Treme, "At the Foot Of Canal Street": pot for potholes

Quick Take: Treme, "At the Foot Of Canal Street"
"Shit man, it's like watching a rat back up a cat." - Sonny

Review: Treme, "At the Foot Of Canal Street"
(S0104) There's a lot going on this week as we continue to learn more about this large cast of characters and how life in post-Katrina New Orleans ain't always big easy going.

I'm getting the certain impression that like The Wire, Treme is beginning to ease us into the idea that an American city (post-Katrina New Orleans in this case) is full of great and vibrant and eclectic people who are going to be inevitably failed by systems and institutions and the corrupt or incompetent people who control the levers of power. We're seeing politics begin to seep its way in. Creighton is shown watching President George W. Bush's post-Katrina speech from New Orleans (which was widely panned as a way too late if not too little showing of support for the beleaguered city). And later he records a video for YouTube to "all of those asking why we should rebuild our city." Amongst a colorful array of expletives, and reflects that other cities have been rebuilt (including San Francisco after the earthquake, "an overpriced cesspool with hills."). At the least he's becoming a local hero, getting free coffee and kudos for standing up for his city.

In an effort to keep things (slightly) straight, I'm going to rank stories in roughly the order I like, from most trailing down to least:

Antoine, LaDonna and fam
On a show filled to brim with spicy and intriguing characters, David Simon and Wendell Pierce (who plays Antoine) have hit this one out of the Quarter. Like McNulty on The Wire, Antoine is a charming and roguish man with deep and somewhat irredeemable flaws who somehow is also deeply likable. He's in a bad way these days: mouth smashed up (and as a trombone player, that could be career threatening), no money, kids strewn over multiple cities, and a missing bone (that'd be his trombone) to boot after being roughed up by the cops. Luckily, ex-wife LaDonna (Khandi Alexander, pretty terrific herself) helps to set up Antoine to finally head to Baton Rouge to see the kids and get some critically needed dental work from her husband Larry (Lance E. Nichols).

The interplay between the family and relative outsider Antoine in Baton Rouge is poignant and felt very real. Antoine assures his kids that they are always "right here," but to them "right here" means the people they see in their house and in their lives everyday. Larry also shows himself to be a genuinely decent man, taking care of Antoines teeth and showing no signs of animosity to a man whom he must know still has designs on his spouse. When Antoine takes off on the bus back to New Orleans, he assures the old woman that his trip home is for pleasure. It's there we see where Antoines "right here" really is: New Orleans, music, and letting the good times play. Still, we root for him, and that's great writing, great performances, and great television.

Davis and Janette
A lot of people find Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn) to be annoying. I think he's a great character, and I love the fact that he's allowed to not really fit any easy definitions, a hallmark again of risky choices on a television show. He's very bright, clearly, and passionate about certain things and issues, but he's flaky, erratic, impulsive (blowing his paycheck, for one day's work, on a lavish dinner last week, for instance), and a completely loony romantic. Probably under normal circumstances Janette (Kim Dickens, who I like more and more each week in this role) would be pretty happy with Davis, or at least put up with him. But she's reached the brink, and a bit past that too, and may be ready to leave New Orleans, and Davis with it, the latter an afterthought at that. He can't even offer her hot water to wash away the kitchen grime on a night where she can't open her restaurant.

Meanwhile, Davis rails against the system for failing to fill the pot hole that sunk the rims on his car. That precipitated "his shit" getting stolen while he got a ride to the Bernette residence for his weekly piano teaching gig. On a slightly brighter note, we're seeing the Davis-Creighton Burnette (John Goodman) relationship inch along. It's been very clear that Creighton has thought Davis a flaky schmuck thus far, but I get the sense that seeing Davis take out an inflatable Santa in his rage over the theft is actually finding a soft spot with the good professor.

Davis and Janette end up getting drunk together. Janette's restaurant is on the rocks and, what's more, the power is out. However, what looks like it might be a sweet evening of drunken commiseration turns quickly sour when she has a "what the hell am I doing" moment and storms out. Davis barely notices, continuing his declarations about how the city needs better leadership. This segues into a "rap tune" of sorts and, finally, a moment of revelation akin to "Strippers (Livin' in my Neighborhood)" from last week: "Pot for Potholes." The crazy part is that the plan isn't all that half-baked: legalize marijuana and use the revenue to fund critical projects.

