RESCUE ME 7.09 ‘Ashes’

After the death of his friend, Tommy Gavin lays his demons to rest.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Ashes"

Writers: Denis Leary & Peter Tolan

Director: Peter Tolan

Previously on "Rescue Me":

At the marriage of his daughter Colleen Gavin (Natalie Distler) and "Black Shawn" Johnston (Larenz Tate), Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) was encouraged to renew his wedding vows with his wife, Janet (Andrea Roth). Tommy even reluctantly agreed to retire from the fire department at the insistence of his family.

Shortly thereafter, Tommy and the rest of the crew were called into a deadly arson fire. With no apparent way out of the burning building and their options running out, Tommy's best friend,  Lieutenant Kenneth “Lou” Shea (John Scurti) assured him that they would make it out alive… right before an explosion overtook them.

Story:

Some time after the fire, only Lou has survived to mourn his friends at a joint funeral for Tommy and the crew. Lou gives a moving eulogy to his departed brothers before Tommy wakes up with a start. In reality, Lou was the only member to die in the fire, with Tommy and the rest making it out alive with a mixture of bruises, burns and broken bones. At the urging of Chief  “Needles” Nelson (Adam Ferrara), Tommy recounts the experience for the fire department's official report. In flashback, we see Tommy discover Lou's body and his charred face before silently mourning his friend. In the present, Tommy considers slipping back to alcohol for comfort before putting in for retirement. 

With Tommy's impending departure, Black Shawn also considers quitting for the sake of his wife (Tommy's daughter). Mike Silletti (Mike Lombardi), Franco Rivera (Daniel Sunjata) and Sean Garrity (Steven Pasquale) seem less sure about their next moves, but they realize that they this is the end of their run together. When Tommy shares the news with his former lover, Sheila Keefe (Callie Thorne) she initially thinks that he's attempting to get a promotion to replace Lou. When Tommy clarifies his intent to retire, she laughs in his face and tells him that he can't function without sex or fire.

On the other hand, Tommy's family is overjoyed at his impending retirement. Tommy seems sincere about reinventing himself as a stay at home dad and he accompanies his youngest daughter, Katy (Olivia Crocicchia) to a local park so that his son, Wyatt can play with other children. But Tommy finds himself uncomfortable with the other adults at the park and unwilling to abide by the rules they set up for the playground. After angrily leaving with his kids, Katy tells Tommy that she doesn't believe he can function in the real world. Later, Tommy and the rest of his team gather in a car to escort Lou's ashes to their final resting place.

Inside the car, Tommy gets annoyed by Franco and Black Shawn's gum chewing and as they unroll the car windows to spit them out, Mike opens the box with Lou's ashes… which quickly envelop the car. Outside of the car, Tommy angrily berates Mike for being so stupid and they realize that they no longer have enough of Lou's ashes to spread. After an embarrassing incident with Sean trying to get Lou's ashes out of his butt crack, they retreat to a nearby store to find a substitute for the missing ashes. At the ceremony, Tommy reads a heartfelt and profanity laced letter from Lou urging the guys to stick together.

As Tommy scatters the ashes, he is caught having used cake mix to fill out the volume. When he gets home, Janet goes into early labor and Tommy is forced to deliver his new son, whom he instantly dubs "Lou." After arguing about the name with his wife, Tommy finally faints from the stress. When he wakes up, his wife tells him that their son can be called Shea, after Lou's last name. She also tells Tommy that he should reconsider retiring. Taking his wife's words to heart, Tommy addresses a new class of recruits about joining the fire department while acknowledging all of the loved ones he has lost to his calling.

Tommy then introduces the recruits to their new lieutenant… Franco. As Tommy gets in the car to drive away, an apparition (or vision) of Lou shows up in his truck and needles him about mixing cake mix with his ashes. But instead of being haunted by his friend, Tommy seems relieved and at peace. Ten years after 9/11, life goes on in New York City… even for Tommy Gavin.

Breakdown:

Tommy Gavin got the happiest ending he could possibly get and it didn't feel maudlin.

The opening sequence of the episode was very powerful, as it seemed like Tommy, Sean, Black Shawn, Mike and Franco had all perished in the fire. That would have been a pretty daring way to end the show. But then there wouldn't be a show without those characters. Any of those five men could have been killed off and the series could have gone on. However, even a final episode wouldn't have worked without the majority of that group.

In the end, it was Lou who got the short straw and died in the fire from the previous episode. That limited John Scurti to just two major scenes, but he made the most of his screentime during his incredible eulogy and his appearance to Tommy at the end. Dramatically, it was the right call to kill off Lou just to finally drive Tommy away from the job that he loved. Tommy Gavin is a man who has lived with loss for a long time and his primary problems stemmed from his inability to deal with grief without retreating into a bottle. But if even Lou's death couldn't drive Tommy back to drinking, then he may have finally found the power over his addiction that eluded him for years.

"Rescue Me" also pulled off one last classic comedy bit when Lou's ashes exploded in Tommy's car. It's a legitimately funny sequence that reaffirmed the bond between these men just as effectively as Lou's goodbye letter at the ceremony. There were definitely times during the series when Franco and Sean got on my nerves, but this was just enough to make me miss seeing Tommy and the boys together again in the future.

As for Tommy himself, his daughter may be right. Maybe Tommy just isn't cut out for life beyond the fire department. At the park, Tommy clearly wanted to put some distance between himself and the lone father there who seemed desperate for male companionship. Tommy's also never been the sharing type, so his tirade about the bucket and the relatively innocent use of genital names were both funny moments. In some ways, the world has already passed Tommy by and he just didn't realize it until then.

While it's comforting to see Tommy end on a happy note with his family and new son, I still think that Sheila may be the only woman in his life that truly understood him. She was absolutely right about Tommy's twin driving forces: sex and fire. That's never going to change even if the people he loves have finally accepted Tommy for who he is.

The best compliment that I can give this finale is that it felt right for the series. It didn't try too hard to tie everything up and it brought Tommy full circle. He's always going to be a bit of a f*** up, but I can believe that Tommy is going to live out the rest of his life with as much happiness as he can get.

For someone who was such a tragic character for so long, it's hard to argue with that. It's never easy to end a series in a way that can satisfy a broad fanbase, but "Rescue Me" pulled it off.

Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.