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Sunday, December 8, 2013

TREME Stands Up and Declares "Yes We Can"

Article first published as TREME Stands Up and Declares "Yes We Can" on TheTVKing.

HBO's Treme, which tells the story of individuals in post-Katrina New Orleans, begins its final five episodes this week with "Yes We Can." The series deserves better than to be canceled after less than four years, but at least they've been granted the opportunity to wrap the story up right. The first episode back is true to form, and represents the start of a new chapter.

After years of struggle, New Orleans is finally returning to normal, if not coming back triumphant. "Yes We Can Can" begins with the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, and finds the citizens of the city celebrating. The leaders who did them wrong are gone, and African Americans are proud to see someone that looks like them in the White House. All around, it's a victory.

This sort of mirrors the lives of those in the story. Antoine (Wendell Pierce) has a job he likes, feeling like a father figure to the students to whom he teaches music. Albert Lambreaux's (Clarke Peters) cancer is in remission. LaDonna's (Khandi Alexander) new bar is almost ready to open, and she and Albert are very happy together.

These people deserve this peace of mind and comfort. They have struggled, rebuilding themseleves in the wreckage of their homes, and it's about time they feel like they're not just living day-to-day anymore. It's been a long road to get back to normality, but one can recognize that that's exactly what has happened in a major way.

Which is not to say that everything is perfect again. LaDonna misses her kids and wishes to bring them home with her, which isn't possible yet. Terry (David Morse) is still fighting corruption and seeking justice, even as his own bosses have turned against him. Sonny (Michiel Huisman) discovers first-hand how bad the police stations are working, or rather, not working. These are real problems that can be attributed to the Katrina chaos.

But notice, that doesn't describe everyone in the cast. Those are just a few characters still battling, and even their lives are not completely focused on such things. Terry's job sucks and is difficult, but he gets to go home to Toni (Melissa Leo) and her warm house at the end of the day. Circumstances are improving for everyone.

Now, real life isn't always easy and smooth, so there are still, and always will be, challenges. Janette (Kim Dickens) is trying to make a go of a new restaurant after her old partner drove her away. Davis's (Steve Zahn) music career is collapsing. Delmond (Rob Brown) isn't sure if he can leave his father yet and get his career back on track. Annie (Lucia Micarelli) has hit a ceiling in her own advancement.

Yet, these seem like the type of issues the characters would face even if their hometown hadn't been destroyed. This represents movement and vitality. These are the types of obstacles they only dreamed about in the aftermath of Katrina. New Orleans is alive once more.

Of course, besides the great characters, there is plenty of authentic music and guest stars from the area dropping in as themselves. Treme has always been realistic to the scene, and "Yes We Can" is no different in that regard. As much as growth and development furthers everyone's stories, Treme remains the same basic tale it started out as: one of strong, determined people who will survive, no matter what, bolstered by their melodies. Their spirit, while relatable, is also unique, much like their jazz clubs will never turn into a large hall, no matter what Nelson (Jon Seda) and his ilk try to do.

The one thing that feels different is that there seems to be much more interaction between the main players all of a sudden. Treme has usually told many different stories that weave together more because of the setting than because these lives are interwined, with paths only occasionally crossing. Four seasons in, the tiny encounters and interactions have begun to build into something more cohesive. Viewers have always seen the cast as a family, bound together by the series; now the characters actually are relating to one another. What a great, feel-good way to end the show!

Treme airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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