs of improvement for the characters are more like a mirage than anything else. And yet despite the relapse of his daughter, it seems like Tommy may actually make it out of this series alive and changed for the better.
And it's oddly comforting that even "Rescue Me" can find some optimism about the future. I think we've been overdue for some hope.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.