“I thought it would be much harder to watch,” the friend sitting next to me said at the end, and he was right. Simon is coming on as slow as Ken Burns on a first date, carefully establishing place and character and the ways they interlock, and giving us heavy doses of the clownish Davis McAlary and Antoine Batiste (both faithful portrayals and by no stretch caricature clowns) that made it an experience completely unlike When the Levees Broke or Trouble the Water.
I have to wonder how well some of the subtlety will play in Peoria. Who in the room under 50 will understand the segue from talking about the Mafia to Louis Prima? How many will know who how big he was, that he was a New Orleans boy and the white Louis Armstrong in the profoundly segregated world of jazz music? Or, as Ray points out, who outside of New Orleans is going to understand the missing prisoner plot is not contrived cop show nonsense but one of the many ways people were still missing three month’s later? Sadly, more Americans know something of the drug culture of the streets than they do about one of America’s cultural jewels.
What will they make of Albert Lambreaux in places where they have no idea what a Mardi Gras Indian is? How many understood him when he spoke through his grim mask the episode’s title? But his spectral appearance had magical power, like the angels appearing to Joseph pre-Nativity. Simon is being very ballsy in the first episode, playing to an inside straight everyone in this city can see and is cheering him to draw to. I hope everyone in the rest of the country who watched comes back in part to understand that scene, just as people hung around to figure out what Hamlet would do once the ghost told him how his father died.
Ray got some important details out already, such as how clean the houses were, how little debris there was in the streets and how green the lawns were but those are small things. Lambreaux entering the house and bar were enough to re-establish for America what we are talking about. Simon had other details dead to rights, such as the constant interruption of helicopters.
And yes, Virgotex, everyone one of those lazy, shiftless, party-town mo-fos is killing themselves to just make it through the next day. Somebody in our room remarked when Toni Bernette came in with all those groceries, “where they hell did she get all that?”
Ray, this episode was my magic Hubig’s Pie, and magic may be my new favorite flavor.
— wet bank guy