This week on "Treme," the characters struggle to deal with their place in a changing city.
[Spoiler Alert] There are ways in which this season of Treme is very specific to its moment - the NOAH story, particularly - but just as the production opened its timeline to include the Memorial Auditorium story that actually took place in 2009, it feels like this season is talking as much about where New Orleans is now as where it was in 2007 and 2008. Perhaps that's because some of the issues we're dealing with now started to come into focus then, or maybe it's because their roots were in this time period.
Almost across the board, the cast are forced to contemplate their place in the city that New Orleans is becoming. Janette (Kim Dickens) can't simply be the funky, do-as-you-will chef/owner of a restaurant; now she's part of Tim's organization, and he (Sam Robards) sees New Orleans as a great business opportunity. She got what she wanted in that she no longer has to carry the full financial load like she once did, but being a part of a larger business organization robs her of some measure of freedom and makes her feel it even worse. (On a completely side note: has anybody else noticed how infrequently she's gotten laid this season? And the Mardi Gras sex with Davis doesn't count because it was a byproduct of her feeling trapped. Does anybody who meditated on the women of Treme at Back Of Town want to chew on that?)
Right now, we're living through a moment where the city's improvisational culture is coming in conflict with a very government-like city government, something we're unaccustomed to, and that collision between the very forgiving, insulating place New Orleans once was with the national stage its becoming is similarly biting Davis (Steve Zahn) on the ass. New Orleans has always loved and championed its eccentrics and marginal figures, but he's being forced to realize that he's one of them, and that the city's not as charitable as it once was. When the stakes were low, no one cared too much, but I gather that the label Aunt Mimi (Elizabeth Ashley) is running is successful enough that it can't release his own shaky music in the way she once might have.
Last season, his story was largely comic; this season, it's more real and more painful as Davis is being forced to honestly reappraise his own talents, so it's no surprise that his worst moment comes when he tries to assert himself in the one arena that he feels he knows - music - at Annie's recording session. It also doesn't help that Annie (Lucia Micarelli) is having the career he'd like to have while his own aunt spikes his pet project.
Annie faces her own questions about her place in a more professional city when she deals with the songwriting credits for "This City." Not being accustomed to a more indulgent New Orleans, she's not as troubled by the change that's in the air and deals with the credits with little drama and only a modicum of ethically dubious compromise. People have claimed a share of the songwriting credit for lesser contributions.
Antoine (Wendell Pierce) deals with it in his own way, considering whether he should try to play more modern jazz, but almost as quickly as the question comes up, Lionel Ferbos helps settle his mind. Antoine settles into his place in the Old New Orleans. He'll never be big league, but he's okay with that. I can see others taking issue with raising a potential story arc in one episode and resolving it in the next, but not everything that happens in our lives take a lot of time to complete. Besides, it looks like the realization will influence how he moves forward.
Terry (David Morse) comes from the other side of this equation. He's trying to be the agent of change for a more professional police department, and all season he has encountered heavy resistance from those who prefer the more ad hoc approach. This week it comes to a head when his partner and the uniformed cops sell him out and let him take a beating without back-up or any interest in the thugs he was after. (I loved the casting of rapper Dee-1 as a thug. In our recent conversation, he talked about being a motivational speaker and being tapped by Mayor Landrieu to be part of a Stop the Violence effort.)
Needless to say, a more business-friendly New Orleans has Nelson (Jon Seda) at his oily finest, and only Delmond (Rob Brown) seems to see the trade-offs clearly without being in a state of breakdown. "You stay in New Orleans, you're making a choice," his manager says, but that's less true than it once was. The challenge everybody has been dealing with this season and in the last few real years is how we handle that new reality.
Next week on the season 3 finale:
- I predicted a storyline about GiGi's running into noise complaints. While I was right, I didn't expect the storyline to be resolved so quickly or so flammably. In another bit of ironic casting, it was fun to see musician Jesse Moore as the city inspector coming in to talk about noise complaints.
- It was great to see one of my favorite sax players in the city, Tim Green (last season part of Antoine's Soul Apostles) sitting behind Del's manager at the Freddie Hubbard tribute at Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse.
- Annie records "Poor Man's Paradise," the title track from Johnny Sansone's 2007 album.