Treme: s04 e05 – …To Miss New Orleans


One last time

Of course it ended with Mardi Gras. And with the song that gave the final episode its title, played over a montage that took place some time in the future, showing the fruition of certain things, showing that life never really ends.

Everyone was here. Sofie Bernette returned from college to drag her mother out to Mardi Gras. Sonny, happy and resolved with Linh, was led back into street gigging again by a wife who understands him and loves him. L.P. Everett made no traction over New Orleans. These were our minor players today, showing their faces so we could see them one last time, and say our private goodbyes in the knowledge that their lives continue to develop.

There was no place for Clarke Peters, except in a photo of Big Chief Albert Lambreaux, in costume, the prettiest, behind the bar at LaDonna’s bar, where the Indians rehearsed for Delmond’s walk as Big Chief: over his reservations, he stood in his father’s shoes (or boots), just once.

There were departures. Terry Colson got his transfer back to the Eighth authorised but, as he said, too little, too late. He testified before the Grand Jury then handed in his papers, to preserve his pension. He’d rendered his job untenable, burned his boats in New Orleans, went to Indianapolis, where his sons are, breaking up his brief relationship with Toni, who threw herself back into her work.

Nelson Hidalgo signed himself out of his contracts in New Orleans, to go to Galveston, but not without a goodwill gesture on departure: knowing that the National Jazz Centre was dead, dead, DEAD, he conned Feeney into accepting an exclusive on restaurants there in return for his letting Janette off the hook about using her own name.

Delmond Lambreaux half leaves, returning to New York where his music plays, but keeping a foot in New Orleans, promising to bring his child up in the tradition. You knew Big Chief Albert would be honoured.

And Annie has moved on and upwards, towards the career her talent demands. She had to make compromises along the way, accept being prettified with expensive dresses and short skirts (that was a real handicap) and the glossy look, but she insisted on only making her own compromises to her music.

Davis McAlary turned serious now he’s forty, intent on becoming a sober citizen (don’t laugh). He even told Janette he loved her, which she was wise enough not to repeat back to him. She’s not in love with him anyway. I doubt anyone ever truly would be. It didn’t last. Still, he’s mellowed, so we’ll have to settle for that.

Antoine got the schoolband a rehearsal space through the good auspices of a fellow musician. He got his boys living with him to get straightened out. He got called on to play with Dr. John. He got a wandering eye at Mardi Gras, but only the eye wandered this time. LaDonna got scared when gunshots were fired, but she and her boys escaped unscathed.

Have I left anyone out? The series didn’t. Only Clarke Peters and John Goodman were missing, and though I wondered if an accommodation would be made, especially for the former, there was no trickery, no dream sequences or flashbacks. The dead stayed dead and we missed them.

And their lives go on. Nothing ended except our ability to be with these people. The music went on and we closed on ‘…To Miss New Orleans’, and I will, and I’ll miss my weekly incursion into this musical gallimaufrey thaat’s already led to me buying a Lucia Micarelli CD…

The closing shot, after which all was silence, was of Davis’s pothole, decorated New Orleans style. Some things will never die.

This city won’t ever drown.

Treme: s04 e04 – Sunset on Louisianne


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.

 

Treme: s03 e10 – Tipitana


A happy ending

It ends but it don’t end.

There was an elegiac feeling to some parts of the third season finale, with some of the stories coming to an end, or as much of an end as life and David Simon’s determination to be truly reflective of it may allow. Some stories end, and some stories pause, and even those that end are merely pauses.

I don’t know enough about Treme‘s history to know, and whilst I can look it up, my objective in these blogs is to be as close as I can to the experience of watching the series on television would have been. So I rely only on what has come before, and not what I know of what comes after. For instance, I know that the Fourth and final season consists of only five episodes, written and produced after being given a limited budget: make what you can out of that.

So I infer from that that there was a good chance, and a known chance, that season 3 was going to be the last, that this might have been our last acquaintance with Antoine, LaDonna, Annie, Albert, Janette etc. Hence the elegiac tone, and hence the extended sequence of the gig to raise money to rebuild Gigi’s, in which more of the cast than ever before were gathered in the same space and interacting.

