In Tremes latest episode, Creighton calls us out. The furloughed college professor avoids writing his novel and becomes a listless homebody, until his daughters use of YouTube inspires him to post his own rant celebrating New Orleans and lashing out at cities that received more federal aid or argued against the rebuilding of the Crescent City. Like my hairy balls! he snaps at Atlanta and Houston, dinging us for having not a fraction of New Orleans culture.
Whoa there, big guy. Apart from the usual rivalries of big Southern cities, what did Atlanta ever do to New Orleans? Except for welcoming hundreds of Katrina-displaced citizens, that is. Creightons tirade sounds reminiscent of New Orleans Poppy Z. Brites eloquent outbursts (which have occasionally targeted Atlanta). On the show, Creighton discovers that his stem-winder has gone viral, making him a local celebrity and bringing a smile to face.
The catalyst for Creightons diatribe was a YouTube clip of George W. Bushs Jackson Square speech, which he watched with such stunned disgust, it was as if Creighton were about to sneeze his lungs out. The villains of Treme, so far, have primarily been impersonal institutions, like the insurance company that denies Albert his claim; the adjuster, rather than being a white-collar demon, miserably tows the company party line. The NOrleans natives unite in their contempt for gas company Entergy, which fails to adequately repair the burners at Janettes restaurant, and leaves a giant pothole that practically engulfs Daviss car. (Having a common enemy is not enough to get Davis and Janette back in bed, however.)
So far, Tremes new episodes tend to superbly acted and well-observed, while having a more-of-the-same quality. Most of Tremes regulars tend to be good people, or at least people with good intentions, and I find myself wishing Treme would offer us a real antagonist to root against. The Wire had great, charismatic villains, particularly the drug dealers Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell. But the enemies need not be crime lords, but merely the embodiments of institutional corruption. Consider The WiresActing Commissioner William Rawls, who bullied his underlings with such gusto; or the cheerfully underhanded State Senator Clay Davis, whod dismiss charges against him with a symphonic Sheeeee-it!
This episode even offered a brief appearance from a Wire-style criminal (played by Anwan Glover, a veteran of the previous show) in the murder suspect who impersonated Ladonnas brother. Look at us! Ladonna snaps, at him reminding us of Khandi Alexanders ferocity, and he grudgingly explains how he took the brothers wristband. Glover tells Ladonnas mother, Respectfully, Maam? I know how to jail and your boy dont. Glover's short scene shows the watchability of a good bad guy. (Hey, another Wire alum, Jim True-Frost aka Prez, has a cameo as Delmonds agent in New York.)
Primarily, the villains of Treme tend be the internal demons that bedevil the characters. This week, Davis, like Creighton, finds an outlet for his disorganized indignation, and applies his civic activism to his musical talent. Although we see him writing out a version of the tune he rapped at the bar, well have to wait another week to hear to the finished product.
Likewise, Antoine, sidelined by a cut lip and (apparently) a missing trombone, takes a step towards responsibility by visiting Baton Rouge to bond with his disinterested sons and get some cheap dental care from Ladonnas second husband. Albert shows no sign of his violent temper and instead has dinner with a fetching single mom who confides I got a crack in my wall upstairs that needs tendin to. Oh, if only she could send him some kind of sign!
Only Sonny, however, continues on his downward path, which takes him to Houston horrors! for an out-of-town gig that provides a little exposure and a little heroin. He grants our favorite fiddle player Annie leave to perform with other street musicians just not keyboardists, because hes apparently insecure like that. After some advice from a mandolin player (who happens to a third "Wire" guy, actor/musician Steve Earle), Annie takes a gig with another piano player. Sonny walks in and, rather than throw a tantrum, has a drink and smiles, but whether thats a Were cool smile or an Ill jealously punish you later smile, well have to wait and see.
Between Delmonds fancy New York party and Sonnys Houston gig, this episode may have set a record for Cameos By Real But Unrecognizable People. Sometimes watching the show is like being on a receiving line. Thanks to The Vultures recap, I learned that John Boutté, who sings Tremes rollicking theme song, was the compact crooner who took the mic in the Houston juke joint. Its another of the shows glorious but dramatically draggy numbers, and honestly, I preferred Antoines waiting-room blues improvisation ("St. James Infirmary," maybe?) Perhaps Tremes greatest villain will turn out to be restless audiences.
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