Treme: s04 e01 – Yes We Can Can


Home stretch. I feel sad about the final season of Treme, barely begun and already almost done. Five episodes is a long way not enough for a series of this density, barely enough to stir the gumbo, to begin those lines and threads, let alone provide an ending for this community I’ve been following for the past half year. And disregard my recognition that this is not a series that does ending I’m going to want some finality when I say farewell. In four weeks time.

For all that, the opening episode also seemed incredibly short, its final scene, its spine-tingling closing music coming far sooner than I expected, before I was ready. A new set of realities to spread out before us, but is there enough time? That’s all of it: is there going to be enough time?

It’s now thirty-eight months later, and it’s Election Day 2008. That’s a day I’m never going to forget, whatever it’s outcome in practice: beyond all expectation, I lived long enough to see America elect a black President. I saw it. And we went from the hope and the promise when it was still hope and promise, to one of the most awesome songs of the Twentieth Century, Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, which sniffed the wind at the moment it began to blow, that evoked the future that was to come, that is still, we fervently hope, travelling towards us. It’s been a lot time coming, but I know.

So: Davis hasn’t really quit, but then no-one expected the self-centred little tw*t to do so. He’s enthused by the newest musical sound, which might hopefully keep him from his own. He can supply good wine to Jeanette Desautel, opening yet another restaurant, this time for herself, and turn down a promised booty call, he can listen but not advise Annie T, who’s approaching a musical cusp: feeling good where she is, more than happy with her band, but with her manager challenging her over whether she only wants to be a niche, a regional act.

Terry’s more or less moved in with Toni, and Sofia, now at College in Connecticut (that would be Yale, right?) is content with that. He’s still getting fucked over by the NOPD, whilst she’s found a new cause, courtesy of the contented Sonny, pulled in for public urination and witness to a guy in the tank dying from an asthma attack because the Police won’t give him his inhaler.

And LaDonna’s moved out on Larry and her kids and, to no particular surprise, is getting it on with Albert Lambreaux (lucky, lucky Clarke Peters). His cancer’s in remission, and Delmond’s in demand to go back to New York, but Delmond’s being a bit superstitious over telling his Poppa that he’s going to be a Grandpoppa.

And Antoine’s now running the bandclass, and showing one 14 year old how to get free treatment for the clap, and getting involved with the new music, at which he’s introduced to the unusual coupling of Davis McAlary and Nelson Hidalgo. Nelson’s starting to lose money, he’s angling to get back to Texas, where there’s disasters in Galveston to work on, but he’s listening to Davis educate him in street culture, and he looks like he’s listening.

No, five episodes is still five too few. Let this not be too hasty, let us go into that good night with our opinions of our friends intact, let them have room to be who they are as we visit with them this one last time.

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 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 e07 – Promised Land


Ain’t he pretty?

Treme‘s Mardi Gras episode always comes late in the series and it’s always more about what MardiGras is and all the kinds of music than it is about what the series is about. In that sense, it fits right in because the series is about being in New Orleans and all the colours of it. But this year’s was made up of little pieces, too many little pieces really, little scenes and moments that made tiny advancements, or set off new snowballs that, further down the mountain, could be bloody great avalanches.

Too many little pieces to maybe put in one blogpost: you’d be better off watching the episode than having me list A did this, and B did that, whilst E and L… Nah.

To keep the pot boiling, let’s just say that Toni tried to talk Sofia’s boyfriend into dumping her because he’s too old, only to find that she’d dumped him a week ago, Nelson schmoozed in Washington, Terry’s frustration at NOPD caused him to let slip that shit is coming down the pan for them when he really shouldn’t’ve, Big Chief Albert got himself through Mardi Gras unscathed by force of will, but the coughing is taking him down.

There were larger movements surrounding Annie, Davis and Janette. Annie’s in Washington, doing their Louisiana Mardi Gras, and sitting in with the Neville Brothers. She does the song that’s this week’s title, Johnnie Allen style, but she also does Harley’s ‘This Town Won’t Drown’, beautifully. The advancement of her career stuffs up her intent to properly do Mardi Gras with Davis (who’s quite clearly being squeezed out of his Jazz Opera on the basis that he’s nowhere near as talented as everyone else) but she flies in for one day only to oversleep, leaving Davis to go out alone, whereupon he bumps into Janette (who’s fretting over how her restaurant is building up, the publicity aspects and the ever-growing sens that it isn’t her restaurant and never will be). She’s dressed as a mini-skirted nun with a long, pale violet wig, and I’m going to be exceedingly shallow here for a moment and go Hoo-wah! And of course, after a day’s wandering and drinking they wind up back at Desautels for a Mardi Gras fuck over which only Janette seems to be having misgivings.

Mind you, he said, doubling up on shallowness, we saw a lot of Annie T today as well.

