The scene illustrates sea change for New Orleans and its residents. Having persisted through the initial shock and turmoil of post-Katrina life — returning home, digging through the ruins, finding and burying the dead — the city and its inhabitants are beginning to begin again. It's a shift that's even noted in the series' revised opening credits: We still see the the Weather Channel swirl of clouds over the Gulf and the waterlogged homes, but signs of rebuilding play prominently too, in the fresh wood of a crisp new door frame, for instance.
More than a year since Katrina and seven months since we left off in the season 1 finale, "Treme's" characters are slowly but surely feeling out the first notes of their post-Katrina song.
In many ways the episode played out like a kind of "New Orleans City Limits," the already loosely plotted and music heavy show becoming even more so in the second season premiere. The characters and their storylines practically seemed to take a back seat to extended performances (by TV series standards) from New Orleans staples Galactic, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Subdudes, the Loose Marbles, Bonerama and more. The episode jumped around between concerts to check in on the characters.
Not seen in the cemetery is Toni Bernette, who's instead buying ice cream for herself and daughter Sofia. The two struggle with Creighton's "accidental" death, Toni quietly suffering and manically devoting herself to her work. Sofia becomes increasingly indignant, portraying a stinging combination of tortured teenager and grieving daughter. She takes to YouTube to continue her father's video editorializing, making sure to maintain his acerbic catch-phrase "You fucking fucks."
Annie and Davis have a decidedly happier story. Annie returns home to Davis after a successful tour. In anticipation of her homecoming, Davis "cleans up" the the house, which involves trashing the dirty dishes rather than washing them, arranging all of the kitchen table clutter into one neat stack of clutter, and spraying copious amounts of air freshener around the visibly dusty home. It's an immensely sweet gesture delivered with the goofy charm Steve Zahn's instilled in Davis from the beginning. It also stands in stark contrast to the increasingly depressing conditions in which Annie's ex Sonny finds himself. Addicted again, living with drug dealers, and bitterly performing solo on street corners, Sonny's a bummer with only himself to blame.
Desiree continues to harp on Antoine about his life choices ("I'm talking ’bout a job job Antoine.") as she readies her mother's devastated home in the Lower Ninth Ward for demolition. It's a nod to the difficult decision so many New Orleanians had to make in the wake of the storm to sell off family homes to the government for demolition because it was more cost effective than rebuilding. Desiree's case is complicated by the fact that she has no deed to the home that was built and maintained by her family throughout its entire existence. No deed means no much-needed cash.
Cash for homes is exactly what Nelson Hidalgo (John Seda) has on the brain as the season two newbie blows in from Texas with an eye for rebuilding the devastated city. Seda plays Nelson as a well-dressed, loose-hipped Latino prone to surveying the urban wasteland with eyes squinted and hands on hips. Our first impression is more carpetbagger than caretaker: He rolls up in a newly leased Jag into the Lower Ninth where his brother is barely managing his rag-tag construction team, and sweet talks Ladonna into a free beer before gyrating to some salsa in the back corner of her bar. It's difficult at this point to tell how pure Nelson's intentions are. Stab in the dark — not too pure.
In the season one finale, chef (and Davis' former love interest) Janette left for the bright lights of New York City's 5-star kitchens. Now employed on the line in an unnamed upscale restaurant, Janette suffers at the whim of an egocentric boss prone hysteric fits of rage. For season two, "Treme" enlisted the help of potty-mouthed celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain to write the kitchen scenes. And it's exactly what you'd expect from the "No Reservations" host and Kitchen Confidential author: Blindingly bright chefs' whites and stainless steel prep tables and cookware form the backdrop of a kitchen that operates with the precision of a Swiss watch rather than the passion of a family kitchen.
Finally, David Morse returns as police Lt. Colson, a wholly unsympathetic man save for his friendly — and borderline tender — conversations with Toni. As the city struggles with a surge in violent crime, Colson struggles to maintain any semblance of control, barking back at the New York Times after a shoot-out at a bar leaves one dead and four wounded.
At the end of the episode, the burgeoning young trumpet player of the opening scenes quietly blows along with a group of seasoned street performers. An older man laughs to himself at the boy's efforts.
"It's hard," the boy says.
"It gets easier," says the man.
"I hope so," says the boy.
"I do to."
A slow but poignant start to season two of "Treme."
FUN FACT: In 2006 (the same year season 2 takes place), the New Orleans Saints brought on Superbowl-winning coach-to-be Sean Payton, Reggie Bush and quarterback Drew Brees.
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