‘Rescue Me’ – ‘Ashes’: Crawling from the wreckage

“Rescue Me” aired its series finale tonight. I offered a review of the series as a whole yesterday, and I have a few specific thoughts about the finale coming up just as soon as I get some red velvet cake mix…

“I know who you are, and I know what you are. You need two things to survive: sex, and fire. One's no good without the other.” -Sheila

I liked the start of “Ashes” quite a bit, with John Scurti getting an effective curtain call as Lou eulogized his fallen comrades in Tommy's dream. And I liked the end, too, with a reprise of Tommy's speech to the new probie class from the pilot, this time with Tommy having made enough peace with his demons that when Lou's ghost visits him afterwards, it's not a bit of torment, but a nice reminder of his good good friend.

In between, though, the episode was fairly spotty.

First, I think there was at least one fake-out too many on who died in the fire. I'm fine with the Lou dream (again, Scurti was great, and Tommy does dream), but I wish they'd made it clear upfront that everyone else had survived, rather than implying for a good chunk of time that it was only Tommy. An unnecessary distraction.

Second, using Tommy's trip to the park as the rationale for keeping him on the job – not only on the job, but with 62 Truck – didn't really work. It's one thing for Tommy and Janet and the rest to accept that Tommy isn't fit for civilian life, much less playing Mr. Mom, and quite another to say that his wife wants him to keep risking his life with that crew. Janet has made it clear for so damn long that she didn't want him going into fires anymore, and there are so many gradations in between “retired” and “doing the exact same dangerous job” that were just ignored. Maybe Tommy ultimately would have gone stir-crazy as an instructor, or an administrator or a chief like Needles, but for Janet to abruptly reverse course all because of one incident at the playground felt like as much of a fantasy as all the women throwing themselves at Tommy over the years. And the delivery of baby Shea was both the fastest in TV history and fairly silly, even by “Rescue Me” standards.

On the other hand, the guys' road trip to Lou's memorial was really damn funny. You knew something bad was going to happen with the ashes, but the execution was perfect, from the sheer size of the explosion to the timing of the cop pulling up just as Garrity squatted down to recover as much of Lou as he could from his rear end. And the memorial itself was very well-done in its own low-key way. I particularly enjoyed how Lou's farewell message so clearly read like a John Scurti monologue, even as Denis Leary read it in his own cadences.

But even though I don't necessarily buy how Tommy came to this sane, happy place by the end of the series, overall this ending feels about right. I'm certainly glad they didn't wipe out the entire crew other than Tommy, or turn Lou's death into another excuse for him to fall off the wagon and go nuts. I'd have much rather seen the show go out several years ago (preferably while compressing some of the better material from seasons 5-7 into seasons 3 & 4), but as I said yesterday, there was just enough good on occasion in these later years that I'm glad I kept coming back from time to time.

What did everybody else think?