Season 3 of Treme kicks off Sunday and after watching for two seasons I’m truly curious to see what direction co-creators David Simon and Eric Overmyer will be taking the characters. My interest in Treme began to wane a bit last year during season 2. While with some characters I became truly curious about their storyline, others I almost wished would go away. (Davis McAlary I’m looking at you) So to prepare myself for season 3, I watched the hour and half long finale of season 2.
While I thought it was convenient how a lot of the storylines wrapped themselves up very nicely almost as if they weren’t sure about getting picked up for season 3, I realized how much I enjoyed this show and why. I love how David Simon is able to weave historical events and real people into the fabric of storytelling. This is what made The Wire such an amazing show. He used his knowledge as a journalist to produce storylines that show the audience the gritty reality to the point where you almost forget they are actors on a set. In season 2, the characters had to deal with real life events such as the Danziger bridge shooting, government corruption, increase in crime/murder, and the unscrupulous land grab by developers. All real life issues the people of New Orleans have to deal with in the aftermath of Katrina while trying to rebuild their lives. So what does David Simon have in store for us in season 3?
I always assumed that at some point in season 2 they would begin to deal with the BP oil spill. The storyline of Sonny seemed to be going that way when he tasked to work on a shrimp boat in the Gulf to help overcome his addiction. They threw out a big hint in the season 2 finale when Sonny and the shrimp boat captain were looking at a small oil leak from one of the pumps in the Gulf. Sonny asks how many drill sites are out in the Gulf and the Captain replies “thousands”. It will be interesting to see if they delve into this historical event and how the people of New Orleans had to deal with getting kicked while they were down. Seems like a large story for such a smaller character profile such as Sonny.
Janette, the executive chef, was last seen in New Orleans with investors looking for a place to open a new restaurant. She is currently living and working in New York for chef David Chang. Although they have made her choice seem agonizing, I think we all know she has to return to New Orleans in order to advance her storyline. Also Anthony Bourdain is on the writing staff again this season so I expect a well thought out restaurant theme and great writing. We saw her struggle to keep a restaurant open post Katrina only to fail and have to close in the first season. Not because of her food but simply the cost of doing business was too much. Not to mention lack of paying customers and tourists. I’m truly curious to see if this will be a plot line showing the road to success or another struggle to keep her head above water. No pun intended. I’m thinking it will be more along the lines of showing how the restaurant industry is picking itself back up finally in New Orleans.
Nelson Hidalgo was an interesting addition to season 2. His character was one you love to hate. He plays a middle man for land developers who use their money and influence to buy up cheap land in New Orleans. Coming from Dallas, he sees New Orleans only as dollar signs, not people. Nelson’s task is the demolition of houses to make way for a new hospital. This is an actual event in New Orleans in which people are very upset about. The city is claiming eminent domain in a historical area of New Orleans which would mean the destruction of homes and eviction of families. The sad fact is they have an old hospital that can be renovated at a lesser cost. I think David Simon is going to take this issue head on in season 3. Government corruption has always been a part of New Orleans but during this rebuilding phase it is affecting many citizens just trying to catch a break. But where will Nelson land on this storyline? Continue to work for the unscrupulous land developers or will he have an epiphany of the hurt it is causing and change things? They sort of alluded to this fact when his cousin asks him “What do you do? What have you built?” and he didn’t have an answer.
One of my favorite storylines focuses on the police corruption post Katrina. Of course this is right in David Simon’s wheelhouse but what he explores in this storyline is how after the disaster the city was like the Wild West. Shoot first and ask questions later. Season 2 talked about a real life police shooting on the Danziger bridge but they created a similar storyline about a possible police shooting in a department store for the characters to explore. Toni Bernette, a legal aid attorney and actually based on a real person, was tasked to investigate this crime. She leans on a friend in the police department, Terry Colson played by one of those actors you always say “oh hey its that guy!” David Morse. Colson begins to investigate this shooting for Toni until he runs into the road block of a police department cover up. Season 3 may prove daunting for Toni and Colson with their relationship now fractured and both have approached the FBI to investigate this case. It was hard to tell if the FBI was seriously going to investigate police corruption or just sweep it under the carpet. I have a feeling we will find out. There were many incidents of malicious police conduct post Katrina so they have plenty of events to recreate if they wish for season 3.
Music has always been at the forefront of this series as it should be. Music has the ability to lift spirits in the worst of times. It is the vibrant culture of New Orleans that sets it apart from any other city. Jazz was started in the Treme section of New Orleans known for its numerous whorehouses at the time. Simon has incorporated some of the best known artists in New Orleans to appear and play on this show. Although I have to say watching the characters fake dance in the audience is always weird. I’m looking forward to see who shows up this season. Hopefully another spot by one of my favorite bands, Galactic. Season 2 saw trombone player Antoine Baptiste’s band fall apart under his reign but it also began another interesting storyline. Antoine took a job teaching music to kids in the school system and during the finale after his band breaks up we see him playing on a street corner with kids from his class. This reminds me of the season of The Wire which focused on the kids of Baltimore.
This instance it has a more uplifting feel to it. Hopefully season 3 can show us more of this passing along the passion of jazz onto the youth. In season 2, we also saw Delmond and Albert Lambreaux team up to record a fusion of Delmond’s jazz with Albert’s “indian” singing. Delmond, the son, has finally turned the corner and is moving back to New Orleans to help his father rebuild their house. Season 3 may be more contentious for Albert. Albert is a fighter of injustice and is a proud man. I have a feeling Albert, as big chief of the indians, will have another run in with the New Orleans police. I guess I need to mention the Annie and Davis McAlary storyline. It really became boring and weird. I mean I get it, Davis McAlary is eccentric. Davis, played by Steve Zaun, does provide some comic relief but I’m not sure what to pull from his storyline. Is it that privileged white guys in New Orleans can be into jazz as well? What’s more interesting is how Annie, his girlfriend, is dealing with the death of her musician friend and her music career. I think in season 3, we will see her slide away from Davis and begin to really explore her song writing. Something about depression and anguish creates great songs with feeling. Davis…well hopefully they either make it interesting or do away with him.
I certainly can be wrong about many of these plot directions but one thing is for certain. As I said before, no one is better at blending real life events and storylines together to create great television better than David Simon. As we see in the below sneak preview scene from season 3, the contentious relationship between the people and and the police is at a boiling point. Antoine Baptiste and Glen Andrews (real musician) recreate an event that actually occurred. A large group gathers to play a funeral march for fellow musician, Kerwin James, when the police show up telling them to stop playing because of noise complaints. Andrews begins singing right in the officer’s face. From what I hear, it was re-enacted perfectly with the passion of the people and musicians at their breaking point with the police who have insulted their culture again and again. But that is post Katrina New Orleans. People having to overcome odds stacked up against them to rebuild their culture and city while an underbelly of corruption, crime and terrible events drag them down. Their everyday struggle makes you inspired and shake your head at times but whether they succeed or fail you know you are experiencing almost first hand what the people experience. Season 3 starts Sunday at 10pm EST. In the meantime catch up on season 2 on DVD or Blu-ray!