HBO's Treme is honing in on the Insult to Injury years post-Katrina levee failure. Suicides, robberies, murder: it felt like every day brought news that was more numbing than the last. "On Your Way Down" captures it all too well.
[Spoiler Alerts Start Here.]
In what should be Khandi Alexander's Emmy episode, LaDonna is raped by two teenagers who case her bar. Her attempt at a smile when reassuring her husband is heart rending as she shields him from finding out about the rape. Alexander's eyes should win in a separate Emmy category. Once her husband leaves the hospital room, a rape examination along with the handfuls of pills needed to prevent disease and pregnancy are shown. This is the scene we are so often shielded from in a society that does not hesitate to show sex and violence. It does great credit to the Treme writing team that they do not cut away from the aftermath of a violent sexual attack.
Laura Maggi of the Times Picayune reported that from 2007 to 2008, the number of reported rapes in New Orleans decreased, but more than half of the sexual assaults reported were categorized as "noncriminal complaints."
Huffington Post reporter Amanda Terkel reported on Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin's recent attempt to reclassify rape victims "rape accusers," and Rep. Chris Smith's efforts to split sexual assaults into two different terms, rape and "forcible rape."
This episode of Treme reinforces the fact that the last thing a rape survivor should ever have to suffer through are the political semantics of calling her or him an accuser of noncriminal, non-forced rape. Because there is no such thing.
"Lies a body, oozing life..." from "Mack the Knife" runs through the episode. Toni is still looking for the truth about Joseph Abrea, and digging deeper into his murder is implicating the police with every fact revealed.
Sonny's roommates are busted for drugs, then his guitar is stolen after the police leave. He borrows TV Steve Earle's guitar - not the good one. With apologies to Thomas Wolfe and Doc Watson, Harley play Watson's Hometown Blues: "I wish I'd never come back home..."
Annie performs at a photography exhibit with David Torkanowski who (in real life) tore up Jazzfest with his Fleur Debris. At an exhibit showing New Orleans devastation, Annie sees an image of Sonny rescuing a baby from a flooded rooftop. These are rescues he has mentioned, but it's another thing to see it.
Sonny's fellow musician Antoine has slow going putting a band together. "I would have had Wardell's chart here but I asked Andrew Lloyd Weber instead" referring to Wardell Quezergue. A blind composer, Wardell is known as the Creole Beethoven having done arrangements for "Iko Iko" and "Mr. Big Stuff." Antoine needs to find a job to make his home life less yelley. He applies for a job at a school, but gets back into the cab when overrun by students.
Angry student Sofia vlogs: "Every 30 minutes, so that the rest of you can idle your SUV's in rush hour, we lose a football field to the Gulf of Mexico." Her mother Toni sends Sofia to intern with City Council President Oliver Thomas, apparently to cheer her up. "Around here, consultant is another word for unindicted co-conspirator," Thomas later tells Nelson. What could possibly go wrong? (Google moment.)
Recovery Czar Ed Blakely is shown on television providing the unrelenting entertainment value that New Orleaneans came to know. What could possibly go wrong? (Google Moment 2.) Nelson calls Blakely a carpetbagger. It takes about a week after moving to New Orleans before you start complaining about the tourists.
In New York, Delmond has his "postmodern Coltrane" review in Downbeat, but sparse album sales. A club patron learns that there is no web page, facebook or even myspace page promoting Delmond's music. "The stuff sells what it sells," his manager tells him. "Go fuck yourself," Delmond answers and fires him.
New New Yorker Jeanette finds out her New Orleans home was robbed. Her employer does not care for the idea of Jeanette going back to New Orleans to check on her home. "Character? That I can't teach." Writer / consultant Anthony Bourdain has apparently spent time with Satan the Chef. While she's back, Jeanette attempts to jump the line at Road Home.
Albert is still digging through Road Home and debris, and he finds it staggering that Janette has come to the office with no appointment. Photo ID and fingerprinting were ostensibly a step toward settlement that often did not happen for years. Surviving the Road Home process was the third circle of hell.
A breakdown of society is as hard to cover in fiction as it was to live through, but there is one healing aspect to what Treme is showing this season.
Now everyone knows.
Louis Armstrong, Mack the Knife - 1956