Treme, Season 3, Episode 6, “Careless Love”
Hurricane Sandy is about to slam into the East Cost, potentially causing flooding and damage from the Carolinas to Maine. My own home state, West Virginia, was once vaguely threatened by its arrival, although that has passed as forecasts have been updated. Still, it seems likely that the storm will go on for days. Our collective hopes and, if you’re into that sort of thing, prayers go out to everybody affected by the storm.
As with all storms, there will be an aftermath, with the recognition of damages, with the struggles to overcome, with the success stories that emerge, but I think the part I’m most looking forward to are the criticisms soon to be lobbed in the East Coast’s directions. The audacity of those people, living where they do, so close to the water, so close to the path of an oncoming storm that they surely should have expected. I’m hoping they’re not counting on government assistance to overcome; real Americans don’t reach out like that. They rebuild on their own or, if they’re smart at all, they head inland, away from their decadent cities and back to the communities that God protects, communities where upstanding godly people live free of the socialism that so many have come to expect. Right?
Or is that kind of talk only reserved for those storms that hit places like New Orleans, where the city’s population just doesn’t quite look right?
-Fats Domino’s performance of “Blueberry Hill” was a stunner. In its own way, it was the show’s best moment.
-Antoine’s storyline with his two students, particularly the trumpeter, provided Treme‘s best moments for its regular characters. Every moment that they’re together on screen is wonderful television, and every moment that Antoine boggles at city’s utter inability to provide what seem like basic services is even better. Antoine isn’t after anything special after all; he’s after educational assistance for a young woman who struggles to read, precisely the sort of student that one might assume a school would be designed to help. Not so in New Orleans after the storm.
More importantly (and little spoken of) -- the musical scenes throughout the show almost always feature men. Yes, we get Miss Erma singing her heart out later in the episode, but so often throughout Treme, we see men playing music and women (sometimes) singing. Even the odious Annie only really came into her own once she stopped playing music and started singing songs. But Antoine’s two most talented students are young women; the shows he takes them too might feature all male bands, but they’re there listening and learning. Whether or not this is intentional -- whether or not it reflects a cultural change in the music itself and who can play it -- it sure is fascinating to watch.
-The interplay between LaDonna and Albert at Gigi’s after Indian practice was sensual. There’s no other word for it. Were LaDonna to actually act upon this flirtation wouldn’t be entirely stunning -- we’ve seen her cheat on Larry before -- but in this particular case it would be relatively unexpected. But no matter; what was interesting was Albert’s apparent game and LaDonna’s interest in the Guardians of the Flame’s traditions. Although she isn’t allowed to know specifics (a gender thing, apparently), Albert still teases the possibility of revealing the meaning of “Hey Pocky Way” via other means.* Shall we say.
-Based upon the previews for next week’s Mardi Gras episode (already?), Albert’s refusal to get treatment didn’t appear to be a roadblock to him performing. I thought for sure we would see him transition out of (and Delmond transition) into the responsibility, although I’m not sure how a chiefdom changes hands amongst the city’s Indians. Still, it seems like Albert will be up there, cancer and all, being the prettiest in the city.
-The brief conversation between Terry Colson and his connection at the FBI is subtle, but what it quietly emphasizes -- that both know they have a serious problem on their hands with the Henry Glover case (the victim Toni and J.P. are researching) -- hints at a bigger story that we’ll hopefully get more of before the end of the season.
-Desiree’s anger at the destruction of her mother’s house seems to suggest that she’s planning to hit back. How else to interpret a very determined woman saying, “They fucked with the wrong people. They fucked with me and mine.” Then she says she needs to figure out a way to fuck the people that fucked her. It’s like she’s reached a breaking point, one that anybody watching the show can only enthusiastically support.
