Season premiere review: ‘Treme’ – ‘Yes We Can Can’

“Tremé” returned for its final season tonight. I reviewed the season in advance on Friday, and I have a few specific thoughts on the premiere coming up just as soon as I ask why you would call someone a suck-you butt…

Like I said at the end of the advance review, I retain my feeling from last season that “Tremé” – especially at this late, epilogue-y stage – is designed for a lot of weekly analysis. But since I love the show and want to provide a place where we can all talk about it before the finale, I’ll have these brief weekly posts to start discussion.

We pick up on Election Day 2008, with the people of the Tremé unsurprisingly excited to be able to vote for America’s first black president. (Even the deeply pessimistic Albert stops complaining long enough to go to the polls, and looks pleased to be there.) From our position 5 years in the future, we know how ugly national politics have been(*), which makes all the optimism bittersweet in a way that feels tonally suited to the show. Like “The Newsroom,” “Tremé” is mixing fictional characters into our very real recent past, but this show never bludgeons you over the head with foreshadowing of what’s really going to happen versus what people like Davis or Antoine think is going to happen.

(*) And that’s the most I will say about that, given the blog’s No Politics rule. I will ask you to do the same, rather than turn the comments into a referendum on either party.

The election begins the series’ usual discussion of all the things that won’t get fixed in this city, or this country, but the episode quickly segues into showing us where all the characters are and what their stories may be for the new year: Janette is opening up another restaurant (and has blown things with Jacques) while Tim continues using her name and image for the last one; Antoine is now teaching solo, and increasingly playing father figure to the kids in his charge; Annie is getting pressure from Marvin to ditch her band and record something more commercial in Nashville; LaDonna and Larry have separated, and LaDonna is, as the end of season 3 implied, seeing Albert, whose cancer is in remission; Delmond is sticking around to make sure Albert is okay; Toni has a new investigation (courtesy of Sonny) and is more or less living with Colson, who remains an outcast in his own unit; Nelson has relocated most of his business back to Texas, which has its own hurricane to recover from; and Davis is still being Davis.

Though the producers had half a season to work with, the script by Simon, Overmyer and Pelecanos doesn’t suddenly start speeding things up. It’s the same leisurely show it’s always been, taking time for delightful but plotless scenes like Davis and his buddy going nuts listening to Trombone Shorty’s “Hurricane Season” in Davis’ car. And though there are no new characters for the final season, there’s time for new connections, like the improbable new friendship between Davis and Nelson, and the way that in turn brings Nelson into the orbit of Antoine (which is funny if you remember Nelson and Desiree’s interaction last season).

Good to be back in fictional-ish New Orleans. Looking forward to one final month of discussion. So what did everybody else think?

UPDATE: Here’s Dave Walker’s latest episode explainer.