Treme, Season 3, Episode 2, “Saints”
Here’s the thing about Treme: I’m getting to the point where I’m not sure I’d recommend it to a friend. Not because I don’t like the show -- I do -- but because I’m getting to the point where my frustration with the show is overwhelmed only by the fact that I’ve made it this far, so another season and a half won’t be too much for me. But that’s me.
The part that really gets me is how good the show is when it’s good. It was on display repeatedly tonight and then, as we’ll see in The Bad, it wasn’t on display, and what was left was utterly infuriating.
-Everything tonight with Antoine was fantastic. Every single scene. Every single moment. Every single facial expression. From his development of his marching band (they’re sounding good) to his disappointment at losing his percussionists after they fought yet again (one had called the other a snitch, in what seemed like a call back to The Wire‘s Randy Wagstaff), from his moment with his student listening to Papa Celestin’s “Marie LaVeau” in the empty classroom to his invitation to Desiree to accompany him and two students to Preservation Jazz Hall, from his defeated realization that his own children have no interest in his music to the smile on his face enjoying music with children, everything about his screen time was pitch perfect.
-So too Nelson’s work sniffing out the New Orleans Affordable Homeownership scams. Yes, he wants in the money, but at least he seems to have a passing interest in accomplishing something that might vaguely be described as decent. Not so the woman he checked out. She’d been gaming the system, claiming to have done work at various sites which included an abandoned lot, a barely repaired home, and a third property that hadn’t been refurbished by her but by volunteers down from Milwaukee. With that bit of investigation, Nelson gets his own contracts which he immediately extends to last season’s crew. Lest anybody bat an eye, it is Robinette who gets his name on the companies. (For the time being, we will look past reasoning behind Nelson’s decision making here.)
-And what of Everett, the young journalist investigating rumored killings? Yes, he’s a bit of a plot device right now (he is a conduit for interesting characters to have a chance to tell their stories) but what he’s discovering will no doubt be of significant importance later this season. Or, perhaps, I’m hoping that what he’s doing now will eventually, to some small degree, matter. But regardless, his work tonight tracking down more information on killings in the West Bank in the aftermath of the storm, in which the city’s black residents either express private doubts about the party line or outright disdain it, as the second of the two men the journalist interviewed did, is what makes Simon shows so damned good.
-LaDonna’s continued balancing act is proving just as difficult as all of the other ones her character has attempted. She leaves her husband and her kids behind as she moves out, refusing to spend another night at Victorine’s (LaDonna’s sister-in-law) home. Here in the northern South, I’ve always enjoyed it when older women describe somebody else as “See You Next Tuesday,” said both to be polite and make a point. I wrote that in my notes about Victorine, a truly insufferable character who runs out of nose long before she’s done looking down on her husband’s brother’s family. But beside being frustrated at home, she’s frustrated also with the justice system’s slow crawl toward sorting out her sexual assault. “We made a date to make a date,” she says about yet another courtroom delay.
-Delmond leads the Guardians of the Flame in “Indian Red” after initially struggling to get their collective attention. Albert’s essentially sitting out. He’s been diagnosed with COPD. Did I miss him handing over the reigns entirely?
-Finally, Janette’s signs of leaving New York City to return to New Orleans were welcome. Anything that gets her closer to gone from the city and those storylines? Yes please. That’s even though David Chang hinted that she might be making a deal with the devil when it comes to Tim Feeny, the man who wants her to cook in his new restaurant.
-What if we never saw Sonny again? We’d lose our inroads to the Vietnamese fishermen, but surely there are other ways. I’m just asking.
-What if we never saw Annie again? We’d lose our inroads to the development of young musicians, but surely we could survive without that, given how two-dimensional and entirely lifeless her character is.
-What if we never saw Davis again? We’d lose our inroads into having a dipshit on the screen, but surely we could survive without him and his stupid opera.
-I’m not saying that they’re awful characters necessarily. But I’m also not saying that they’re any good, and frankly, the idea of not having the three of them cluttering up a show would free up more time for everybody else*. There are no doubt plenty of fans who really like Sonny and Annie and Davis but I’m not one of them. I’m selfish in this I suppose.
*the characters that I like
--The Wire was transcendent because everything that happened in the show seemed connected to the central issue: the drug trade. Crime, murder, devastation, homelessness, poverty, violence, money, etc all ended up back at the drug trade. It wasn’t always a straight line, but that was always playing a role. Treme is about a city. Hurricane Katrina is something that happened to all of these characters, but it seems so unbelievably distant at times. Those three characters I listed in The Bad seem to have been the least affected by the storm, even though Sonny was there, even though Annie was there, even though Davis was there. Every other character’s experience seems somehow more pertinent, including Janette, and she’s currently more than 1000 miles away from the city. Please note: I’m not entirely comfortable with this critique, but it was my response tonight after seeing “Saints” in its entirety, “That would have been better without those three, right?” That went through my head. That’s not something I think about when it comes to my favorite shows.