Something that I’m not immediately able to define has taken over me at the end of this episode, something that in a single instant stilled all the warmth and buoyancy of what came before. Not merely stilled it, but undermined it. A moment of chill, a moment of emotional shift that ran backwards across everything and everyone there had been, and left the feeling that it had always been there, and had been the only true underpinning of the day.
For this was Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, the first Carnival since Katrina, and everyone’s going to give themselves up to the day, because it’s Mardi Gras, because it’s what New Orleans is. Little snapshots of everyone preparing in their own way.
Not everyone. Big Chief Albert Lambreaux’s going to miss it. Vindictively, the Police are keeping him in until Ash Wednesday, as punishment for last week. Delmond’s not into it, arguing that the effort and energy should be going into clean-up instead of something he’s emotionally distant from – though it doesn’t stop him getting laid.
LaDonna’s bearing the burden of her secret, but her face is growing ever more drawn, and before the day is out she’ll need support from her ex-husband, Antoine, protecting her from the angry builder she sued, helping stock the bar, massaging her tense shoulders, kissing her deeply.
And Creighton Bernette’s not feeling it. He takes Sofie for a walk, shows her some of the disaster areas, injokes The Big Easy (an Easter Egg I had to have explained for me). The Bernettes dress up in blue, costumes, masks, wigs, it’s all fun, but Crei can’t feel it. He’s going downhill massively. He has lost faith in New Orleans. It is dead, and it’s future is to be a ghost of its past.
Annie wakes up to find Sonny about to go. They were going to do Mardi Gras together but this is do what you want day, and he wants to do it without her. He wants to get high. And he does, and he gets a fuck. Annie goes alone, in costume, a pirate wench, and I know I say it every week, but she looked gorgeous and had I been at that Mardi Gras I would have followed her around all day just to enjoy the sight, except she bumps into Davis, who’s dressed as Jean LaFitte, and they spend the day together, and have a good time, and he isn’t an arsehole once (and I couldn’t believe it either) and sees her off in a taxi, alone, after midnight, with no more than a goodnight kiss.
And there is a treatise to be written about the sexist assumptions that create scenes like that, where the woman is the good one, who retains her purity, preserves her relationship-virginity in the face of her man shagging about unheedingly, a bit of a cliche in itself, but it would not apply here because we already have a sense of Annie as she is, and this is not simplistic good girl and bad boy, Annie as she is, as the person we understand her to be, and what we foresee happening.
Janette splits the day between work and play, her mobile grill going great guns then a change into white, tight fairy-top and short skirt, purple tights and wand, and bouncing around getting drunk, until she’s singing ‘Iko Iko’ at night, but she’s still on her own.
Antoine gets back late. What happened in the bar, after? Crei reads all his recent writing, rejects it. He gets pissed and sleeps on the porch. Toni has a cow at him, in case Sofia sees him. Albert gets released. The music’s been hot and loud wherever you go. It’s been a small Mardi Gras, but it’s been Mardi Gras, without defiance or bluster, at least so it seems. New Orleans is still New Orleans.
And we close on LaDonna, a close-up, first thing Ash Wednesday morning, the Catholic mark on her forehead, smoking. First thing. Carnival is over. At the Mortuarists. A body to reclaim, to bury, a secret to be shared. And that one undemonstrative moment on which we fade is the moment of all that dominates this episode and casts everything in the minimal light it throws.
I wish I didn’t have to wait,under the terms I’ve set myself. I wish I could binge the last two episodes, here and now. Get it over with. I am dreading what is to come.