It’s fitting that this uneven season ended with an episode called “A.D.D.” — though we’re supposed to interpret the title as a reference to Tommy’s split emotional attention span, it really feels more like a reference to the zig-zagging tone of the plot proceedings. How does a show handle the most uncomfortable of tragedies — a young man rendered brain-dead with blame difficult to assign? Rescue Me doesn’t seem sure of the answer.
As it turns out, we were wrong about Damien being dead. In an extremely well-shot opening scene, we see Sheila, calm, cool and collected, speaking on the phone to her shrink, apparently ready to go about her day, seemingly dealing as best she can with what we assume is Damien’s death. We ready ourselves for an explosion of emotion when she’s hung up the phone, which does happen — but then Tommy enters, a little more chipper than we’d expect a godfather to be in this situation. Then the reveal shot: Damien in a wheelchair, being spoon-fed by Sheila and Tommy, who’s acting more like a parent than he has in quite awhile. Pow! We catch our breaths as the Von Bondies begin to sing.
Pretty quickly, the episode begins to feel like a struggle between two viewpoints: laugh off Damien’s predicament with the show’s usually charming bro humor, or resurrect stray plot points and peccadilloes to somewhat halfheartedly set up conflict for the next and final season. The result is a rather unsatisfying blend of the two which leaves us ending this season with a shrug. One moment, we find the constant digs at Damien’s condition feel full-on distasteful. Tommy imitating his moans; the guys, as Needles so poetically and alliteratively calls it, using “our paralyzed probie to pick up pussy;” the attempts to layer Sheila and Tommy’s banter over the literal elephant in the room all feel forced. Then we wonder, is this possibly the most realistic way to deal with Damien’s story? The guys, and, well, the gals, are incredibly emotionally immature — maybe we can’t expect more of them. But was it wrong to think that, in six seasons, these characters had somewhat emotionally matured? We’re so confused!
Then there’s the not so small matter of all the ancillary plot lines coerced into some sort of order this week. There’s Lou’s insistence on continuing to work despite his heart condition, which we find increasingly difficult to swallow. John Scurti has excelled all this time at painting Lou as the member of the squad who’s not a one-dimensional adrenaline junkie — of all the guys on the squad, doesn’t Lou seem the most likely to take up, say, gourmet cooking or a foreign language or something or other cultural and interesting when and if he had to quit firefighting? The Pat Mahoney story line whimpers to a close: Instead of seeing Garrity really take on some FDNY brass (our hope and dream), we get a self-satisfied bro stunt (moving Pat’s memorial plaque to City Hall).
Meanwhile, Janet has apparently quickly lost her clean-slate glow and is back to accusing Tommy of perpetually disappointing everyone, most of all her daughters, who he’s somewhat neglected while tending to his paralyzed godson. Unless some crazy amount of time has passed since Damien’s accident — which isn’t entirely clear — we have to ask: Is Janet really such a harpy that she’d lack any understanding of the situation? We think not. Oh, and she’s pregnant — and this time it’s Tommy’s. Whew.
We’re left with an episode ending that at first feels familiar: Tommy alone at home, his entire family angry at him, and we half expect him to reach for a bottle in the refrigerator — and we don’t mean the mustard he ends up grabbing. And then comes the somewhat mind-blowing, gotcha moment. As Tommy adjusts Damien’s blanket, Damien grabs Tommy’s arm, looks him square in the eye and grunts, “You did this to me.” It’s enough to make us momentarily revert back to conspiracy theories: Maybe Damien’s been faking it this whole time! Maybe this whole season really HAS been the journey of Dead Tommy, and Damien’s the final revealed victim of Tommy’s actions! Then we slowly steer ourselves back to reality: More likely, it’s yet another ghost for Tommy to deal with and fight over with Sheila and Janet. So does this mean Season 7 will lead us back to the same old same old? For the sake of this soon-to-end, once-truly-great, more-recently-floundering show, we hope not. And if it is, maybe the umpteenth time will be the charm — a do-over for Tommy and a chance to finally put all these demons to rest.