I should not have doubted: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
But first: a moment that delighted me, a moment in which my basic ignorance of the musical roots this amazing programme investigates so thoroughly gave me a wonderful thrill that could only happen out of lack of knowing, but which was in its way worth the whole hour by itself.
Davis McAlary’s Jazz Opera is still sidling forward. He’s got an invitation to meet another musician. Someone so important that he’s put on jacket and tie just to go to this man’s home, someone referred to only as Fred. Old guy, bit on the heavy side, sat on a sofa wearing a bright yellow Hawaiian shirt, says he doesn’t sing any more. Then Davis’s companion starts hammering out a rumbling piano riff that sounds very familiar and the little old guy smiles one of those rueful yet happy smiles, the kind you get when you trick someone into doing something they don’t really mind doing, and he opens his mouth and sings “I found my thrill”, for this old guy in the Hawaiian shirt is Fats Domino, and age has not taken away his voice, or not enough of it to matter. Utterly wonderful.
Mind you, he still won’t do Davis’s opera so the lad has to fall back on Irma Thomas. Life can be so rough.
But back to the episode in full. We’re into the back half and suddenly there’s a sense of sharpening. There’s nothing that can be specifically defined as such, but it was as if a focus had been made that little bit more sharp. We’re no longer building up to things, such things as may be planned upon the base constructed over the past five weeks episodes, but we are engaged with them.
Not that this necessarily involved anything tangible. The most positive line of development lay in Toni Bernette and L.P. Everett’s by now joint investigation, which pulls in an out of state pathologist prepared to testify that there were post-Katrina deaths that showed clear evidence of potential homicide, shunted into ‘undetermined’. These cases include L.P.’s Glover and Toni’s Arbrea.
Whilst she’s away, Toni warns Sofia to avoid driving so as to avoid persecution. So her musician boyfriend takes the wheel and promptly lights up something not containing tobacco, the jerk. Naturally, it’s her being paranoid, though Sofia is starting to see through the immature jerk, it seems.
Janette’s dream restaurant is slowly turning into a nightmare, the more corporate policies start to apply, to the point that, during the photoshoot to manage her and its image, you can see the smile draining off her face, literally. It’s got get back to N’Awlins, but it’s not going to make her happy. I give it, oh, four more episodes…
And there are other things coming into focus. Nelson Hidalgo’s off to Washington to access the money trough at source. I’m interested in where this is going to go: his current position is an anomalous one because he doesn’t really have anything to do. More so than the other characters, Nelson has never been a totally natural character: he’s a figurative, a type, and in this season he’s beginning to feel like a dangling plotline that’s got no true hold in the story.
But Nelson leads us to both Antoine and Desiree Batiste, taking up crusades. Desiree’s mother’s house has been flattened and Desiree is strong in demonstrating that they’ve fucked with the wrong person. She’s moving closer to the campaign to put a stop to this, to stop the carving up of the city for its rich men and against its still largely displaced people.
Antoine’s is more personal. He’s discovered that his favourite pupil, the trumpet girl Jennifer, has learning difficulties, that she can’t read. She’s come to live with it, at the age of 14, resigned to a life of getting by, but Antoine knows that she can do more, go further as a musician if she can learn. Without ever calling her a cause, she’s become his cause, in the space of an episode.
Albert’s being stubborn again, refusing to start his chemotherapy until after Mardi Gras. Daughter Davina, ready to take leave from her job and move back to support him, is horrified, but Delmond knows his Daddy needs to have his Big Chief costume ready, like always.
But the biggest element of this episode was Sonny. Last week, we saw him fall of the wagon. Today, oversleeping, missing Mr Tranh’s boat, we got an up close and personal demonstration of him doing a flaming triple-salcho under its wheels: booze, drugs, trash, and pointless sex with a fortysomething year old stripper. His former bandmate, the one who became a semi-sponsor to him, analysed him as making an attempt to get away from Linh, despite Sonny’s avowal of loving his Vietnamese girlfriend.
In the space of an episode. The stripper appears to be Sonny’s equivalent of the pit of degradation. He pulls out without even coming, or so I infer, and next, night though it is, he’s at Mr Tranh’s, not to speak to Linh, but to her father. She watches, from the door to the street where sound doesn’t carry, Sonny talking excitedly, and sinking onto his heels, a squat that approximates the semi-legendary foetal position. And the screen turns to black and something soulful and lovely plays (I guessed it was Irma Thomas and it was ‘Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will understand), and season 3 is now wonderfully alive.