Where to begin? Why not begin with Davis: the episode does. I hated the character from season 1 episode 1, though I became used to him and as his disgustingly immature and self-centred behaviour was ameliorated by his relationship with Annie. Now they’ve split up, made official in the closing scenes as she, her musical star rising, moves her things out, he’s back to his worst, recording a secret track to go on the R’n’B sampler, ‘I Quit’. It’s a piece of whiny, self-entitled, expletive heavy (c)rapping on everybody who’s shat upon him, without a moment’s reflection on how his attitude practically demands that you shit on him as a moral duty (I don’t like him, you can tell, can’t you?). Ironically enough, it’s a massive hit, goes viral on YouTube and leaves the pissy little hypocrite wondering how to get back into music after such a definitive resignation.

Stories that end. Everett’s story of the Henry Glover death appears in The Nation and he hands out copies to everyone. Terry Colson gets hauled over the coals by his Captain of Homicide because he must have spilled secrets to Everett, but this is one whereTerry’s innocent, not that he is believed.  Everett’s off, jail deaths in Buffalo, New York. No disrespect to Chris Coy, but his character has never really worked for me, because he has such little character, other than the affectation for Metal music, which costs him the chance to get off with the bird in the airport queue in front of him. I hope he doesn’t return.

And Sonny’s story of redemption through hard work and good love rises to its peak. He and Linh and MrTran attend the Gigi’s benefit gig, but otherwise he remains as detached from the overall storyline as ever, and his strand wraps in joyous celebration, silent but for the music, as the pair marry.

But these are just pauses, these people have lives still to lead. Are Sonnyand Linh back for season 4? i won’t look to see.

Other stories reach only breathing spaces, spaces where choices still have to be made about how to go on. Terry Colson knows where he stands. Hewon’t be allowed to rest in the Police, his only choices are stick or  twist, where twist is resign. He’s completely alone and they’re going to play dirty. A car is forced upon him. Suspicious, he ransacks it, finds the consignment of drugs planted in the wheel-well.

But that old friendship with Toni has returned, and it’s gone where we thought it might go in season 2, all the way. Sofia returns from Florida for a break, catches Terry in his shorts, says nothing but, once in her room, grins widely and approvingly. We have a pair coming together even as one flies finally apart, but the Police are still watching, openly, and Toni’s moving on the Arbrea case, pressing action on the FBI that’s clearly going to run on.

There’s Antoine, growing in his enthusiasm to help move forward those of the school marching band who have the talent and the drive. There’s Delmond and Albert – whose hair has now dropped out due to the chemo and who now sports a natty fedora – coming to the only inevitable realisation about the National Jazz Centre, that the money’s going to de rich white folks an de pore black folks don’t cut it, and resigning.

And Janette, finding that her restaurant is not her restaurant and that not even her name is her own, that Desautel’s will be Desuatel’s whether she’s there or not. She hasn’t come to a decision yet, but we know which way it will swing.

And LaDonna. It’s finally the trial, and after thirty-six hours, the jury are irretrievably deadlocked. The Judge has to declare a mistrial. And LaDonna’s left to reflect that they burned her down for nothing. She isn’t going to go through that again. She has a bar to rebuild.

It ends but it don’t end. Next week I begin the Fourth and last season. Just five more weeks with these people, and no real endings to come. Five weeks from now, their futures will be in my head.

Treme: s03 e09 – Poor Man’s Paradise


And so we gather momentum into the final episode of the series. Season 3 has been the most diffuse of the series to date, and has left me wondering more than once where this is going, knowing full well that this is also the last full season, but the penultimate episode seems to be drawing strings together with the sense that there will be some form of ending.

The open focuses on Terry Colson, being shown just how isolated he has become in Homicide, left without back-up to be beaten, not badly in absolute terms, but painfully enough to register for the whole hour, and for bad bruising to register. It’s known he’s been letting the FBI in, it’s made known to him that he’s made a breach that can’t be healed, but he’s denied a transfer out by a vindictive Captain. The only was Terry’s getting out of a Department that will give him nothing is to quit.

