Treme, Season 3, Episode 6: “Careless Love”
Written by George Pelecanos (Story) and Chris Offutt (Story, Teleplay)
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Airs Sundays at 10pm (ET) on HBO
This week, on Treme: Sonny screws up, Antoine fights the system, and Big Chief holds off on chemo
The common complaint with Treme is that, with so many characters, it’s easy for one arc or another to fail to resonate, making each scene with that character a distraction from the other, more compelling stories. The character that has suffered most in comparison with the others has been Sonny, whose struggle with addiction has followed a fairly straightforward trajectory (it didn’t help that he abused Annie, perhaps the most likeable character on the show). This episode, after seeing him fall off the wagon last week, we spend much of our time with Sonny, watching his spiral into, and then decision to get out of, all of his old habits. Michiel Huisman does well with the material, selling Sonny’s journey, but though the beats are well written and incredibly realistic, this reviewer still doesn’t care about the character, leaving a disconnect between the knowledge that the Sonny part of this episode is well made and produced and a more personal connection or enjoyment of it.
David Simon is clearly not abandoning any of his characters, however, so addressing this part of Sonny’s story and, more importantly, putting his entire relapse and decision to recover into one episode, is a good move. We spent a significant chunk of season one watching Sonny-as-user and the possibility of another several episodes of this wasn’t particularly appealing, so it’s great that Simon doesn’t appear to be going that direction. We get several fantastic scenes and moments in this arc, the most memorable of which is Sonny’s beautiful, visually stunning end-of-episode benediction from his boss and girlfriend’s father, Tran, played by Lee Nguyen.
Elsewhere this episode, however, we get one of the most exciting and unexpected musical performances in the series’ history- none other than Fats Domino, who sings his 1956 hit, “Blueberry Hill”. It’s moments like this that make Treme such an awesome show. Literally- this is a goosebumps-inducing minute of television that left this reviewer in awe. It goes without saying that Fats Domino is a legend, but the simplicity and ease of this particular vocal shows why. It’s incredibly smooth but full of musical interpretation, choices honed through decades of practice and experience, from rhythm and timing to whole and quartertone slides into and out of notes to pronunciation and vibrato. It’s (comparatively) easy to make complicated, florid music sound impressive. It’s much harder to bring style to a repeated eight-bar phrase with straightforward rhythm and melody, and to do it in such a way that you can’t imagine any other interpretation. This is exactly what we get to see here. It’s a privilege, one that viewers shouldn’t take for granted.
Back in the non-musical realm, Antoine continues to develop into a pretty great teacher and all-around human being. His frustration in trying to help his illiterate student, Jennifer, his decision to include Desiree, unlike last time, and his later interaction with Jennifer all point towards a responsible, compassionate adult. It’s about time. Antoine and Jennifer’s conversation towards the end of the episode and their scene with the band is absolutely authentic and Jennifer’s story is one it’d be nice to see followed up on. This scene also points towards continued growth for Antoine and as he re-embraces his musical study, hopefully he won’t slide back into his characteristic immaturity and infidelity.
We also get a few nice scenes with Big Chief Lambreaux. His scenes with LaDonna continue to resonate- Clarke Peters and Khandi Alexander work wonderfully together and one gets the sense that these are two characters who truly know each other and are of a kind. What’s even better to see, however, is how much the relationship between Albert and Delmond has grown. It seems Delmond finally has come to understand his father, at least enough to respect his decision about chemo, and Albert has moved towards Delmond as well (though he might not concede the point), allowing him to help and at least hearing what he says.
Despite centering on one of the show’s weaker characters, once again this season, Treme succeeds with a more tightly focused episode. At this point, it’s unlikely many who are interested aren’t tuning in, but even if this doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, do yourself a favor and look up the Fats Domino scene on YouTube. Then, once that hooks you, dive in and see what you’ve been missing. You won’t regret it.
What did you think of this episode? Was anyone else uber excited to see Fats Domino? Did Sonny win you over? Where do you hope they’re going with Antoine and Jennifer’s stories? Post your thoughts below!