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Treme: The Complete Second Season(TV) (2011)
14 months have passed since Hurricane Katrina, but residents of the Crescent City are finding it harder than ever to rebuild their lives, much less hold on to their unique cultural identity. Some have become expatriates in distant cities. The insurance checks that never arrived for homeowners were followed by the bureaucratic nightmare that was the Road Home program, and a land-grab is underway as developers and disaster capitalists press their advantage. Crime and drug use are up, and corruption and graft are endemic, with civic institutions unable to counter any of it. And yet the culture of New Orleans somehow endures.
For more about Treme: The Complete Second Season and the Treme: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray release, see Treme: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on April 4, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Clarke Peters, Khandi Alexander, Wendell Pierce (I), Kim Dickens, Melissa Leo, Steve Zahn
Director: Jim McKay
» See full cast & crew
Treme: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review
Down in the Treme, just me and my baby, we're all goin' crazy, buck jumpin' and havin' fun!
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, April 4, 2012
It's refreshing to watch a series that can't be reduced to a single episode. Television is so often approached as a bite-sized medium that the richness of any given narrative is undermined by the constraints of an easily accessible weekly formula. Take TV's highest rated broadcast shows -- NCIS, Grey's Anatomy, CSI, The Big Bang Theory, Person of Interest, House, The Mentalist, Private Practice or the like -- and compare them to the kind of programming you find on AMC, Showtime or HBO. Breaking Bad, Mad Men or The Walking Dead. Homeland or Dexter. Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire or David Simon and Eric Overmyer's Treme. Broadcast series scramble to give you what you want and expect; countless variations of the same episode, even at the expense of creative freedom and truly satisfying storytelling if need be. But HBO? Treme? Simon and Overmyer don't care what you think. They have a story to tell and they plan to tell it, come hell or low ratings. Shows like Treme aren't in the business of placating the masses or scrambling to please anyone and everyone gracious enough to tune in. You can't watch a single episode and arbitrarily decide whether the series is worth your time. It demands you spend hours, days even, exploring its Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, living with its characters, immersing yourself in its music and culture, marching its streets, sampling the local cuisine, breathing the air and singing the songs of a people whose mantra is "won't bow, don't know how." It demands your attention. It demands your patience. It demands your investment. And that's exactly what makes it one of the best shows on television.
Simon labeled Treme a visual novel and, while he's since distanced himself from the comment, few descriptions have been more succinct or precise. Routinely departing from convention, the series follows the lives of a wide cross-section of New Orleans residents -- from musicians to police officers to restaurant workers to civil rights attorneys to Mardis Gras performers -- all fighting to piece their lives back together after Hurricane Katrina changed everything. No one story dominates. No one story is more important than the next. No one story is entirely divorced from another. Season Two picks up shortly after Season One, fourteen months after Katrina left New Orleans in a state of disarray and disrepair, and, for the most part, all of the characters from the first season return, with one spoiler-tainted exception; among them struggling trombonist Antoine Batiste (The Wire's Wendell Pierce), Mardis Gras Indian chief Albert Lambreaux (fellow Wire alum Clarke Peters), his son Delmond (Rob Brown), civil rights lawyer Toni Bernette (Melissa Leo), her teenage daughter Sofia (India Ennenga), radio DJ Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn), former chef Janette Desautel (Kim Dickens), bar owner LaDonna Williams (Khandi Alexander), French Quarter street musicians Annie (Lucia Micarelli) and Sonny (Michiel Huisman), and NOPD lieutenant Terry Colson (David Morse, in an expanded role).
Treme's first season was a celebration of New Orleans' never-say-die spirit and the indomitable joy of its music and culture. An argument could be made that the series' second season follows suit, but there's a more frayed edge this time around; a sense of growing cynicism and deepening sorrow Batiste, Lambreaux, Bernette and their neighbors are having a harder time shaking. Instinct spurred many of the show's denizens to action in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. Months later, though, the immensity of the challenges has started to take a serious toll, and hope -- ever the backbone of an embattled and embittered community -- is failing with alarming regularity. Music and culture are no longer bastions and refuges; they're now food for a starving people and fuel for a stranded population. But neither one is capable of completely sustaining an entire city, and merely surviving has proven to be a bittersweet victory. Conflict erupts between the police and the victims of Katrina, between lovers and friends, between rich and poor, and between the lost and the flourishing, and the strain is beginning to tear at the seams of New Orleans. The news crews aren't leaving, they're long gone. National awareness isn't decreasing, it's been depleted. Poverty and shattered dreams aren't dangers, they're everyday realities. To that end, Treme's second season is even more fascinating than its first, even if its performances are just as absorbing, the lives of its characters are just as engrossing, its music is just as electrifying, and its storylines are just as entrenched in the real New Orleans.
