Treme Wrap-Up: The Storm, The Storm, The Storm

Antoine Batiste. HBO Treme.[SPOILER ALERT] Last year, I asked Wendell Pierce if Antoine’s financial and musical instability were functions of Katrina, his musical limitations or himself. He couldn’t answer because he hadn’t seen scripts yet that would clarify that issue, and I doubt he’s seen them this season either. One thing’s clear, though—the issues he faces have less to do with a hurricane and more to do with pre-existing conditions. Yes, he has stepped up as a teacher and as a parent (a bit), but he blew off one of his band’s shows to play with Henry Butler (that might lead to a European tour) and he tried to hijack Kermit’s crowd. This week, he can’t control his ego and sings answering lines during Wanda Rouzan’s version of Dorothy Moore’s “Misty Blue” (the original produced by Wardell Quezergue) until she blows up at him and quits the band onstage. When Cornell’s girlfriend sings, Antoine gives Desiree a reason to wonder if he’s cheating. He hovers over her—even though she’s a bandmate’s girl—like he’s going to do her on the set break.

We’ve seen the womanizing throughout the series, and we saw his inner ham when he was onstage with Bonerama earlier this season, so the question we’ll likely find an answer to at some point next season is whether a band can survive with such a shaky leader, and whether Antoine is self-destructive or he lacks control of his urges.

The other character who’s having a bad season is Davis, who’s being forced to face his limitations. Last season and early this season, he could come up with crazy schemes and get away with being an *ahem* “overachiever.” Once other people and their hope and money are on the line, his musical limitations are a liability, not an eccentricity. It’s hard to watch him be aced out of his band by Alex McMurray and partially bumped off the album that he hoped would launch his (exceedingly unlikely) musical career, and it’s interesting to watch Steve Zahn play Davis as being in a perpetual state of being stunned disbelief, snapping out of it only long enough to care for Annie. I think his relationship with her hit its apex at Christmas when she showed up in a bow and played for him; now, it feels more caring and friendly, like his relationship with Janette.

Other Notes:

- At the impromptu memorial for Harley, Davis talks about how Harley seemed to travel the world. In an interview earlier this year, Steve Earle (who played Harley) remembered meeting Luke Winslow-King when Winslow-King was busking in Rome.

- In another art-mirrors-life moment, Susan Cowsill leads the group in the singing of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” but she changes the line, “for to carry my mother away” to “brother away.” In context, it makes sense, but the moment’s resonant because Cowsill lost her brother Barry after Katrina, and her shows from the first half of 2006 were very public displays of grieving. By the spring of 2007, loss was part of her musical subtext, but it was no longer the dominant note.

- This season’s police stories have dovetailed with 2011 in interesting ways. Earlier in the season, Danziger Bridge made an appearance, and now the question of details appears, suggesting that police work has been compromised by the officers’ detail activities for years, though it returned to the front page of The Times-Picayune recently. The reference to the coroner’s office in St. Gabriel in the show performed a similar function.

- Antoine’s history of stiffing cabbie’s is so bad that a taxi driver’s actually happy when he only tips a dollar on a $20 fare.

- It sure looks like we’re going to get a Purple Rain-like scene to resolve the Harley/Annie story. As long at the Time show up to play “The Bird,” I’m good with that.

- Since there’s not time this season to wrap up the story of Sonny and the Vietnamese woman he loves, I assume that means next season will explore how the Vietnamese community fit into the New Orleans story.

- This episode was bad for the one thing Treme does that makes me nuts: scenes with New Orleans musicians that seem to exist just to get them in, and dialogue that tells us who they are. I was glad to see Harold Battiste make an appearance, and maybe the relevance of the scene will emerge in later viewings. First time through, it seems like it was there to put Harold in the scene. Similarly, if Delmond and Dr. John were going to debate whether recording in New York and New Orleans (at Piety Street Recording) was different, they wouldn’t have to identify Uganda Roberts, particularly since the episode before, Albert had brought up Roberts. Did it have to be Chris Thomas King’s house that Hector tried to buy?  Those moments clunk, no matter how well-meant.

- Speaking of Hector, one element of his character that’s easily missed in his story is how much he’s like any out-of-towner who moves here. He relishes the magic of the food, music and way of life the same way that people do who moved here after a Jazz Fest or Mardi Gras. No one on the show’s having more fun than he is, partially because he has the money to enjoy it – no doubt – but also because the city’s charms are all new to him.

–Alex Rawls