How he will react we have yet to see, but in one quarter the sun begins to shine. Toni Bernette takes her findings, her suspicions, her own year-old breach with Terry, to the FBI, but to the Agent with whom Terry is liaising. Who can tell her, in no uncertain terms, that she’s not him wrong. For Toni, who’s backing down on the Arbrea case because she can’t protect her own daughter, let alone any witnesses, it’s a moment of sunshine too. She turns up with beer, and more importantly a smile. We won’t get to see the apology, but we know it’s due and she won’t be afraid to make it.

And Toni’s decision to let things simmer down brings its own reward, a eye-witness to identify the brutal Officer Wilson as the killer – executioner – of Arbrea. At the same time, Everett has written his story on Glover’s killing, has armoured himself against the smears NOPD are preparing, and is going to print.

But if these strands are positives, as is Sonny’s acceptance into Linh’s family, as her fiance, there are negatives and negatives. LaDonna is being screwed by neighbours and noise inspector alike over the music from her bar, but the threats being made by her assailant’s cohort come at last to fruition: a late call summoning her to Gigis, a burning Gigis, destruction of that independent part of her life. She comes to sit with Albert, undergoing his chemo, in need of peace and quiet.

Janette Desautel has peace and quiet, and silence, but doesn’t want it. The restaurant is a success, but not the success she wants. They have a signature dish that the public loves, that they’re flocking in too eat, in such numbers that they can almost cook nothing else. It’s not the restaurant she wants and she’s taking it out on her old New York room-mate and going to the flat alone, with nothing but takeaway and Graham Crackers to eat.

And there’s a crash elsewhere. Davis McAlary’s R’n’B Opera has nose-dived. Aunt Mimi won’t finance it, all it will be is a limited CD sampler. Melodramatic and petulant as he has not been since the first series, pre-Annie, he hollers and boozes, he swears off music, he turns up at Annie’s mixing session and tries to take over, goes home and writes a screamingly petulant Fuck You song…

In the morning, she’s leaving by taxi, a gig in Texas, she told him. When are you back, he asks? Annie gets in the taxi.

Desiree is getting more deeply involved in the campaign against the City knocking down viable homes. Nelson Hidalgo slickly walks away from NOAH, looking to the bigger picture. Delmond’s being warned about the National Jazz Centre. Albert’s dubious about letting them have his Indian costumes, for ‘posterity’ at an admission charge. Antoine’s concerned about members of his school band, about potential and continuity and music.

And Sofia’s offstage, in Florida.

Next week…

Treme: s03 e08 – Don’t You Leave Me Here


A couple of weeks ago, I spoke of Treme coming into focus as it entered the back half of the season and yet, without meaning this in any disparaging way, it once again seems to be a thing of process, without any seeming signs of resolution to any of its issues.

On the other hand, there’s even more winding together of characters who, so far, have been grooving in their grooves more or less independently, and whose stories are starting to mingle.

The two major threads this week involved Janette DeSautel and LaDonna Batiste-William, even though this pairing never happened or came close to happening. Janette’s restaurant opened, despite all misgivings: the open suggested that they weren’t ready, especially not the waiters, but preview night and opening night both went down tremendously well, without the slightest hitch.

There wasn’t too much more to that side of things, though this strand was given a goodly share of the time, enough that you still feel something is going to go wrong and it’s all going to end badly.

That’s rather closer to the surface with LaDonna. The trial date for her assailant is nearing, and she’s starting to get harrassed, threatened into dropping the charges. Last week’s kid in the bar, who gave LaDonna the stare then lit a match was in court for the preliminary hearing, and now she’s getting phone calls at home, on their private number, and a closing shot of someone – we know who – outside the house. Lighting a match.

Let’s spin the wheel, count the connections. Albert’s dropped into LaDonna’s bar even though Indian practice season is over: there’s definitely a spark there. He’s started his chemo and it’s not going well, Delmond and his sister are having to cope with him. Delmond’s got the dissatisfied Antoine asking him questions about modern jazz, sitting in on a session. Delmond’s also meeting Nelson Hidalgo as part of the planning for the new National Jazz Centre, a Nelson back from Washington with new contacts, new info, and parlaying this to a seat at the table again.

