Rescue Me, season five -- An early look
by Jonathan Toomey, posted Apr 2nd 2009 2:08PM
Hard to believe that it's been over a year and a half since Rescue Me bowed its season four finale. The minisodes that aired last summer served to remind us that the FDNY drama was alive and kicking, but more than anything, they made one other point clear - there ain't nothing like the real thing.
Rescue Me returns to FX this coming Tuesday, April 7th at 10PM ET, and after screening the first nine episodes of the fifth season's 22, trust me when I say that all the bad reviews associated with the mediocrity of season four can be forgotten. Tommy Gavin is back and better than ever.
Touching briefly back on season four, it wasn't all that bad. In fact, despite the unengaging plotlines exhibited by most of the season, much of it was necessary. Especially Tommy's battle with sobriety. We needed to see him go through that to understand where he is now.
Season five picks up a few months after Tommy's father's (Charles Durning) death. The funeral has come and gone, the Gavins are a mess (nothing new there), and as the memory of the family patriarch fades, so too does everyone's commitment to sobriety. Therein lies the secret to season five's success. Rescue Me was always better when the Jameson was flowing. Who's drinking? I won't spoil the fun, but everyone you want to see put one back does, and some old friends show up as a result.
When I spoke with Denis Leary and Peter Tolan last spring, they told me that the first six episodes of the new season was some of the best stuff they've ever written. They weren't kidding. The deliberate pacing of the new season is testament to how creative and funny these two are. Events build up slowly and methodically, and as certain outcomes begin to evolve in the eighth and ninth episodes (that we would have normally seen in the fourth or fifth had this been a 13 episode season), it's enormously rewarding as a viewer, especially when you realize that you're not even halfway through the season.
So what's on tap? 9/11 in a very big way. I balked at this development when Leary let it slip back in December because hasn't this show always been about that? Well ... yeah. But they've never tackled it this way before. Conspiracy theories, haunted memories, a snooping French journalist (played by The L Word's Karina Lombard), and a shocking discovery about Jimmy's (James McCaffrey) death rock the whole crew of 62 Truck. It transforms relationships and before long, the Tommy/Janet/Sheila love triangle is full steam ahead once again.
What else does 22 installments afford? More stand-alone plots and tons more minor character development. Franco (Daniel Sunjata) takes up boxing, Mike (Michael Lombardi) buys a bar with his late mother's inheritance, Sean (Steven Pasquale) gets some troubling medical news, Needles (Adam Ferrara) finally address the lack of respect he receives, Lou (John Scurti) shacks up with the last person you'd ever expect, and Black Shawn a.k.a. Bart (Larenz Tate) takes it to the next level with Colleen (Natalie Distler). Obviously, we know a ton about these characters, but this time around, the plots go much deeper than before. Again, I mentioned it already, but it's highly rewarding for fans of the show.
One other thing Tolan mentioned when I spoke with him, but he wouldn't reveal at the time, was a guest spot he felt pretty certain would garner an Emmy nod for guest actor. We know who he was talking about now. Wait'll you see Michael J. Fox as Janet's wheelchair-bound, pill-popping boyfriend Dwight. It's like watching an even crueler version of Tommy at his worst, and Fox embodies the role flawlessly. It'll be a shame if he doesn't get the nod Tolan was hoping for.
So get ready for it. Rescue Me is back, just in time for the hot summer months. This is one four-alarm fire you won't want to put out.