Review: HBO's 'Treme'

Here’s my 4.5-star review of Treme’s season 2 premiere Sunday night:

TV’s great storytellers, David Simon and Eric Overmyer, return to post-Katrina New Orleans to find it beset by criminals, exploiters and government incompetence. In other words, still in the grips of man-made disasters.

In Season 1, Treme’s characters struggled in the days and weeks after the 2005 storm and floods that followed Hurricane Katrina. Season 2 resumes on Nov. 1, 2006, All Saints Day.

Music, food, recovering from loss and building something new are the driving forces. Seven months after the suicide of teacher and YouTube firebrand Creighton Burnette (John Goodman), his teenage daughter, Sofia (India Ennenga), is having a hard time with her mom, Toni (Melissa Leo), a lawyer drawn to the city’s many victims.

Deejay McAlary Davis (Steve Zahn)’s love for “bounce,” the uniquely New Orleans version of hip hop, is balanced by soul-man trombonist Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce) and “trad jazz” trumpeter Delmond Lambreaux (Rob Brown), who is trying to find a new sound while staying true to the old.

Delmond has moved to New York City, as has chef Janette Desautel (Kim Dickens), but New Orleans keeps its hooks in and they are forced to come to the Crescent City’s defense time and again.

Delmond’s father, Mardi Gras Indian chief Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters), seems to be losing the spirit with which he rallied his tribe months earlier, while bar owner LaDonna Batiste-Williams (Khandi Alexander), still grieving her slain brother, again comes face to face with violent crime.

Crime plays a big, sad part in this chapter of the New Orleans recovery, and The Wire’s creators personify earnest law-enforcement efforts this season with a bigger role for Lt. Terry Colson (David Morse).

Violinist Annie (Lucia Micarelli) gets some musical breaks and is ready for her career to catapult, while former boyfriend Sonny (Michiel Huisman) just wants to move forward. Jon Seda (who, like Melissa Leo, worked with Simon on Homicide: Life On The Street) enters the story as an investor from Dallas eager to cash in on the spoils of recovery — and ready to be seduced by the city’s charms.

The storytelling is confident, rich and compelling. And as viewers learned with The Wire, the rewind button, to catch important but obscure dialogue, is strongly recommended. (Note: I watched 5 episodes provided by HBO on DVD.)

More clicking: Here’s a Florida Courier preview/review.

Here’s a moody S2 preview on HBO’s Tremesite.

Here’s is ace reviewer Alan Sepinwall’s take.

The Times-Picayune’s Treme blog has resumed production.

And producer David Simon mixed it up recently with city officials and readers over an attempt to preserve some Central City houses that were featured in early Treme marketing posters.