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The men of 62 Truck are back for the Emmy-nominated fifth season! This season, Denis Leary and the gang deal with death, love, conspiracy theories, alcoholism, cancer and more as they look to the future while under the shadow of a haunting past. Loaded with DVD extras!
For those disappointed in season 4 (as series cocreator Peter Tolan candidly admits in a season retrospective included as a bonus feature), season 5 should rekindle your passion for Rescue Me. The backbone of these first 11 episodes is the introduction of a French journalist (Karina Lombard), who is writing a book in anticipation of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Her interviews with the firefighters as well as family members of those who perished in the attack (Callie Thorne's Sheila is a particular standout) have the same force as those in the classic M*A*S*H episode "The Interview." Tommy Gavin's year-long sobriety is put to the ultimate test when he is rocked by news footage that seems to show that his cousin Jimmy did not die in the first tower, as everyone believed. It forces Tommy (an Emmy-worthy Dennis Leary) to confront what happened that day and how he did--and did not--respond. "Are you haunted, Tommy?" the journalist asks. That's an understatement; he falls off the wagon and his ghosts return. Tommy is further put through the wringer by his wildly dysfunctional family, including his estranged wife Janet (Andrea Roth), who is now seeing a belligerent, wheelchair-bound alcoholic and pill popper (Michael J. Fox in his Emmy-winning performance); his oldest daughter Colleen (Natalie Distler), who is secretly seeing Black Shawn (Larenz Tate) and unnerves him with her precocious sexual prowess; and his younger daughter Katy (Olivia Crociccia), now attending an elite private school, where she has created a new identity for herself (and her parents). Among the other developments that will resonate throughout the season are the firefighters purchasing a bar; Franco (Daniel Sunjata) embarking on a boxing career; the return of Candy, who bilked and deserted Lou (John Scurti) back in season 2; and Sean's (Steven Pasquale) back pain, which is initially treated as comic relief, but takes a more devastating turn. Rescue Me can turn on a dime between "deep thought and personal wisdom" and crude, base humor. Its fatalistic sensibility and close-knit camaraderie is akin to Howard Hawks's Only Angels Have Wings. As for Tommy, who is described as "a great fireman, selfish, spiteful, hit-the-nail-on-the-head kind of guy," he tries desperately to keep it all together. After he beats his Section Eight, Deputy Chief Feinberg (Jerry Adler) warns him about stepping out of line in the future. "Since it's you, it could happen at any time," he states.
The 11 episodes that conclude Rescue Me's smokin' fifth season go from carpe diem to some very bad karma for Tommy. "You seem to do whatever you want and nothing bad ever happens to you," Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) states in the tense final moments of the harrowing and possibly game-changing finale. That's not entirely true. Tommy's family and personal life remain compellingly complicated: he falls off the wagon after a year of sobriety and tries to juggle supposed "no-strings" relationships with the volatile meds-upped Sheila and his estranged wife, Janet (Andrea Roth), who finally issues Tommy an ultimatum. Sparking the season's final episodes is Maura Tierney as "hot older chick" Kelly, who intrigues Tommy after she rushes back into a burning building to retrieve a mysterious suitcase. "We're not a happy-type show," Leary states during a convivial cast-member "family dinner," the most substantial of this three-disc set's special features. But there are some inspired comic set pieces, including one grocery store excursion with Tommy, Lou (John Scurti), and company that descends into chaos. Other comic subplots (Franco taking up boxing and Mike's awful bar band) mercifully fizzle out. There is also some satisfying payback as Lou turns the tables on Candy, his ex-hooker, ex-thief girlfriend from season 2 with whom he is reunited. Rescue Me did not mellow in this fifth season. The banter is as profane as ever ("Too far, dude"), the worldview remains char black (Tommy subverts an intervention by pouring drinks for all), and the show continues to take bold chances. Suffice to say that one doesn't expect a Busby Berkeley musical homage from Rescue Me. As with all good cliffhanger endings, this season's conclusion leaves viewers eager to see what awaits on the other side. --Donald Liebenson