By a mad coincidence, my two current weekly TV blog’n’watch series will be coming to an end at the same time, next week. My feelings about this couldn’t be in more contrast if I tried. I’m eagerly anticipating the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but when it comes to Treme, I’m diffident, even reluctant to watch the last couple of episodes, because after that, it’s over and there’s no coming back from it.
But the distinction in my feelings is inherent in the difference between the two programmes. Deep Space Nine was purely entertainment, a show based upon artificial, unrealistic settings, with a cast gathered to aim for a more-or-less cmmon goal, the achievement of which is the programme’s purpose and it’s end-point. By its very nature, it has to come to an end, in Victory, however that’s defined.
Treme was never so simple. It took a cast of people who were not so much disparayte as disconnected,sharing only a setting that, whilst extraordinary in the sense that it was the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina, was nevertheless both naturalistic and unconcerted. The men and women of Treme all have goals and reversals, but these are not part of some shared effort or achievement. They are living their lives alongside each other. And they, like we the audience, are not in control of their destinies, unlike the cast of Deep Space Nine.
To my mind, that makes the characters of Treme superior. They have lives that stretch before and after those thirty-six episodes of the four seasons it existed, whereas the characters of Deep Space Nine don’t. When it ends, they end. Whatever ends the people of Treme come to next week, when I watch the final episode, whatever wins, losses, draws or just plain every days they come to, are not ends at all, any more than that it would be the ‘end’ of my life if I were to, say, get a dfferent job.
My New Orleans friends will live on past the final episode, still going through the things that make their lives so fascinating to have watched. Being reluctant to face the last two episodes, because there are no more episodes after that and by not watching I am single-handedly keeping these people alive, is an illusion. All it does is stretch them out. They will still be there when the theme music plays a final time, they will still be doing what they be doing, only without a season 4 episode 6 to bring it to us. I don’t want to watch the end of Treme because it isn’t the end, just a walking away, not to meet again. I want to watch the end of Deep Space Nine because it is the end. One is like death, the other isn’t.
Heavy thoughts to taake into the penultimate episode. This was written by David Simon alone and, in its many ways, it seemed an episode of small movements, little adjustments, the taking of positions that might signal where people are going to stop when the roundabout takes its last spin.
Some of these implied a circularity: David and Janette are back together again, as they were when we all started this again, whilst Antoine, frustrated that the after-school programme in which he’s safeguarding his band and those future musicians, faces killing off due to insurance issues, reverts for twenty four hours to being wjat he was when first we met him, a playing musician, pushing himself round the clock. But he at least isn’t going backwards: hungover and cynical he’s back with the band, coping with their pointed laughter and still the big daddy of them all.
Elsewhere, Terry Colson’s contemplating retirement from the force, trying to get himself on the stand for whatever case the FBI are bringing against NOPD despite his vulnerability, L.P. Everett’s back in town and being approached by the FBI for contacts to the Glover case, Toni’s got a witness to the death of the asthmatic, and Everett’s bringing her word that the FBI seem to be coming iin on everything, even back to LaDonna’s brother in season 1.
Nelson Hidalgo’s detaching himself, withdrawing to Galveston, following the money. Davis is trying to enlist him to reopen clubland on Rampart Street, but that isn’t going to happen. Jazz is to be controlled in New Orleans under the new regime (they intend).
Annie T’s being pushed to the outer limits by her management, and much as she wants to stay with her band, they agree she should take the Nashville recording gig. The brass ring beckons and Annie has too much talent to ignore it, though nothing can be set in stone.
But there’s a hole in the middle of the programme and the water is swirling around it, and one of our people is being sucked down it. The beginning could not be brighter and lighter, live music in Davis’s studio at the radio station, Louis Prima’s ‘Sing Sing Sing’, as vibrant and joyful as anything in this series. I still know no more of jazz than when I watched season 1 episode 1, nor would I seek it out on disc or in real life live, unless I were to be in New Orleans, but though i have listened bemused and ignorant, I have enjoyed every moment of it and this not least.
Beginnings in life, but even here we think of death, for in a manner that foreshadows where we will go at the end, Davis is full of musings of his legacy, as in whether he has any, it being his 40th birthday tomorrow, and he full of what he or anyone else may leave behind.
And Albert, growing weaker, admitting he won’t do that walk this year, and placing it upon Delmond’s head to become Chief. Delmond, testing a composition on his Daddy, admitting it was music written for his father, who had detected it from the love in each note. Albert collapses in the night. Everyone gathers at the hospital. They let him go home, with Home Care and morphine. He lies in bed, his breathing rough and wheezy. Davina sleeps, LaDonna reads. And a moment that stabs me through the heart as the wheezy breathing stops and Big Chief Albert Lambreaux lies silent, recreating for me a moment I lived through and can never forget, because I know instantly what that silence means, and so does LaDonna, and she sends in Delmond to say goodbye and she stands outside alone, in the dawn where I stood in the dark, contemplating the world without.
One more meeting. One last passing hour.