So many of the images in the opening episode of HBO’s 2nd season’s premier of Treme resonate with the pictures of New Orleans that I carry in my mind’s eye--an eye that has been richly provisioned by this city over a lifetime.
It was heartening to see Lolis Eric Elie, as the episode’s story editor, reach greatness through the brilliant amplification of David Simon’s powerful visioning machine. Or is it the other way around? They are melding beautifully.
The music, of course, is not only worthy of the show’s intent, but the variety of genres strung throughout the narrative is totally in line with what New Orleans music is all about. Historically, our musicians have prided themselves on their versatility – as virtuosic with a mazurka as a mambo. The riff of DJ Davis/Zahn explaining that the violin has no limits and urging his protégée to dive into Klezmer, preceded by the translation of “Gumbo Ya-Ya as, “Everyone talks at once” underscores the real DJ Davis’s long-held appreciation that brass band music, going back to its inception, has always quoted contemporary pop music across the years. I am tempted to say that the music is the narrative.
This opening episode is so in-the-groove, that if ever there was an overwhelming response to any of those who would question, “Why New Orleans Matters,” this would be it. For years, this city’s biggest enemy has been itself—its indifference to its irreplaceable parts, its unawareness of its own greatness and its maddening readiness to take all of its Blessings for granted, as if they can’t be lost or squandered.
IMO, the value of this single episode in the context of what Simon & Co created in the first season, is that--if ever we do manage to wipe ourselves out through our indifference or cupidity, we will at least have these images.
And if ever I could apply a powerful potion to dissolve the cultural cataracts of those around us who look but do not see, it would be this episode.