It’s fitting that very little happened in “Promised Land,” since the episode centered around Mardi Gras, and as Everett found out, that largely shuts down the entire city until it ends. Which isn’t to say that nothing at all happened, but rather that it needed to be cut between the myriad of parties and concerts and parades that overwhelmed the episode—for the better, I might add. The best moment of the episode came when the Marine Corps. band met up with Antoine’s school band and we saw the Marines and the kids all dancing and playing to the same music, instant communication and rapport between these two disparate groups that otherwise would seem to have a chasm too big between them to cross. But this is Mardi Gras, and once the Marines break ranks, the mixture somehow works, one more strange combination in a holiday all about turning the world upside down.
Davis in particular still had a large episode, first nearly undergoing a musical intervention about his attempts to front his own songs. This has been a long time coming, and has in many ways been his primary arc in the show. Davis has great taste in music, is a decent composer and works well with practically any musician he meets. But he just doesn’t have the chops to be a great singer, and his aunt has been slowly opening his eyes to this fact. Fortunately, despite his ego, Davis has so much respect for the musicians he loves that he’s happy to let them take the reins, and it seems like he’s just one step removed from understanding that sometimes the writer can’t also be the performer.
But that wasn’t Davis’ only big event, because when Annie’s forced out of town for gigs (with the exception of paying tribute to Harley), he goes off on his own and soon meets up with Janette. They drunkenly sleep together, and it’s especially sad because it was Mardi Gras two years ago when Annie and Davis first bonded. Again, it’s been a slowly moving story, but since Davis doesn’t understand how she’d want a career outside of New Orleans and Annie smartly is interested in bigger things with her sleazy manager, this was forseeable. Still, it’s a depressing hookup, even moreso because of Janette’s fling with Jacques and the way we saw him look at her by the meat locker.
Both of the episode’s big cameos also centered around Janette and her rising career, as first she takes advice from Emeril and then goes on the air to cook for Al Roker. It’s a disaster, but seems like a helpful one. It was part of the spectacle of the episode, which ranged from Antoine’s band on parade to the Indian march, which was glorious to watch because finally we saw them at full strength. The meeting between Albert and another chief was perfect, and it feels like whatever happens to him next, he had a great, possibly final, Mardi Gras celebration.
Because so much of the episode was spent on big performances, what we saw of characters were often brief glimpses, but that’s what Treme does best. Its big, reaching moments are what usually ring the most false, and this almost happened when all of the Indians watched the Katrina documentary while sewing, though it managed to pull this off. But all of its little moments worked great, and that’s what really made this such a fulfilling episode. It may not have been a Mardi Gras episode to blow people away, but it was thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.