When this season of Rescue Me began, I talked about how the central message of the show has always been about how you get past a grief so all-consuming you don’t think there’s any way you could ever possibly get past it. As the season has rambled on, the show has misplaced that theme time and again, but it keeps dancing back toward it, like a boxer not quite sure of his opponent. “Jump,” after a too-comedic opening scene, dove right back in to the fray, with a long series of scenes about people who are bruised by bad experiences and how they either cope with those or don’t cope with those. Some were funnier than others (like Mike getting fired from his own band), while others had an air of triumphalism to them (like Lou finally getting one over on Candy), but most of them carried an almost quiet dignity, a sense that there’s nothing so bad that you can’t get through it with a hug. It was an oddly schmaltzy sentiment for a show that shies away from that sort of thing, but it somehow worked.
All of this was set up in the scene immediately post-credits, when Black Shawn tried to talk a jumper down from the edge of a bridge. The man, who’d gotten caught in a Ponzi scheme, wasn’t sure that he had anything else to live for, until Shawn pointed out fairly sensibly that if he died, he’d be leaving his daughter stranded and alone. Shawn shared that he, too, had experienced loss, but he said that what defines us is how we deal with that loss, how we press forward after the grief has gotten hold of us. Of course, the other guys thought he’d ripped this off from Jerry Maguire (and I actually don’t think he ripped off a movie ,but I’m willing to be corrected – it’s not the world’s most original sentiment), and after Shawn handed the guy his coat, he fell from the bridge accidentally anyway, but the way Shawn tried to save this guy he didn’t even know and the methods he used were so surprisingly tender from this show that can be known for its cynicism.
I also liked the Shawn and Tommy bonding session that followed, which extended the sense of a father-son relationship that’s been burbling underneath their unlikely pairing all season long. As Tommy revealed that he wasn’t quite sure how to deal with Colleen anymore but that he knew that Shawn would be able to help her through her moments of sadness and crying jags. The show has so carefully built Tommy as the guy that everyone can turn to even when they don’t really want to turn to him and when he’d rather not have them turning to him this season that seeing it pay off in scenes like this has been a terrific way to end the season.
Of course, Tommy has become another sort of mentor to the guys in his life, as he’s been re-indoctrinating them in the ways of casual alcoholism. There’s been some concern in comments in the last couple of weeks that the show has been too blasé about all of this and has seemed to endorse Tommy’s line of thought on this matter, but this episode would seem to put the lie to that. Admittedly, having the death this season be Ellie is not exactly the most shocking death at all, since she’s pretty much the definition of a character a show can kill off with impunity, what with her not being essential to the plot at all. But still, this is clearly going to be something that has reverberations for Tommy, as he’s now likely to anger his uncle and as his devil may care attitude about drinking has finally borne out some consequences. (That said, I suppose Ellie could be alive, but I can’t imagine she’s in very good shape after a semi plowed into her car.)
I suppose no one’s going to be shocked by Ellie’s death or injury, but I prefer it to the kinds of “shocking” deaths the show has closed out seasons with before, notably Tommy’s son and brother, both of whom were killed out of nowhere and in as random a fashion as possible. This, at least, builds from a storyline that’s already been developing, and it captures a number of characters in its web. It may not be as big of a story mover as those previous deaths were, but it does manage, in its own way, to suggest that Tommy’s attitude about all of this has been a little too reckless. (Also suggesting that is that final musical montage, cut in such a way as to make all of the drinking going on in the bar seem almost menacing.)
Most of the other scenes (with one exception, which I’ll get to) were more blatantly comedic, but they didn’t feel out of place and seemed to tie into the episode’s themes. Lou finally getting Candy out of his life after using her money to buy a flat-screen TV and O.J. Simpson’s Heisman trophy was, yeah, a bit too much on the “you can’t trust women!” side of the ledger, but it was nice to see Lou finally get one over on somebody else instead of them taking things out on him. Granted, the whole thing sort of felt like the scene was just a long set up for Lou to say, “At least my Heiman’s still intact,” but, hey, I’ll take what happiness from Lou I can get. I was less sold on everyone but Damien selling out Mike as the record label guy was interested in Apache Stone, but only without Mike as a frontman, but it had some laughs in it. Less funny was the long opening scene, where Franco’s boxing match with the lesbian seemed as if it would end with him getting pummeled but instead ended with a brawl breaking out between the firefighters and the lesbians. As the closer to a long, irritating subplot, it was particularly irritating, but it didn’t help that the physical comedy was so over the top in an episode that was so subdued for the most part. It got everything off on the wrong foot.
But, OK, I’m willing to go with any episode that had that Black Shawn scene and had the scene where Tommy finally finds out Kelly’s secret after she does everything she can to keep it from him. After Kelly revealed that she had a daughter who died at only four months old, Tommy, who’d gotten that hug from Shawn earlier, just sat down next to her and put his arm around her, even when she asked him not to. Sure, there was a humorous button on it, but it felt like an oddly emphatic statement from the show that at times, even though you may hate the people around you, there’s nothing quite like the feel of another human being trying to help you get through the darkness.
- I feel like I’m qualifying all of my grades this week, but this episode definitely would have been an A without that opening scene.
- OK, did ANYone have Ellie in the pool? And does this mean that we have the season’s death out of the way? Or are they going to kill Tommy or something random next week?
- Next week’s recap might be REALLY late. I’m going to do everything I can to get home in time to watch the episode, but I have an appointment that night that might push this back quite a bit. We’ll see what we can do, and I’ll put up a discussion thread that will let you talk about the show after the show airs on the East Coast.