Ep. 3.08, “Don’t You Leave Me Here”
Written by Tom Piazza (Teleplay), Eric Overmyer (Story)
Directed by Ernest Dickerson
Ep. 3.09, “Poor Man’s Paradise”
Written by George Pelecanos (Teleplay and Story), Jordan Hirsch (Story)
Directed by Roxann Dawson
Ep. 3.10, “Tipitina”
Written by David Simon (Teleplay and Story), Eric Overmyer (Teleplay), and Anthony Bourdain (Story)
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
After a strong showing all season, and a potentially series-best in episode 3.07, “Promised Land”, Treme finishes out season three in fine form, with continued focus on character, atmosphere, and the series’ ever-present themes of perseverance, artistic expression, and self-determination. The season’s final three episodes bring plot points aplenty, with Albert and Delmond’s withdrawal from the Jazz Center program, Sonny’s proposal and marriage to Linh, Annie and Davis’ breakup, and the highly anticipated trial of LaDonna’s attackers. It’s a mixed bag, to say the least, but each moment feels patiently earned and, for some, painfully real.
The season’s embarrassment of musical riches continues, with the highlight being the finale’s tribute concert for LaDonna. From John Boutté to Bonerama, it’s one hell of a night and there’s no fictional shindig this reviewer would’ve rather attended all year. In this scene, creators David Simon and Eric Overmyer finally allow (most of) their characters to share the same space and the camera follows one after another, lovingly handing the frame off from one to another. It’s a wonderful surprise, three seasons in the making, and as disparate as these characters are, it’s fitting that the one thing that would bring them together, the one thing they have in common, is a love of and respect for Gigi’s and its proprietor.
Not everyone makes it to the benefit, though, and it’s nice that Simon and Overmyer have the restraint to leave out the characters who, much as we love ‘em, have no reason to be there. LP heads back up north, after finishing his article, and Toni and Terry finally get it together in what is one of the few happy surprises of these episodes. Terry in particular has had a tough season, with his kids no longer nearby and a carcinogenic trailer to live in, not to mention his losing battle with corruption in the NOLA police department. Toni’s had a bit more luck, but just enough for Sofia to be able to come home. The brief scene shared by Terry and Sofia is one of the silliest, most delightfully awkward moments in the series’ run, so far, and it, along with the brief montage of Sonny and Linh’s wedding, is a welcome beacon of happiness in an otherwise rather dour conclusion.
Albert still has cancer. LaDonna’s attackers are found not guilty, after burning down her bar in a failed attempt to silence her. Janette is trapped in a less-than-desirable partnership with her controlling financial backer. These final few episodes should be depressing. What saves them, and the audience, from this is the approach these characters take to their struggles. Each, in their own way, puts down their head, gets to work, and finds a way to continue while preserving their identity, pride, and dignity. The final shot of the season, Albert already hard at work on next year’s suit, while getting a chemo treatment, is a perfect encapsulation of Treme’s philosophy and it would have been a perfect ending had this been the series finale Simon and Overmyer had good reason to suspect it might be. It’s actually rather hard to imagine what a better or more fitting series finale could even be, but thankfully we’ll get the opportunity next season for the PtB to show us.
Not everything this season has worked. Sonny and Nelson have been somewhat problematic characters for a while, with their roles as antagonists (at least on occasion) to some of the more likeable characters making their storylines a tougher sell. Here and there, with the Toni storyline in particular, the directors have chosen to intercut between witness interviews or paralleling scenes in a jarring way atypical to this usually very smoothly edited series. Beyond this, however, problems with the season are limited to elements that have been known entities throughout the show’s run.
This is a languid, thoughtful, introspective series. There’s a lot of music and performance and, to some, it quite possibly feels like nothing ever happens. By season three though, anyone watching Treme should know what they’re in for- a series that cares about its characters, a series that carefully crafts its world, a series that trumpets the nobility of the working man and woman and sees nothing wrong in glorifying art for art’s sake. This is certainly not a show for everyone. But it has to be a show for more than the few who are watching right now. With an average audience of around 530,000 people per week, Treme had less than 25% of the audience of fellow languid, thoughtful, and introspective series Mad Men this year. This critic has no doubt that Treme will be a series long loved and long discovered after its final bow next season, not unlike Simon’s previous series, The Wire. It’s a shame so little of that praise is being awarded now.
What did you think of the final few episodes this season as well as season three as a whole? What was your favorite storyline or performance? WHY AREN’T MORE PEOPLE WATCHING THIS SHOW?!? Post your thoughts below!