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TV Review: Treme – “Accentuate the Positive”

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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.

Albert (Clarke Peters) is forced out of the building he has called home since the storm ended when its rightful owner returns. This echoes a problem among many New Orleans residents. Property owners didn’t immediately return, but when they have, they want their belongings returned. Albert, on the other hand, never left, and feels like he has more right to the place than the man who abandoned it. While Albert leaves without much of a fight, knowing it’s one he cannot win, there are ill feelings that will not be resvoled anytime soon.

When Albert took over the place, it was in sorry shape. He has worked hard to rebuild it, and find a suitable living space within the ravaged city. Doesn’t that give him some claim to the building? After all, not only did the owner not come back for it until over a year has passed, but he did nothing to start to restore his property. While the legal terms must be taken into account, there is something to say for survivors who stuck it out in their home, and it makes the question of who deserves the land more of a sticky question, morally speaking,

The love triangle between Davis (Steve Zahn), Annie (Lucia Micarelli), and Sonny (Michiel Huisman) is far from over. Davis and Annie have gotten pretty serious over the hiatus, but Sonny is back, looking cleaned up and sane. In fact, Sonny gets to perform with Annie in a local club, and is nothing but gracious to both her and Davis. Sonny and Annie feel more right than Annie and Davis, so it’s quite possible that the new relationship will be short lived. Which is fine, as long as Janette comes back to Davis.

Poor Davis is the nice guy who can’t ever win. He loves music, but is much more an admirer than a performer. He is currently working once more as a radio DJ, but clashes with his boss, per uual. Davis deserves a steady job he is passionate about and a nice woman in the same vein. While Annie is into music and Janette is more about cooking, both are artists authentic to the city, making either a suitable mate for Davis. With everything Davis and the place he loves have gone through, it’s time that he is happy, whether that is completely realistic or not.

There is a new man in town in the form of Nelson Hidalgo (Jon Seda, The Pacific, Close to Home). At first, it appears that Nelson has come to New Orleans from Dallas, Texas just to make money, having been assured by his cousin there is plenty of opportunity here. But Nelson quickly falls in love with the city, its people, its cuisine, and its music. It’s not just an act, as Nelson drags his reluctant cousin, who is more concerned with working than enjoying himself, anywhere he can soak up the culture. Granted, this is a new experience for Nelson, but it looks like love at first sight.

The question is, how will Nelson’s arc develop? Will he be a heartless speculator who puts the almighty dollar first? Sure, he plans on staying because of the aforementioned attraction, but that doesn’t mean he is loyal to anyone who gets in the way of his profit. Or he may be, as he witnesses the hardships the locals have gone through and begins to feel sorry for them. One episode in, with only scant minutes of screen time because of so many characters he must share the show with, it is impossible to know what kind of man Nelson really is. Inevitable, we will find out.

Treme airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET. Do yourself a favor and be sure to tune in.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com