As I started watching this new episode, for a second I thought I was watching Game of Thrones. The show switched from storyline to storyline very quickly and with 11 storylines it was a bit daunting. Also when you watch Treme, you know there is going to be musical performances and this episode was certainly music heavy. At least four of the storylines involve characters who are musicians so it is to be expected. I, for one love New Orleans style jazz but if you don’t, well you probably won’t like Treme. The storylines not based on actual events continue to drag but those based around real events post Katrina are starting to ramp up. This week I’ll break it down into what I liked and didn’t like this episode.
Always start with the bad news first so I will begin with what I didn’t like. One storyline I haven’t mentioned much in my previous articles on Treme involves LaDonna Batiste-Williams. It was nice to see at the end of season 2 her ability to somewhat get past the beating and rape she endured in her bar and realize with the help of her husband to reopen the bar and move back to New Orleans. The first two episodes have pretty much shown her being pissed off about her living situation. I don’t think we needed two episodes of LaDonna being upset with her rich snot-nosed sister-in-law. I understand they are trying to show her being proud of her roots in the poor section of New Orleans where her bar is located but we got that point after one interaction.
And again the Davis McAlary storyline lacks any direction. He is certainly a better supporting character to Annie which I will talk about more in the “things I liked” section, but as a main character without a real storyline is terrible. The throwaway scene with him and John Boutte, a New Orleans musician, making bad jokes back and forth adds nothing to show. Although more John Boutte would be great. He seems to be more of a pass through character they have to write for in order to work the cameos with real musicians in. More real musicians and less Davis McAlary would be fantastic.
They have for some reason slowed down the Delmond and Albert Lambreaux storylines. Albert finds out he has trouble with his lungs after years of working with plaster and breathing in mold. This may pan out to be interesting since he is the “big chief” indian and needs to be able to sing. Delmond is now living in New Orleans and New York thus seemingly living a double life. After a great second season where both characters worked together to create this fusion jazz/indian album, we have seen no new direction for either character.
Now on to what I liked which is usually way more than what I didn’t like. As I stated above, this episode was about the music of Treme. We see the music scene from many angles. Annie is still working on her own band and trying to make a name for herself. She is using music written by her friend who was shot and killed last season. She talks with a manager who says she needs to play more shows and write more music, her own music. Her boyfriend, Davis McAlary, provides some foreshadowing for us when he states that New Orleans has a history of musicians being screwed by unscrupulous managers. It will be very interesting to see if she can avoid this pitfall but also be able to write her own music.
We also see how music can be a safe haven in a world full of despair. Antoine Batiste continues his work with the school band and during a practice two band mates get into a brawl. It seems one student supposedly snitched on another’s family member concerning a shooting. Batiste learns that the band is a safe haven for these kids to avoid the struggles of life outside. Sometimes it is just simple things such as music that can make a world of difference in a child’s life. In a world of chaos since Katrina learning to appreciate and play music can bring order. This also included one of my favorite scenes of Antoine taking a couple of his students to see the Preservation Hall Band. It only took three seasons to get to the Preservation Hall Band but it was well worth the wait.
Aside from the music aspect we saw the acceleration of a number of storylines centered around real life events. L.P. Everett, the college reporter, is starting to get deeper into his investigation into the shooting of a black male near Algiers. He quickly learns about the looting of businesses and how locals formed posses to combat this looting. Post Katrina sounded like the Wild West and from documentaries I’ve seen it most definitely was. What he learns is a man was shot and taken to the police station for medical attention but the police took the victim and drove off with him. The victim’s body was later found incinerated in a car. I remembered hearing about this story in Spike Lee’s HBO documentary If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise. And speaking of the glorious New Orleans police department, we see another real life case being investigated by Detective Terry Colson concerning a much loved hair dresser who was beaten to death. He finds out the case is being worked already and the evidence has been bungled. I guess once the wheels came off during the Katrina aftermath for the New Orleans police it was impossible to get them back on.
I am really starting to enjoy Nelson Hidalgo’s “road to redemption” or so it seems. Nelson dives into the New Orleans Affordable Housing (NOAH) initiative by finding out that dirty deals are being done. Sadly this is another event that actually took place. NOAH was tasked to give contractors government money to help rebuild low income housing. As Nelson discovers the contractors are being paid to do little or no work at all. This is his way back into the game. He states he is going to actually rebuild the houses instead just pretending to rebuild them like the other contractors. In order to get a NOAH contract he needs a local connection which turns out to be Robinette, his construction crew manager. As Nelson states to Robinette “Why game the system, when it is already gamed for you.” Kind of sounds like The Wire doesn’t it. I thought Omar was going to pop out and say “It’s all in the game!” Is this his redemption for being a shady middle man for land developers or is this just another angle? We shall see.
Again the stories surrounding the real life events seem to win out and keep the audience intrigued and wanting more. If they can make those storylines more front and center to the show it would go a long way towards making this a must-see drama. The flashing back and forth between all 11 stories makes a very disjointed episode. I tend to be overly critical of Treme because its hard not to hold it to the HBO standards of The Wire, Sopranos, and Game of Thrones. But one thing is for certain Treme does docu-drama incredibly well and looks like we will see much more of that in upcoming episodes.
As I mentioned in this article Spike Lee’s HBO documentary is fantastic and worth a viewing.