Pierce and Peters lead an impressive ensemble cast that bends and breaks in the post-hurricane winds beautifully. Jazz seeps into every outburst, inward turn or reaction, no matter how volatile, soulful or exuberant its expression might be. Their performances are exacting to a fault and yet move with an ease and effortlessness that makes the actors fade into the shadows, replaced by their suffering and sweating counterparts. Simon has assembled a writer's room with an ear for dialogue and genuine N'Orleans gusto too, all while staying receptive to the everyday Louisianans and Jazz musicians that imbue the show with such authenticity and local flavor. Treme isn't just a show about New Orleans, it is New Orleans; its wounds, its personalities, its loves, its defeats, its shortcomings, and its legacy. No matter how far a business owner falls, no matter how much a husband or wife flail, no matter how much a daughter grieves the loss of her father, something keeps them all alive, pushing through the madness to face another day. And, at the risk of wandering into the far reaches of hyperbole, you'd be hard pressed to find another show whose characters are as convincing, whose arcs evolve as naturally as those in Treme. Murder investigations and other TV-born subplots serve as occasional reminders of the orchestrated fiction of it all, but rarely detract from what Simon and Overmyer set out to accomplish in Season One. To the series great credit, social cliffhangers, not anything more contrived, litter the showscape -- how will Janette fare as a line cook? Can Albert preserve his heritage? Will McAlary or LaDonna find some semblance of peace? Can Antoine stay afloat? Will Toni and Sofia drift apart? -- and make each episode resonate that much more, even when waiting for Simon or Overmyer to play their next closely guarded hand. Treme is a masterstroke that lifts the curtain on New Orleans, both its majesty and its unseemliness, as brilliantly as The Wire lifted the curtain on Baltimore. If you aren't watching Treme, you're ignoring one of TV's finest series. Don't miss out.
Treme: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
I was tempted to write two quick sentences about HBO's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer and walk away without a regret: "It's an HBO Blu-ray release. You should know what to expect by now, and Treme: The Complete Second Season delivers." But I suppose I owe you more than that, however obvious the outcome. Treme's second season looks every bit as good as its first, and HBO has spared no effort or expense in bringing New Orleans to high definition life. Colors are warm and lifelike, with perfectly saturated faces, natural earthtones, and rich, inky black levels. Night and shadow obscure detail at times, but only insofar as the showrunners allow, lending each episode a grainy, filmic quality videophiles have welcomed with open arms in many an HBO original series. Fine textures are crisp, clean and incredibly refined, closeups reveal every stress wrinkle, creased brow and looming bead of sweat, and delineation doesn't disappoint, despite the appearance of elevated noise on occasion. Frankly, nary a shot or scene goes by that isn't up to snuff, and the entire season exudes the soul, spirit and dilapidated polish Simon and Overmyer have infused into the very fabric of the show. The technical encode is just as proficient too, without any significant artifacting, banding, ringing, or aberrant softness or anomaly that might be cause for concern. Treme's presentation is another terrific Blu-ray stunner from HBO. Fans of the series won't find much of anything to complain about.
Treme: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
HBO's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track doesn't bow, nor does it know how. Jazz beats commandeer the LFE channel as the music and sounds of the French Quarter swarm the rear speakers, creating a perfect and perfectly immersive sonic storm. Dialogue is clear and intelligible, no matter how hushed or strained, and ambient effects are showcased with unflinching commitment to the series' already meticulous sound design. Dynamics are bold and breathtaking, directionality is dead on, pans are slick and nimble, and the soundfield is as enveloping as it is convincing. The music steals the show, though -- as it should -- and every last trumpet, trombone, guitar and raspy voice fills the soundstage with legitimate power and deep, haunting emotion, something that can't be said of most television sound mixes. HBO's lossless track pairs wonderfully with its video presentation and, in many ways, bests it along the way. It doesn't get much better than this. Audiophiles, music lovers and Jazz afficiandos will be ecstatic.
Treme: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Treme: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
From the series' opening bass line to the closing credits of its season finale, Treme: The Complete Second Season stands as another spectacular HBO release; one that bodes well for future releases of the show and further strengthens the cable network's already enviable reputation (both on television and Blu-ray). An outstanding AV presentation and a solid collection of extras only sweetens the pot, and transforms a must-see series into another must-own Blu-ray release. If you've been avoiding Treme, stop it. If you're hesitant to delve into another TV show, stop it. If you're still questioning whether its worth the cost of admission, stop it. It isn't just one of HBO's best, it's one of television's finest.
Treme: Other Seasons
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