Posted by: Kristen Hicks | May 15, 2011

The Art of Moments

Unforced happiness, happiness that comes without strings attached, is the rarest thing in all of life. How often do you just sit down and feel not delirious joy but a nice, low-grade happiness that isn’t constantly crowded out by worries and fears and the constant nattering of the subconscious? As we cross over from the relatively easy world of childhood, where emotions run in high spurts of epic feeling, into the more fraught emotional territory of adolescence and adulthood, we find ourselves entering a world where every emotion must be couched in other emotions, where we rarely get a chance to just sit back and simply be. But as rare as this emotion is in life, it’s even more rare in art.
–Todd Van Der Worff

The quote above comes from a piece written about an episode of Deadwood, but I immediately thought of Treme upon reading it.  My feelings towards the show are unabashedly glowing, but I’ve read some pretty mixed responses from others for whom it feels too slow or plotless or otherwise just doesn’t do anything for them.

For me, the two main arguments I have for why I think it’s brilliant are the realism of the characters and the emphasis the show is willing to give to the small moments of life, both the beautiful and tragic.  The latter would not be nearly so powerful if not for the former, but after spending lots of time watching believable, full, complex characters go through life, seeing the so much of their day to day lives and struggles and victories, I feel so much more payoff and emotional investment in their experiences than I do with other characters I encounter on television.

For this reason (mild spoilers), images like LaDonna dancing in the second line at the end of the first season, using the music and movement as a way to momentarily chase the deep suffering she feels away; or, in the same scene, seeing Antoine finally share a moment of camaraderie with his sons after a season of painful neglect; or, watching Janette get a rare moment of hope after so much loss when working with Davis at a Bacchanal show*, only to see that hope get wiped away when her next one is  rained out and she has to take a loss; or, watching Arthur dress up in full Mardi Gras Indian regalia to convince a friend to help him keep the tradition alive in spite of the difficulties post-storm.  I could keep listing, there are so many moments that stayed with me after the first season’s end, that just played and re-played in my head with all the emotions they incited still fresh.

I am so pleased that Treme will be continuing through at least a 3rd season and hope that we’re lucky enough to see these stories play out longer.  I understand that for a lot of people, the slow pacing of a series like this can feel tedious, and there are certainly moments when my mood requires some lighter fare from my television viewing (thanks for always being there, Dr. Who), but no other tv show I’m watching feels as poignant and rewarding as this one.

Related note: I highly recommend anyone not watching Deadwood seek it out, and anyone who has seen it check out the AV Club write ups about it.  The piece on the finale, in particular, is masterful.

*My memory of this isn’t perfect, it might not have been a Bacchanal show, but the image of her happily serving food to live music while Davis helps sticks with me.

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