Fade to Black: The ‘Slow Burn’ of Rescue Me

While critics doubted a masculine dramedy based around the events of September 11th could sustain itself, Allowing FX to put all their faith behind creators Denis Leary and Peter Tolan to deliver them their next big hit. For those who have stuck with the series (now one of FX’s longest) it has done just that. At the expense of more than a handful of characters and the occasional rehashed monologue, it has sustained the fire it began all the way back in 2004.

Unseen on almost any other series before it, Rescue Me featured a kind of ripcord drama that energized viewers, tugged at heart strings, and in its hay-day, delivered some seriously breathtaking television. A truly sobering series with subtle pay offs, Rescue Me never gave an inch - it took one. One step forward, three steps back.

As a serialized drama that not only grappled with, but frequented the subjects of loss, alcoholism, homophobia, racism, and the attacks of September 11th, Rescue Me followed Denis Leary as balls to the wall, daredevil firefighter Tommy Gavin as he tried to hold himself together against all odds, and then watched him slide when he couldn’t.

Perhaps what is most surprising about the show, is that despite the its physical presence being repeatedly shaken by tragedy, reconciliation, heartbreak and utter collapse, its emotional core never wavered. Rescue Me is ultimately about what it means to be connected to another human being and what happens when those lines are blurred and crossed.

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 drew closer, it became increasingly clear that the public had dealt with it in their own time, and what Rescue Me once considered its central tenet - the aftermath of the attacks and Tommy’s struggle with them - became a well they returned to too often. The creators, like the firefighters, used 9/11 as a mask for the problems underneath. Fine television is rarely able to be stretched out over seven seasons, and Rescue Me was no exception.

Following the lives of the Gavin family and 62 Truck from what is likely the most tumultuous start in any series’ history to an ultimately satisfying climax was one of the most rewarding and painful experiences of my life. Even after everything that Leary took from his viewers, emotionally or otherwise, he delivered in the end. Tommy Gavin came through for us all one final time.

By Mitch McCann

Like and Follow Seeds!