One of the things you cannot avoid when watching Treme is overwhelming sense of despair. Especially after the first season, you found yourself saying “How did these people deal with this?” You end up feeling sorry for the characters and not just one character, I mean all of them. Mostly you feel sorry for the people of New Orleans whom the characters represent. This is what David Simon wants us to see and feel. The characters so far this season have been trying to persevere through these hardships and insults to their lives and culture. This episode was a great example of feeling the despair.
I’ve always said I don’t like the Davis McAlary character because he is more of a pass through, enlightening the viewing audience to the legends of jazz. This season I am slowly understanding why they have created this type of character. Davis is providing the link between the history of the city to its modern state. Nothing proves this more than the scene where Davis is conducting one of his musical heritage tours. He takes the group to see Sidney Bechet’s house only to find a run down building. A woman in the group states that other cities have done the same knocking down the old buildings only to rebuild them anew. Davis corrects her in saying that in New Orleans things are different stating “it is preservation through neglect”. Of course that is his upbeat take on it, except the look on his face is one of sadness as they stare at the decrepit building. The storm destroyed a lot of things in the city but it also exposed their lack of heritage and their ability to solidify its history. Although we have been seeing Delmond Lambreaux meeting with developers to build a National Jazz Center. This looks like their opportunity to preserve their history, unfortunately the people involved seem very shady. Could be another bad New Orleans deal.
We see a very different type of despair when Albert Lambreaux and his son attend a protest outside of a city council meeting. The citizens are not allowed in because the council chambers are already filled with supporters of the proposed destruction of the Iberville projects. A tactic to not let the people of the city voice their concerns. Albert realizes the protest is meaningless as the city council will do what they want no matter what the citizens say. The destruction of the Iberville projects is very real “in your face” type of insult to the people of New Orleans. This constant fight against the injustices and class warfare has clearly taken its toll on Albert. During Christmas dinner, the exhaustion of constantly having to fight the system is very clear in his statement “I’m just tired.” We see a very different Big Chief Lambreaux this season.
Another sad part of the episode was seeing Sonny fall off the wagon. Seemingly sober for quite a while, everything was looking up for him. He had a good job, stable girlfriend, and even began playing music again. But when faced with being invited to meet his girlfriend’s grandmother, an honor in Vietnamese culture, I have a feeling he viewed this a type of commitment. A few of his bandmates goad him into taking part in some type of drug and even tell him “glad to have you back.” This will most likely be a slippery slope considering his girlfriend’s father is also his boss. Still not sure why he did it. Was it the commitment, the pressure, or maybe just the peer pressure from members of the band? Either way, I think we are going from likable Sonny back to Sonny being a real mess and hard to watch.