This week on "Treme," the magnitude of the battles becomes apparent.
[Spoilers abound.] This week, it became apparent what New Orleanians are up against. The culture of police corruption moves to center stage as its magnitude stifles Toni Bernette (Melissa Leo) in her efforts to get witnesses on Wilson and menaces L.P. Everett (Chris Coy) in his attempts to pursue the Henry Glover case. It's faceless, malevolent force that throws a shade of uncertainty over everything. Did a cop really see that Sophie didn't have her seatbelt on at night, or was the ticket a harrassment technique?
When Terry (David Morse) talks to his FBI contact to deal with corruption his way, he bumps into an equally faceless bureaucracy that won't investigate for political reasons.
Homeowners dealing with NOAH face similar frustration dealing with an equally unknowable force. The angry homeowner questioning Nelson Hidalgo (Jon Seda) about the work being done on his house is frustrated by the questions he can't get answers to about NOAH, questions Hidalgo can't answer even if he were disposed to.
He faces his own issues as he recognizes that there's a community within the city's business leaders that quietly maintains the status quo, keeping newcomers like him from getting a genuine piece of the action. It's the same community that Texas oil men ran into when they came to Louisiana and that created Endymion and Bacchus because Rex, Comus and Proteus wouldn't have them, and it's the old-boy network then-city councilperson Dorothy Mae Taylor tried to expose with the 1992 Mardi Gras Ordinance.
Davis (Steve Zahn) encouters his own version of this battle when he tries unsuccessfully to convince Sugarboy Crawford to participate in his R&B opera. The scene is touching because Crawford passed away September 15, so our last time seeing him is seeing a lovingly shot gospel performance from him, but he confounds Davis with a value structure he can't understand.
As lovingly as the Crawford sequence was shot, there was nothing intentionally eulogistic about it. The scene was shot last January and he wasn't showing any signs of illness at that point.
The alternative to all these one-sided battles with vague, unknowable forces plays out when LaDonna (Khandi Alexander) and Albert (Clarke Peters) negotiate the terms of her bar hosting his Indian practice. It's a great scene as two strong personalities and performers bang heads as a matter of course before coming to an agreement.
That scene subtly pointed toward the storyline I expect is coming as they negotiated over the money brought in by someone barbecuing outside, stretching Indian practice to the sidewalk outside of Gigi's without thinking about the neighbors. It's business, it's what they do, and it's what's going to take them into their own battle with vague, unknowable battles as they face the faceless network of permits and zoning.
- The last couple of weeks dealt with deals, and Delmond (Rob Brown) looks like he's about to face his version of that question as he's being asked to represent New Orleans' culture for a group of developers.
We also see another side of Antoine (Wendell Pierce) as a hustler. Unlike Nelson, who's unhappy that he's not playing a bigger game for bigger stakes, Antoine's a low-level hustler and good with it. He may put more at risk than the rewards are worth by sleeping with a fan at a show, but that's his comfort zone. This episode, he runs a similar low-rent scam, but to benefit a student.
- In other Delmond thoughts, I'm not sure I buy that a career-oriented musician releases an album and stays home to bond with dad, but New Orleans' musicians haven't always made the most career-minded decisions. Still, watching him stand-in with band after band is one of the few places where this season seems forced. Still, that was a great version of "You Are My Sunshine" that he played with Shannon Powell in Donna's.
- When we see David and Annie (Lucia Micarelli) doing their laundry at the start of the episode, they are doing so at The Clothes Spin, the laundromat on the site that was once Cosimo Matassa's J&M Studio. My long-held belief that their relationship would come apart was furthered this week when she didn't appear to find his casual flakiness funny. In that scene, she's seems too mature for his shit, but when we see her later with Marvin (Michael Cerveris), she's girlish and laughing. Bad sign.
- The "Waiting for Godot" sequence had a strong meta- dimension because when the Beckett play was staged at disaster sites post-K, Wendell Pierce was one of the actors.
Toni's tears in the scene are touching and familiar to everybody in New Orlens. Moments of inexplicable, profound sadness at moments that even tangentially refer to Katrina are commonplace and powerful. Recently, I was part of Facebook conversation about how even the U2 and Green Day cover of "The Saints are Coming" has that power - for me, particularly the live version with Rebirth and Trombone Shorty.
- Treme's comedic moments are rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but the moment with Terry and the concierge is genuinely funny, and it sets up a second great comedic scene later between Jacques (Ntare Mwine) and Janette (Kim Dickens) that ends very differently. It's not high guffaws, but it works as intended, I suspect.