It's been a while since I've been inspired to write about "Rescue Me". Much of the season has felt a bit uninspired and overly familiar, especially the Tommy/Sheila/Janet love/hate triangle. I grew tired of that plot thread last season, and it's been all over the map this season as well. Neither Janet nor Sheila seem to be able to make up their minds whether or not to forgive Tommy or crucify him.
Damien's tragic condition plays a part, since the story was finally driving towards some kind of resolution. Sadly, tragedy tends to either bring families together or drive them apart, and in typical Gavin fashion, it's trending towards the latter. And once again, we see how everyone in Tommy's world piles on him when he's struggling.
It's certainly true that Tommy can be his own worst enemy, but much of the flack he gets in this episode is undeserved. Janet, in particular, must shoulder much of the responsibility. She reminds him of the ridiculous number of conflicting appointments and duties, dismisses his remorse and guilt over Damien, and then tears into him when there's no way for him to balance it all out. And no one in Tommy's life is willing to help pick up the slack without rubbing it in his face.
The writers seem to be saying that Tommy is to blame because he hasn't overcome his addiction to danger, something brought up in the previous episode. Unfortunately, they also make it clear that Tommy will never give up the job. This all feels like foreshadowing for a tragic end to the series for Tommy.
I'm not sure how I feel about that. "Rescue Me" has always had its dark undercurrent, and Tommy doesn't seem like the kind of character that deserves a chance at true redemption. He has too many ghosts, living and dead, to come out of this long gauntlet unscathed. Yet he's also made an effort to give up drinking and smoking, which suggests a positive turn in his life, and Janet's pregnancy is a bit of a wild card. I'd much rather see Tommy put his ghosts to rest without becoming one himself.
All that said, this was a challenging episode for the series, and ranks as one of the best of this largely disappointing final season. It only lacked a strong cliffhanger to take us into the final stretch of episodes next summer. I'm sure I'll still be watching, but it may only be because my DVR reminds me that it's back.