Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Treme Season 1 Episode 2: "Meet De Boys on the Battlefront" review

Synopsis from

Story by David Simon and Eric Overmyer
Teleplay by Eric Overmyer
Directed by Jim McKay

Davis McAlary hosts a live performance of the legendary Coco Robicheaux at WWOZ during which Coco attempts to bring the old Congo Square vibe to the radio station’s relocated “faux French Market” environs by summoning the spirit of Erzulie Dantor. “the beautiful mulattress whose earthly incarnation was Marie Laveau,” explains Coco. “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans…” notes McAlary. As proof of their devotion, Coco sacrifices, off camera, a live chicken.

Antoinette “Toni” Bernette discusses with fellow attorneys Andrea Cazayoux and John Moss how to locate LaDonna Batiste-Williams’ missing brother Daymo in the O.P.P. system. Meanwhile, LaDonna gives her contractor Riley a hard time about not making the roof of Gigi’s his number one priority. She grudgingly hands over more money and warns that the new shingles better be in place by the time she gets back from Baton Rouge the next day.

Albert Lambreaux discusses repairs with a homeowner, urging him to pleaster rather than just sheet rock over the damage. The owner has no flood insurance and is worried about costs. “People do a lot a dumb shit, ‘cause it’s easier,” Lambreaux warns.

Street musicians Sonny (on keyboard) and Annie (on fiddle) play a stirring version of ‘Careless Love’ as three church volunteers, in town to help with rebuilding efforts, look on. Sonny gives them a hard time about only being “fired up” about the Ninth Ward after the storm, and charges them $20 to play ‘Saints’ when they request “something authentic.” “Saints’ is extra,” Annie explains.

McAlary says goodbye to DJ Jeffy Jeff as he leaves with belongings, having been fired for Coco’s on-air antics. He heads to his parents for a loan but his father hooks him up with a new job instead- at a hotel in the quarter.

“Big Chief” Lambreaux goes door to door in the Seventh Ward, trying to round up members of his tribe for practice.

Creighton Bernette bemoans to his grad student the cuts being announced at the University in the engineering departments: “Sure, why would the university train people who know how to build things like, oh say, computer systems? Power grids? Levees? Hey, who needs them?” He wonders whether it’s time to tackle his shelved novel about the 1927 flood: “Couldn’t be more topical.”

Desiree rides Antoine Batiste about the bills piling up, insisting there’s a difference between a “gig” and a “job.” She doesn’t like him “coming home smelling like cigarettes” and strange women. He claims her olfactory sense is wrong- that’s BBQ she’s picking up. “Kermit’s BBQ tastes right, but not that right,” she tells him.

Over family dinner in Baton Rouge, LaDonna’s husband Larry Williams broaches the idea of moving her mother up to Baton Rouge and selling Gigi’s once the roof is repaired. She refuses, not willing to give up on the idea of returning to New Orleans some day.

Delmond Lambreaux tries to talk his father into joining the family in Houston for the holidays, but Albert brushes him off, wanting to stay put. Delmond tells him he’s actually staying in town for a few extra days- for a recording session for Allen Toussaint. “You deigning to play local?” his father ribs. But after that, he’s headed back to New York where there’s a lot of work because of the renewed love for New Orleans music.

Sonny regales a skeptical bar patron with tales of his heroic rescue efforts during Katrina. Out of ear shot, Annie tells the guy she wasn’t there to be able to confirm Sonny’s version of events.

Antoine finds out about a gig on Bourbon Street. “Nothing to be ashamed of… pride on Bourbon Street!” folks assure him. He runs into his old music teacher, Danny Nelson, who lost all his instruments in the flood.

LaDonna shows up at Antoine’s place with a ceramic elephant that their son Alcide made and meets Desiree- and Antoine’s new baby girl. “I’ll tell your sons they have a new half sister…another one,” she says as she leaves. Desiree questions Antoine: “What she mean by ‘another one’?”

At his new job at the Inn on Bourbon, McAlary is coached to refer any questions about dinner reservations to the concierge but he can’t resist and sends the trio of church volunteers off the beaten path to “Bullet’s.” He assures them it’s safe: “Crime’s all gone to Houston.”

LaDonna is furious to see her roof still in disrepair when she returns to Gigi’s but her anger is quickly forgotten when Toni shows up to tell LaDonna they’ve located Daymo. She explains the process for getting him released, warning that because the parishes get FEMA money for every O.P.P. prisoner housed, some of them drag their feet so it may take a few days.

Lambreaux wonders at the security costs associated with keeping squatters out of the habitable projects over in Central City: “Makes no sense.” When he returns to the house he’s working on, he discovers his tools have been stolen. He asks Robinette to ask around.

As Delmond and the musicians wrap up their recording session, they make a plan to head to d.b.a’s to see the funk group Galactic, urging Elvis Costello to join them. But he protests the late hour, citing the difficulties of being a middle-aged rock star. At d.b.a’s , Delmond gets summoned to the stage to sit in. Smoking a joint outside after the set, he gets busted by NOPD and taken in.

A chagrined Benny returns Lambreaux’s tools and reveals he bought them of a kid named Skinny over in Gert town.

