By episode seven (written by Chris Rose & Micah Kibodeaux, story by David Simon & Chris Rose, directed by Tim Robbins), “Treme” is in the development stage of its dramatic construction. By this I don’t mean that executives are getting their paws all over it – rather, that, like a classical composer, the writers, having set out their major themes, are complicating matters, working variations, and setting the table for what is to come.
[Spoilers ahead, albeit minor]
Simon has a habit of flipping over the coin, peering at the backside of the painting, reconceiving things from weird angles to see what else can be gleaned.
So if Nelson works his connections (and in the process, gets us inside a DC Mardi Gras party), in this episode Toni uses the same cronyism to get the court, order she needs, drinking with a judge to get it signed. (The judge is played by Tim Reid, whom, to this day, I cannot see on screen without wishing there had been more of “Frank’s Place”). As Terry Collins says when standing with a fellow cop looking at (fully clothed) outdoors strippers, there’s a difference between vice and sin, something New Orleans understands.
That difference – and Terry’s inability to continue to look away from what he knows goes far beyond the acceptable – is hinted at in the dark last moment of this show. But for most of this episode, Mardi Gras is coming and the characters are beginning to unfold.
There’s a pure carnival moment when Janette and Davis bump into each other at a parade and end up in bed with each other, an old-times’ fuck that really is more sweet than adulterous. (It doesn’t hurt that we’ve seen Annie’s delightedly lustful reaction to the hotel room her manager gets her when she plays the same party that Nelson attends.)
Annie moves on – it’s as much a part of her as her musicianship. Sonny – the first musician she loved and left – is newly back sober. Like Antoine Batiste, Sonny is attempted to redefine his role in the world, a role that may no longer include music.
Talent is not a shield in this series, any more than it is a guarantor of success. (There’s a fine little runner about Janette finding that she must pretend to cook what she doesn’t in order to promote her restaurant; success always has its price.)
The most moving moment in this week’s tangle is the single scene when, in the midst of the festivities, Harley’s ashes are strewn into the river. Annie is there, of course, along with two characters we haven’t seen since last season. But so, off to the side, is Sophia, at this mass ritual not for Harley but for her father, mourning in silence and alone.