The season arcs of Treme often depend on the accumulation of moments and ideas toward a greater design in the last few episodes. This season, however, seems to be building a real and palpable momentum with every single episode that goes by. The thing is, this thematic and narrative acceleration easily registers in the lives of the characters, and it wouldn’t be hard to conceive of the rest of the season dealing with the fallout from too much forward motion coming too quickly for some people to handle.
If the stress of rapid progress is truly testing anyone in a palpable way just yet, it would probably be Annie and Davis. Annie and her band are doing a showcase in Austin, and while her star is rising, the increased demands on her to continue to gain exposure keep her away from Davis. Their time together is so spare that Davis even helps her during her turn on laundry duty just to spend time with her (though the fact that this was the old J&M records we saw in the first episode might also explain his willingness). Of course, Davis has his own endeavor to tend to, but despite the financial sacrifices he and his aunt have made, things remain slow.
Likewise, Janette is only just now setting down the path toward opening her restaurant, but already some small bumps have appeared in the road. Her and Jacques are set on hiring the best possible workers from the plethora of displaced restaurant workers in New Orleans, while their benefactor seems to be focusing on beauty over all else. This will restrict their ability to serve complex dishes. However, Janette is all passion and fire, and seems capable of creating an effective solution to the problems, conceiving of new dishes that can bring classic New Orleans flavors to a slightly higher plane of culinary regard. This keeps her from treating Jacques like a lover, however, which grates on him visibly, even has he seems completely happy for Janette’s success.
The other prominent pairing in this show – Ladonna and her husband – were in a similarly rocky position for quite a while, but seem to be back on track. Ladonna hammered out a suitable business arrangement with Chief Lambreaux in one of the episode’s best scenes, and after a series of dismal house-hunting defeats, she and her husband may finally have found their perfect new home. This house-hunt is intercut well with Janette’s search for a wait staff, mirroring the scene of the contract negotiations last week.
Chief is happy about the new practice space for his Indians, but he’s on the verge of making some changes to his costume and possibly his routine. Del finds this sudden reversal strange, until the moment his father comes clean with him about his recent lymphoma diagnosis. I was wondering how long Chief would keep this a secret, but it appears the broken bridge between father and son is fully mended now, especially after Chief says he doesn’t want Del’s sisters to know. This doesn’t sit right with Del, though he does convince his father to sign up for a fund that is there to help musicians and “culture-bearers” get the help they need – an act of near-charity that would have been unthinkable for the Chief not long ago, though Albert still scoffs at the idea, not quite comfortable having to “bear culture,” as he puts it. (He’s not the only one benefiting from charity of a kind, though. This week’s episode has Antoine helping out a student whose family can’t pay the heating bill).
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Del isn’t just helping out his father, though. At a gig in town he is approached by a developer looking to make inroads to the musician community for the previously-mentioned jazz center. It’s another moment where the builders of the new New Orleans seem to want to do right by the spirit of their city while still attempting to “monetize the culture,” and time will tell whether or not their intentions are pure, or even effectual.
This is the golden goose of a project that Nelson wishes he was on while he is stuck cleaning up and remediating the houses of owners who don’t even want him there. On the surface, his service is a great one – homeowners know their houses are safe from summary destruction thanks to the rehabbing he does, which they don’t have to pay for – Antoine even tells his wife as much. However, the idea of a government service encroaching upon their property without their knowledge or consent rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Following a confrontation with an unhappy homeowner, Nelson is beginning to wonder whether or not it’s even worth sticking around the City That Care Forgot for much longer. For him, at least, the speed of progress is nowhere near fast enough.
That just leaves the crime fighters, with Toni’s ad seeking complaints against Office Williams making waves, LP’s investigation getting a strange boost, and Terry still struggling against the bureaucratic nightmare that keeps rotten cops on the streets. Toni undergoes a rough scene of trying to convince complainants to come forward with their stories surrounding Officer Williams and being met with the predictable resistance. LP, meanwhile, gets information from a cagey source who tells him that Henry Glover’s body was burned by the police. Whether to keep the body from going putrid due to lack of morgue facilities or to cover up a crime is yet to be determined.
LP comes to Toni’s for dinner, where he and Sofia talk New Orleans metal (all hail Goatwhore!) and decide to take a trip to see a kind of guerilla performance of ‘Waiting For Godot’ where the levies broke. There’s a strange beauty to this scene, and during a suicidal conversation in the play Toni can’t help but break into tears. If someone doesn’t appear, one of the characters affirms that he will hang himself. Toni knows this impulse too well, and the sting from her lost husband isn’t aided by the man next to her saying, “motherfu**er ain’t coming.” The progress of a select few has not translated to full hope for the city, and the fear that something worth living for isn’t coming can’t be held back for long.
Terry, meanwhile, can’t get beyond the politicized red tape in order to get the FBI to start cracking down on the various infractions of the NOPD. Being a straight-laced kind of guy, this impotence of the good guys maddens him to the point that, when his kids bail on him, he hooks up with the hotel manager who previously bumped him up to a suite so his kids wouldn’t have to stay in a possibly dangerous trailer. (This, as it turns out, is a well-founded fear, as this article points out). What this dalliance means for him and Toni is yet to be seen, but I still hold out hope that those two will find one another. Their relationship was the one small ray of hope in a very dour second season.
There’s plenty of potential out there for positive and negative progress. Given the steps forward taken in this episode, it seems odd that Sonny was left out completely, especially since he is now back on the music scene and has consummated his relationship with Linh. I can only assume this might mean that his next step was too big to fit into the already narratively-heavy course of this hour.
The screw gets turned ever further with this episode, but only time will tell what kind of plot Treme is actually building. However, it’s undeniable that this episode left me in a state of excited, nervous agitation for what we’ll see in the weeks to come.Previous