Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Treme: "Carnival Time"

"Not as awesome as breaking a tooth on some sort of plastic alien fetus."
-Nick, when finding the baby inside the King Cake

Premiered June 5, 2011.

In this episode from season two of the HBO series, it's Mardi Gras 2007 in New Orleans, and the citizens are preparing to celebrate in a variety of ways.

Fidlde player Annie Talarico (Lucia Micarelli) has been invited to a Courir De Mardi Gras celebration with other musicians 2 hours away in Cajun country.  Her boyfriend Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn), a local DJ, has never missed a Mardi Gras in New Orleans and isn't crazy about spending this one in the country.  He learns his father is riding on a parade float for the first time in years, which provides Davis an out.

Annie in the costume she made for Courir De Mardi Gras.
Local defense attorney Toni Bernette (Melissa Leo) has decided to cast her late husband Creighton's ashes into the Mississippi River.  She would like her teenage daugher Sofia (India Ennega) to participate in the ceremony, but Sofia acts indifferent.  Some of this may stem from the fact that Sofia has recently learned that her father's death was a suicide.

Sofia and Toni check out the parade;Sofia is disinterested.
Delmond Lambreaux (Rob Brown)  and Antione Batiste (Wendell Pierce) have recently fired their guitarist Sonny (Michael Huisman) from their band, Soul Apostles.  Sonny's drug addiction is impacting his musicianship.  However, Delmond wants to give Sonny another chance and assigns Sonny to work on a oyster boat during Mardi Gras, as a means of keeping him out of trouble.

Delmond pays a visit to Sonny.
Antoine has plans to meet up with several different women during Mardi Gras.  His plans change when his ex-wife LaDonna (Khandi Alexander) sends their sons to spend the day with Antoine.

Antoine (somewhat reluctantly) celebrates Mardi Gras with his sons.
Politically connected busisnessman Nelson Hidalgo (John Seda) buys his way onto the Zulu float.  This is part of his plan to develop land ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Nelson gets painted up to ride the Zulu float.
Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters), Chief of the Mardi Gras Indians, has made a new costume and is preparing to participate in the revelry.

Janette Desautel (Kim Dickens) is living in New York, working as a sous chef at a fancy restaurant and feeling homesick for Mardi Gras.    Her spirits are lifted when not only does her boss give her the night off to celebrate but someone mails her a King Cake from New Orleans.  This gives her a chance to share Mardi Gras with her flatmates.

Jannette introduces Frank (James Ransone) and Chas (Derek Cecil) to King Cake.

Police officer Terry Colson (David Morse) is patrolling the parades, hoping to minimize crimes during Mardi Gras.

J.A. Morris says:

This is one of the strongest episodes of Treme.  "Carnival Time" feels almost like an anthropological documentary about Mardi Gras.  There's a great scene at around the 25-minute mark.  It's a montage of the different ways people are getting into costumes, accompanied by the Professor Longhair song "Go To The Mardi Gras".  Great television.

Davis (in a "Scream" mask) angles to catch beads at the parade.

I've never been to a Mardi Gras, but I don't think we'll see a better depiction of it on television any time soon.  There's a lot of different plots and sub-plots to keep track of, but this episode could serve as a decent introduction to the series and its characters.
Nick finds the baby in the King Cake!
"Carnival Time" is a strong episode of a very good series and is highly recommended.

J.A. Morris' rating:

4 King Cakes.

RigbyMel says:

This is a strong episode of a strong series.  It gives a great overview of many different contrasting aspects of Mardi Gras. We see plenty of "laissez les bons temps rouler" as well as incipient  Ash Wednesday hangovers.

Harley (Steve Earle) plays guitar at Courir De Mardi Gras.
The scenes of people casting the ashes of departed loved ones into the Mississippi as a way of saying goodbye is very touching and also contrasts in an interesting way with Ash Wednesday/ Lent.  We also see contrasts between the country Cajun celebration which harks back to a more Europe-centric Mardi Gras tradition and the anything goes polyglot craziness of the big celebrations in NOLA.

Plus the music, as is typical on the show, is pretty awesome.     As J.A. Morris says, there are aspects of "Carnival Time" that play like a Mardi Gras documentary, but it's the relationships between the characters and their environment that makes this episode (and Treme in general) well worth watching.

RigbyMel's rating:

4 King Cakes.

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