If you had told me that this episode was twice the normal length, I would easily have believed you. So many things went into it that by the end of only 59 minutes, I was having trouble exactly what had happened at the start. Yet, at the same time, for a large part of it, this was the first episode – halfway through the first season – in which it felt as if nothing was happening.
Not that I cared overmuch about that. Since Treme is a reflection of a real world situation, and one that had/has neither a plot nor a solution, it was would not just phoney but also ‘television’ to seek to impose an overall story arc. How would you build such a thing, draw all the strands together, into a finale without destroying both the show’s ecology and its ability to continue?
This of course begs the question as to whether Treme is much more than a glorified soap opera. Equally of course it is. Soap operas have no purpose beyond prolonging themselves, as a purported slice of life, a soporific. Treme is taking place in extraordinary times, and is engaged in explaining a time and a place and a culture unique to its setting. I have no idea whether it is authentic, but it has been acclaimed as such by those who would know, it stems from David Simon, in company with like-minded minds and his passion is the accurate construction of a setting, and it just bloody well feels right. Currently, I am spending an hour a week in a place I have never visited, and I am immersed.
Episode 5 was, like all its predecessors, a continuation of the multiple strands established. Everything moved along. Slowly, and not necessarily in the directions people wanted. The episode more overtly challenged Dubya Bush over his failures in respect of N’Orleans: Creighton Burnette recorded another YouTube video directed to the President, all the more effective in its deadly calm, quiet and gravity, asking Dubya to ‘keep (your) fucking promise’. David McAlary browbeat a session band into (gloriously) recording his rewrite of a jazz classic into a half-sung, half-spoken polemic attacking the Commander-in-Chief.
The episode also introduced David Morse, once of St Elsewhere, as Police Lieutenant Terry Colson, an honest cop in a dishonest force, helping Toni Burnette where he could, but towards the end, over a stupid misdemeanour (the cops who beat up Antoine Batiste did not turn his ‘bone into Temporary Evidence, they sold it to a pawn shop, where Antoine found it), gave a brutally black assessment of what was to come: that as more people started to come back, crime was coming back, to a city with a decimated, demoralised, traumatised, inadequate police force.
Colson will be a recurring character for the rest of season 1 and a cast member thereafter.
Little pieces. Janette got a boost when four hotshot New Yorkers (none of whom I recognised) turned up at the restaurant unbooked, and she impressed them mightily.
Creighton was doubly embarrassed in a restaurant at night with Toni, being recognised by an old friend (?) from outside New Orleans and praised for his videos. Embarrassed by being recognised, embarrassed that this guy has picked up primarily on the fact that Creighton uses the f-word in his videos, which the guy repeats far too loudly and far too frequently in an upmarket restaurant. An object lesson in writing: many still loathe the use of the f-word on TV, in anything, but in the mouth of this uncomprehending clod, for the first and only time in this series, it felt intrusive, and embarrassing to hear, whereas it’s not when anybody else uses it. It’s like my use of ‘f-word’ in this paragraph, instead of spelling it out.
I know one thing too many about what is to come and maybe I’ve seen the seeds of it this week. Creighton’s literary agent is flying down from New York to see him, which he interprets as being on instructions from Random House, his publisher: he’s six years late on his novel, they want the advance back, he hasn’t got it.
Chief Albert tries to speak to his Councilman about opening up the Projects. They weren’t flooded, they weren’t blown over but they’re still shut. Seems like it’s the rich people who are being brought back and the poor kept elsewhere. Councilman Singleton brushes him off, but his door is always open to Chief Lambreaux. Albert puts a hand on his chest to stop him, but then lifts it, tight-lipped, swallowing what he would otherwise have said.
Davis gets what he’s deserved all along. Too loudly, too late, too drunkenly, and in a bar too black, he uses the N-word (ironically quoting Antoine). He gets called out to ‘repeat that, white boy’. His black friends try to get him to shut up, but he’s Davis, he’s a fucking idiot, he can’t keep himself from following it up and he gets one almighty punch in the face, which has him leaving, swearing, near-crying, still completely oblivious as to why a black guy might take it amiss that a white guy should be talking about Niggers.
Then he comes to, having collapsed in the street and been taken in by his gay neighbours, the ones he so arrogantly torments because they are as nothing to him, they don’t fit in with his narrow perspective. They took him in, let him sleep it off, because they were neighbours. Very reluctantly, he removes the massive speakers he had aimed at them, but you don’t get the impression he’s learned anything, because Davis’s don’t learn.
Towards the end of the episode, there’s a joyous scene in which practically everyone is present, though not together. It’s a ‘Second Line’ parade, all dancing and music. It’s utterly joyful, exuberant and unforced. More people are, slowly, getting back. The draw is unstoppable. Things have been tense in Annie and Sonny’s home since he brought back one of his musician friends from Houston. Annie susses that Sonny copped in Houston. Then the parade is disrupted by gunshots, three people shot, panic. Annie is protected by Houston guy, Sonny is separated. Straight after, Houston guy moves out. It’s between the lines so you don’t know if it’s there or if the show is telling you to look carefully, but has Annie copped as well? In revenge? In anger? In the tension that arises from the prospect of death?
I’m sorry, I do love Lucia Micarelli so, she is my favourite in this show.
And so to Antoine. who gets a brand new ‘bone today, courtesy of a rabid Japanese jazz fan, before discovering his old one, a prolonged scene that gets excrutiating before it’s over, in a good way.
So many people, so many things, so many subtleties that it’s impossible to point out, man, I really should have watched this sooner. Gone to N’Orleans, baby, here for the ride, the ride.