There are few TV tropes I hate more than the one where there’s a wedding and the characters involved suddenly realize that, shit, you guys, this is a bad idea, and then they don’t get married, and it’s kinda sad, sure, but everybody realizes it’s all for the best. I hate this almost as much as I hate pregnancy storylines that end in miscarriages. It’s a convenient way for a show’s writers to avoid dealing with the necessary status quo messing that comes from a marriage or a new baby. More importantly, this sort of thing almost never happens in real life. Even at the small, inexpensive weddings I’ve been to, even if it’s pretty clear the couple involved isn’t going to be together forever, everyone does their best to ignore this fact and just plunge on ahead. We want to be happy, so we’ll force ourselves to be, if only to prove the doubters wrong. There might be a moment of clarity, but that will be it. It’s deluded to think you’ll always be as happy as your wedding day – even for the best-matched of couples – but, hey, we’re humans. Delusions are where we live.
To Rescue Me’s credit, I don’t believe it’s ever pushed this trope on its viewers. The one wedding I can remember was the wedding between Maggie and Garrity back at the end of season three, and while that marriage ended disastrously, the wedding preceding it (immediately following the funeral for Tommy’s brother!) was one of the few genuinely happy moments on the show. It felt real and full of hope, as weddings do and should. And even though it seemed like the show might be heading this way with Lou’s marriage to Candy in “David,” what with Lou clearly having a few second thoughts and the guys all learning that Candy has quite a bit of money but wants Lou to sign a pre-nup anyway (and isn’t going to pay him back), it doesn’t. Hell, under those circumstances, I might have even bought that Lou left her at the altar. That’s a lot of new information to process, most of it worrying.
But, instead, the show just suggested that Lou wasn’t quite sure he was doing the right thing but had him go ahead with it anyway. Lou’s getting older, and Candy’s pretty hot. Are they completely well-matched? We haven’t seen enough of their relationship to really know, but their friends seem to think that’s not the case. Still, this is a situation where you take your chances and hope for the best, no matter how huge your doubts. The potential payoff is so big that you’re willing to risk the almost certain doom on the odd chance that you get just a few years of happiness or – the most remote chance of all – a whole lifetime of it.
Rescue Me, like almost all television shows, is a show about people who change but don’t, not really. All change to them happens in the circumstances around them. To be really glib about it, Tommy was the father to a son until the end of the second season, when his son died. Now, he’s still grieving his son. Any actual personal growth that occurs – like Tommy trying to get his alcoholism under control – is usually walked back fairly quickly because messing with the underpinnings of a hit show is too risky. You might kill off exactly what people love about it. So, yeah, Lou’s marriage is just a change in the circumstances around him. Even if Candy really loves him, he’s Lou, so he’s never going to stop doubting himself. But, most importantly, it’s a change in his circumstances that throws his central failings and struggles as a character into a new relief. Television, in some ways, is about expressing the same things over and over and finding new ways to express them. You can do worse than something like this.
Much of the rest of the episode dealt with Tommy’s dealings with women, but they weren’t as painful as they could have been. Sheila felt like an actual human being for the second week in a row, as she mocked Tommy for falling in love with his mother (and/or Cloris Leachman) and reminiscing both about her perfect relationship with Jimmy and its failings. Sheila’s whole speech was really about how you make do when you realize that your best-laid plans weren’t quite the plans you thought they were, which is ultimately what this show is about – the difference between the day of the wedding and the day after the wedding, when you look over and say, “What now?” The writers lost the tone of who Sheila should be a little bit there in the middle of the season, but she’s been pretty well-written in these last two episodes, to go along with her strong writing at season’s start, which is heartening to see.
I’m less certain about the direction of Kelly (still perhaps easier to identify as “the Maura Tierney character”). She’s certainly hysterically funny, and she enlivens every scene she’s in, but the character she’s playing – a slightly oversexed cougar who’s working her way through the younger men in the firehouse before, inevitably, landing on Tommy – is the sort of character that this show has tripped up with before, so I’m more leery of her than I was in the past. Also, I hope that what she had in the box wasn’t just her weed, though from the way she phrases the revelation, I’m fairly certain it’s not just weed.
Other plotlines lurched forward somewhat erratically. Franco and Needles discussed Franco fighting with a lesbian (though the final line in this scene was pretty good). Mike mentioned offhand that Kelly was going to get him a meeting with some music industry people for Apache Stone, and he, uh, sang while performing sex acts on her, which caused her to leave. Tommy and Lou had a strong, early scene where both Needles and Lou tried to butter Tommy up by comparing him to David Caruso before the whole thing fell apart with Lou and Tommy coming to blows over Lou’s sore spot from Tommy’s treatment of his relationship with Candy. And the fire-fighting sequence, featuring an icy ramp leading up to a building, made for some fun physical stuff.
But the rest of the episode continued to suggest that this is a show that’s found its footing again after struggling a bit. Things feel like they’re moving toward something, like there will be some sort of payoff to this long, meandering season after all. Here’s hoping that payoff is worth it.
- Apparently, Garrity is only on the show to deliver slightly awkward product placement. I don’t get too upset about product placement because I get that it’s a necessary evil in most cases, and, actually, it was integrated fairly all right in this episode. But still.
- So is there any way that Jimmy didn’t have an affair with Janet? Or is the show going to try to make it some random woman, since there’s a surfeit of female regulars? Maybe they’ll just bring back Susan Sarandon’s character.
- “I will get up on that Internet, and I will Google a picture of Cloris Leachman circa 1977.” (I have no idea why Sheila sounds like that Old People Reading the Internet site in this line, but it makes me laugh anyway.)