"Rescue Me" recap: "Normal is dead and buried"

"Mutha," the first episode of the final season of "Rescue Me," offers further proof that shows tend to gain focus when they know the end is near.

I never really warmed to the series for reasons I'll dig into in a moment. But for now let's boil them down to 1) its vision of straight white guys as persecuted martyrs; 2) its tendency to project that persecution fantasy onto the female characters, so that they validated the guys' perceptions of them as emasculating shrews, crazy bitches, easy lays or some combination; 3) its indiscriminate use of tragedy to make the show seem capital-I Important, and 4) the cocky badass stylings of its co-creator/cowriter/producer/lead actor Denis Leary, which often played like an edgy comedian's daydream of movie stardom. (Tommy Gavin is an alcoholic screw-up, but dammit, he's also the bravest firefighter alive, and no woman can resist him! Whatever, dude.)

That said, "Rescue Me" had real and valuable strengths. When it debuted in 2004, it was one of the first adult dramas to confront the psychological aftermath of 9/11 bluntly and honestly, without the cushions of genre or metaphor. And when the testosterone fog cleared (which wasn't often) there were moments when the firefighters (and the writers) seemed to genuinely regret how "Rescue Me" diminished and caricatured its women; during such moments, the guys would knock off the Christ-on-the-cross routine, try very hard to listen to what the women were saying, and often fail miserably. (When wives and girlfriends tongue-lashed the guys for their sins, they tended to have pained, puzzled expressions, like Clint Eastwood's foulmouthed Marine in "Heartbreak Ridge" trying to understand his ex-wife by reading Cosmopolitan.) Read More...



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