Treme Review: "Saints" (Episode 3.2)
One oddity of Treme has always been that the aspects of the show that most resemble David Simon’s masterpiece The Wire have also been, almost universally (I say almost because of Sonny), the most uninteresting parts of Treme. Criminal investigations have been part of the show ever since its inception—after all, one of the main characters is a civil defense attorney—but the probes into Katrina-era crime have always felt de rigeur. I wouldn’t say that it’s a matter of poor execution, but rather that its resemblance to what we saw in The Wire is never quite enough to be satisfying.
One of the main concepts of The Wire was that the complexity of criminal investigations requires countless different parties to be involved, so contrasting that with a meager 10 minutes or so of screentime a week is bound to feel disappointing. But while it may be a necessary part of the show in some sense, it’s also never felt quite related enough to the rest of Treme. The investigations are about uncovering the past and finally getting justice for what happened, but so much of the rest of the show has been about moving forward and rebuilding. This is true even in the more recent horrific events of LaDonna’s life, and in episode two we see her learn that the case against one of her rapists won’t be resolved, in fact they’ve only just now “set a date to set a date” for his actual trial. The justice system, she’s learned, is just plain broken in New Orleans right now. This is disheartening, and she would rather spend her energy working at her bar.
Fortunately, Terry took up very little time in this episode, as did the new reporter L. P. Everett, who’s unearthed new information so quickly that it seems a crazy given how much difficulty everyone else has had when asking around about the past. But that’s not too much of a surprise, considering that like last week’s episode, “Saints” was largely about getting pieces in play for the rest of the season. And while this may make it sound like little happened, actually it was just the opposite, with everything moving forward much quicker than the usual languorous pace Treme likes to take with things. Davis is continuing to try and convince more musicians to help out with his opera, but isn’t getting far and is straight-up rejected by John Bouté (i.e. the guy who wrote the show’s theme song). But his girlfriend Annie has a lot more luck, and after a performance she’s able to convince the somewhat sleazy music manager who turned her down last season to represent her. She’s still only finishing songs written by Steve Earle’s character Harley, but at least she apparently has a whole pile of them left.
Another highlight for the episode came from Antoine visiting his children at the house LaDonna is staying at. Of course, his name isn’t on the list to get into the gated community, so he has to call LaDonna, who then has to call her sister-in-law to let them in. For some reason, this seems to be the last straw, but there’s some wonderful contrast between her attitude and her sons, who seem to have taken a shine to their new lifestyle. Watching everyone in the room’s faces while they tell Antoine about wanting tennis lessons and to become a DJ was a perfect moment. That LaDonna herself walks out of the house just a few minutes later only makes it better.
Albert Lambreaux has been foreshadowing health problems with his cough for seemingly an entire season at this point, but I never thought he’d actually go to a doctor and get it checked out. And while I doubt he’ll change much as a result, aside from wearing a mask when he remembers it, I’m happy that we didn’t just have him coughing like that for the rest of the show without him caring. The growing trust between Albert and Delmond has been a wonderful thing to watch, especially because it’s mostly been such an incremental thing. But here we finally have a sort of passing of the torch from the elder Lambreaux to his son, and while I have no doubt there will be plenty of friction between them in the future, it’s great to see at least one wall between them come down.
Treme has a reputation for being a show in which nothing happens, but “Saints” was an episode where it felt like everything was happening, and the cross-cutting was so frantic that it didn’t quite hit the usual tone. What I love about the show has always been the way it’s willing to linger on things, whether it’s a performance or a moment, without needing to be explicit or rush. It’s a filmic style of television that even the most high-budget dramas usually don’t feature. “Saints” had some wonderful moments, and one performance I really loved (a key difference between a normal episode of Treme and a great one is often just whether you dig a particular episode’s music), but it just felt too rushed—not as in unpolished, but rather as in having more to say than could easily fit within an hour of television. I’m hoping that with so many gears now in place, though, the show can slow things down a bit in the future and get back to its usual pace.
•Janette’s story in New York seemed like such a repetition of what we saw last season that it was disappointing. If they’re going to have her ultimately choose to go back home and start a restaraunt, why take six episodes over the course of two seasons to offer it, each time being basically the same as before?
•I also didn’t write much about Nelson’s story, despite loving him as a character. I’m mostly just hoping he interacts more with the rest of the cast this season, since last year he was barely connected with the rest of the show.
•Treme seems to want us to love Annie’s singing so much… but I don’t. Especially contrasted with the show’s usually brilliant music, not to mention the actress’s phenomenal violin playing.