Note: I apologize for the lateness of this review, sometimes life catches up and fucks you over real good when you least expect it. Anyways, we move forward with episode 6!
A good friend of mine, who is currently living deep in the heart of Texas working on his Masters, called me up and asked about Treme. We’re big fans, so naturally this (and basketball) was the first thing to come up. I asked for his thoughts on the season so far, and we both agreed it was pretty stellar. And then he told me he had read my reviews on the site. Shocked, I asked what he had thought. He simply said: “you don’t talk about heritage at all. That’s the entire show, it’s just about heritage”.
And when you think about it, he’s right. Treme, boiled down to its essence is just about heritage; traditions being passed down from person to person. The only reason New Orleans is what it is, is because of its rich heritage. Mardi Gras, the beads, the music, the jazz, the Saints, the cuisine, it’s all part of the unique ecosystem New Orleans has developed over time. And while there have been a lot of traditions on the show, it seems like the most threatening thing that Hurricane Katrina brought with its destruction was the potential loss of heritage. Without the blood cells running through it, the people, New Orleans was on the verge of death. It’s the website http://www.squanderedheritage.com/ that is the biggest take away for me this episode, and throughout a lot of the stories lied a consistent subtext of David Simon seemingly yelling at the audience “Look at all of this! Wake up and smell the coffee America! Nobody seems to care! Let’s do something about it!”. I’m sure he would have done it in a more sophisticated way, but you know what I mean.
Squandered heritage is essentially the mission statement of the series, and the conversation Desiree has about ‘them and us’ is like a big slap in the face for anyone who wasn’t paying attention. Moments like these were littered throughout the night, the flashiest being Davis’ rock opera about Dick Cheney and the new 9th ward. I think the most subtle and symbolic message has been Chief Lambreaux, rebuilding his house. Season after season the Chief just bunkers down and keeps rebuilding his house, kind of like how New Orleans keeps rebuilding itself after the storm. Now I may be reading too much into things, but you can never do that too much with art. Hell, without author’s intent, I can speculate and conjure up anything I want about the show. That’s the privilege of having a column on a website. Whether it be through the colossal fuck up the police did, and the subsequent cover-up I know LP and Toni will uncover, or the heart breaking attempt by Antoine to make sure one his students can learn to read, Treme is getting overwhelming in its commentary and criticism of the US, and I hope there is more of it to come.
But I’ll get off my high horse (for now) to review the episode, and the best place to start is with the insane escapades of Sonny, the unsung (and un-keyboard) anti-hero fuck up, who as I’m sure you know by now I don’t really care too much for. Even as a diehard fan, I don’t have to care about everyone, and I simply feel there is no reason to care too much about him. From the bizarre French Connection chase opening, to his stint with the stripper, and his eventual breakdown at the end, I kind of just shrug my shoulders through all of it. I don’t think he’s a likeable person, and he deserves whatever he gets. I’m not just hating here, I have the precedent of Bubbles as the loveable drug using hero, whose rise to getting clean is one everyone roots for. I’m not getting the same sense here with Sonny, and the zoom in on his absence in the band was just the thing to take me over the top on the “don’t care” meter. Hopefully there is something redeeming about him, and while I catch a glimpse of it towards the end of the episode, it literally takes someone to walk into his house and tell him to care for me to care. He’s the King Goffrey of Treme to me, and if you disagree feel free to blow me up in the comments.
Wow, I’m cynical today, aren’t I? So let’s get to the rest of the cast, and I’ll go into the lightest of the bunch, and that was obviously going to be Davis. With a lack of Annie this week, Davis stepped it up and brought us some hilarious scenes. The most notable was the conversation with his boss at the radio station, which had me in stitches. I think the best running joke on this show has been that guy who keeps firing Davis, and I love how things went down. Sure, I won’t get any more cute moments with Annie on air with her band, but his super opera easily makes up for it (I hope we get to hear the whole thing by the end). It’s also nice to be able to meet some of the jazz legends, as Davis tries to hire them one by one, allowing the audience to get a little more cultured and knowledge’d at the expense of an awesome rendition of “Blueberry Hill”. Trust me, go onto Youtube and just watch Fats Domino sing his heart out. It’s incredible.
For my money (that HBO will never see), the stand-out of the entire episode was everything involving Antoine, which has now reached season 4 of The Wire levels of social injustice brought to the small screen. This is what makes other shows look like garbage in comparison: the show is willing and eager to tackle something like illiteracy, which yes, is still a problem in some areas. How David Simon is given the money to make these kind of decisions is beyond me, but thank goodness somebody did (he is a certified genius after all). A show dedicated to really investigating and examining the horrible conditions our schools are in deserves millions more viewers, because it’s all true and nobody gives a fuck. It’s terrible, how bureaucracy and red tape and bullshit can seemingly screw entire states out of proper education. And by the end, he’s in a bar, simply enjoying the tradition of music, and trying to pass it down to Jennifer. Some truly great stuff on display, and I hope long after this show ends I get something similar, to fill the empty hole in my heart where transcendent television lies.
The only other real significant storyline going on with “Careless Love” was with the Chief, and it was pretty tough watching deal with chemotherapy. I’m waiting for a ‘circle of life’ reference to come, because it seems pretty clear that the heritage of the tribe is going to pass down through Delmond at some point, and he’s going to have to pick up where the Chief left off. I love the scene with the sisters, who are very concerned with his health, and his decision to postpone treatment until after Mardi Gras (which I agree with). Delmond doesn’t even have to say a word; we know what he’s thinking. I’ll say though, that I die a little every time the Chief coughs. Man, it’s going to be rough when he starts to go. It’s happening guys, I’m preparing myself for it now (you should brace yourselves too). We also got a lot more of LP and Toni snooping around, Sofia being a teenager making HORRIBLE decisions (Six Flags? That’s just asking for trouble, come on. And for the love of all that is holy, dump that douchebag Sofia). Other quick thoughts: I’m now a fan of Eyehategod, so thanks for that. And I really felt sorry for Janette, she’s going through hell, but at least she gets to be on the Today Show next time. But until then, keep it cool fellow babies.