Rescue Me is back from its 18-month hiatus, and the early episodes of Season 5 prove the show is again firing on all its raucous and raunchy cylinders. But it's also turning a more focused eye back on 9/11 and its impact on the men of 62 Truck.
In doing so, this season brings mainstream attention to widespread conspiracy theories that suggest the 9/11 attacks were an "inside job." Fireman Franco Rivera — played by Daniel Sunjata, who in real life subscribes to these same beliefs — becomes the mouthpiece for these ideas on the show, something Sunjata admits he wasn't expecting to see on his script pages.
"I was pretty shocked because I happen to know for a fact that those opinions are not indicative or reflective of FX, Denis Leary, Peter Tolan, or anybody affiliated with creating the show," Sunjata tells TVGuide.com. "What I like about the way they're addressing the topic is that they're not pre-packaging it for the audience — the reactions span the whole spectrum from agreeing to vehemently disagreeing to a great big question mark. I think it's laudable and admirable that with such a hot and controversial topic, FX was willing to even include it in the show."
Franco first reveals his theories in Tuesday's episode when being interviewed by a visiting French journalist who's writing a book on 9/11. In a two-minute monologue, Franco suggests the attacks were part of a "massive neo-conservative government effort" that wants to achieve "American global domination." To do so, they must create war to control Middle Eastern oil, a prospect that would be sped up by "a new Pearl Harbor."
Sunjata, who can — and did — speak at length about that idea and other research on which he bases his beliefs, admits evidence is often circumstantial, but he questions why further probes were never made. "I feel like all of the investigations started with specific conclusions and entertained evidence that only supported that conclusion while omitting other evidence and treating viable theories as conspiracy. I find that intellectually disingenuous and suspect," he says.
Personal beliefs aside, these notions create great drama for the show, particularly since few others share Franco's sentiments. His truckmates are anything but shy in calling him out, he has words with a widowed FDNY wife, and he eventually comes to blows with fellow firefighters from another house. Still, Sunjata says it's important to ask the question, no matter what you believe.
"Charlie Sheen, Rosie O'Donnell, Willie Nelson, Marion Cotillard, Gov. Jesse Ventura — people who would fall in the celebrity category who have opened their mouths to ask questions about this issue — are greeted with vehement criticism," he says, noting that there may be some backlash. "I am prepared for a negative reaction, but I feel like this is an act of moral and social conscience for me. After I had done a certain amount of research and had a number of very serious, troubling, unanswered questions rolling around in my own mind, I didn't feel I could in good conscience not say something about it and still continue to presume to portray the memories of the heroes that we lost that day on the show."
But that's not all Franco is about this season. Along with Sean, Franco helps Mike open a bar with his inheritance money from his dead mother. Franco also channels his pent-up aggression into a new boxing habit... and, of course, a new lady.
"For Franco to be such a ladies' man, he sure does have a penchant for falling in love all the time," Sunjata says. "He comes across a female boxer (Tawny Cypress) who he develops a strong attachment to, and I don't want to give out a spoiler here, but comedy ensues as he finds out that she's not what he thought she was."
What do you think about Franco's 9/11 conspiracy story arc?