Davis went to Janette’s preview night alone because Annie was working. She’s working a lot and he’s feeling neglected. He’s also being his usual immature, self-entitled self, enough so that Aunt Mimi gets seriously pissed off at him over the CD that isn’t to the great and glorious extent of his vision. Annie’s getting deeper into her career, and facing the moral barrier of whether or not to take the writer’s co-credit on Harley’s song that she supplied the original idea for, that he says she’s entitled to but she doesn’t feel right about.

Outside these loops, Toni and L.P. are working their ways towards their cases. L.P.’s getting fobbed off with tales of Glover being a bad guy, the death drug related not NOPD, Toni’s got the Police files and is thinking that Terry Colson is bent, in on the cover-up, when we know he’s working with the FBI and getting a lot of unfriendly looks in Homicide, especially when a case blows up in Court through no fault of his own. And Sofia’s pulled in for being at a teenage party where others are doing grass and drinking beer. She doesn’t violate her parole but Toni wants her to go to her Gran’s in Florida for a couple of months, cease being a lever to be used by the Police: Sofia hates it, and who can blame her?

All things in motion with no sign of a resting place, even with only two episodes left this season.

But one happy scene. Sonny’s pawned practically all of his music gear, packing away his dreams. His sponsor joshes about how he might as well marry Linh, he’s already whupped. But in a moment of great and simple delight, that’s exactly why he’s doing it. He’s bought her a ring. She’s happy. Now he just has to convince her father…

Treme: s03 e06 – Careless Love


A legend

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.

Treme: s03 e05 – I Heard Buddy Bolden Say


Our girl’s gonna be a star!

Season 3 of Treme is proving very difficult to blog because even here, at the midway point, it still feels shapeless. It’s a collection of mostly unrelated stories, rolling onwards, without any pattern. That that is what it has been from the start, and makes for a fascinating mosaic, is what frustrates me about why it’s so difficult to think about now.

It’s easy enough to summarise the various steps in this episode, which revolved around a New Orleans Xmas. We saw everybody except Everett celebrating the day in one fashion or another, though the episode gave quite a lot more time to Toni and Sofia on the one hand and Anne T., with some embarrassing inserts from Davis on the other.

Others had little more than cameos. Sonny fell off the drugs wagon at the first visible opportunity, having put up no more than token resistance. Nelson appealed to his contact to end his period in purgatory only to be told that they don’t see what he brings, ‘as an outsider’, to the project.

There’s a strong political issue over the City Council’s unanimous decision to demolish the Project Housing. The trickery over the meeting denotes an obvious fix, the white, rich community celebrate (even at the Xmas dinner table in the McAlary household, dissenting opinion McAlary D, stridently) and Nelson’s contact rejoices over the eclipse of the ‘Philistines’ even as he co-opts Delmond into the Jazz Heritage Project (without actually agreeing to tear down the fences that keep the black kids out, shudder).

But let’s look at Toni and Sofia, eating out on Xmas Day, with no real delight, both too aware of the massive missing presence of Creighton. In trying to aim for new traditions, Sofia’s interest is raised, though there’s the slightest of hints she might not be there for next Xmas. Sofia’s getting harrassed by the Police, which Toni determinedly takes up with Captain Grayson, who hates her. Not that she’s completely innocent, she’s had her PI run a check on Sofia’s musician boyfriend. It’s come out clean, but it confirms he’s 27, and she’s, what, 17 at most (though she has her own car and is licensed): Toni’s worried.

And the straits her pursuit of the Arbea case and Officer Wilson have landed them in are exemplified when Toni’s windscreen is smashed. Outside their house, at night. By the Police.

