Since it was pretty clear what direction nearly every one of Treme’s stories was headed in, I think the primary question for the show’s finale wasn’t one so much one of what happened as it was how it was framed. Were these actions made with the same aura of hope that began the season, or would the show continue to circle back, mired in the pessimism of David Simon’s more famous show? Given the Treme’s humanism, though, the answer was also somewhat obvious, as the show’s affection for every character in its cast has caused everyone to grow stronger as Treme has continued, overcoming their obstacles in a traditional sense. Ultimately, the show has a big heart, and it’s all the better for that, even though that means it has far less appeal than something like The Wire or, for that matter, nearly any other cable drama. This was normal people working at basic goals, and while that may not sound exciting, it’s certainly still important, as was its de facto message of an underlying faith in people that’s so rare to see on television these days.
Likewise, this wasn’t a finale centered around twist endings or some tour de force. We weren’t supposed to be impressed by the show’s cleverness, or made to cry through melodrama. What made this episode so satisfying was that it was simple, old-fashioned good storytelling, bringing every character and plot to a conclusion merited by what we’d seen before in the show. Treme didn’t cheat its audience, and while the show’s appeal was always pretty niche, I can’t imagine many people who enjoyed it being less than happy with the ending. It delivered what it promised, and that’s more than can be said for most finales.
I’m tempted to paraphrase all the many story conclusions we saw here, starting with Albert’s funeral and ending with Davis’ treating his job as a DJ with the sort of seriousness and maturity that four years ago he would have made fun of, but I’m not sure if there’s much point. If you watched the preceding four episodes, or for that matter even the first episode of the season, it wasn’t difficult to see where things were headed. While there was still some high drama in this shortened half-season, it also wasn’t quite as overwhelming as some of what we’d seen before, and along with this there wasn’t too much time to set up huge arcs. Season four was about concluding all of those storylines, and in nearly every case it did so well, even when those plots were themselves a little bit lacking.
I’d like to single out a few of those, though, nonetheless. First, the bad: Annie’s storyline went to a singularly dull conclusion, although perhaps that was fitting. She headed off to Nashville, hoping her manager could help her record a hit song, only to learn that they wanted to make her song into a radio hit. And for some reason she’s surprised about this. She argues with her manager, and both sides come off as irritating. It’s more of what we’ve seen all season, and Annie’s just as disconnected from the rest of the show as usual here. This entire storyline didn’t fit with the rest of Treme (to be honest, it seemed like it hailed from a lesser show, i.e. Nashville, unsurprisingly) and it continued the pattern here. Not only that, Annie also seems to have lost a lot of her individuality this season, becoming a cipher for this tired old plot about selling out. It’s one of the few parts of Treme that not only rang false, it negatively affected the rest of the show with its constant appearances.
Conversely, I was pleasantly surprised by howTreme handled Colson’s testimony, retirement and subsequent departure from New Orleans. Colson always had to make the hard choices, whether it was on the force or in his personal life, and he was left with yet one more difficult decision here. But it was inspiring to see him smiling with his children at the end of the episode, not to mention an acknowledgment that at the end he did always have his priorities in life straight. It was my favorite, but I’m sure others liked seeing Antoine take in his kids or Delmond dance with his tribe. There were many crowd-pleasing moments, but in every case they felt earned, the result of characters’ efforts for at the very least the last five episodes, if not the entire show.
The show ended on one of David Simon’s trademark montages, but for once nearly every image in it was inspiring. He and the rest of Treme’s writers also somehow found the perfect image to encapsulate the cautious optimism pervading not only Treme’s finale but the show as a whole. Yes, the pothole that constantly stood in Davis’ path remained in the way, but the people of New Orleans found a way to decorate and incorporate this problem into their city. New Orleans, at the end of the show, is still far from perfect. No one really has it easy at this point, even though all of the characters’ endings were positive—life, as always, continues on. But neither is the world a bleak place, like we began with, and what’s most positive of all, perhaps, is that business as usual in the city seems to have fully returned, even with so many lives taken and ruined by Katrina still haunting the area. Everything is still a little screwed up, but at least there’s always still time for a party.