As in many of our favorite Rescue Me episodes, this week’s penultimate installment to the season dwelled mostly on the quieter day-to-day existence of the characters. Though we certainly saw enough stuttering Tommy, flailing Sheila, and wise-cracking Janet to remind us we were indeed watching Rescue Me, we also saw enough smaller, quieter scenes — Feinberg’s talk with Damien, Janet’s final alcoholic test with Tommy — to remind us that when the show relies on the strength of its characters and actors, it’s much easier to love.
True to its title, this episode was about a few literal good-byes — spoiler alert — and several moments of (we hope) closure. Lou’s health is in critical condition, but he’s incapable of saying good-bye to firefighting, so he almost bites the dust in a frightening warehouse fire (thank you, next-week promos, for showing us that he’s still alive). After a hilarious standoff with Janet and Mickey, Tommy and Sheila must cut things off for good, for real — which of course neither is ready to do. Tommy’s apparently ready to truly kick his drinking habit, as we see in a fantastic scene, ended with Janet’s simple, concise, “I needed to know.” But there’s a larger question at hand: when Tommy, Sheila, Lou — and, for the moment, let’s consider Damien — close these doors, what is left of their identity? In some ways, though the danger isn’t always a fire, they’re all danger addicts just like Tommy.
Which brings us to Damien. Despite detours in the Tommy-Sheila direction, this episode was really about Tommy’s godson and whether or not he decides to stick with firefighting. On the con side: Mickey, who gives Damien an inspiring chat about his own misguided “calling” to the priesthood, reminding him that the decision can’t be about Tommy or Jimmy but about what he knows he’ll commit to 100 percent. On the plus side: An oddly calm Feinberg gives Damien the kind of talking-to we’d expect him to get from a wise and gnarly old uncle (i.e., not Tommy) — if he’s iffy about firefighting at all, it’s probably not for him. As usual, Tommy intervenes in exactly the wrong way at exactly the wrong time, throwing in a symbol of heroism (his old hat) tied to Jimmy for good measure. The result? Damien’s burns in a sea of flames in the breathtaking final minute of the episode.
There’s a matter-of-factness about death this week that strikes us — the way the guys talk about Pat in the locker room, with respect, sure, but with an off-handedness that required a double take on our part (as in, oh, that guy? He died? Guess so ... ). Feinberg speaks of his Vietnam buddy, who died firefighting, not jumping on a grenade, in the same manner. Damien’s death, on the other hand, we’re sure will instigate much hand-wringing and histrionics next week — we’re sure there’s much drama to come about Lou, the old, sick man surviving instead of Damien. But what makes one death on this show mean more than another? And without Damien, can all the healthier moments of closure in this episode hold? There’s a season seven, so we’re guessing not.