The most buoyant part of the episode was Annie’s parents coming to New Orleans for Xmas. This has Annie, in short shorts, never an unpleasant sight, cleaning furiously to try to evade the disapproving eye of mother Theresa. a splendid cameo by Isabella Rosselini. But Theresa is focussed upon her disappointment at Annie playing jazz, folk, creole, the whole mixture, and not the classical music on which she was trained. Though at the band’s performance – a band that’s now got a recording contract! – Theresa is won over by the jaunty ‘Louisiana Christmas’ Annie sings for her with best glee.

That was a fun part, deserved of its extra time.

Just to mention that Delmond has told his sisters about Albert’s lymphona, ensuring everyone turns up for Xmas day, and Janette hires one of her New York room-mates for the restaurant, even as her doubts about Tim grow ever darker and everybody else has little moments.

Season 3 is playing even more cavalierly with the conventions of television story-telling. It’s even more novelistic in its approach. Which makes for good, strong television, but hell to blog. I hope they’ve balanced it right.

Treme: s03 e04 – The Greatest Love


Indians

I don’t know if it was me or the episode but I found it hard to get engaged with this week’s Treme. In many ways it was simply how the series operates, a disparate group of people, each representing strands in the afterlife of a city of distinctive cultural heritage after a massive disaster, with only minimal and most often passing links between them. And as usual it was distinguished by superb acting, some of it overt, as in the case of Khandi Alexander: brittle and angry in the search for a house, confident and strong negotiating with Big Chief Albert over space for the Tribe to practice and play, then slipping into the background as they do their thing.

But I couldn’t engage properly. I think that, more so than in its predecessors, third season Treme is taking more time to just simply witness lives being lived than in sharpening stories towards any kind of dramatic point. Lives are just going on, everybody is in the middle but without any better aim than tomorrow.

I know that’s unfair. Several of the cast are building towards things: Annie T., over in Austin again, working towards the successful music career that is hers by the right of abundant talent, Davis feeling lonely without her in New Orleans, hitting an obstacle in building towards this Jazz Opera of his.

We intercut again, like last week, between Janette interviewing chefs for her restaurant whilst her business partner Tim interviews pretty but not necessarily skillful girls as ‘waitresses’, and Toni trying to get potential witnesses against Officer Wilson to testify.

Melissa Leo deserves mention in the acting stakes for a typically aggressive performance rounded out by firstly inviting L.P. Everett to dinner and then going along with Sofia (whose boyfriend is turning into a right little shit, refusing to go with her too anything she wants to do that doesn’t tickle his fancy) to a street performance of ‘Waiting for Godot’, rewritten for black voices, that brings Toni to barely restrained tears.

The harrassment of the Bernettes, and its potential spread to L.P. (this initials affectation has quickly become irritating) becomes more than a shadow, and a Police car following Sofia giving the reporter a lift to a gig by Goatwhore (I am not googling that because I know they won’t have been made up and I’d rather not find out any more) is the closing scene.

Going back to Toni, and keeping in with the Police, there was another neat little juxtaposition. Terry Colson’s having a downbeat thing. He’s getting nowhere trying to clean anything up in Homicide, his FBI contact can do nothing with the files Terry handed over and, when he books a room at a decent hotel so his boys can stay with him, they dump him for dates. On the other hand, manageress Megan, clearly an old friend, upgrades him to a suite free, persuades him to use it anyway and the two jump each others bones enthusiastically.

Which contrasts with Janette and Jacques when she summons’ him to the walk-in store, except that, unlike his expectation, it’s not to jump his bones but to discuss a planned local recipe.

Returning to Albert, he’s revealed his lymphoma to Delmond, but wants it kept from his daughters, thus far. It’s a mark that a shift has taken place in their relationship, which has been closer to equals this season already, that when Delmond says he’s going to get medical assistance for his Pop, Albert doesn’t argue, or resist.

And Antoine engages in a bit of a fiddle over a bill to get money to his favourite marching band pupil Cherise to get her family’s electric bill paid, whilst Nelson’s growing disenchanted about his limited participation in the money game and talking about finding a better (i.e., more easily monetized) disaster to move on to.

Bits and pieces: either I or they are not quite cohering, and next week is halfway.

