How does knowing a show is coming to an end affect how you watch it?
[Spoiler Alert] I wonder if I would have felt less impatient with this week’s episode of Treme if I didn’t know that there are only two episodes to go. But I do, which made Davis’ (Steve Zahn) concerns about live music on North Rampart Street feel like a story that can’t possibly pay off. Similarly, unless Toni (Melissa Leo) can make the criminal justice system move at a pace it has yet to achieve in real life or the show, we’re not going to see the end of the wrongful death suit she’s bringing. The proposed jazz center in the auditorium, on the other hand, was missing from the episode. In real life, the proposal fell apart as quickly as it blew to prominence, largely because the crony-riffic plans were so artlessly conceived by Mayor Ray Nagin and those around him that they couldn't withstand even casual scrutiny. It seems like that story could reach fruition - or has it, now that Davis' scattered attention has moved on to another Quixotic challenge?
Based on what we've seen so far, when the show's finished we will know something about the fate of Janette’s (Kim Dickens) restaurant, Annie’s (Lucia Micarelli) music career, and Colson’s (David Morse) relationship with NOPD. Those stories will reach some sort of resolution. It is sadly clear that we will know how Lambreaux’s (Clark Peters) story ends since much of the episode dealt with the reality of his decline. Del (Rob Brown) and LaDonna (Khandi Alexander) have things going on in their lives, but for the most part they exist this season as part of Lambreaux’s story this season. There are nods to his career and her separation with Larry, but neither gets the screen time and development necessary to get us to invest emotionally in them. I suspect Del will write an elegiac album inspired by his father, much the same way Terence Blanchard - seen earlier in the season - wrote A Tale of God’s Will inspired by Hurricane Katrina. That’s a lot like life and natural, and but it made this episode hard to connect to.
If this season has an overriding theme, it’s an examination of New Orleans’ “Creole culture,” as Davis during an on-air monolgue. David Simon and Eric Overmyer strike a particularly meta note when they give Antoine (Wendell Pierce) the gig of doubling the trombone for a character in a movie, just as Stafford Agee has doubled Pierce’s trombone for the show. The sequence deals a white actor playing the black Kid Ory, and while it furthers the sense that the African place in the story of New Orleans - and America’s - culture is threatened, it also suggests that viewers be wary of filmed representations of culture, which can't help but include Treme. The culture we see on the show comes through the lens of Simon, Overmyer, and they show the parts that they like and consider important. They’ve clearly made an effort not to misrepresent the reality of the city, but they’ve taken small liberties to depict larger truths or create musical moments that could happen - even if they didn’t. Did the producers intend to make the sequence warn viewers against taking their own show at face value? Possibly, but the message is clear anyway.