This week, fear wracks the cast of the HBO drama.
[Spoiler alert] "You can't show them you're afraid," Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters) says in an episode of Treme that focused on fear. He's dealing with it as he faces chemo, and LaDonna (Khandi Alexander) faces it as she's threatened by friends of her rapist. One of the strengths of this season is how a couple of storylines working similar themes make it possible to see all the stories in their light. Thought of in those terms, Antoine (Wendell Pierce) is afraid his musical life is passing him by, Toni (Melissa Leo) is afraid of how the police will further harass Sophie, and Davis (Steve Zahn) is afraid to face his place in the world. Janette (Kim Dickens) walks through this episode with a simmering anxiety as she waits for something to go wrong.
Over at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen (mandatory Treme reading), Sam Wilkinson writes:
Here’s a quick recap of Sonny’s life. Three episodes ago, he was stone cold sober, working on the fishing boat and hanging out with the boss’s daughter at night. Two episodes ago, he was on a raging bender that ended with him awkwardly having sex with a hooker inexplicably taken with what Sonny had to offer (a bit of cocaine). One episode ago, he was sitting at meetings and getting sober again before showing us how sober he is by being the first to work the day after Mardi Gras. And tonight, he was selling most of his music equipment, buying an engagement ring, and asking the boss’s daughter to marry him. Sure. Whatever.
I get that take, but I saw Sonny's (Michiel Huisman) proposal to Linh as another manifestation of fear - the fear of backsliding again. If he gets rid of his instruments and gets out of the music scene, he figures he'll be away from temptation. If he moves to Chalmette he'll be away from the drugs. If he marries her, maybe that will make him a different person.
Terry Colston (David Morse) has spent the whole season walking the line between anticipation and fear, realizing that the NOPD has done its part to call down a shitstorm and knowing that it won't end well.
That vibe resonates for me. Ask anyone who was here during the fall of 2006, and as hard as those months were, there was a unity of purpose. We were here to turn the lights on and make sure there was a city for people to come home to. As New Orleans repopulated, problems returned. Crime returned. Violence returned. Corruption returned. By the time represented in this season, we had passed the anxieties of 2006 as to whether New Orleans would return and what in what form it would return. As this episode demonstrates, we couldn't escape the lingering doubt that we might be the problem.
In other notes:
- Lil Queenie appears in this episode. When I wrote about the premiere of Treme, I wrote. She is someone the production has tried to work into the show since the first season, as I reported in 2010:
Authenticity has been paramount in the production. “One thing I’m certain of is that we’re going to be authentic,” actor Wendell Pierce says. “I know that’s very important to New Orleanians. We’re very protective of our culture and its depiction because we’ve seen so many bad Mardi Gras movies over the years. Treme approaches it like anthropologists.” Because of that, the production has taken care to have the music played by bands that were here. “I’ve been in touch with the musicians asking to send me their schedules, what they were doing between December and March, and between December ’05 and March ’06, and I’ve been trying to follow that,” Leyh says. “I would love to have Lil’ Queenie playing live in the show but she wasn’t around. She didn’t come back until Jazz Fest.”
- This spring, Clarke Peters showed up bald for the Treme Season Two DVD signing at Louisiana Music Factory. At the time, he said he'd shaved his head for a role. Now it looks like he did it for this role.
- I have cranked all season on the Annie (Lucia Micarelli) story, but when she plays with Sonny Landreth on "Blue Tarp Blues," it makes a certain amount of sense. The album that the song appeared on, From the Reach, had guest artists on almost every track. Admittedly, most of them were high profile guitarists, but close enough. Mark Knopfler played with Landreth on the original "Blue Tarp Blues," and I talked to Landreth about recording the song:
Yeah, Mark Knopfler. He’s a dear friend, and we stay in touch. He is always playing music for me and vice versa. I sent him “Let it Fly.” He said, “I just don’t hear me on ‘Let it Fly.’” On the other hand, before I even sent him the material, he was asking about “Blue Tarp Blues.” He said what’s it like, and I said, “What if ‘The Sultans of Swing’ met the king of zydeco?” He laughing and said, “I got to hear this.”
I sent him the song, and he calls me up and really likes the song. He said, “I think you should take the middle verse and make it the first verse.” At that point, I had a completely different first verse in the song. I knew that the third verse was the most powerful part of the song—“Air Force One had a heck of a view”—but my idea was to build up to it. He pointed out that in other parts of the world, they wouldn’t relate as much, whereas that being the first line of the song immediately captures the imagination and it’s something that everyone around the world saw. His being involved pushed me to write an even better third verse.
- It's tempting to assign white hats and black hats in dramas, but Treme rarely makes it easy. Liguouri (Dan Ziskie) is spot-on when he says, "We get millions of visitors a year. We should provide them with a proper destination for jazz."
- Dale Triguero at Chickie Wah Wah reminds Davis (Steve Zahn) of the sign, "if your name is Davis McAlary, please leave." He's referencing a sign that has been up in d.b.a. targeting Davis Rogan.
- The primary LaDonna drama largely overshadows the scene when she is shaken down by neighbors for band noise in the bar. That storyline clearly isn't over.
- During Janette's soft opening, one table included John Besh (Restaurant August), Donald Link (Cochon), JoAnn Clevenger (The Upperline), Susan Spicer (Bayona) and Scott Boswell (Stella!).