There is one thing I do want to record, and I’ve been wracking my brain to try to remember if it’s happened before in Treme: the Indians are in LaDonna’s bar, Albert and Delmond, and Antoine’s at the bar, watching, and I think that’s the first time, in the twenty-fifth episode, that we have had as many as four cast members appearing in the same scene. Three at a time, like Toni, Sofia and L.P., often. But i can’t remember four simultaneously.

It’s almost like an ensemble show…

Treme: s03 e03 – Me Donkey Want Water


Father and son

I haven’t, exactly, been critical about season 3 of Treme so far because I have been enjoying it, but the first two episodes have felt a bit soft focus, lacking in any narrative bite. That comes to the fore in episode 3, which felt sharper and a lot more energetic from the outset.

Things feel like they’re starting to move now, the characters not just living their lives but actually set in motion towards things that will play out. For instance: Janette’s down in New Orleans, looking over the generous restaurant space her would-be partner’s eager to put up, whilst Annie’s gone for a meal with the guy who manages Shawn Colvin and who’s interested in managing her. There’s an unusually telecinematic sequence where, instead of letting each scene play out, the episode cuts back and forth, making the two strands intertwined when they have nothing to do with each other except thematically.

Both go for it, with differing aftermaths. Janette re-hires Jacques as her sous-chef, moves out of Brooklyn with a farewell hot dog blow out with her housemates, Annie goes on the road with her band for an overnight gig.

There’s a third negotiation in town too. Davis is utterly committed to his opera and is hiring old musicians left right and centre, guys who played on classic recordings but never saw a penny from them. So now he’s up on his great big ethical high horse, determined to give them payment, at the expense of not just himself but Aunt Mimi, both of then foregoing their percentages and expenses. Poor Davis. He’s still the same clown he always was, though Annie has rubbed some of the sharper edges off; I can tolerate him now because there are some tiny indications that he may be growing up, not that he ever will, completely.

Elsewhere, some more of the characters are interacting. Antoine and Delmond are playing in a gig and talk afterwards about Albert. Delmond’s taking an increasing role in organising the tribe but they need rehearsal space. So Antoine puts in a word and Delmond turns up at LaDonna’s, very clearly out of his depth with a woman like her (I loved the scene, which was a gross mis-match: when has Khandi Alexander ever not dazzled in Treme. But Rob Brown sinks it as well with a finely judged piece of underplaying).

Terry Colson and his partner, Detective Nikolich, catch up with the potential killer of Jay Cardello. Terry’s getting tired, thinking of handing in his papers. He gets a boost, and Nikolich a cynical surprise, when they stop for coffee where Sofia Bernette works and she passes on to Terry the words of praise her mother, Toni, had for him.

And the girl has a definite streak of the little minx in her, dropping onto her mother’s shoulders that she’d seen Terry and that, oh yes, he’s very tall.

Not that Toni’s interested right now. Toni is precipitating something that will run through this last full-length season. We’ve seen in the open a black Police Officer in uniform walk into a crowded bar where the music is playing and Delmond is watching along with his current girl, Alison, Toni’s assistant, collect a crate of Bud at the bar, then beat a kid who stepped in his way. Wilson is Toni’s suspect for the Arbrea murder. Now she’s throwing the cat among the pigeons by taking out a newspaper ad inviting people assaulted, brutalised and browbeaten by Wilson to contact her. There’s going to be a lot of shit coming her way, and she’s warning Sofia to be squeaky clean, because she’ll be a target if the Police can get her on anything.

Meanwhile, Nelson’s still trying to build his Empire. This NOAH thing is going to blow up in people’s faces, sooner rather than later, and if he and Robinette’s firm have done it right, even at no-profit, they’ll be first in line when the real tap opens and gushes money. There are signs that something’s starting to crumble: Antoine’s wife, Desiree, has found a NOAH sign outside her family home, she’s see Nelson, she’s started digging, along with others, into what’s going on. Nelson don’t mind, Nelson’s taking out Cindy who wanted a job but who settles for an evening’s wining and dining and getting all her kit off in Treme‘s most comprehensive and gratuitous nude scene so far.

