Sony // 2010 // 825 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // September 29th, 2011
It's no surprise that the Sony chose to release the penultimate and final seasons of Rescue Me on the first Tuesday after the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Rescue Me was one of -- if not the -- first shows to deal explicitly with the world after the Towers fell. More importantly, perhaps, it dealt (and deals) not with 9/11 as such, with what happened that day like World Trade Center, but with the event's aftermath. Sure, Tommy Gavin and the rest of Ladder 62 were heroes on that day -- we can take that for granted -- but now they're just regular people trying to get along in the wake of tragedies both national and personal. It's been seven years of ups and downs for Gavin and company and ten years of changing attitudes towards 9/11 in the wake of other tragedies (like Katrina), but the last few moments of Rescue Me redeem whatever problems the show might have had, adding a poignant coda to the history of the show and life after 9/11.
In a wonderful gesture for fans, Sony has released the nineteen episodes of the last two seasons of Rescue Me in one set. We last left Tommy (co-creator Denis Leary) bleeding to death outside a bar. As Season Six opens, he's obviously still alive, but also obviously dealing with the tangled (primarily sexual) web he's created between Janet (Andrea Roth, War) and Sheila (Callie Thorn, The Wire), while also coming to grips with his role as a father figure to his biological children, his nephew Damien, and the guys at the house. On the work front, Tommy is facing budget cuts and the house closing, along with Janet's increasing pressure on him to retire. All nineteen episodes of these two seasons are presented on five discs:
I like drunk, hallucinating Tommy Gavin. Those first few episodes of Rescue Me promised a dark take on the American Dream, the story of a regular guy dealing with extraordinary circumstances with a combination of Irish passion and plain-old delusion. The show had the edge of magical realism, like anything could happen. Slowly, almost painfully, it came down to earth. As Tommy drank less, got more involved with those around him, and stopped seeing dead people quite so often, the show became more and more like other shows on television. This move culminated in a fifth season that expanded to a full twenty-two episodes. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but ratings weren't quite so willing to expand with the episode list. So, these final two seasons of the show contracted, offering ten and nine episodes, respectively. They're the product of a show reaching its maturity, finding a logical end point, and cashing in the chips at just the right moment.
It's that final moment of cashing in that really cements Rescue Me's status. Obviously I don't want to give too much away, but the show's ending is both surprising and inevitable, which is all we could ask. In an alternate universe Tommy Gavin would have gone on screwing up until the ratings were unjustifiably low, or perhaps a heroic death would redeem him. Or, heaven's forbid, he would somehow reform and turn into a choirboy. Luckily, Rescue Me's ending satisfies without betraying Tommy, and the final moments of the show, which gives us an expansive view of Ground Zero while that noted band of Irish drinkers The Pogues play "Dirty Old Town," are affecting without feeling cheap or sentimental.
The episodes leading up to that final moment feel like a return to form. Season Five spread the show's wings a bit to focus more on Tommy's extended family, whereas these two seasons really stick with Tommy and his problems. Sure there are moments like Lou having to fake a physical and other such issues, but they play out here with more focus on Tommy. The melodrama is still there -- Colleen is getting a bit too much into alcohol, a reporter is poking around the firehouse -- but the show sticks with Tommy. By staying with Tommy and his acidic world view, the more outlandish moments of the plot are a little easier to take.
Like the other DVD releases of Rescue Me, this final set pairs a strong audiovisual presentation with a handful of extras. These 19 episodes look really good in their 1.78:1 anamorphic transfers. Colors are well saturated, the darker scenes have a decent amount of detail, and compression artifacts aren't a problem. The show's aesthetic is a bit gritty to make these reference quality, but fans of the show will be pleased. The 5.1 surround mixes are similarly excellent; dialogue is crisp and clear from the center channel, and the surrounds get a workout during the firefighting scenes. The extras include a handful of featurettes that look at the making of the sixth season, the actor's jobs, and the creator's feelings about the show now that it's done. We also get some deleted scenes and a gag reel.
For those who never enjoyed Rescue Me, there's nothing in these final episodes to sway you. Tommy is still an overbearing jerk, there's still too much drinking, and the bed-hopping drama is still all over the map.
Rescue Me: The Sixth Season and the Final Season ends the show on a high note. Those who felt a little lost during the twists and turns of Season Five should probably give these seasons a shot, since they strip the show down a little closer to its roots in Tommy Gavin's madness. For those who watched these episodes as they premiered, this set does a fine job preserving the show with an excellent audiovisual presentation and some decent extras. Sony also gets some kudos for releasing this set rather than going with the Volume 1 and Volume 2 of Season Five.
Now that it's over, Tommy Gavin is free to go.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 825 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel