It would be difficult to think of another example of film or television that captures a sense of place with as much affection and detail as Treme. The lingering effects of Katrina place a practical obligation on the show as well—the experiences we see are based in reality. But it's still too early to discern what the show will ultimately become, which has led to some critical and defensive reactions, on this site and elsewhere. "Tell me," writes Natasha Vargas-Cooper in this humorous exchange at The Awl, "what you find SO REWARDING about this labored NPR segment of a show?"
Perhaps the ambiguity of Treme is intentional—Creigh's discourse on ignoring plot seemed to imply as much—and as the series continues we'll likely see that the first season was a long exposition for the narrative ahead. If The Wire took a television story arc from an episode to an entire season, will Treme take that arc from a season to a series? One can't help but feel we've only begun to receive hints about who our protagonists are.
In the meantime, what we're left with is some very good acting, memorable cultural set pieces, and not much of a story. As Davis said to Jeanette last week, "There are so many beautiful moments here." "They're just moments," she responded. "Not a life."
Treme's 90-minute season finale, directed by Agnieszka Holland, who also directed the pilot, offered a number of stylistic bookends to the season. Like the first episode, the finale ended with a funeral procession, including Antoine once again telling the Treme Brass Band to "play for that motherfucking money!" And the final shots are of Antoine conversing with the same cab driver he bargained with in the early moments of the series.
"He quit," Toni grieved last night after Creighton's drowned body is pulled out of the Mississippi River. Creigh's will details a playlist for his funeral second line, but a distraught Toni plans a cremation instead. "The whole goddamn city is down on its ass," she declares. "I can't dance for him when he quit."
LaDonna buried Daymo after again refusing an independent autopsy. "It's like the truth doesn't set them free sometimes," Toni's colleague observes. "It's just another burden they have to bear." Antoine booked a $1,000 gig with Allen Toussaint, only to lose his pay playing poker with the other musicians (lest we think he has his act too together after the responsible Antoine we saw in the last episode). Jeannette gives Davis a day to convince her to stay in New Orleans, which begins with beignets and John Boutté singing Sam Cooke on her doorstep—"That moment can't happen in New York," Davis warns—but she's still waiting for a plane by the credits. Davis needs money to record an album, so he begs back his old DJ gig at WWOZ. Annie, without a place to live after catching Sonny naked with another woman, turns to Davis. And Albert, Delmond, and Davina sewed incessantly in anticipation of St. Joseph's night.
There was also a mid-episode montage of characters similar to the "Buena Serra" montage from the pilot, again set in context of Davis's radio show. Here it's "My Indian Red," which Davis dedicates to the Indians who are preparing to mask. It's reminiscent of the end-of-season montages David Simon employed in The Wire, gently checking in on each of the figures we've come to care and be curious about. And the pre-storm flashbacks during Daymo's funeral were unexpected but welcome. The scenes of the characters scrambling to leave—or not—were some of the season's moments of greatest urgency, made even more engaging because we know what's coming.
What we're wondering: Where will the show pick up next season? How much time will have passed, if any? We don't have too many lingering story lines—how will Jeanette fare in New York? Will Davis release his album and shack up with Annie? And will the introduction of flashbacks color the episodes to come? I hope we see more of Creighton and Daymo, if that's the case.
Anyone else catch Wendell Pierce's little nod to Bunk—"Antoine Baptiste is strictly a cooked fish motherfucker"—while at the sushi bar with Trombone Shorty? Also, I had assumed that Antoine lost his trombone case in the storm, but it's missing even before he evacuates.
Those of you watching in New Orleans, how have your reactions to the show grown or shifted over the course of the season?
Music worth watching for: The Treme Brass band playing "I'll Fly Away" for Daymo's funeral second line, and LaDonna dancing for her brother; Irma Thomas belting out "Time is on My Side," with Dave Bartholomew on trumpet. And of course, the singing and percussion of the Indians on St. Joseph's, brilliant in their suits as they emerge from the dark bar into the evening. Later, two Indian gangs chant and face off during a charged, but peaceful, confrontation. "Respect for respect," Delmond says.
Past Treme responses: