By Matt Zoller Seitz
The print ad for the third season of "Rescue Me" boils its hero, and the whole series, down to its essence. In the background, a phalanx of firefighters douses a burning building with plumes of water while in the foreground, firefighter Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) strides toward us with his uniform on fire. Tommy is looking right at us, and his unnerving expression—blank acceptance laced with bitter self-awareness—suggests he knows he's on fire but doesn't feel it.
This stark image taps the essence of the series' unnerving power: its acknowledgment that suffering is a part of life, and that to live, you have to take the pain and keep moving forward. This belief isn't just hardwired into the brains of Tommy and his colleagues at the firehouse. It extends throughout "Rescue Me" and subtly colors every scene.
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