Treme: Season 1 - Blu-ray Review

'perhaps due to the nature of the plotting and the many characters, this often feels more like a soap opera than a serialised drama'

Those sucked in by the seductively tuneful adverts for Treme Season 2 currently playing on television can rest safe in the knowledge that at a length of ten episodes, Treme Season 1 is a pleasantly brief way to get yourself up to speed. The ensemble drama about the after-effects on several people's lives of Hurricane Katrina's devastating ravaging of New Orleans in 2005 has been given the go-ahead for a third season, with the second currently playing on Sky's new Atlantic channel in the UK.

The first takes time to develop the character focus that is so vital to becoming hooked on this sort of drama. Creators Eric Overmyer and David Simon (the team behind The Wire) have a difficult task here with so many characters and so many different stories to manage but manage it they do, partially through some very wise casting. The re-casting of Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters from their previous show is a good decision, giving fans of that series a good grounding on which to enter this new world. Padding out the cast with recognisable faces like John Goodman, Melissa Leo and Steve Zahn is another good one, allowing newcomers to Overmyer and Simon's very distinct brand of drama a touch a familiarity. There's no one here that's too big though and relative newcomers Michiel Huisman and Lucia Micarelli also get time to breathe.

Perhaps due to the nature of the plotting and the many characters, this often feels more like a soap opera than a serialised drama. Minute scenes of small character interaction drive the narrative along. There's no major episodic focus (although, by luck of the draw, some do feature more than others on occasion) and storylines can be left behind for hours on end before Overmyer and Simon return to them. This is both Treme's strength and weakness.

Just when a story starts to get compelling it can get left behind for a less interesting one, only for the pattern to reverse a couple of episodes later. Huisman and Micarelli's story frequently - and slightly annoyingly - interjects those of the more established stars but by the end of the season their characters have become two of the ones who you wish to know more about. Pierce is a constant presence whose story moves in constrained and familiar ways, ditto Goodman's, whilst Peters' narrative serves as a metaphor for the series, as he seeks to rebuild his Mardi Gras Indian troupe in time for the parade.

Aside from the fantastic music, picking a highlight is difficult but perhaps the ultimate attraction to the tale comes in the unexpected form of Kim Dickens who is magnificent as chef Janette Desautel. Desautel is struggling to keep her restaurant running profitably. There's hint that she has an affection for sous chef Jacques (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, fantastic and playing the only character who doesn't get the screentime he deserves) whilst her main love life with Zahn runs around in uncertain circles. She's close to being broke and desperate but on Mardi Gras she's an unrestrained fairy and joyous. She's a complex tumult of emotions which perfectly represents the reason why Treme is worth watching: it's full of good human beings trying to be good human beings. And often, that isn't easy.

Look further...

'Authenticity came at the expense of high drama -- but in the end, we got high-quality product. We expected nothing less.' - IGN UK


  1. Going into the second season, I'm becoming less interested with all the social commentary. My favourite story is actually Annie and Davis' relationship - a simple story that could have happened anywhere.

  2. I think that's fair comment on most of the stories in the first season actually, although I wouldn't say setting it in New Orleans and including some social commentary harms it in any way. If anything, it's testament to the stories - they're very simple little dramas which are well worked into a big narrative about a lively city.

    P.S - glad to hear that continues developing in Season 2!