A sidenote: I think that people assume that there are pro-government (Democrat) and anti-government (Republican) people occupying the world. I think that’s unfortunate. Seems like there are an awful lot of people who want competent government. Whether or not such a thing is possible might be beside the point; its what those people want, especially when the Wild Wild West is out there beyond the government’s existence. David Simon’s shows have repeatedly made this point. Whether it was Homicide‘s occasionally callous detectives or The Wire‘s innocent bystanders or Treme‘s “city-planning,” it seems clear that people victimized by their government aren’t necessarily against it conceptually so much as they’re against it in reality. There aren’t many politicians capable of making that point in such a way as to get elected.
-At a certain point, my praise of the following will become more cretinous than appropriate, but Treme again featured imperfect nudity. This time, it was that of a stripper, a woman who looked like a woman and not like some idealized creature designed to look like a man somewhere thinks a woman is supposed to look like. Again, I don’t know if this is intentional, but it sure is welcome.
-Annie might have had two lines this week. That is actual, serious progress.
-This week’s episode was Sonny and Davis heavy. That’s problematic:
-Sonny’s fall off the wagon came out of nowhere; so to did his (apparent) recommitment to sobriety. Him begging Linh’s father for forgiveness was welcome, but my living room collectively hoped that he was going to crash on his rush to work during the show’s opening. I think I had assumed that Sonny was going to be the show’s doorway character into the region’s Vietnamese fishing culture, but with Treme only having a five-episode fourth season left, it seems like there isn’t enough time to begin an exploration there. As such we’re stuck with a character who is neither capable of showing us a new side of the city nor otherwise compelling.
-Although Davis has his moments, it is impossible to believe that he’s yet again putting himself on the city’s cutting edge of political music. He seems to be nothing more than a spoiled rich kids enjoying the best that the city has to offer. He’s irresponsible in his work; he’s irrepressible with his ideas; he’s overconfident to the point of absurdity. The only good that Davis brings to the show are those that surround him. Aunt Mimi’s always a treat. So are the musicians he (inexplicably) makes connections with. But for the third year in a row, Davis’s music is getting the time and attention of those around him: he had his song and nascent City Council campaign the first season, then he worked with L’il Calliope last season, and now he’s getting his opera together. It’s all too much to stomach.
-Janette’s return to the restaurant business in New Orleans is going…well, not so much badly as it is not going according to the mythology of cooking that Anthony Bourdain. Whether he wrote tonight’s arc for Janette or not, there seems to be an ongoing attempt to capture the industry’s good and bad. The good is the loyalty of the ronin-like cooks who wander the countryside, looking for the opportunity to prepare food; the bad is the marketing of that food, as if reaching out to potential customers is some sort of high crime. You’ll excuse me if I don’t really believe that Janette has anything to complain about. She chose to partner-up with the guy she’s now working for; she never bothered to ask whether he had policies she disagreed with or whether she’d be asked to engage in actually selling the product she presumably wants customers to buy. Beyond that, it should also be noted that her own attempt to own her own restaurant failed. She did it her way and it didn’t work. Maybe her partner’s will. I say this as somebody appalled at the way her partner does business but cognizant of the fact that we haven’t seen her be given serious reason to complain, despite what appears to be her discomfort.
-Nobody’s read this far, which is good, because this next part won’t be popular: Without going too far down this road, this show continues to have a problem with its white versus its not-white characters. We see the show’s white characters constantly whining. We saw it with Creighton in the first season (a character who had no reason to complain given the genuine suffering going on all around him), we see it still with Davis, and Sonny, and to a lesser extent, Toni and Janette. (Maybe there’s a gender thing that I’m missing.) Meanwhile, Desiree and Antoine get up each day and go to work, despite the government tearing down their property. Albert continues to work on plastering during the day and his suit-making at night. LaDonna is violently assaulted and returns to the place that houses those horrible memories and carries on.
I don’t know if this is intentional, but as this show goes forward, it gets harder and harder to ignore. It just so happens that the show’s white characters are the show’s least compelling. I don’t know if this is by design. I don’t know if we’re meant to recognize that there’s a significant difference between how the white characters and the non-white characters interact with their city. But it’s there in the scripts and it’s there on the screen.