Reviews

'Treme' Season Two Premiere

Jesse Hicks

David Simon's interest in cities has always been how they happen: how do particular practices and ideas become normalized, and how do these reveal crosscurrents of power?


Treme

Airtime: Sundays, 10pm ET
Cast: Khandi Alexander, Wendell Pierce, Clarke Peters, Rob Brown, Kim Dickens, David Morse, Steve Zahn, John Seda, India Ennenga, Melissa Leo
Subtitle: Season Two Premiere
Network: HBO
Creator: David Simon
Air date: 2011-04-24
Website
Trailer
Amazon
So go out and see some live local music. Oh! And bring your gun.

-- Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn)

David Simon calls Hurricane Katrina's descent on New Orleans the city's “near-death experience." Where The Wire offered a loving autopsy of Baltimore, a city slowly and painfully betrayed by its institutions, Simon's Treme is an equally astute portrait of "an urban people" still struggling to come back from a brink.

It helps that the city has long been on intimate terms with death. Treme reveals this in details, in moments that reveal the secret shape of things. One such scene opens the second season on 24 April: a young trumpeter sits on a stoop, trying to summon “When The Saints Go Marching In,” the song about a time “when the moon turns red with blood,” the song that Louis Armstrong forever wed to New Orleans. With just a few clumsy notes, we're already in the land of death and music, following a young Orpheus.

The scene shifts quickly to a cemetery, where Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce) stands before a grave with his trombone, playing a lower, sadder requiem, a dirge not for the world, but for one man. Another quick cut, now to Toni (Melissa Leo) and her daughter, Sofia (India Ennenga), sitting down to a meal. Sofia almost casually remarks, “I wish Daddy were here.” Her mother says nothing, able only to look back at her. The next cut returns us to the boneyard where shining marble angels look down, immobile. As the trumpeter passes by, still calling on “The Saints,” the camera lingers on Albert (Clarke Peters), applying a fresh coat of paint to another headstone.

This is why people watch Simon's work. Within a few moments, using virtually no dialogue, the sequence evokes an entire city, where people tend to mourning and music. Like many novels it relies less on plot and event than on character and atmosphere, assembling pieces, building something dense and lasting. The second season is New Orleans 14 months after, and something like a “new normal” seems to have taken hold. But Simon's interest in cities has always been how they happen: how do particular practices and ideas become normalized, and how do these reveal crosscurrents of power?

Thus the appearance of Nelson Hidalgo (Jon Seda, who also worked on late seasons of Simon's Homicide), a smooth Dallas contractor eager to help shape the new landscape. He forms a sub rosa partnership with the local kingmaker, the kind of man who can sincerely declare, first, “New Orleans needs to be a great city,” and in the next breath, “There's money to be made here.” Hidalgo is thinly drawn, especially in the early episodes (at one point his musical theme is “Mack the Knife”), but he does become more than merely another avaricious “developer,” representative of capital-elite politicking.

While Hidalgo pursues his vision of a new New Orleans, Lieutenant Terry Colson (David Morse) tries to hold together the old one. Though essentially stabilized a year after the storm, the city still suffers from violent crime, and lacks the police presence to do much about it. The city is, he says, "depressed, anxious, angry... Everybody is out of their minds." Simultaneously, the national media, to Colson's dismay, seem interested only in reporting the latest shooting. In Colson, Simon revisits one of his recognizable character types: the cop trying to do the right thing within a deeply flawed system.

It's Colson who gets the last word in the season premiere. He stands over the body of a dead white woman, killed in the street when was “too slow” to give up her purse to a pair of black thieves. The young black trumpeter wanders over to look at the body; perhaps, as the lyrics of “When the Saints Go Marching In” have it, he's bearing witness to the moment “when the new world is revealed.” Colson, stares down, exasperated, dejected, frustrated. He looks up and shoos away the kid: “Get out of here. There's a curfew.”

9

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image