Treme, “Meet De Boys on the Battlefront”: Shallow Water Hold Mama.

While Treme’s premiere episode felt more like a snapshot of New Orleans and the people living there after Katrina, this week’s episode felt much more like an actual television series, giving its characters more clearly defined narratives and trajectories.

One thing that will really stick out for people is what a large cast the show has. And this will be a problem for some people, while others won’t care too much about it. But as with similar shows (The West Wing and Lost come to mind) no one character is ever going to get an overabundance of screentime, and so we’ll be following them in weekly, ten-minute blocks. Again, a problem for some, for others not so much. For me it’s kind of a mixed bag. During this week’s episode, by the time we got around to seeing Kim Dickens asking her parents for another loan, I had almost completely forgotten that her character had been in the episode at all. But still, I think the show is handling its cast deftly. It’s given us a lot of moving parts and we’re beginning to see how they’re coming together.

We were introduced to two new cast members this week. Street musicians Sonny and Annie, played by Michael Huisman and Lucia Micarelli. I see Sonny as a likely type for many residents of well-known cities. He becomes quickly annoyed with the Wisconsin church kids looking for the “real” New Orleans, just like New Yorkers would tire of the endless streams of tourists, Austinites would get fed up with people asking them about hard it is getting around on a horse, or people from Idaho who are constantly bombarded with people looking for directions out of Idaho. While we were given hints that Annie may not be completely unjaded, she certainly serves as Sonny’s lighter side.

This week we also found out that Albert’s got a dark side to him. By day he fixes up his bar and tries getting the band back together, but by night, he takes to the streets, tracking down the punk who stole his tools. And when the guy is more than willing to say he was sorry and get out of there, Albert beats the ever-loving hell out of him. But by the end of the episode, the mostly easy-going but still a little pensive looking old man is back, rehearsing with a second member of his band who’s come back. If Dexter has taught us anything, and I like to think it has, expect Albert’s dark passenger to show up again. He might not be chopping people up, but he may beat a few street toughs with a wrench.

We also saw a different side of Steve Zahn’s Davis. Honestly, in the pilot, he seemed to take some sort of satisfaction in being a dick for the pure sake of being a dick. But this week we saw him out there, taking a job as a hotel clerk when an unfortunate voodoo ritual got him fired from the radio station. With all of his, “I’m a musician” talk last week, you would expect him to only half-ass something like this, if he even tried it at all. But he was there with a smile on his face, sending guests out to different New Orleans hot-spots. Sure, he got fired in the end, and that may been a little expected, but the handling of the entire thing I thought was well done.

Other characters, like Antoine and Creighton, are still trying to keep their heads above water (ugh). Antoine takes on any gigs he can trying to earn just a few more dollars, while Creighton bemoans the courses and departments Tulane has chosen to axe. All of these characters find themselves in different circumstances, but it’s obvious they’re all still reeling from the disaster and its effects.

Stuff I liked:

  • John Goodman’s rant about which departments Tulane was keeping and which it was shutting down. “It’s all about identity. Let’s not learn how to do anything. Let’s just sit and contemplate the glory of me, in all my complexities. Who am I? I am black Jewish woman, hear me roar.”
  • I’m very impressed at how seamlessly the show is able to weave its musical interludes throughout the episode almost without you realizing it.
  • Elvis Costello made another appearance this week. I wonder how much more we’ll be seeing of him. He always wears such nice jackets.

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