Review: ‘Treme’ – ‘This City’

A review of tonight’s “Tremé” coming up just as soon as I wonder where that $300 has gotten to…

This final season of “Tremé” opened with some optimism: the locals were excited about Barack Obama’s election, Janette was opening a new restaurant, Colson and Toni were happily co-habitating, Albert enjoying remission and his relationship with LaDonna, etc. “This City” is where we are reminded what show we are watching, and what the creative team(*) does to the people and places we care about.

(*) Even had I not seen the episode’s writing credits, I could have instantly figured out that George Pelecanos wrote this one. He can be brutal in penultimate episodes, but he can also be brutal earlier in a season.

So while “This City” has some light moments, like Davis blowing a big-money opportunity with CJ Liguori, or Antoine and LaDonna flirting like the spark between them has never gone out, for the most part, it’s about hopes, dreams and at times lives being snuffed out.

So Janette’s restaurant hits a huge obstacle when ex-partner Tim Feeney sends her a cease-and-desist order barring her from using her name on the new place. (Though even that leads to a bit of full-circle lightness, as Davis’ profane indignation on her behalf puts them back in bed together.) Marvin makes an ultimatum to Annie, then walks away from her performance of Harley’s “This City” just as she’s singing the line about how she won’t ever leave this town. Toni runs into Officer Wilson, still free and wearing a uniform despite all the evidence she got on him last season. And despite Antoine’s best efforts to protect Charisse, she gets killed walking her little brother to school, and as Antoine struggles with heartbreak, we also see the sad but understandable fact of life that a school in a neighborhood like this already has an entire routine in place for how to deal with the violent death of a student.

The big knife twist, of course, is Albert discovering that his recent feelings of good health were a mirage, and that his cancer has spread so aggressively that he doesn’t want to fight it anymore. He takes his daughter on a wistful tour of his childhood haunts, and the last line of their field trip really says it all: “I’m ready to go, Davina.”

You can certainly look at Albert preparing for his own death – and warning his children to prepare for the same – as a metaphor for the impending demise of this show, and our loss as viewers, just as you can easily imagine some of Simon, Overmyer and Pelecanos coming out in Toni’s lament about how little she’s accomplished in all of her crusading. “The Wire” never really changed the conversation about the drug war, nor has “Tremé” improved the many fundamental problems down in New Orleans. A sense of futility is palpable throughout the episode, including a return glimpse to Davis’ pothole, still unrepaired and still festooned with all the junk he placed in it to protect another driver from suffering his fate.

These shows have unfortunately not succeeded as activism, but they have as entertainment, and “This City” was chock full of entertaining – if often tragic – moments, like Wendell Pierce’s performance in the scene where Colson interviews Antoine, or Davis and Janette coming up with new and interesting ways to curse out Tim, or Annie at the rockabilly performance that was the exact opposite of the sort of commercial stuff Marvin is pushing her to do.

Two down, three to go. Sigh. At least we have Dave Walker’s episode explainers to help guide us.

What did everybody else think?