'Treme' is a TV show that isn't hobbled by a gimmicky premise. It doesn't rely on cliffhangers at the end of every episode to keep its audience coming back for more. No, David Simon's story about the lives of a handful of characters in New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, is something quite special to the television landscape. It's a show truly focused on its characters. Plot, if there is one, is completely ancillary. Each character is going through his or her struggles and disappointments. They're trying desperately to make sense of their lives after the most destructive natural disaster in the history of the United States. That's it. That's the show. No fancy bells and whistles, just an observation of people coming together to overcome a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
Season two follows a devastating end to season one. Spoiler alert if you haven't seen season one I don't think I have even been as emotionally invested in a series as I was when the first season of 'Treme' ended. Characters die all the time in television, but when Creighton Bernette (John Goodman) took his own life I was crushed. Honestly, it was the single most devastating ending I've ever seen in a television series. It was tough to handle.
Simon and crew do such a magnificent job fleshing out their characters that you find yourself becoming attached to them before you even notice it's happening. They're richly deep individuals. There isn't a single one-note player in this whole series. The characters are as colorful as the city they live in.
Most of the principle cast from season one returns here to carry on their stories. Toni (Melissa Leo) and Sofia Bernette (India Ennenga) are still trying to deal with the tragic loss of Creighton. Toni hasn't informed Sofia that he committed suicide. All she's been told is that it was an accident. Sofia begins to slowly slip off the deep end. She becomes a rebellious teenager, defying her mother at every turn. Toni tries to get over the loss by losing herself in her law practice. She's back to her old methods of helping those less fortunate who are still trying to make sense of their lives following Katrina. Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce) is struggling to juggle the increasing demands of fatherhood all the while trying to put together his own band. Chief Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters) is finding it impossible to get the insurance company to pay for his destroyed house causing him to consider giving up the Indian life for good. Lambreaux's son, Delmond (Rob Brown) is trying to find a way to make jazz as popular as it once was, but he's fighting an uphill battle playing his trumpet in sparsely attended clubs in New York. Janette Desautel (Kim Dickens) has also found her way to New York and is currently working for a chef who makes Gordon Ramsey look as cuddly as a Muppet. Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn) has ignited a relationship with fiddle player Annie (Lucia Micarelli). Davis is still trying to make his own music with a mean political slant as Annie tries to find success in song writing.
A few new characters make an appearance too. Nelson Hidalgo (Jon Seda) is a carpetbagger from Dallas (who insists he isn't one) who has come to New Orleans to capitalize on the rebuilding that must be done. He worms his way into the local politics, makes the right donations, and soon finds himself raking in money. Lieutenant Terry Colson (David Morse) is placed in more of a spotlight this time around as he attempts to get the New Orleans Police Department back into the good graces of the city's people. In the wake of a huge police scandal which saw seven of their own hauled off to prison, Lt. Colson is anxious to get his band of police officers ship-shape after Katrina brought out the worst in them.
That may seem like a lot of characters to keep track of, and it is. The genius at work here is that even with so many characters the way the show is constructed each one gets a fair shake. Their lives seamlessly intertwine as they wander through New Orleans trying to get their lives back on track. Simon and his writing team deftly weave these stories together into a tapestry of life. It's rarely pretty but there are those tiny victories peppered throughout the season that give each character hope for a better tomorrow.
Everything you loved about the first season is back. The richly varied music, the colorful locales, and the frenzy surrounding Mardis Gras. After watching the first season you'll feel a kinship with this city even though you may never have visited. That's how I felt, and the second season increased that sense of belonging. There's an intoxicating affect that this show has on me, making me feel like I've lived and breathed New Orleans air all my life. It truly is a special series. In my mind, it's the best show on TV.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The second season of 'Treme' comes in the same kind of foldout case that the first season came in. It's a four-disc set with each disc being a 50GB Blu-ray. Each of the 11 episodes in the season are listed on the foldouts along with who wrote and directed them. The foldout securely slides into a nice cardboard slipcase. Each disc has its own hub. The release is region free.
