Treme, Season 3, Episode 4, “The Greatest Love”
Sitting on the couch after last night’s episode ended, a friend said, “What made that episode so good?” We sat and thought about it, and then realized the answer was obvious: Sonny was nowhere to be seen and Davis and Annie were mercifully minimized.
-The negotiations that began last week for the Guardians of the Flame to practice at GiGi’s concluded after a sitdown between LaDonna and Albert. They’re both tough and they both get what want: LaDonna gets her tables and a cut of the bar-b-que sales, Albert gets a place for his Indians to practice. What then follows is an incredible first practice. The low-ceilinged bar is packed. The music is live. And then, Big Chief Creole Wild West arrives, embracing Big Chief Lambreaux. What with Albert’s diagnosis on last week’s episode, this felt, rightly or wrongly, like a show of support and respect from one Chief to another.
-Albert’s diagnosis has now been revealed. Albert told Delmond, whose response was necessarily tough. He insists his father not only rethink his decision to hide his illness from his daughters, but also that his father not accept a nine-week wait to see an oncologist. He gets his father help through a local charity designed to help musicians and cultural bearers.
-Speaking of LaDonna: was there anything more amusing that Larry’s sideway glance at her during their search for a new home? He seemed to be taking particular pleasure in driving her absolutely up the wall with the houses that he was taking her to see. All that madness melted away when they finally did fine their place; it was a beautiful yellow house that seemed to go on forever.
-Toni’s investigation into Officer Wilson continues apace. Sofia’s paying the price though, as she is repeatedly harassed by police anxious to intimidate her. Also facing scrutiny for his own investigations is L.P. Everett, the young investigator looking into the burned body on the other side of the levy. In both cases, there seems to be at least very good evidence to believe that the New Orleans Police Department has engaged in foul play, and in both cases, the NOPD’s response has been blatant attempts to scare away the attention. More on these two storylines below…
-David Simon’s shows have one particular thing that they’re always very, very good at: creating characters whose ups and downs keep you coming back for more. In this case, we have Antoine, days after plainly cheating on his Desiree, hustling money to a student who needed cash to pay the electric bill. Simon (and his writers) are excellent at capturing this maddening element of the real world.
-On the one hand, I get it: Janette wants the new restaurant to be a success. She’s so driven by that desire that she’s letting her relationship with Jacque go fallow. Now that they’re back together professionally, they can no longer be together personally. On the other hand: if Janette and Jacque don’t work out -- if I have to spend episode after episode looking at Jacque’s utterly heartbroken eyes -- then there’s literally no God and I hate the entire world for at least a week.
-After last week’s brief scene of Antoine’s hookup, the show again showed real people engaged in real sexual activity. This time it was Terry and the hotel manager, grasping at each other like teenagers, neither rocking the perfect bodies that HBO emphasizes. This isn’t jarring; it is a genuinely good thing.
-Nelson’s machinations are coming back on him. He has been given houses to rehabilitate that still belong to residents who are entirely unaware of what the city is doing. The frustrated response of the homeowner last night, “What list?” is telling.
-So now we have to hear Annie singing in Texas bars with Texas performers? Why? What exactly are we gaining from that? It’s really such a shame too, because that scene where Annie and Davis do their laundry together? That was magic.
-Serious question: did anybody miss Sonny this week?
-David Simon’s shows have often been engrossing, absorbing dramas, in which the immediacy of the story-telling outweighs all other concerns. This is to Simon’s credit. But one idea emphasized again and again this season has been the idea of the short con versus the long con. What we’re seeing in L.P.’s and Toni’s storylines is an example of this idea playing out thematically. Simon’s show (whether or not he intends this) is making a potent critique of the American political system, one that might seem all the more pertinent as we suffer through this seemingly interminable election.
This morning driving to work, I got stuck behind a white college student driving an expensive SUV with a sticker on the back that read, “Don’t Tread On Me.” My immediate response was to shout at my windshield, “NOBODY IS!” In our politics, we’re stuck with this idea that the government is cracking down upon upper middle class white people at every turn, people who cannot possibly catch a break. These people then decry the government as being bureaucratic at best and dictatorial at worst. But Simon shows us real suffering under the government boot: L.P. and Toni are after all both investigating what appear to be murders carried out by government agents who face no retribution for their malfeasance. Although L.P. and Toni are trying to shine a light on these crimes, the governmental response has been simply to try to intimidate both of them into silence, either by harassing L.P. directly or by harassing Toni indirectly (via her daughter). Furthermore, these aren’t the only two characters struggling under their government: Desiree’s home is threatened by NOAH, Antoine’s school is chronically under-funded, Albert can’t get treatment at a shuttered hospital, etc.
Simon shows us populations -- he did this in The Wire -- that are actually being tread upon, populations that rarely warrant the attention and concern that well-off white people do. It’s enough to make you wing a remote through the television in disgust at what passes for our political conversations these days.