In fact, Nelson’s not the only one getting his end away. As the episode slows down towards the end, it’s in the air. Antoine’s on a five night tour in Texas, the suspicious Desiree is phoning him every night and, what do you know, the pone rings unanswered whilst Antoine is screwing this fat, bouncy bird.

And Sonny and Linh are finally grated an hour away from her chaperoning father, which they use to finally get it on, in a scene that, for all its sordid setting in the back of a car, is a delicate, gentle and touching counterpoint to Antoine’s crude thrusting.

Which makes all the more effective the transition to a Doctor’s surgery, where Albert Lambreaux is being told he has Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. There is a treatment, with a 50% survival rate. I’m betting he doesn’t tell Delmond any time soon.

It’s a closing scene to its roots, which is why I was surprised, and a bit shocked, that the actual closing scene was the relatively unimportant one of L.P. Everett following up the death he’s investigating, by being taken to see the overturned, burnt-out car, down by the river. It’s a morning scene, and it couldn’t have gone anywhere else, chronologically, nor could it have been placed between the Life of sex and the Death of Albert, but I wouldn’t have finished with that.

Treme: s03 e02 – Saints


Annie T and The Apostles

To my surprise and pleasure, this episode took it’s title directly from Shawn Colvin’s track, ‘The Neon Light of the Saints’ from her 2011 album, All Fall Down, which played over the credits. This was doubly apt in that Shawn’s manager from the episode in which she guested last season reappeared, to take Annie T and The Apostles on as a client, and that much of the music in this episode was trad jazz, which I and most of those ignorant of jazz will always instinctively link with that hoary old classic (here being a word meaning, song you wish you could never hear again), ‘When the Saints Go Marchin’ In’.

Besides, it was the only music in the episode that I could properly appreciate!

I’m not knocking the music, which I’m enjoying immensely as both an integral part of the series and for the undoubted life and energy it brings to everything, but I neither know nor understand it, it represents a culture of which I am ignorant and which would take a lifetime to absorb, and underneath it all I am wedded to the sound of the guitar, not horns.

What of the drama? I was taken aback when the scene in which Delmond Lambreaux, in the bar, raised an Indian chant for Albert, who has been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cut into the credits as I had no idea 55 minutes had already gone by. Once again we faced the Treme kaleidoscope and, as in episode 1, there was little sense of the season’s themes beginning to develop.

Little things: Albert’s condition. Antoine finding out his sons don’t want to learn music but a couple of his girl pupils are getting into the trad. LaDonna walking out on living with her in-laws after Virina ‘forgets’ to put Antoine’s name on the list of permitted visitors at the gatehouse. Davis putting together his ambitious but we-can-all-see-this-coming, futile Opera.

And more medium-sized things, from which the early signs of stories can be seen. Annie beginning her ascent to the success that awaits her. Terry Colson opening up the first signs of a r’approchement with Toni, bringing her the news personally that a friend she knows has been brutally beaten to death instead of her learning it from the news.

Nelson gets himself back into the game by trailing our successful Florida developer, Loretta Mortensen, finding what a piss-poor job she’s doing and getting the spin-offs that he and his contractor partner Robinette will do properly.

Sonny badly wants to screw Linh’s brains out and the feeling’s mutual but they can never get far enough away, or for long enough, from Mr Tranh to so much as get her knickers down. Now he’s got a gig again.

Janette is in demand, with the chance to run her own place again, back in New Orleans, with a partner to keep the bullshit (i.e., the administration) off her shoulders. David Chang reckons she’ll go.

L.P. Everett is pursuing a case of Police brutality, murder or negligent homicide, criminal damage and destruction of evidence, or so the possibilities seem to stack up from what we see. At the moment, he’s acting independently of Toni Bernette and/or Terry Colson, but let’s see.

No Sofia Bernette this week.

But let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is a David Simon project, with all due respect to Eric Overmyer, and these are invariably structured as novels: you don’t get climaxes in chapter 2, you’re dealing with strands, lines, things slowly being set in motion and, in the case of an ongoing TV series, and a slice-of-life, not even necessarily in episodes 9 or 10.

Let’s continue to roll.