"Rescue Me" started out in an all-too-familiar place this season, and the first several episodes seemed to be caught in a rut. It was definitely going somewhere, but it was just amorphous enough that the intended direction was a bit unclear. Was Tommy on the road to redemption, or was it all the calm before the storm?
Regardless of the setup, this episode was brutal. There was a very good chance that the episode would end in terrible tragedy, and not once was it certain that Colleen would be found alive. And while the entire episode was punctuated by humor and even outright absurdity, the full measure of Tommy's alcoholism came to bear.
Of course, if it was just about Tommy and his drinking problem and everything that has come to pass as a result of it, that would be bad enough. But he's not the only one in denial. If the past five-plus seasons has revealed anything, it is that Tommy's entire support system has been enabling him on some level or another. Even in this episode, Janet takes no responsibility for her actions and choices, preferring to blame everything on Tommy. Just as it's his fault that Colleen was poisoned by the laced whiskey.
Tommy is ultimately at fault, which is the underlying message of the story. But he is also in a situation that is so far beyond normal that it's hard to ignore that factor in his poor decisions. One fear I have, given that the series is ending when this season ends next September, is that Tommy's enablers will be given a free pass.
That said, this was easily the best episode of the season, and quite possibly the best episode in years.