If a city exists unimpeded by any sort of outside force, it will become the victim of entropy. Cultures and influences from different areas bleed into the sinew of a city and force it to become something else. Likewise, traumas can force a city to reexamine itself at the outset of rebuilding. Like a student transferring to a new school, there is an opportunity for reinvention. None of this is particularly negative, and in some cases the results are a net positive, but on some level the choice has to be made and the new vanguard has to be anointed.
Tonight’s episode of Treme – prophetically entitled ‘Saints’ – starts the clock on a whole new series of possible cultural influences on New Orleans, some more willing to take their post than others.
We get confirmation that Janette fully rejected the restaurant proposal she was given at the end of last season. Still, in spite of her preemptive dismissal of a similar offer last week, her possible benefactor comes back to try to woo her. The sting of her past failure weighs on her, though, and she tries to use her struggles as a business owner to back out. Undeterred, her potential partner gives her a golden pledge – that all she will have to worry about is cooking, not business. “The bullshit,” he tells her with unguarded enthusiasm, “that’s my job.”
Even her current boss knows that the move would be the best for her, and that staying in New York is a kind of exile from worry for her. He gives her an implicit blessing, and asks her to at least go see the space her new restaurant would inhabit. She can bring her “next level” cooking to New Orleans, and since she’s recently begun putting modern spins on old standard dishes, the odds are she could revitalize and pay homage to the city and food she loves.
Antoine similarly finds himself as the cultivator of the next step in the culture of New Orleans. Recognizing potential in one of his students, Jennifer, he strives to forge a bond with her over classic New Orleans sounds. He lauds her performance on the marching band, and there follows a fantastic scene wherein the two of them sit in an empty classroom singing a call and response along to an old jazz record. Then, with his wife coming along as a kind of guard against recrimination, he takes a few of his students to the Preservation Hall to see one of a number of outstanding musical numbers this episode, Tootie Ma is a Big Fine Thing by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
This comes at a crucial time for Antoine, not only because his own sons are rejecting music, but because he just found out that two of his students were suspended for fighting. The cause of the fight: rumors of snitching to the police. Crime came back to New Orleans not long after the storm, and while it has touched a number of people in our cast throughout the seasons, it mainly remains an outside influence on their lives more than a direct conflict. It is just another one of those things threatening to hold back the fledgling progress these souls seek to make.
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