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Rescue Me: Season 3 - Discovery (Susan Sarandon guests)

Dennis Leary in Rescue Me

Review by Jack Foley

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from our favourite television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at an episode from the third season of Rescue Me entitled Discovery.

What’s the story? During a night out, Franco (Daniel Sunjata) and Tommy (Dennis Leary) meet two women – one of whom is an older temptress (played by Susan Sarandon). Tommy, meanwhile, is also trying to find out who is estranged wife is seeing and Sean (Steven Pasquale) is attempting to conceal the fact that he’s started to date Tommy’s sister. Matters come to a head during the 83rd birthday celebrations of John Sr. (Charles Durning) at a restaurant no one likes.

Why so good? Rescue Me continues to be one of the most critically-acclaimed but under-watched programmes on TV. Three seasons in and it shows no sign of losing its ability to make you laugh and cry, or to shock. The second episode of the season, Discovery was notable for marking the first appearance by Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon and for keeping you laughing for the majority of the time, before dropping in a genuinely shocking conclusion.

Digging a little deeper: The lives of the New York firemen of Rescue Me are always pretty screwed up but Discovery marked a breaking point for several of them. Chief Jerry Reilly (Jack McGee) is beginning to struggle with the costs of having placed his beloved wife, Jeannie, in an expensive nursing home and was reluctantly forced to turn to Lt Kenneth “Lou” Shea (Juhn Scurti) for assistance.

But “Lou” is also going through the emotional wringer having been conned by a beautiful model in the previous series. Now virtually homeless, he attempted to get some money back by breaking into his ex-wife’s home to steal back his gold watch – but ended up injuring himself in the process.

And Tommy (Dennis Leary) is still trying to come to terms with the death of his son last season (in a drink-drive hit-and-run) and the fact that his wife is seeing someone else. When he discovers that the person in question is none other than his brother Johnny (Dean Winters), during his father’s birthday celebrations, he flips.

The most atonishing thing about the way the story was handled, however, is the fact that few could have been expecting such an instant and brutal reaction. Tommy beat the living daylights out of his brothers – first in the restaurant, then on the street – and left him lying bloodied and unconscious in the middle of the street.

The scene was shockingly brutal and succeeded in exposing the darker side of the Tommy Gavin character – pausing even to allow him to spit on his brother before he turned to walk away in disgust. His colleagues and family were rendered virtual spectators, despite repeated attempts to stop the beating.

It was a genuinely shocking conclusion to an otherwise jovial episode and one that demonstrated the show’s consistent ability to make you remember it.

Earlier, it successfully laid the foundations for Susan Sarandon’s recurring role by introducing her character, Alicia, in a nightclub Tommy and the crew had visited. Having initially been approached by “Lou”, Alicia merely waved him away and asked him to send Franco, before tempting him with the promise of a more sexually fulfilling encounter with an older lady.

The monologue, expertly delivered with relish by Sarandon, left ladies-man Franco speechless. But it was a wonderful seduction sequence that, again, highlighted the quality of the writing on Rescue Me. Sarandon clearly enjoyed the opportunity of sinking her teeth into some quality material. And her continued presence on the show is a mouthwatering proposition.

If you haven’t already been taken in by the series, then maybe now’s the time. Season 3 has just begun on Sky One (Thursday nights, 10pm; repeated Sunday at 11pm), while the excellent second season is just available to buy on DVD. It is, without doubt, one of the finest programmes on TV.

What do you think?