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'Treme' Season 2 Premiere Recap

by Alex Moaba, posted Apr 24th 2011 11:40PM
['Treme' Season 2 Premiere: 'Accentuate the Positive']

The second season of 'Treme' opens on All Saints Day, set to the somber sound of a struggling trumpet being played by a lonely kid trying to teach himself to play. It's fourteen months after Hurricane Katrina, and the show's characters are all at different stages of piecing their lives back together. Some have left New Orleans, chasing opportunity in other cities or chased out by broken roofs, but most are hanging in there, trying to make things work in their struggling hometown.

The direction David Simon may be trying to take the show's second season emerges early on. Sonny's getting a drink at a strip-club when two gunmen walk in and start firing, hitting five people and killing one. It's a scene that could have happened at Avon Barksdale's Orlando's in Baltimore, and offers a clue about where 'Treme' is going: in the vacuum of progress, stability and order, violent crime is spiking in the city, yet another obstacle added to the many already threatening New Orleans' attempt at recovery.

This development, of course, opens the New Orleans Police Department for the Simon treatment, one of the most exciting aspects of this new season. With David Morse being given an expanded role as NOPD Lieutenant Terry Colson, we could see the NOPD get as thoroughly brought to life, dissected, and laid as bare for better or worse as 'The Wire' did to the Baltimore PD. Hearing lines like "a shooting in the quarter gets people's attention," is a nice sign for fans of 'The Wire' that Treme may be going in that gritty direction, which is right in Simon's wheelhouse.

'Treme's' premiere introduces a new character, and opens yet another sector of the city's plodding, corrupt recovery to explore: John Sena as a "Texas rainmaker" with political connections who comes to New Orleans looking to make money off government reconstruction contracts. Bringing "greetings" from Texas Governor Perry, quoting Rahm Emanuel's infamous "never let a disaster go to waste" line, his character will be a vehicle through which Simon and co-creator Eric Overmyer can explore the nexus of politics, government contracting and construction profiteering that came to characterize the city's reconstruction economy.

But enough about where 'Treme' may be going, let's talk about where it's at. A quick run-through of where the key characters find themselves at the beginning of the season:

Annie's been on tour with The subdudes, and her music career really seems to be taking off. She took Steve Earle's advice last season: She's singing now and going for broke on stage, playing with successful players because "fiddle goes with everything, it's like hot sauce," as Davis tells her. Kicking her drug-addicted, going-nowhere boyfriend Sonny to the curb seems to have set her free to reach her potential.

Davis is perpetually killing time, DJing, trying to write hip-hop bounce music, and generally adding a dose of comic relief to the show. One of my favorite sequences of the premiere was him cleaning his apartment for Annie's arrival back from tour, throwing dirty clothes in the closet, throwing dirty dishes in the garbage and spraying air freshener to make the place smell like a "summer meadow."

Antoine Batiste, the 3rd best trombone player in New Orleans, as Simon has called him, is still getting by, playing gigs but struggling to make enough money to support his girlfriend and daughter. His girlfriend wants him to get a "job job" but he's more interested in the idea of starting his own band, which he gets in his head after he rocking a crowd on lead vocals and bemoaning the fact that he's a trombone, not a trumpet player.

In a truly sad scene, Albert "Big Chief" Lambreaux gets kicked out of the bar he cleaned up and has been living in since the storm when its owner, presumably a fellow Indian, comes home. Instead of thanking Albert for cleaning out the place, or offering him any sympathy, compassion, or brotherhood he greets him with a cold, "Where the f*ck's my sign?" Albert leaves the next morning, back to his still-destroyed house that lacks running water. The bonds of the Indians only go so far. He's working again, doing masonry for people who have enough money to rebuild, but he seems like he might be plunging into a serious depression.

His son Delmond is in New York, playing gigs at rooftop bars in support of a new album he's got out that's gaining critical praise but struggling to find a wide audience. He's got a conflicted relationship with his hometown that gets put on display during a conversation with some jazz heads; it quickly devolves into a heated debate about the value of New Orleans culture. He gets pissed off and end the discussion with a "f*ck y'all" when they call him out for being "an ex-pat" and express doubt that New Orleans can ever come back and be the same as it was.

It's been seven months since Creighton committed suicide, and his wife and daughter are stuck in a sadness, dealing with it in different ways. Sofia's taken up her father's YouTube ranting, Toni continues to constantly sue the city, representing one of the families in the infamous Danziger Bridge shootings. We learn during one of her conversations with Colson that she's hiding the truth about Creighton's death from her daughter, who thinks it was an accident.

Janette has taken her knives to New York City, where she's working in a high-pressure kitchen under a psychotic chef who rules through fear and intimidation. She was forced to leave when her roof collapsed, and she's talented, but seems to miss the city she's left behind.

It was a premiere episode with a lot of set-up, but that's how David Simon shows start out. There are some really complex, tough, and sad issues being explored here, both in the lives of characters and in the themes it looks like the show is going to tackle this season. 'Treme' is stocked with well-developed characters, an awesome musical soundtrack and the promise that we might get a close-up view of not only the struggle and frustration of the show's characters, but also the politics, crime, corruption, police and profiteers that played vital roles in the city's attempt to rebuild itself. It's going to be an excellent season.

Follow Alex on Twitter @alexmoaba.

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Can I catch the opening show again. I didn't know until tonight that it was back on tv. I loved it last year. Great show.

April 30 2011 at 11:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That Kid learning to play the trumpet *(or trombone, don't know) at the beginning and end...have we seen him before?

April 25 2011 at 10:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wish I still had HBO!

April 25 2011 at 10:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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