Before "Rescue Me" closed out its seven-season run Wednesday, it creators revealed two endings they seriously considered for the firefighter drama — before opting for the one that made the cut.
Peter Tolan and Denis Leary discussed the rejected final scenes during a panel at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. They were joined by several in the cast, including Stephen Pasquale, who played firefighter Sean Garrity, and Callie Thorne, who played Tommy's mistress, Sheila Keefe.
We've held off on revealing what they said, until now. Here are Tolan's description of the endings that might have been, with commentary from Leary, Pasquale, and Thorne.
TOLAN: In the sixth season, fifth or late fifth or sixth season, we knew what [the actual ending] was. There were some aborted attempts. Denis had talked about it at one point. We always had rather grim prognostications for Tommy Gavin’s end. One was that he would actually, in the middle of a fire, just sort of sit down in the middle of a burning room in a chair, and that would be the end of a series, the idea that it was either a suicide or a heroic gesture, that his family would be taken care of after his death since he couldn’t take care of them in life, and that whole thing.
PASQUALE: That’s pretty good.
THORNE: I like that. I like that. What happened to that one?
TOLAN: I think we may have run that by [FX Network president] John [Landgraf], and he was like, "Maybe not." And then, when [Tommy] met… Maura Tierney’s character, she had a beach house. And we talked about one time him actually at the end of seemingly some very happy, like, settled down thing of him just going down to the ocean and stripping down and just going out to sea.
THORNE: I like that one, too.
LEARY: Me, too, you guys.
TOLAN: And then… having you wonder, what is he –? He keeps, he’s still going. Like, over the credits, you’d be going, “He’s still going,” and you would be left to wonder.
That was not satisfying either. But, ultimately, we came to realize… that the idea of the show was, will a man who has survived this great tragedy actually survive it or not? And I think in the face of… seven seasons of television, you don’t want to say no to that question. You don’t want to bring people along on a journey that long and then say, “No, he’s not going to survive.” It’s just a very negative message. So we decided to, at that point, go with something a little more hopeful.