But there were three things in this episode that stood out for me, that will stick with me for when I come back to this one. First was the school marching band, marching in the parade, with Antoine helping to direct, and a decent job of it they made, playing SteveWonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely?’ for one. They’re following a Marines marching band when, at a break, a half dozen of the Marines wander back and put on a mini-jazz show in the street. The kids watch, fascinated, and then some of them, their confidence visibly swelling, join in, and everybody plays together.

There’s a little snowball after, when Antoine hears young Jennifer playing a Charlie Parker phrase, leading into a discussion about whether Antoine, who’s mostly traditional, could play modern: it catches Antoine on the quick, and it messes with his head.

And there’s the brief closing scene. Sonny’s going it clean, he’s making the real effort, going to meetings, even religious ones. Mr Tran’s not got a crew during Mardi Gras week, but he’s kept Sonny on. Even though it’s the morning after, he calls Sonny to the boatyard even though it’s only going to be the two of them. Sonny arrives first: he’s early.

But in the middle there, Annie’s finally woken by Lucinda, Harley’s sister. The two go down to this ceremony on the riverside, all Mardi Gras noise and colour. Until the silence drops and we understand why everyone is here, as people carrying little boxes and bags, including the one Lucinda removes from Harley’s guitar case, and with Spider Stacey also sharing the moment, people pour the ashes of loved ones who loved New Orleans into the Mississippi.

The ultimate heartbreak is not this tender farewell to an old friend, but the person sitting on the stony bank off to one side, not part of the ceremony, not part of having remains to spread but sharing the pain and the loss: Sofia Bernette, arms and legs twisted round herself, caging in her own loss. As do we all.

Because I’m me

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: s02 e11 – Do Watcha Wanna


And all of a sudden, the season that had no endings in sight pulled a shitload of them out of its back pocket and spread them round like there was nothing to it, and we rolled through an extended eighty minute finale of ups and downs and a sideways or two, and the ground is free and clear for another base to be laid in season 3. Sometimes it’s like magic, but what it really is is art.

I really didn’t think you could have done it. There have been twelve named cast members in season 2 whose mixings have often, over the past eleven weeks, seemed to be following no particular route, just bouncing off what I’m trying desperately to avoid calling the vicissitudes of life, but that’s been the effect David Simon and Eric Overmyer have been concentrating upon.

But one after another carpets started to get rolled up under certain people’s feet, and in both satisfaction and disappointment, things rolled round to places not unadjacent to where they began. Take Antoine Batiste in a memorable open: after Wanda’s walkout on stage last week, the rest of the band, or at least too many follow her out of the door. In no time at all, there’s no band and no point and a massive fuck you from the man with the ‘bone, who don’t need this shit.

And Davis sees his precious band slide out from under him by the most basic law of talent: when everybody’s a Mississippi river width better than you, you’re looking at the door. Praise the lad for growing up a little, stepping out on stage making fun of himself and embracing his white privileged background on a truly non-funky ‘Sex Machine’, immaculately swallowing the ‘ess’ word.

Delmond gives up his New York apartment, and his New York girlfriend to fund his share of the fake royalties that can pay for Albert to fix up the house.

And Nelson has the rug spectacularly pulled out from under him, in a manner he still doesn’t quite understand. He’s played the game, taken the opportunities vouchsafed to him and now he’s been cut off. ‘For now’. Because the FBI are investigating Councilman Thomas, who’s rolling over and resigning, and Nelson’s fed the jukebox in that corner so he’s no longer Mr Anonymous through whom the big boys can weave their nets. And his cousin’s asking him what is it he actually does, and Nelson doesn’t have a real answer for him. He makes deals. He makes money. He makes, in actual fact, nothing. Ever heard of a President like that?

But they’re the obvious losers, though Desiree gets what she wants, she and Antoine moving into a house of their own, and he’s leading a new bad, the more talented kids from school, setting up on the streets.

Others have a more equivocal time of it. Janette flies down to N’Awlins for Jacques’ bail hearing and helps him get loose. Later, they go to the Jazz Festival, and later than that they shag each other’s brains out. This is a bad move, because you never, never, never sleep with your sous-chef, and this guy’s setting up an offer to finance a new restaurant for the fair Ms Desautel, back in New Orleans, and she#’s wavering.

And Terry turns up at Toni’s, demanding the shell-casings so the Arbrea case can be properly matched in ballistics. He tells his Captain they could have a match, two linked Police shootings, and, guess what? A casing goes missing. Colson’s had enough. He’s taken it to the FBI, wants the Department swept clean in the Augean manner. Toni’s taken Arbrea to the politicians, but there’s an Election coming up. Sofia’s taking things seriously, hurt enough again over Councilman Thomas to talk about her Dad. As one door begins to swing open, the one between Toni and Terry is now firmly shut.

