Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Rescue Me: "Lesbos"

Illustration for article titled Rescue Me: "Lesbos"
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

“Lesbos” feels more episodic than usual for an episode of Rescue Me. All three of the storylines are pretty good, but the way the show is structured makes it feel like one of those films where a bunch of different stories are told and only intersect at random points. You have the story of everything that happens at Sean’s fundraiser and in its aftermath. You have the story of what happens when both Janet and Sheila show up at the firehouse and face off. And you have the story of what happens when the guys are called in to a particularly vicious fire. Oh, and there was the mini-story that opened the episode, where the guys all got together to watch Dances with the Stars (I presume the slight title change is in deference to ABC). Hell, even the Sean’s fundraiser story was episodic, jumping as it did from Franco’s fears about his girlfriend’s sexuality to Tommy and his family back off the wagon to Needles’ wife’s escapades to Lou’s revelation of his engagement.

I’m not saying this to complain, actually. Rescue Me’s shambling storytelling style is something that I’ve gotten rather used to as I’ve watched this full, hyper-extended season. What I’m more concerned about is how this entire middle section of episodes (since the first nine ended and definitely since “Torch”) feel shaggier than the show usually does. While none of these episodes has been bad, very few of them have felt vital at the same time. “Torch,” obviously, is one of the best episodes that the show has ever done, but everything else has felt kind of low stakes, as though the show is just killing time between the events it knows need to happen. In that regard, the final fire sequence, which is hauntingly shot and staged, feels like the show picking up the storyline again, not least because it introduces Maura Tierney in a role the show has been teasing since it began its season back in April.

But it’s a long road on the way there. First, we have to get through the entirety of the Sean’s party sequence, which is particularly disorganized. The individual components are well-crafted, but you never get the sense that they’re ever adding up to anything other than a collection of scenes. With all of the buildup the Franco’s girlfriend plot has received, for example, it was a little anti-climactic to have it end with a bunch of butch lesbians attending Sean’s party and having him realize that he’s probably dating a lesbian. (The next time we hear about this, the two have broken up.) This feels like it probably had a few scenes on the cutting room floor, and with as good of an actor as Daniel Sunjata can be, it’s too bad that we didn’t get to see the break up scene (though maybe we’ll get a more concrete indication of what’s happening in the next few episodes).

Of course, then you have the Gavins, who are all drinking again, seemingly with little regard for the consequences. There was talk in comments last week about how refreshing it was to show people who’ve fallen off the wagon in Alcoholics Anonymous yet could remain responsible drinkers. And I agree that would be an interesting tack to take on a show like this. But it really doesn’t seem like Rescue Me is headed in that direction. Everyone from that scene last week is attending the fundraiser, and they’re all pretty much completely fallen off the wagon. It’s not like we see them drinking in moderation in between scenes of them getting roaring drunk. We’re just seeing them in the bar, slamming down drink after drink; it’s just another morality play, but not one nearly as well conceived  as the earlier discussions from this season, which seemed to suggest that Tommy wasn’t horribly sincere in his attempts to win people over to his way of thinking. It’s the difference between playing the material as a comedy and playing it as a drama.

But, OK, we also learned that Lou is engaged, since he’s accepted Candy’s proposal. We also learned that Sean hasn’t had sex in six months. Oh, and Needles’ mail-order bride showed up at the party, made out with one of the lesbians, gave Derek a blow job and ended up in the apartment across the street, hanging out the window and yelling at the guys. When Tommy tried to get her back to her husband, she ended up coming on to Black Shawn. I dunno what the show is trying to do with this storyline (well, I do; it’s supposed to be goofy comic relief), but it’s just another seeming example of the show’s dislike of women in general and hyper-sexualized women in particular (well, the show LIKES hyper-sexualized women, but it seems to also view them with some disdain).

Following in that vein was the scene where Janet and Sheila met up at the firehouse and had a staredown over which one was going to get to stay with Tommy, despite the fact that both of them had promised him their relationships would have no strings. It’s been obvious for a long time that this was going to end poorly, since, well, this relationship was unsustainable, so the fact that it all erupted (finally) in an angry yelling match wasn’t very surprising. It wasn’t supposed to be surprising, I don’t think, but it also probably wasn’t supposed to feel as anti-climactic as it did when they both started smacking him. I did like Sean and Mike’s confusion over the word “cunth” and how Mike remained confused by it while Sean gradually figured it out. But I’m disappointed that the show didn’t figure out a way to make this all play in a new way.

And then the episode plunged into the final sequence, a harrowing fire scene that almost saved the entire episode by its lonesome. Set to a mournful song (whose lyrics I, sadly, didn’t write down to get its title), the episode followed the guys through an unpredictable fire, explosions flaming up all around them, their efforts to save those trapped inside always in danger of failing. It’s hard to come up with new ways to do fires where everyone almost dies, but this one was a really terrific exemplar of that same thing, and I liked the ways that the show cut between the music and sequences with the terrifying, ambient noise of the fire.

And then Maura Tierney showed up and literally kicked the show in the nuts. I’m not sure how she’s going to fit into the greater scheme of the show (I assume the guys will squabble over her), but just having her present was exactly the kind of thing the show needed. The way she tossed the guys around like they were playthings was something that could have felt like yet another commentary from the show on too masculine women, but, instead, in Tierney’s hands, it just felt like that was the kind of person she was, and she wasn’t going to let a little thing like a fire keep her from her mysterious box. Finally, with the arrival of Tierney, it feels like we’re entering season five’s end game.

Grade: B-

Stray observations:

  • I liked that first scene, with the guys trying to pull in the dancing reality show. Another nicely done little easy-breezy show set in the firehouse. This show does those so well, even on off weeks.
  • I kind of like the blandness of Apache Stone. I’d rather listen to it than Nickelback.