HBO’s Treme begins its second season with “Accentuate the Positive.” This episode is set fourteen months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, and about seven months after the end of season one. The sprawling cast of characters continue to try to rebuild their city and lives, while new people arrive in town. Other New Orleans residents, who have left the city for various reasons, try to forge new identities outside of their beloved home, but find themselves unable to escape its haunting cry. And of course, the authentic New Orleans music, certainly one of the best elements of the series, is back!
Toni (Academy Award Winner Melissa Leo) has not told her daughter, Sofia (India Ennenga), that Sofia’s father Creighton (John Goodman) committed suicide. Instead, Toni insists that his death is an accident. It is impossible to tell if Sofia believes her mother or not, but their relationship is certainly strained, be it by lie or blame placement. Toni cannot get Sofia to open up about anything, only to respond angrily. Yet, Sofia does have feelings, as she takes to the web to continue Creighton’s rants against the things continuing to go wrong in New Orleans.
Goodman’s presence is missed. Creighton is a larger than life character, and dominates much of the first season. While his death is not a tragedy on the scale of the hurricane that devastated the city, it does have a very large impact on his family. Both wife and daughter deal with the loss in very different ways, but that could be because of the differing information they have been given. Toni is beginning to recover, but Sofia still has a long way to go.
Toni is helped along with her recovery because of the many battles she still has to wage. Her latest cause is fighting the city to reverse the enormous fees they have put against parades. Citing the high crime rate and costs associated with protecting citizens during any events, New Orleans is now asking far more than its residents can afford to carry on its rich cultural traditions. Toni is fighting for a way of life. It’s a David versus Goliath story, and so she is supremely sympathetic.
Also becoming sympathetic is Lieutenant Colson (David Morse, now a series regular), tasked with stopping the growing peril criminals have brought to the neighborhoods. In this first episode alone, there is a shootout at a bar and a woman is murdered for her purse in the street, not to mention the events only discussed, but never seen. New Orleans has suffered enough, and yet, some people can’t help but take advantage of the situation. Colson is doing everything he can, but to no avail. The struggle calls into question basic human nature, and whether man is inherently good or evil.
Pressure mounts on both Antoine (Wendell Pierce) and Ladonna (Khandi Alexander) to give up their way of life. Desiree (Phyllis Montana LeBlanc) wants Antoine to get a “real” job, but considering that playing his trombone is his greatest joy, it would be unthinkable for him to trade in the instrument for a desk. He might as well leave the city if he does that, because its biggest draw will have been taken from him. Larry (Lance E. Nichols) tries to talk Ladonna into following her family north, but she refuses to give up her bar or her home. It is a wonder that Ladonna and Antoine can’t reconnect, as surely they would be able to relate about love ones not understanding their basic needs.
Another similar pair are Janette (Kim Dickens) and Delmond (Rob Brown), who have traded in new Orleans for New York City. Janette works for a verbally-abusive chef, while Delmond has stuck with his music career, having just released a new album. A couple of guys tell Delmond he has “transcended” New Orleans, earning his ire. Delmond is allowed to criticize New Orleans, but doesn’t want anyone else doing it. While Delmond does not live in Louisiana in season one, he still cares a great deal for it. Janette just does not seem happy at all, and while not explicitly stated, it is certain she longs to returns home. It is likely both characters will be back in the South sometime later this season.