Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Treme: Meet de Boys On The Battlefront.
The allure of a David Simon series lies in the eventual payoff of what can take perhaps half a season to set up. It looks as though Treme will follow that pattern, as its second episode expanded on the lives of a handful of characters, moving them deliberately from one phase of their new lives to the next.
On the surface, it seems like little actually happened this week; most situations resolved themselves without incident (Albert Lambreaux's violent outburst aside) or not at all. Looking deeper, though, this episode set up several key points that we'll almost certainly refer back to later in the season -- the exposure of Albert's and Antoine Batiste's major character flaws, Creighton Burnette's growing frustration with government response to Katrina, Janette Desautel's mounting financial troubles.
We're beginning to learn that these are people who do for themselves, asking favors only as a very last and reluctant resort. The most literal example of this was Albert who, we're learning, is somewhat of a Big Deal in New Orleans. His tools were stolen before he could start work on a rich client's water-damaged home, only to have them returned by the fence who bought them. It takes more than a respected reputation to have that influence -- you've got to be able to frighten the hell out of people. And we saw why, as Albert tracked down the thief by himself and basically kicked the crap out of him. Albert clearly has enough pent-up rage to make him capable of doing some serious damage, but it's also likely that his vigilante-style methods of exacting revenge are going to backfire on him sooner rather than later.
Antoine's fondness for the strange became apparent this week -- no sooner was he getting busted by his ex-wife LaDonna for having kids by at least three women (that we know of) than he was making eyes at a stripper while playing a gig. Also: live jazz music at a strip club? It's easy to see why people love New Orleans. I'm enjoying the cracking chemistry between Antoine and LaDonna during the few brief exchanges they've had so far, but finding it tough to become invested in the search for her missing brother, Daymo -- though that can be chalked up to the fact that we haven't met him yet or learned anything concrete about his whereabouts. Let's hope this storyline will eventually lead us further into the problematic workings of the OPP (which stands for Orleans Parish Prison and not, as Naughty By Nature taught us, Other People's Property). The rest of what we saw this episode traced over lines drawn by the pilot. Davis couldn't resist going his own way, getting fired first from WWOZ and then from his new gig as a front desk clerk at a Bourbon St. hotel. Meanwhile, Janette's problems felt more germane to New Orleans's uniquely bizarre situation: while business is booming at the restaurant, but she literally can't afford to hire a staff until she gets insurance money that might be months in coming. Her problems are the perfect metaphor for a city that desperately wants to make itself right again but lacks the basic tools for doing so.
Lastly, we met two new characters this week -- Sonny (Michiel Huisman) and Annie (classical violinist Lucia Micarelli), street musicians who hooked up following the hurricane and have forged an uneasy alliance in the name of making money. And with that, it's safe to say we've met enough series regulars to last us for awhile. Okay, writers, you've got plenty to play with. Go play.
It would be unfair not to mention that music itself plays a vital role in Treme, and is really a character in and of itself, embellished by appearances by music all-stars like Elvis Costello. For me the standout performances this week included a solo performance of "Walking with the Spirit" by New Orleans native Coco Robicheaux, Sonny and Annie letting loose on blues standard "Careless Love," and a wonderful toe-tapping rendition of "Blackbird Special." Winner: Robicheaux, because no other character capped their performance with the slaughter of a rooster on live radio.
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AVI Files, 1.2 Gb -Video: 1280 x 720 - 2327 Kb average Bit Rate. Sound: 256 Kbps mp3.