HBO, like Disney and Sony, is known for putting out great looking releases. This 1080p release of season two of 'Treme' is no different. It contains awesomely detailed visuals shedding light on the complex visuals surrounding New Orleans.
Colors are splendidly resolved from the gray cloud-covered skies which constantly blanket the New Orleans skyline to the outrageously colorful costumes of Mardis Gras. Every color is represented here. The surrounding New Orleans neighborhoods are bathed in earthy tones. Some houses still sit half destroyed, sporting dingy whites and black moldy interiors. Contrasting the squalid state of the affected neighborhoods is the grandeur of Mardis Gras. Crimson reds, bright purples, deep greens, vibrant yellows, pretty much any color you can imagine is presented perfectly.
Fine detail is constantly at optimum levels. Facial detail is top-notch as the camera locks in on the faces of the show's characters. Pores, scars, age-lines and fine facial hair are all perfectly visible. The shimmering from the first season doesn't seem to be much of a problem this time around. As you may have expected this is a great-looking transfer which even manages to trump the first season.
This is where the real weight of the show can be experienced. The first season featured a demo-worthy audio experience and it's no different this time around. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound is the epitome of what a Blu-ray should sound like. The audio presentation is helped tremendously by the fact that the show contains so much great music.
Speaking of the music it's presented cleanly and clearly here. Many times Simon lingers on musical performances, allowing them to play far longer than you thought they would. Horns, trombones and trumpets fill the soundstage when Antoine and his newly formed band take the stage. Annie's fiddle blasts through the front channels as she continues to evolve as a musician. Davis' constant quest to find the perfect music to center his political rage is accompanied by constant LFE which is the bane of his next door neighbors.
Dialogue is accessible and clearly presented through the front and center channels. There are plenty of times directionality works to the benefit of the story as characters discuss important points out of frame. Still, there voices are placed right where they need to be. The surrounds are constantly engaged since there never seems to be a moment where people aren't milling about in the background. The surround sound hits a crescendo during Mardis Gras as people line the streets for the city's many parades. Screaming, laughing, and yelling can all be heard in the rear speakers as the parades slowly move down the street.
Like I said, this is a demo-worthy presentation through and through. If you found yourself immersed by the sound offered in the first season release, then this will be just as mesmerizing.
There are four commentaries spread across the season's 11 episodes. The episodes containing commentaries are: "Accentuate the Positive" (actors Kim Dickens and Lucia Micarelli are joined by producer/director Anthony Hemingway), "Carnival Time" (music supervisor Blake Leyh and director Brad Anderson), "What Is New Orleans?" (writer George Pelecanos and actors Clarke Peters and Rob Brown), and "That's What Lovers Do" (actor Wendell Pierce, executive producer Nina Noble, and creator David Simon).
I was kind of disappointed that we didn't get to hear from series writer/co-creator Eric Overmyer this time around. We got a bit of his view in the commentaries produced for season one, but nothing here. He's been around as long as Simon has, so I really wanted to get his view on where the show is going. Fortunately we do get to hear briefly from Simon who tackles many of my questions during his commentary of "That's What Lovers Do" the season's second to last episode. I think the most entertaining commentaries are the ones that involve actors though. Dickens, Micarelli, Brown, Peters, and Pierce are all able to share key facts about the characters they play during their respective commentaries. Those are the commentaries I enjoy the most.
'Treme,' in its understated way, continues to captivate with its simple, humanistic tales of sacrifice, survival, and sorrow. These characters are some of the deepest and most developed you'll ever come across in a television show. Simon and Overmyer have done a masterful job at weaving their stories together to create a unique point of view of what Katrina did to this community and how the people are trying to rebuild. With its near-perfect video and its simply astounding audio, season two of 'Treme' comes just as highly recommended as the first season. You really don't want to miss out on this series.