Sonny and Annie
Sonny heads off at a honkeytonk in Texas to earn a few bucks and make a name for himself, playing piano. "Down in New Orleans" is a great musical number, but Sonny is quickly ushered off the stage in favor of a bigger name (the place is packed to the rafters with displaced New Orleans virtuosos). It looks like Sonny's generally pleasant demeanor is trending more bitter, and it doesn't help that he returns to see girlfriend Annie (Lucia Micarelli) making better headway with her fiddle stylings. "Baby, he couldn't carry your bow," Joe Braun says to Annie with regard to Sonny. I'm enjoying seeing where the Sonny-Annie relationship/storyline is going, even though roses and sunshine don’t look to be directly ahead.

Creighton and Toni
I talked about Creighton here and there above, so I'll just say that it's clear that John Goodman/Creighton are the political voice of the show, and a loud and funny and angry and passionate one at that. Toni's (Melissa Leo) storyline has been mostly about finding David Brooks. I'd like to see her doing some other stuff for once so we can learn more about her character and background.

We learn more about the David mystery this week. Turns out Keshawn White (yet another Wire alumnus come home to New Orleans!) switched prison bracelets with David in the chaos that ensued after the storm hit. To think about what living through the aftermath of Katrina must have been like, and to imagine what being in jail is like on a good day…

Albert
I love Clarke Peters (who plays Albert Lambreaux) but I'm sort of eh on what the Big Chief has been up to thus far. That said, I appreciate his role in the story (keeping local traditions alive, holding a broken community together however he can). He's taking a liking to local boy Darius, but obviously his available mother Lulu, who ends up inviting him over for dinner, is a factor.

Delmond
Delmond and his jazz journey in New York City hasn't engaged me much so far. I keep waiting for the action to get back to New Orleans, or at least back to the south. Yet another Wire cast member pops up though, which always needs noting. Especially when it's Jim True-Frost, who was the cop-turned-teach Prez on The Wire. Here he's Delmond's manager in what looks to be a small role.

More thought's on this week's Treme:

  • While Antoine is waiting to get into the ER early on, he sings a tune in boredom. Some people look disgruntled, but some get into it, and one guy starts banging on a garbage can in rhythm. If I was in the ER and some dude started singing, I would get annoyed. But if it's New Orleans is that more likely to "fly"?
  • That had to be an intentional "Hamsterdam" reference, right? Sonny mispronounces Amersterdam as "Hamsterdam," an obvious shout out to The Wire circa the Bunny Colson era. Man, I'm digging Treme but I miss The Wire, you know?
  • "How do you get to sleep at night?" "I drink." – Alfred not getting his home covered as he doesn't have flood insurance.
  • Musician and actor Steve Earle (Walon, Bubble's sponsor from The Wire!) shows up as a New Orleans musician, hanging out with Annie
  •  

    Video: Treme, "At the Foot Of Canal Street"
    Here's a preview of the main event, from HBO:

     

    Recap: Treme, "At the Foot Of Canal Street"
    Antoine visits his sons. LaDonna and Toni probe a case of mistaken identity.

    From Around the Web: Treme, "At the Foot Of Canal Street"

  • TV with Alan Sepinwall: Ultimately, each man's trip away from New Orleans is only so satisfying. Antoine's time in Baton Rouge prepares him for a permanent solution to his embrasure problem, but the bridge he builds with his sons is only temporary at best; even he can recognize how guarded they are around him after so many years of disappointment.
  • A.V. Club: Ultimately, it’s affection for their home that drives these characters more than a distrust of thus who can’t claim it as their home. It’s why, when he learns his Wild Man’s son plans to leaving the city, Albert responds with a “Why?” that sounds straight from the soul. 
  • New York Magazine: And how hilarious is it that even in a series that is about New Orleans music, George Pelecanos cannot stop himself from having two characters engage in a thoroughly Pelecanosian discussion of who sang the 1970 Stax B-side on the jukebox? Antoine's self-mythologizing; no one remembers Ollie and the Nightingales, he says, and soon no one will remember him either.
  • By Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader"

    About the author

    Eric is the publisher and revered leader of TV Geek Army… at least in his own mind. TV Geek Army is a place for serious TV reviews and news for serious fans of great television. Contact: eric-[at]-tvgeekarmy.com 

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