Treme Review: “Poor Man’s Paradise” (Season 3, Episode 9)

We are one episode away from the end of this season of Treme, and while some story lines find themselves snapping, their tension released in one way or another, certain other lines have only wound more tightly, waiting for the final turn to come in next week’s episode. We have spent a long time coming here and endured alongside these characters through their fair share of triumphs and tribulations, and seeing the direction some of them are on course to travel is heartbreaking.

There are movements big and small in this episode, with much of the larger narrative progression taking place in the stories that have larger social and economic implications as well as person stakes. The episode opens with Terry entering a house belonging to an acquaintance of a suspect in a shooting. He does this after getting into a small row with his ride-along partner, who continues his streak of immature responsibility dodging, doubling down on his contempt for Terry by pointing out that he isn’t so clean either before declining to enter the house.

Terry catches a beating from the suspects inside, who successfully flee, and returns to the front of the house to find not only his partner, but the two uniformed officers who are supposed to be acting as backup treating him with distain, even as blood drips from his mouth to his shirt. Later on, his request for a transfer is denied, and the implication is clear: he can either play ball or quit, but his place in the department is in peril no matter what.

This painful realization may be mitigated somewhat, however, by the renewed attention of Toni. After successfully finding someone who witnessed and is willing to testify to Officer Wilson’s brutality, Toni contacts the FBI to air her suspicions of Terry from last week. The Agent treats her concerns with dismissiveness, however, and when she angrily confronts him he clues her in: Terry was setting out to prove the same maleficence that Toni wants to stop, and was trying to find out who he could trust. Terry’s been talking to the FBI for a long time.

Melissa Leo’s acting in this moment is fantastic. Obviously she wants to hide her feelings for Terry from this agent, and at first she has to feign professionalism, before then having to suppress her glowing, blossoming happiness at hearing Terry is just as honest as she always hoped. The scene between her and David Morse back in his pathetic FEMA trailer is equally as compelling, especially when Terry smilingly torpedoes his own tough guy act by admitting he landed no punches against his assailant.

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