Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Treme" - "I'll Fly Away"/Season in Review

Note: I've been watching season 1 of "Treme" on DVD over the past week or so. Here are my rather lengthy thoughts on the season finale as well as the season as a whole.

Spoilers for the entire first season of "Treme" after the jump:

What I loved most about "Treme's" season 1 finale was how understated it was. Granted, this show has never been about highly charged emotions or huge plot developments (we've got "Breaking Bad" for that, folks), but there was always the chance the show would forget that in its finale: especially considering the large amount of sweet and bitter (as well as bittersweet) material it had to cover given how the events of the season unfolded.

There was Creighton's suicide: a truly shocking development that I'm still not sure I entirely buy. Given everything we'd learned about the character, it didn't seem like the sort of thing he'd do. But maybe that's the point. After all, how well do you ever really know somebody?

In any case, Melissa Leo was easily the MVP of the episode: flat-out nailing all of Toni's raw, conflicting emotions at her husband's selfish decision. The title of this episode was "I'll Fly Away", but if Creighton did indeed fly away he did so with the knowledge that he was leaving behind a family that loved him and needed him. My hunch is that Toni and Sofia will still be picking up the pieces of this shattering event when season 2 begins*.

But other than that there wasn't anything major or life-altering happening here, other than Janette's move to New York (which had already been set in motion in the previous episode). All that was left was for her to do was pack, and Davis convinced her to spend one more day with him in New Orleans in a futile attempt to change her mind.

This was by far my favorite storyline in the episode, mainly because of how well it showcased these two characters. Janette's leaving. That's pretty much set in stone. She knows it, and I'm pretty sure Davis knows it too. But she agrees to spend one more day in the city, because she loves it. And Davis gets one last chance to extol the virtues of New Orleans to a person he cares about. It's a great send-off for Janette, as well as to this oddly endearing relationship. (I wonder if this is the last we'll see of Janette, or if she'll be back in some capacity in season 2 and beyond. Hopefully she will be.)

The character I was happiest for was probably Annie. She's quickly become one of my favorite characters on the series, and seeing her escape her controlling and borderline abusive boyfriend (hopefully for good) was a strong and optimistic note for the show to leave her on. And the fact that she wound up at Davis's place was even better: sure, Davis is kind of a moron, but he's also a nice guy who'll encourage her rather than try to keep her down.

Meanwhile, Albert and the rest of his Indians came out for St. Joseph's day. I was very impressed by the way this was handled. I'd been expecting them to get arrested or beaten up by the police, but instead Maurice was able to defuse the situation for now. I get the feeling that the tension between the two groups (at least among certain officers) isn't going to go away any time soon, but for now I appreciate the subtle way in which the situation was defused.

If there was one thing I didn't care for, it was the flashback to right before the hurricane. Yes, this kind of before and after comparison is appropriate for a season finale, but so much of it felt unnecessary. We already knew what happened to Daymo, so we did we need to see it? The same goes for the scenes of all the other characters. Some of them are effective, but they didn't tell us anything we didn't already know. Albert's stubborn, Davis is an idiot, Annie and Sonny were happy once... all of that had already been established.

Fortunately, the episode managed to recover from this minor lapse (truly the only major mistake I've seen the show make so far) and close on a deeply moving and graceful note: a second line parade for LaDonna's deceased brother. Given that this remarkable season began with the same type of event, it's the proper ending: combining both sadness and joy in the way that only this show can. It's going to be a long wait for the next season on DVD, but I'm sure it'll be worth it.

Other Thoughts

- You'll note that this review didn't talk at all about Antoine. That's because he really didn't have much to do here, other than gamble away most of his newly earned money. His gig featured some of the best music I've seen from this show yet, though.

- Obligatory message to HBO: please put the second season online somewhere, or at least don't wait too long to release it on DVD.

- Thus far I'd rank this show behind only "Breaking Bad" as far as current TV dramas go (it's ever so slightly ahead of "Mad Men"). Of course, I haven't seen "Game of Thrones" or season 2 of "Justified" yet.

Episode Grade: N/A (I've decided not to grade individual episodes of "Treme", at least for now. It's not really a show that lends itself well to that, and just about all of them would be As anyway.)
Season Grade: A

* And yes, I know season 2 is almost finished on HBO. I'm referring to when I'll get the chance to watch it on DVD, which probably won't be for quite a while (six months or more).

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