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“Why you even care?”

June 6, 2011

Lot of agreement here and elsewhere that Carnival Time is the best ep of Season 2 and one of the best of the series. It’s really a sprawling, pulsing, gorgeous piece of television, isn’t it? As mentioned in the comments last night, due to the onscreen revelry and accents, I didn’t catch a lot of dialogue, and that didn’t even matter much. This episode really wears its heart on its sleeve. “I know your heart,” Annie says that to Davis specifically but it’s emblematic of the larger theme. It is a hard episode not to love because almost everyone is at their best.

We see characters being generous, charitable, acting from their hearts, not simply taking the license of the season for largesse. Cornell intervenes for Sonny, Davis rescues Sofia, Larry turns back to keep an eye on LaDonna, Ripert gives Janette the day off and comps her to a meal, she in turn shares it with her roommate. Antoine … well, Antoine has to be pushed a little with a well-placed wifely cockblock but he still mans up, playing Daddy and teacher all day long. Sonny may not have been able to get very far, but rather than try to bolt from Pointe à la Hache, he accepts Cornell’s well-intentioned gesture in the spirit in which it was given, gracefully. We know Lt. Colson’s not very indicative of NOPD in general, but it’s plain that his concern is about more than just policing and stats.

After all the crime and hardship that’s come before, there’s a palpable redemptive, or maybe just reparative, flavor to these individual actions weaving through the larger texture of Mardi Gras. If there’s something that ties all the acts together, it’s that nobody has to do them. Maybe each person is a bit more aware of their interconnectedness than before? Maybe that’s what faith is. Even if everyone in our story is just a pawn on the chessboard of the Ligouris up in the glass towers, they still retain the belief that their actions can make a difference, are not futile.

When Dave Walker talked to bloggers at the start of this season, one of the questions he asked was inevitable but worthwhile:  “Have you noticed Treme is not The Wire?” My answer was that no it’s not, but both are stories about America, both are stories about extirpation.  In The Wire, nothing much is left. Giving a crap about anyone but oneself is pretty much beside the point, and actually pretty risky.  The need for a code is not shared by anybody other than Bunk and Omar and it’s not certain their lives are the better for it. The episode where Omar’s grandma’s church crown is shot off, and ultimately replaced, is a sadly ludicrous demonstration of just how little remains sacred in that world.

In Treme, we’re watching a fragile but still somewhat intact slice of the world still hanging in the balance. There is a still-breathing discernible culture that is borne on the shoulders of our characters, who simultaneously depend on it to keep them anchored. If they manage to keep the faith, there might still be a future in New Orleans for that kid with the trumpet. Then again, there might not.

  1. June 6, 2011 2:15 pm

    “In The Wire, nothing much is left. Giving a crap about anyone but oneself is pretty much beside the point, and actually pretty risky. “

    This might be one of the key defining differences between the two shows. Can you imagine any one of Treme’s major characters saying, “There you go, giving a shit when it ain’t your turn to give a shit.” In The Wire, that statement summed up a major theme that spanned all five seasons. Giving a shit when it ain’t your turn was what Wire characters did to buck the prevailing malaise; on Treme, it’s always your turn.

  2. June 6, 2011 2:16 pm

    By the way, this kind of thing here is why I love you, sis.

  3. June 6, 2011 3:22 pm

    If there’s something that ties all the acts together, it’s that nobody has to do them.

    Yup. It’s really the only city left in America where I may not know you, but I know you belong and we are thus connected. The feelings of this post came across strong in the scene where Nelson’s getting ready to board his Zulu float, for some reason.

    Lovely, heartful post as usual, Virgo.

  4. June 6, 2011 4:09 pm

    In 1942 my Dad , stationed in Pensacola, visited New Orleans , and one night they ate at Antoine’s . When he passed, we found a menu of the place in his memorabilia. Dad had occasionally recalled that trip to us when we were kids, always with “best meal of my life.” he only told of the sparkle, the excitement, the joy it was to be in New Orleans. It made me extremely sad last year to watch the Creigh-Sophia visit in which Creigh pointed out all the glory of the past, and to me, seemingly becoming more depressed frame by frame. Very few of us were around in 1942 to recall the joy my dad and Creigh new about, and change ain’t always all that good, but last night was sort of a redemptive song , at least for my feelings of New Orleans.

  5. brueso permalink
    June 6, 2011 4:38 pm

    I’m with y’all on alot on appreciating the graciousness and caring we see in Treme, but I have to say I also saw alot of examples in The Wire besides Bunk and Omar where people were looking out for others, even for people that were essentially strangers to them. They were brief moments, and admittedly, there was a harder edge to The Wire much of the time because much of the story grew out of people participating in or caught up in drug wars vs. the focus on a community of artists/ musicians like in Treme. But there always was another level under the harder edge in that show.

  6. virgotex permalink*
    June 6, 2011 5:11 pm

    The post isn’t attempting to score the characters on Treme, or New Orleans itself, higher than the characters on the Wire, or Baltimore itself. It’s about the relevance of believing, of values, of beliefs in the context of the two different worlds.

  7. June 6, 2011 5:11 pm

    I loved that kid who played his newly acquired trumpet like an angel. I also loved all the little things that everyone’s talked about in these two posts (maybe most especially, Annie knowing Davis’ heart & Sonny accepting his sentence/penance/protective custody with a bit of a smile). Mostly I loved this post, Virgotex. You freakin’ rock.

  8. June 6, 2011 5:14 pm

    …and I’m going to watch again tonight so I can see the whole thing without being scared to death that something terrible is going to happen to Sophia, per the “mom” in my name. I couldn’t help it if I wanted to. Damn Eastern time.

  9. June 6, 2011 8:04 pm

    … and Del’s ahah! moment hearing the traditional jazz trumpet coming from the boom box over (under? beside?) the sounds of the Indian chants.

  10. Dr A permalink
    June 8, 2011 7:24 am

    Nice post. Beautiful episode capturing the essence of Mardi Gras. I must disagree with you on one point – I think Lt. Colson is very much representative of the good and caring cops of the NOPD. I am glad that Simon et al are showing police as human beings just like any of the other characters in Treme.

  11. June 8, 2011 8:43 am

    my favorite moment indeed, was the boom box. knowing that del has found his crossover. so much so, I’m inspired to paint it. I felt the need to drink within minutes of seeing muses roll by. and watching it the third time? really got me in the mood to go out after work. great episode. partially cause we were in some of the scenes for this one. perusing the parade scenes for friends, was like being at a parade, looking for friends.

    again. life imitating art, art imitating life, nola imitating treme, treme presenting nola, at her finest.

  12. virgotex permalink*
    June 8, 2011 9:42 am

    Point taken, Dr. A, and you know real life NO whereas I don’t. I think though, in the story, at the very least, we’ve seen some folks who weren’t Good Police. I should have taken more care to compare Colson to the those in-the-show-NOPD bad apples.

  13. anonymous coward permalink
    June 10, 2011 11:21 pm

    You forget that Bubs is the only one who comes out clean at the end of The Wire.

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