In the final episode of Tremé’s first season, Toni Bernette (Melissa Leo) is brought to her husband’s abandoned truck by New Orleans Police Lt. Colson (David Morse). Inside that truck, there is evidence that Toni’s husband Creighton (John Goodman) committed suicide. Colson offers Toni, a civil rights lawyer laboring against police corruption, the opportunity to remove whatever she wishes to remove from the truck while he and his fellow officers “take a walk.”
“Think of your daughter,” Colson tells Toni. “She needs to believe.”
It’s a well-formed scene that (as David Simon puts it) forces Toni into the “perspective” of her antagonist. She is tempted by the kindness — even grace — of Colson’s purposed deception. Knowing her daughter will be devastated by Creighton’s suicide (not to mention the added complications of Catholicism and insurance agencies), it’s not clear what Toni does.
Does she accept Colson’s offer and hide evidence of Creighton’s suicide in her purse? (My wife thinks she does.)
Does she leave the evidence — and the truth — intact? (That’s what I think she does.)
Whatever Toni does, against the flow of traffic, she tearfully drives away. Colson and his cohorts curiously watch her go.
In the wake of Tremé’s first season, I find myself somewhere inside that scene with Toni.
Tremé would have its audience entertained by the color, flair, and (most of all) music of New Orleans and, simultaneously, be engaged by (again, as David Simon puts it) the city’s post-Katrina “trauma.” Yet this trauma remains as strutted and posed as Big Chief’s (Clarke Peters) feathers. Indeed, Creighton’s fatal leap into the river – a defining moment for the series – seems to originate more in the analogy of drama than the angst of despair.
Tremé has a significant New Orleans following as a clique-flick, a pseudo-historical ghost ship kept afloat by local celebrity name-droppings and a buoyant soundtrack. Should you be willing to march in that number, to the tune of the finale’s flashback, then Tremé is the show for you.
However, even if you are unaffected by the wonder-working power of the second line, you may still need to believe. If so, then you can place evidence of your disbelief in your purse and pocket; you can order the po-boy, drink the Abita, buy the CD, and throw beads from the balcony.