But others fare better. Sonny gets traded to Linh’s Dad’s shrimp boat for the weekend, an ordeal that results in his being given permission to pursue his suit with her. Though the collapse of Antoine’s band leaves him hocking his guitar.

And Annie’s starting to work on Hawley’s music.

But best of all is LaDonna, LaDonna who drops into a bar five blocks from her own and finds one of her rapists sitting there drinking beer. Who demands the Police in to haul him back, and then taunts the bastard and starts kicking him. Who unloads an expletive laden tirade at the DA over the technical cock-up that let him out, who’s breathing fire and flame out of every nostril, and Larry follows her out with this quiet little grin on his face and says they ain’t selling that goddamned bar, instead they’re moving back to New Orleans, because maybe he hates that goddamned bar but it’s a part of LaDonna, and she’s who he fell for again, nd she looks at him like she’s shell-shocked and as the lift doors slide shut, we catch this glimpse of her going to him and hugging him, and she is back and man is it glorious!

In the end, Davis can’t sleep. He’s back at the radio station, playing a little slow something old and mournful, that’s New Orleans to the core and the soul, and maybe it’s not what it used to be or what it ought to be but where else would they go and who else would have them, and that’s David Simon saying that through him, and the last is an apology for dead air, because that kinda got Davis there, and it did anyone.

Next week, we go into season 3. Maybe I ought to slow down, space them put, make it last, but you know I won’t be able to. Down in the Treme, down with the Treme. And the music goes round and round.

Treme: s02 e10 – That’s What Lovers Do


Still fitting in

We’re almost at the end of season 2 and this felt like a downturn episode, a low-key affair whose strongest element was the aftermath of Hawley Watt’s killing. Annie T seems to have become, by default, his legatee, responsible for clearing away what little he left, taking on the part-written songs and music with a view to completing it, seeing away most of the rest of it to Goodwill, all with a calm emotionless that worries Davis. And me: it’s all very well for her to protest that everyone’s treating her like a china doll, in need of special handling, that she’s fine, but people rarely are when someone important to them is gunned down in front of them.

Hawley’s death impinges on other branches of this story. Colson’s arrived in Homicide and this is one of the cases that’s not being worked too seriously, what with the complete absence of evidence or leads and the investigating detective at least unconsciously dismissing it as unimportant: only a street musician, shoulda kept his mouth shut.

Toni’s already trying to use him to get the Arbrea case file. Terry’s none too happy about it, a sense that he’s feeling a bit used, especially after last week’s rebuff. He finds a more-than-sanitised file and a prefab full of mixed evidence, left to rot, but he swings by Toni’s to tell her there was no file.

Sofia’s talking to her now, though the attitude’s not left town totally. She’s working as a part-time barista, enjoying it too, fancies the guitar player in the street band outside but, sensibly and reluctantly, turns down the offer to go out backk and smoke some weed.

There’s been an FBI raid at City Hall, over the weekend, with has got Toni worried and excited. Not Councilman Thomas, though.

Sonny’s affected by Hawley’s death too, still using equipment borrowed from him. He wants to return it, talks a little with Annie, keeps the guitar a couple of weeks longer. He’s trying to get a date with the Vietnamese girl from the fish market, Linh, but he has to ask her father first, and he has to approve, and Sonny doesn’t want to have to do that.

Antoine’s show-stealing gets him a mid-stage walkout by his singer Lucinda and the band don’t want him taking over. When he lets Alison fill-in – a young, attractive woman, Toni’s assistant – Desiree kicks off at him, fearing the worst. LaDonna’s kicked off at him too, denouncing him for everything. She’s full of sudden aggression, against salt on the table, underlining her interactions with her therapist, and the failure of an attempt to resume ‘relations’ with Larry: both breaking off thinking the other wasn’t into it. Dark times lie ahead.

Davis’s musical ambitions are slipping away. Lil Calliope’s dance track has to go on the sampler and one of Davis’ two has to make way. Delmond’s shipped everyone, including Doctor John, down to New Orleans at Albert’s insistence, killing any chance of the record ever making royalties: Albert’s happier than we’ve ever seen him, Delmond can’t hear the difference, but everyone else can. Janette’s earned the nickname ‘Gator at the restaurant, and is being encouraged to expand her repertoire. Nelson’s slowly compiling a parcel of land for city redevelopment.

In a week’s time, we’ll see what temporary resting places these stories come to. But we come back to Hawley, in the end as the beginning. From Susan Cowsill leading a funerary rendition of ‘Will the Circle be Unbroken?’ to an unexpected sister arriving to collect the ashes and Hawley’s favourite guitar – This Machine Floats – and spring a gentle laugh on us, blowing Hawley’s pretence at a Texas accent, when they came from Washington…