After his gig at the Bourbon Street strip club, Antoine heads to Bullet’s for some barbecue and befriends the church workers who are soaking up the authentic atmosphere. Kermit calls Antoine to the stage and a scary looking patron takes his seat and offers to buy the girls a drink.

The next morning, McAlary gets fired for sending the church group kids to the Seventh Ward- they never came back to their hotel and now their parents are flying in and the NOPD are involved.

Janette Desautel has prepared a deluxe meal at her restaurant for her parents, visiting from Huntsville. She asks for a loan of twenty-five grand to tide her over until the insurance money comes in; her father promises six. Later, Desautel goes over the growing pile of bills with Jacques, looking for ways to cut corners.

Lambreaux bails Delmond out and drives his son to the airport. Delmond promises to pay him back for the bond and apologizes for having to leave before Sunday’s practice: “I loved growing up with the tradition but the Indians- that’s your thing. Always was.” Later that night, Lambreaux tracks down Skinny to confront him about taking his tools and finds him ripping out the new copper wiring from a house undergoing renovation. When the boy refuses to take responsibility, Albert beats him senseless and washes the blood from his hands at an outdoor spigot.

The next morning, McAlary runs into the church kids who’ve been for two nights. They thank him for pointing them to the real New Orleans and promise to check in with the hotel staff- after they get some breakfast for their hangovers.

As Creighton heads out with Sofia to drive her back to the boarding school in Baton Rouge, he tries to cheer his moping daughter after her options for returning to a reopened high school in New Orleans.

Waiting eagerly in the visitor’s room at the parish prison, Toni, LaDonna and her mother are devastated when the David Brooks the guard brings out is not their David “Daymo” Brooks.

Alone at Poke’s, Lambreaux is pleased when one member of his tribe, George Cotrell, shows up for practice. “You gotta start somewhere,” notes Cottrell. The two men grab their tambourines and start punching out ‘Shallow Water.’

“I can build a house from scratch- roof to foundation. What can you do? Tear it down? That’s easy.”- Albert Lambreaux

First things first, never take Albert’s tools. If you do, there will be dire consequences as Skinny experienced in this episode. I watched this scene and couldn’t help but think of Lester Freamon delivering a similar beatdown to Chris and Snoop if he happened to catch them in the vacants during season four of THE WIRE.

I think what’s so great about that scene is the sheer release of all of Albert’s anger and frustration. Clarke Peters does such a great job showing how Albert bottles his feelings up. This episode had all of the disappointment released in a vitriolic fit of violence. Albert is a man of great faith and love for his home- but do not disrespect him. Albert’s line of the police having no choice but to lock up Delmond after he disrespected them, was a nice foreshadowing to the violence that Albert would commit later. And not only can Albert build a house from scratch but he is powerful enough to nearly kill someone with his own bare hands.

And Albert’s line about people doing dumb shit ‘cause it’s easier, sounds like something that you could easily imagine Lester Freamon saying as well.

I haven’t seen Khandi Alexander sink her teeth into a role like this since her performance as Fran Boyd on THE CORNER. To watch her verbally bully Riley was great, and you see that LaDonna is not a woman that you want to cross. And you also get a feeling that this woman is working her ass of to trying to stay afloat. There’s an interview with Khandi were she stated that he explained the LaDonna character to her as a woman who has fought tooth and nail to get to the middle class status. I can definitely see that.

This episode did a great job showing how some people are trying their hardest to leave (Delmond, LaDonna’s husband), there are still those fighting their hardest to preserve the home that they know (Albert and LaDonna are two examples).

Antoine has A LOT of the Bunk in him. I think if Wendell Pierce gets work on a David Simon production, you can rest assured that the character will not be monogamous. We learned in this episode that there are other women scattered about that Antoine was with who have his children. The scene at the strip club where Antoine was playing his trombone and giving flirty glances to the stripper were just hilariously charming.

After seeing LaDonna with her new husband, there is a great deal of disconnect between those two- so it doesn’t shock me that she is trying to maintain some connection with Antoine. There is still a great spark between the two, but Antoine blew his opportunity to maybe get back with LaDonna, after she finds out their sons have a new half-sister that he neglected to tell her about.

Wendell Pierce remains the most smooth cad on television. No one is in his league.

I’m liking McAlary more and more. We get to see that yes, he is a douche, but a very well-meaning one who doesn’t make the right decisions. His moment at the front desk where he gave the kids directions was great. He just can’t catch a break right now because he can’t help himself.

Sonny and Annie are an interesting couple- definitely an odd couple. Annie seems to be the more pragmatic of the two. Like everything around them, it seems their relationship is barely hanging together. I don’t see the relationship being able to sustain itself for a long period of time.

Apparently, according to things I’ve read online, it IS more expensive for musicians to play, ‘Saints’.

Elvis Costello’s brief appearance was again very inspired and I loved Elvis’ comedic moment where he was able to wiggle himself out of hanging out with the other musicians.

Nice to see Anwan Glover aka Slim Charles very briefly as the convict who was mistakenly identified as Daymo. Too bad that Anwan’s role won’t be recurring, but it’s always good to hear his gravely voice again.

The ending of the episode with the two man rehearsal seems to be very hopeful- it’s not a huge turnout, but it’s somewhere to start. And that is good enough.

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