As one of our Rescue Me–recapping colleagues recently pointed out, the show is often best when analyzed as a bunch of scenes, some brilliant, some not so much — which has really helped us appreciate Rescue Me in its somewhat uneven twilight hours. So this week’s unusual format — one big, central plot, with no side tangents and minimal comedic asides — seemed like a test of sorts: Can the show’s audience handle an hour of pure, unadulterated Tommy at his absolute worst? Does the drama hold up without little breathers along the way?
Well, yes and no. “Blackout” starts on a familiar note, balancing the mordant and frightening (Tommy’s back-room fistfight with the ghosts of Connor and Jimmy) with the genuinely hilarious (Sheila’s hysterical “What smells like mint?!!!” shrieking, and Mick’s totally surprise presence in her apartment, naked), with “Aw, on Rescue Me this qualifies as endearing!” moments — namely, Tommy’s drunkenly effusive confession that Colleen’s his favorite daughter because she’s got balls (a.k.a., she’s the spitting image of him, in female form). But we digress: Things quickly take a turn for the completely dark when Tommy wakes up the morning after in his apartment, which is totally ransacked, with a green stain on his mouth, a cell phone in the toilet, and literally no memory of anything that happened.
It’s official: Tommy has, at long last, reached what appears to be rock bottom, as no shortage of friends and family are ready to tell him, Franco above all, who’s convinced Tommy beat Colleen and Janet during an epic rampage (fueled by Tommy’s rage at the apparent attraction between Franco and Janet). From then on, our only comic relief comes from Garrity and Mikey, who, like the lovable Frick and Frack they are, bar-hop to every place called Henderson’s in the city, trying to find the place at which Tommy might have stopped during his escapades — and playing on their FDNY charm to get free drinks every step of the way.
Amid several detours involving mysterious women Tommy may have slept with that night (and one of them was old! And doesn’t wear underwear! Another put Tommy in drag! Not that hilarious, writers) and the revelation that, out of love, Teddy and Mick laced the whiskey they gave Tommy (they poisoned him out of love! For real!), the larger point is that Colleen is missing, and everyone seems a mite more concerned about it than Tommy, who wanders through the episode in a haze induced mostly by alcohol, but likely also by a slowly sinking in realization that in the sober daylight, there’s no one to blame but himself. We’re left awaiting one of the two kinds of endings Rescue Me specializes in: a “gotcha!” moment that disingenuously dispels the drama (maybe Colleen was just crashing at a friend’s the whole time!) or something truly horrific, involving dead Colleen. The reality, it turns out, is somewhere in between: Tommy and his search-and-rescue team find her passed out and weak on the beach — called Henderson’s — where they drunkenly fought the night before.
We’re left feeling conflicted: Episodes so Tommy-centric usually leave us with some sort of strong feeling (usually anger and annoyance!), but we’re left, instead, strangely numb, until the final moment of Colleen’s discovery. The gamble on an episode with little to no supporting character relief was a big one, and likely a big part of our lukewarm response this week. Or is it just that, like the characters on Rescue Me, we’ve come pretty close to totally giving up on Tommy? The episode in a couple of weeks is called “Forgiven,” so we’re hoping some believable redemption (perhaps at the hands of Father Peter Gallagher?) is in store.
Todd VanDerWerff generally liked the episode, with its gradual exploration of the consequences of Tommy’s inaction on the problems in his life. Still, he brings up the good point that Jimmy’s sudden appearances as Tommy’s conscience are getting old, making his back room scene with Tommy pack a little less punch than was likely intended.