Treme, Ep. 3.07, “Promised Land”: Mardis Gras is back and better than ever

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Treme, Season 3, Episode 7: “Promised Land”
Written by David Simon, Chris Rose & Micah Kibodeaux
Directed by Tim Robbins
Airs Sundays at 10pm (ET) on HBO

This week, on Treme: Chief Lambreaux takes his walk, Antoine’s band jams with the Marines, and Sofia misses her dad

Treme always knocks it out of the park with their Mardi Gras episodes and this season is no exception. “Promised Land” runs almost 70 minutes, but it earns every second. Things start off well, with confirmation for the audience that Sofia has ditched her loser boyfriend and is making eyes at LP, though he (perhaps unknowingly) lets her down as painlessly as possible. After a stern conversation with Sofia’s now-ex, and a drink at the judges’ table, Toni takes the rest of the episode off, as does Sofia, for the most part.

It wouldn’t be the Treme Mardi Gras episode, though, without the Bernette theme song for the day, Professor Longhair’s, “Go to the Mardis Gras”, which immediately reminds the characters and audience of Creighton (her father) and his death. Seeing Sofia perched on the rocks by the Mississippi in her sprite-like costume, watching the Krewe of St. Anne bless the Mississippi and the parade of people there to scatter the ashes of their loved ones, just as Toni did alone last season when Sofia ran off, nearly brings a tear to the eye. Sofia’s been on quite a journey and it’s fitting that it all ties in here to her father’s death.

The return of Harley’s sister and her and Annie’s scattering of his ashes is a wonderful moment that shows the kind of series memory that Treme values (and so many others don’t). Harley has remained a very present character on the show through his music, which Annie has performed this season, and always makes sure to credit him for. It would have been easy to cut this moment, and cut the sister entirely, particularly when the episode went long, but that’s not the kind of show this is. Unfortunately, though Annie gets several happy moments this week, we know that’s not long to last, as we watch Davis, looking resplendent in his Mozart costume, cheat on her with Janette. Viewers can’t help but feel bad for Jacques too, though he doesn’t appear this week. It would seem Annie has terrible luck with men, choosing two in a row now that have let her down in one way or another.

After his intense journey last week, Sonny is doing his best to stay on the straight and narrow and that cannot be easy in New Orleans on Mardi Gras. It’s good that we touch base with him this week- with so much emphasis on the drunken revelry that makes up a particular segment of the New Orleans Mardi Gras experience, it would be too easy to step away from him and pick up whenever the next episode is set. Janette is also at a bit of a crossroads, unsure of where she’s headed and certainly feeling insecure in the limelight. Cue Emeril, who gives a much needed pep talk and a dose of perspective. The chef cameos on this series haven’t been quite as seamless as the musicians, perhaps because the musicians usually get to play whereas the chefs have mostly been out of the kitchen (and those cameos in the kitchen are the ones that have worked best), but while some of Emeril’s lines feel rehearsed and stilted, on the whole this works.

After months of prep (and several episodes’ build up), Antoine’s band marches in the band and, like one of the onlookers says, they sound pretty good! As in the previous episode, we see a more mature Antoine here. He’s not chasing a potential hookup, he’s focused on his students and his future. It’s great to see the kids revel in their achievement and then get the opportunity to see how the pros do it, that you can be incredibly precise and work as a team and then break off and jam with individualism and flair. Plus the opportunity to listen to the Marine Corps Band is a treat for the audience as well as the characters.

The heart and soul of the episode, however, is Big Chief Lambreaux on what could be his final Mardi Gras. Before we even get to the day, we get what is probably one of the most emotional sequences of the series, when Delmond and the rest of the Guardians watch Trouble the Waters. The slow transition from Delmond half-watching to utterly engrossed, to everyone watching, to Albert walking away, to Delmond joining him, perhaps finally understanding his pain and determination for the first time is heartbreaking and beautiful.

When we get to the big day, not only do the suits live up to our expectations, as pretty as could be, but the showdown between Big Chief Lambreaux and the red Chief (Big Chief Harrison, perhaps?) is a show stopper. It may not have the visceral intensity of the showdown at rehearsal several weeks back, but it is beautiful to see and delightfully strange to those of the viewing public who’ve not experienced New Orleans Mardi Gras in person, or at least not seen the Indians. Though at the end of the day he’s clearly hurting, Albert has a great walk, standing tall and proud. We may not like what’s coming for him and how this usually strong man will likely suffer and weaken, but at least, if this is his final Mardi Gras, he goes out well.

With only five episodes in next year’s final season, this is possibly Treme’s last Mardi Gras episode and, if that’s the case, it’s a tradition this reviewer will certainly miss. There are few episodes as full of life, the good and the bad, as “Promised Land”. Treme may only have a handful of episodes left, but if they’re anywhere near this good, we’re in for a memorable final run.

What did you think of this episode? How would you rank the Mardi Gras episodes? Anyone else stoked to see Anthony Anderson reappear? Who was prettier- Chief Lambreaux in his green or the other Chief in red? Post your thoughts below!

Kate Kulzick

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