Treme: s02 e08 – Can I Change My Mind?

Last week’s episode, with its focus on Mardi Gras, felt like something of a one-off, as I imagine Mardi Gras must feel, interrupting the normal course of life. And with that same sense of life regathering momentum, we roll back into the river and where it is leading us. And as we do, there’s a growing sense that the concerns and cares of this second season are now beginning to come to various heads, and that we are no longer watching quite the same mosaic as hitherto.

Episode 8, written by James Yoshimura, a shout-out to an old and valued Homicide: Life on the Street hand, had a pleasing circularity to it in that, after coming out of the credits into Annie and Harley incessantly rehearsing her first song, we closed out the show with her performing and singing it publicly for the first time (under the proud and watchful, yet necessarily invisible eye of Davis). And a gentle, sweet tune it is. I predict a future for Annie T.

But it was not a complete circularity, though the theme was continued partway by a gig for Annie and Harley with Susan Cowsill and her band, where Susan offered Annie the chance to do her song and she bottled it. The open was in purely serious mode, with a gaunt-looking LaDonna enduring medical tests over whether she’s been infected with HIV/Aids and getting a clean bill of health at last. And admitting that she still hasn’t told Larry that she was raped as well.

That boded trouble, in the first thing since Treme started that was pure TV cliche, because the moment you knew that Larry didn’t know, you knew he was going to find out. A new DA wanted to review the case with LaDonna instead of meeting her for the first time in court, and Larry is being utterly supportive and insisting on going with her, and the DA let’s slip… No secret is ever kept on TV, and it’s not done Larry and LaDonna’s relationship the least bit of good. Still, at least we got to the halfway episode in the whole of Treme before giving in to TV drama.

And there was another emotional explosion to face, though this might just begin to close a rift instead of exacerbate one. Sofia’s flirtation (at least I hope it’s a flirtation, the kid’s too nice for that) with the wild side reaches its peak when she and her classmate go out for a ride on a schoolnight. With two older boys they met in a bar. In a stolen car. With an open alcohol container. And marijuana in Sofia’s purse.

A horrified Toni has to get her released from Juvenile Detention where the kid is in manacles, jumpsuit and ankle-chains (she’s about five stone, soaking wet, jesus) and Sofia’s quickly back in determined silence mode again, until finally, finally, she confronts Toni over Crei’s suicide, and why he did it, and how everybody says it’s not her fault, but if she doesn’t know why, how can she know it’s not her fault, and Toni, who’s been trying to hold everything together for the sake of her daughter, faults apart, in pain and anger and despair, exactly reflecting what Sofia’s been going through (and not incidentally sweeping me up in their pain as well). But it’s broken down the barrier that’s been growing between the pair all season and whilst that’s not original in itself, this time it’s less cliche than human psychology, and the final, true sharing of pain.

That’s not all Toni is involved in this week, as she hires a PI, Charles King, ex-military police, to investigate the Ardea kid’s death, and the ball starts slowly to roll there, with three episode’s left.

I’ve mentioned a fun appearance with Susan Cowsill, far-removed from the little kid of The Cowsills, The Partridge Family template, but our other musical guest of the week was the rather more famous Mac Rebennack, aka Dr John, the Night Tripper, called in to play piano for Delmond’s new proposed jazz fusion project, drawing together New Orleans jazz, modern jazz and the Indian chants. Given that these are intended to be supplied by Big Chief Albert, partly for authenticity and partly as an underhand method of slipping him some money, the good Doctor foresees what will likely come from Delmond and Albert in the same studio, and had me giggling with his dry response that he wouldn’t miss this for nothin’ on the whole planet.

Add in Albert being awkward about the whole thing (in the Encyclopedia Brittanica, under awkward, there is a photo of Clarke Peters as Big Chief Albert), and this looks good.

What else of our wandering players? Sonny, starting slowly to shape up. Antoine, starting to get into the music teaching. Janette making a sideways move to a different restaurant, one where she may be able to express herself more individually. Davis being Davis. Nelson, in the most political part of the episode (eat your heart out, McAlary) learning that saving the city money only reduces the margin for skimming (nice to see Mr Hidalgo being out-cynicaled for once).

There’s no such thing as an end. But there are such things as goals, whether we are seeking them or not, and after a long middle-game, Treme feels as if it’s working towards them again. Feel the music.

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