Treme Season Finale Review: “Tipitina” (Season 3, Episode 10)

Treme Season 3 Episode 10 Tipitina Season Finale 6 Treme Season Finale Review: Tipitina (Season 3, Episode 10)

Last week I mused that Treme had far too many plot points too far from any kind of resolution for them to be wrapped up in this single episode. I worried that this episode would skip out on any kind of closure and instead just deliver another stellar episode that advances a plot that never could have delivered any conceivable conclusion. We are following lives, after all. What is the conclusion of a life? It’s the main problem with following a loving a show as all-encompassing as Treme, but also one of it’s chief pleasures. Luckily, this season finale does provide us with some very real forms of resolution, if not complete closure, while also energizing us for the final season of the show, which will be coming next year.

The major through-line of this episode is the burgeoning community effort to get Gigi’s – Ladonna’s recently torched bar – back on its feet. In fact, the opening scene of Ladonna talking to an insurance investigator contains one of the episode’s most chilling images, that of Ladonna standing in the blackened, charred husk of her bar as the light from a window is slowly shut out by a board being nailed over it. This, after she just argued with the insurance agent over some old infractions, and assaulted the blackmailer who still wanted to extort her for money for “noise violations.” The one bright spot is that she finds a picture of Albert in his Indian costume relatively intact.

Antoine, meanwhile, is helping to rally musicians and other local businesses to create a benefit concert to help Ladonna get back on her feet. He goes to tell her about this plan, and gets her gratitude as well a query regarding whether or not Albert will be in attendance. Antoine tells her he will be, but not in a singing capacity, playing as though her interest might be musical, but the look on his face  says that he might have an idea regarding her real interest.

On top of that, Antoine is working to cultivate some of the younger musical talent he sees in his class, creating a special Saturday tutoring session for any interested kids. He claims that he knows that he may have reached the peak of his talent, but he is still interested in making a mark on the musical culture of New Orleans, even if that just means helping to bring the newest generation of great artists into the light. It’s a sign of his maturation, right on the same level as him paying a cab driver with a tip after not arguing over the route.

At the same time, Desiree, Antoine’s wife, is seeing the fruits of her labors as Mayor Nagin is raked over the coals regarding the NOAH program and the massive waste of federal funding. As she said before, they messed with the wrong people, and now they are going to have to pay for it. It’s a good resolution to an arc that has been running all season, one that gave actor Phyllis Montana LeBlanc some great moments of her own outside of being Antoine’s put-upon wife.

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Elsewhere in New Orleans, others are struggling to swallow the bitter fruits of their success. Janette in particular is having trouble releasing the control she feels she deserves to have over her restaurant. She wants to take the crawfish ravioli off the menu, resenting its status as the signature dish of her restaurant, not to mention the fact that crawfish is going out of season. This leads to one of the many dust-ups she has with Tim over the course of the episode, including firing one of her chefs and the simple use of her name at the benefit. It’s a very real way to illustrate that in bringing her restaurant to life, she’s basically had to sell herself to a devil she wasn’t quite ready to dance with. When she looks up at the restaurant from the outside, she wears the same expression as someone staring at a prison.

Davis, too, is struggling over a few events in his life of late. Fed up with the music scene, he records one final track on his R&B sampler simply titled “I Quit,” but thanks to the viral success of the song on YouTube the R&B sampler flies off the shelf, putting Davis in something of a quandary - how can he come back to music and capitalize on the success of his song when the song itself says that he quit. Worse than that, his friends have been throwing gigs at him as charity to help during his tough times, including a Bar Mitzvah wherein he is upstaged by the man of the hour himself, a teenager who can tickle the ivories with aplomb.

Annie gets her record put out, and in the celebration that follows she takes up with one of the members of her band, who spends the night with her. It’s a final nail in the coffin of her relationship with Davis. There’s a heartbreaking scene at the end with her leaving the house they shared, piling her things into her bandmates’ van and casting one forlorn look back at Davis. The relationship may have been on the rocks for a while, but the final bit of closure is still hard to take, considering how much I loved those two as a couple. Still, this is the way the world works, and sometimes something good falls apart in the wake of two lives going off on their own direction.

Speaking of things falling apart, Del and Albert’s work with the jazz center comes to an end after they realize that even if the project gets off the ground, the fence around Armstrong Park will remain. Del even gives back his consulting fee, which leaves Nelson flabbergasted. This happens at the benefit concert for Ladonna, a centerpiece sequence that brings together the most characters of this series in a single places that I believe we have ever seen. A wonderful tracking shot gives us an idea of the full depth and breadth of this series.

The best part of the shot may be when Ladonna – holding a fresh plate of food from Janette – runs into Albert, wearing a fresh new fedora to cover his newly bald head, and gets a lift home from him, walking out as Desiree walks in. Somewhere in the background at Sonny and Linh, who are happily engaged and married by the end of the episode during an equally impressive montage charting our main casts’ fortunes. Sonny sat on piano for Del, and after saying goodbye Sonny tells Linh he might not be able to give up music, at which point she says she never asked him to. If Annie and Davis can’t make it, I guess we just have to pin our hopes on Sonny and Linh for a happy romantic ending.

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Or maybe not. Let this go down as the episode that finally finds Toni and Terry together. Terry is getting more and more flak from his office, up to and including an attempt at framing in the form of some drugs left in the trunk of his patrol car. In this midst of this maelstrom, however, he and Toni end up together, two fools in the name of good finally finding one another. This leads to a hilariously awkward scene wherein Terry wakes up in his boxers to get a drink, only to find Sofia standing in the foyer, freshly arrived from college. The moment lingers long enough to become painfully comic, with great beats from each actor. When Sofia goes into her room to unpack and starts smiling, it’s a perfect reflection of how we feel about the union.

LP’s article makes waves, the FBI decides to push forward with Toni’s new witness, and it seems as though justice might finally be served. Unfortunately for Ladonna, the justice system is imperfect. The jury comes back deadlocked on her rape trial, and the judge is forced to declare a mistrial, which leaves Ladonna ruing her situation and her bar. “Burnt me out for nothing…” she says, barely able to comprehend it.

There are so many good lines and good moments in this episode, as there are with all of them. My recaps routinely push the 1,500 word mark, and each time I find myself wishing I had more space, more time, more energy and more memory to soak in and transpose all the details that make this one of the best shows on TV. I encourage you all to go back, revisit each episode, soak in every song and ever moment and then come back here and let me know where I fell flat to help me out for when I come back next season.

Until then, let’s all take a page out of Albert’s book. Time is moving forward, he’s still got his chemo to keep up with, and yet at the forefront of his mind isn’t all that had passed, or all that has happened. Nope, he nestles in and picks up his bead work, sowing the seeds for his own future, and future he is still very much in control of.

So let’s go out with the song that gives this episode it’s name, and let’s all get psyched for what is to come next season.

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