One of the exciting things about Treme is that even its creators, it seemed, didn’t know where the show would lead. That’s not because of laziness or a lack of creative visions, like with many other dramatic serials, but because its near-past setting meant that David Simons and company truly didn’t know the full direction of where New Orleans was headed. Treme began development in 2008, yet we’re already past that date in the show, and next week’s finale will feature Mardi Gras 2009. The immediate history of the city was already written, and the government’s scandalous mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath was well-known, but what shape would the city’s revival (or perhaps rebirth) truly take?
This has meant an odd structure for the series, a push-pull between progress and cycles that has tried to follow the history of New Orleans as best as possible. Its characters have always been larger-than-life, symbols for the city itself in all its myriad walks of life, so they’ve lived out these difficulties, this desire to move forward that’s always curtailed by insurmountable circumstances. Every time Davis, for instance, thinks he’d finally found his calling, his place within New Orleans music, something always goes wrong. Yet he continues moving forward nonetheless, and the cycles seem like they may finally have an end for him should he get his new club. We don’t know yet whether that’s the case, but it feels like it, in the same way that his relationship with Janette, which we know has been one cycle after another, may have finally found its grounding. I kept waiting for his neighbors to say the word “marriage,” and while they didn’t, it was clear that for the first time in Davis’ life that was finally on the table.
But for every event that seemed ready to push New Orleans and its people forward, there was another ready to return to the old ways. It seemed like Antoine had truly matured, was ready to come home at a reasonable time in the evening after a day of work and stay with his family. But after a series of negative events, most recently the end of his after-school jazz program, he heads out again as hard as he ever did. And while we’re all happy to see him not sleeping around on his night of debauchery, it was still disappointing to see Antoine’s good heart go awry yet one more time.
L.P.’s return to the city fortunately only took a little bit of the episode’s time, and he didn’t feel as unnecessarily jammed in here as he did last season. He was never a strong addition to the cast, but the embrace of what he represents by law enforcement represented a symbolic victory. It was a sign of moving forward just as blatant as Obama’s picture replacing Bush’s on the walls of government buildings. Yet there was some doubt in this as well in the rejection of Colson’s testimony against police corruption. And if Colson likely retiring from the police force is a sign of progress, the new question posed is: what next?
That’s also part of what’s going on in the Lambreaux family, as they say their goodbyes to Albert. We saw Albert finally finish the house he’s been working on for so long, to the point that it’s now been blessed, but despite that it’s still not truly done. And while Delmond will be taking up his father’s mantle this Mardi Gras, it’s still up in the air what he’ll be doing after that.
In and of itself, this wasn’t an amazing episode as nearly everything in it was transitional. That being said, I appreciated that it didn’t feel like there was a need to jam in more events in a rush to the end. “Sunset on the Louisianne” was still a party, with plenty of great performances and wonderful small moments. Season four has also done a great job bringing back all the small characters and moments from the previous three seasons, and that was no exception here, with plenty of fan service that reminds us we’re still in the same version of New Orleans we’ve been in for the past three years. Even the most dramatic death of the series happened quietly, as Treme feels no need to force drama. It’s next week that the show cares about more, as the aftermath of trauma has always been Treme’s primary concern.