'Treme' final season premiere review: Still good, still not for everyone

LaDonna Batiste-Williams (Khandi Alexander) tends to her bar LaDonna Batiste-Williams (Khandi Alexander) tends to her bar on "Treme." Photo Credit: HBO

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REVIEW

THE SHOW "Treme"

WHEN | WHERE Final season begins Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO

WHAT IT'S ABOUT A little more than three years after Hurricane Katrina, Barack Obama is about to be elected president, and some optimism finally arrives in still largely black and largely battered New Orleans. Some people want to get back to normal, others -- like Nelson Hidalgo (Jon Seda) -- are figuring out how to rebuild and make a profit. Albert "Big Chief" Lambreaux (Clarke Peters) is skeptical Obama's election will make any difference; Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn) is still spinning records; Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce) has a job teaching music to underprivileged kids.

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MY SAY Full of intriguing characters, fine actors, music and Big Easy "atmosphere," "Treme" -- it's pronounced "TreMAY," by the way -- never caught on, and now seems as good a time as any to ask why. Blame the name, maybe -- I actually heard someone refer to the show as "TrEEM" on radio recently. Or blame the characters: Nuanced, neurotic and (often) angry, they seem to be going no place in a hurry.

That's actually part of a core "Treme" theme, stated as: How can a classic American city retain its soul after nearly being wiped off the face of the planet? (At least one answer -- with people like this.) Or maybe just blame the creators, David Simon and Eric Overmyer, who are keenly interested in the idea of what makes a "place" a "place" and how self-identity -- particularity cherished self-identify -- is assaulted by the axis of politics and money.

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This is another way of saying they're less interested in "plot," more in theories of socioeconomics. "Treme" will one day be appreciated by someone for its many virtues, though probably as a show to binge on. The series' virtues do, in fact, materialize after long immersion. But for now, only five episodes are left.

BOTTOM LINE Still good, still not for everyone, and almost gone for good.

GRADE B+

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