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Treme, Ep. 4.04, “Sunset on Louisianne” ponders legacy and loss

Treme S04E04 promo pic, "Sunset on Louisianne"

Treme, Season 4, Episode 4, “Sunset on Louisianne”
Written by David Simon
Directed by Alex Hall
Airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO

This week, on Treme: Davis turns 40, Antoine tests his limits, and Albert slips away

The reflective tone of last week’s episode is crystallized in “Sunset on Louisianne”, as characters ponder their legacies and impact while Big Chief Lambreaux quietly passes. Viewers expecting a dramatic, emotional goodbye for Albert may be disappointed, but they shouldn’t be surprised. Treme, like The Wire before it, prizes honesty over melodrama and an expected, comparatively peaceful death while sleeping is much more in keeping with this than the tearful goodbyes, waterworks, and last minute revelations of so many other cancer-related deaths on television.

Over the past few episodes, Albert has grown increasingly tired and has started to fade. After his admission last week that he wouldn’t be walking on Mardi Gras, it was a matter of time and though it’s a powerful loss and while he will leave a big hole in the lives of his family, LaDonna, and his tribe, David Simon and Eric Overmyer have prepared both the characters and viewers well for what was coming. It’s somewhat of a surprise for Albert to go in the penultimate episode, and a Treme series finale without the Big Chief is an odd thing to imagine, but this decision allows the audience to mourn with LaDonna and Delmond, as we most certainly will next week, and this catharsis should make for a powerful finale.

Much of Treme’s season has been steeped in a sense of finality and that continues this week, with Davis contemplating his mortality and Antoine trying to recapture his youth. It’s interesting that in these final episodes, Simon and Overmyer have pared down the ensemble, reducing Annie’s role and leaving Sonny and Sofia alone after the premiere, instead focusing in even further on Janette and Davis, LaDonna and Albert, Antoine, Toni, and to a lesser extent, Terry. This has allowed more direct comparisons to be drawn between the main characters, as Simon does this week with Davis, Antoine, Albert, and Terry.

Albert isn’t worried about how he’ll be remembered- his biggest concerns are the lingering repairs that need to be done on the house, a project he began in the pilot. Antoine is reassessing his choices, with the school board letting him down, as is Terry, and Davis has a new goal- permanence. This is less of a change than it may initially seem; lasting recognition was a big inspiration for his opera last season. However his midlife crisis, which also neatly connects to Terry’s talk of starting over with a new career, carries extra weight thanks to Steve Zahn’s anxious performance.

Davis seems more fearful than he has in the past. He actually feels like he may make some changes in his life, unlike Terry, who’s been talking about transferring or quitting for forever and will need a big push to make him go through with it. As for Antoine, his slip back towards his early-series lifestyle may be fun for a night or two, but given his classroom scene towards the end of the episode, he seems to care too much for his students to head back out on the road full time. It’s a much better choice for his family as well, so hopefully next week’s finale will bring with it another example of Antoine’s rather recent maturity.

It’s wonderful to see LP back this week, bringing with him some much appreciated good news for Toni. She’s had a hell of a season, and series, and word that forward movement may actually be coming on some of her cases is very welcome. That being said, Simon and Overmyer are not known for their sunny, optimistic, and positive-towards-governmental-institutions finales, so it’s just as likely she’ll have the rug pulled out from under her again. With so many characters’ lives in flux, one can’t help but hope for at least one or two concrete happy endings and the arrest of some of these noxious offenders would a nice start.

As for Annie, she makes her call this week and the band takes it well. She does really deserve greater prominence; hopefully she’ll have a positive experience in Nashville. It would be nice for another city or other musicians to be validated by the series, rather than just distrusted as Not New Orleans. Studio musicians know their stuff and Delmond is constantly working with them- why is Annie doing the same presented as her descent towards the Dark Side? We’ll see where the writers go with this next week, but at least she’s able to make a clean and respectful break, as so rarely happens on shows with similar storylines.

It’s been a long and arduous ride for most of our characters, and next week it comes to an end. Treme has never been the success it deserves to be and it’s even failed to get the critical praise one might expect. For this reviewer, it’s a beautiful series and a magnificent accomplishment; despite the writers’ careful preparation, it’s going to be hard to say goodbye next week.

What did you think of this episode? Did anyone else start dancing along to Sing Sing Sing (one of my personal favorites)? What do you hope to see in the finale? Think we’ll check in on Sonny and some of the other AWOL recurring characters? Post your thoughts below!

Kate Kulzick


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