TELEVISION: TREME Speaks Volumes in Silence

josephrileyland is a television writer and blogs at kitchen Sofa. He lives in Harlem, NY.

TREME speaks volumes in silence. The opening sequence for the second season of HBO’s Big Show that Could conveys months of back-story while precious few words are actually spoken. And those that are, come from the mouth of newly minted Oscar winner Melissa Leo. The story has shifted forward by 7 months since season 1 ended and time is, to a degree, healing old wounds. The episode, entitled Accentuate the Positive (with 2 renditions of the enigmatic song in play), feels like just that: it’s a gorgeous November day in New Orleans, the sun is shining, people are wearing their happy faces and trying to move on with life. Because TREME is a brilliant show, they juxtapose those images with scenes of our favorite characters visiting their loved ones in cemeteries. They are trying to move forward with their lives, while paying tribute to their fallen family and friends. It was a quietly powerful way to open the next chapter in these characters’ lives.

As Antoine (Wendell Pierce) sweetly plays at his mentor’s graveside, LaDonna (Khandi Alexander) and her mother seem to have finally found peace in Daymo’s death. Albert (Clarke Peters), too, is there, working on his wife’s crypt. Interlaced into these scenes, Leo’s Toni Bernette and daughter Sofia (India Ennenga), finally make it to Angelo Brocato’s for the lemon ice that husband Creighton was waiting so patiently for back in the pilot episode. Janette (Kim Dickens) has moved to NYC, where she’s toiling away under a Gordon Ramsay-esque head chef. Delmond (Rob Brown), too, is in New York, working the jazz social scene. Even DJ Davis (Steve Zhan) gets into the spirit, cleaning house before his new love, Annie (Lucia Micarelli) gets home from a trip touring around America.

Despite all of this forward-moving, the nightmares remain: Sofia has picked up where her father left off, posting her rantings on Youtube. Her relationship with her mother isn’t doing well either, as Creighton’s death seems to be tearing the two apart. LaDonna and her husband are arguing over her keeping the bar open now that her mother has moved to Baton Rouge with the rest of the family and LaDonna fights to hold on to that piece of her past. Delmond, who has a new album out, find himself in the position of defending his native New Orleans, the very city he questioned last season, as his pretentious peers on New York look down on New Orleans jazz, referring to it as a minstrel show.

Overall, the show did exactly what it does best: the scene is set; the audience is now caught up with where the characters are physically and emotionally. The music was amazing (as expected) and continues to push the story forward. TREME isn’t a show that is full of hooks or over-the-top story telling. It isn’t one of those shows that make you feel glutinous after watching. Instead, it is an intimate telling of this mysteriously mundane phenomenon that is life. In the final words of the “previously on TREME…” clip that ran at the front of the show, John Goodman’s late, great Creighton Bernette told us: “Don’t think in terms of a beginning and an end. There is no closure in real life. Not really.” And, that’s pretty much the story of TREME.

Catch up with Season 1 of Treme here:

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