Treme, Season 4, Episode 5, “… To Miss New Orleans”
Written by David Simon & Eric Overmyer
Directed by Agnieszka Holland
Aired Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO
This week, on Treme: We get one last Mardi Gras as characters move on with their lives
Treme finished its four season run this week with “… To Miss New Orleans”, an appropriately reflective and celebratory hour. Unlike last year’s potential series finale, “Tipitina”, this episode focuses on each character’s journey not to a specific place, but forward in their life. Surprisingly, and happily, this episode leaves each character in a good place. Not everyone winds up in New Orleans, but they’ve all made positive motion in their lives and are surrounded by people who understand and support them. Davis has a responsible job he’s good at, but still finds time to still write a new Godzilla vs. MLK single. Antoine may still be fooling around on Mardi Gras, but he’s involved in his sons lives for the first time in the entire series. Terry and Annie leave town, but Terry gets to be with his children and Annie continues to blossom as an artist. Everyone gets a win in some way or another this week and this fond, perhaps overly sunny farewell is more than most viewers will have hoped for.
After taking the past three episodes off, Sonny and Sofia are back this week for the finale. Sofia has little to do, but it is still great to see her for one more Mardi Gras. Sonny, on the other hand, is a sight for sore eyes and his moment with Annie is among the episode’s most affecting and effective. Both characters have come incredibly far since the pilot and it’s great to see them able to look back fondly on their time together, which had not nearly enough ups and more than its fair share of downs. As for Annie, her conversation with Marvin is one of the episode’s big surprises. It’s great to see the show come down positively (or at least neutrally) on not only Nashville, but bigger labels in general. Yes, her initial songs at the recording studio are laughably stereotypical and forgettable, but this isn’t chalked up to an inherent phoniness in the studio process or the notion of “selling out”, but rather Marvin’s over-manipulation and producing of Annie’s sound. It’s perhaps the most positive portrayal of a large(r) institution on the show and this nuance is appreciated.
Also being sanded into a more presentable version of himself this week is Davis, who continues his mid-life crisis from last week. As Janette knows, DJ Davis will never go away completely, but this newfound responsibility and balance is a wonderful development for Davis and it seems likely he may even keep it up, at least to some extent. The same is true for Antoine, who disappoints with his likely return to philandering but has nonetheless matured significantly over the course of the series. LaDonna moves forward, remaining separated (and, one assumes, eventually divorced) from Larry rather than going back to him after Albert’s death. The opening moments this week, with the tribute to Albert by his tribe, are moving and a lovely send-off for the character, as is Delmond’s honoring of his father both in the way he knows best, his music, and the way his father would most respect, by finishing up the final restorations on the house Albert was so devastated to have lost and determined to rebuild in the pilot.
Janette gets her name back, Nelson proves himself more than the soulless suit he started out as, and Toni finally gets a victory, as the Abreu case finally leads to the arrest of the officer responsible for Joey Abreu’s death during Katrina. While the episode is on the whole celebratory however, with a touch of melancholy, there is one moment of anxious dread, when shots break out at Mardi Gras. Knowing the show’s usual less-than-optimistic outlook, viewers would be forgiven for fearing the worst, that LaDonna was about to experience yet another senseless loss; when that turns out not to be the case, the relief is palpable. The combination of Khandi Alexander’s performance and Agnieszka Holland’s direction captures perfectly the uncertainty and fear that a moment like this instills. Though this scene doesn’t fit tonally with the rest of the episode, it works powerfully to temper the rest of the finale’s happy endings. The characters may be in good places at the moment, but life is precarious and happiness can be snatched away in a heartbeat.
At its core though, Treme has always been just as much about New Orleans as it is any one of its many characters and the closing shot of the series, a parallel to the season’s opening scene, is a wonderful representation of the series’ take on the New Orleans- a patchwork solution to a problem born of institutional neglect made beautiful by the creative, inspired, and inspiring people of the city. Treme is a truly unique series, one filled with beauty and despair, inspiration and devastation, and underneath it all, a profound respect for the people who push on through disappointment and rejection, determined to live their lives on their own terms and to stand up in even the smallest ways against greed and corruption. It’s been a joy to review this wonderful, underappreciated show these past two seasons. Thank you, Treme, for bringing music and art to television in your own beautiful way.
What did you think of the finale? Anyone else start beaming when Dr. John showed up? What will you take away most from the series? Post your thoughts below.