Review: ‘Treme’ – ‘Dippermouth Blues’

A quick review of tonight’s “Tremé” coming up just as soon as I teach you the “Ghostbusters” theme…

New Year’s Eve comes and goes in “Dippermouth Blues,” as “Tremé” slips into 2009, the final year we’ll spend in this (slightly) fictionalized version of New Orleans. But the episode’s not a chance to celebrate, because Albert’s illness hangs over so much of it. Delmond runs across a funeral procession and has to imagine the moment coming soon when he’ll be part of one. The Lambreaux family and LaDonna get to enjoy one of Delmond’s gigs for a while, but before the show is over, Albert’s so weak he needs to be helped to the car. He can’t enjoy the taste of food anymore, won’t take any drugs but marijuana (and they’re out of it), and his Indian tribe has to figure out what to do if he’s not ready to walk – or, worse, if he’s not alive – come Mardi Gras. There are no big moments in the story this week, no raging against fate or monologues about regrets: just sad little glimpses of a proud, strong man slipping out of this life bit by bit.

Things remain dark elsewhere – even in the visual style, as we open on DJ Davis largely in shadow as he discusses the evolution of American popular culture – with Colson remaining an outcast in his own department, Marvin punishing Annie by assigning an inexperienced young manager to her, LaDonna and Larry remaining on the outs and Janette again struggling to pay the bills necessary to make her restaurant work.

But there’s humor, too, notably in the subplot guest-starring Wilson Bethel from “Hart of Dixie” as the very whitebread actor cast, to Antoine’s dismay, to play a thinly-veiled version of Kid Ory. David Simon likes to dismiss talk that he uses any characters on his shows as mouthpieces, but he’s definitely not above a meta joke or two. The Bethel character is mainly a commentary on white appropriation of black culture, but it’s also a riff on how Wendell Pierce had to learn to fake the trombone for this character (ditto Rob Brown on trumpet), with a real musician performing just off-screen whenever we see Antoine playing a gig.

Midway through this mini season, some stories are slow to get started (Toni’s investigation), and some characters haven’t been around much (we haven’t seen Sonny since the premiere), but for the most part, “Tremé” is still “Tremé.” For a few more weeks, anyway.

Here’s Dave Walker’s explainer for the episode. What did everybody else think?