Monday, March 19, 2012

Destruction of Magnificent Proportions: The Walking Dead and Treme

I suppose it's unfair to compare the fictional end of days scenario with the real life force of nature that was Hurricane Katrina, but both "The Walking Dead" and "Treme" deal with the apocalypse in very moving and heartfelt ways.... specifically how a select group of people scheme and survive when faced with the most preposterous of odds. Still, here' a few words on each.... just in case you're NOT watching them and I can implore you to do so.

Based on a graphic novel, I was with "The Walking Dead" from the very beginning. At first, I was expecting a George Romero horror-fest, unsure of how confidently AMC would handle the series but anticipating, at the very least, an entertaining time. Over the course of two seasons, the show not only proves that no main character is safe, but it has expertly established a foundation of human emotion that often builds to terrifying proportions upon each episode's finale. Like the brother to brother face off in Sam Raimi's "A Simple Plan", "The Walking Dead" often instills its greatest chills and horrifying gasps from the violence inflicted from human to human rather than the hungry undead. It has become mandatory viewing each week. It also forces me to shutter myself off from social media in lieu of reading a spoiler- as was the case on an episode two weeks ago. If that isn't evidence of a large cult following, than I don't know what is.

Likewise, HBO's "Treme", created by "The Wire" scribe David Simon, takes as its main setting post-Katrina New Orleans, fashioning a roundelay of characters suffering to survive and acclimate. There's the small business owner (a wonderful Kim Dickens), the affluent intellectual family (John Goodman and Melissa Leo), the troubadour musicians and a family dealing with the disappearance and maltreatment of their son after being incarcerated. Like "The Wire", Simon and his team of writers give ample time to each story, allowing them to breathe, criss crossing them back and forth upon each other and creating a vibrant blueprint of life directly after the disaster. Like "The Walking Dead", there's anger, confusion and resentment, but the overriding theme is one of survival and community. Choreographed in-between the human drama is the resilient nature of French Quarter jazz and impromptu jams. The shared musical experience is, at times, infectious. Just when the oppression of the federal government's lack of expediency becomes to much or a character laments the destruction of her business' tattered roof, "Treme" washes all the sadness away with a longeur that features blaring horns and swinging trombones. It's not long before we're taken back to the drama, but the idea that another horn session is right around the corner creates a strong sense of healing. "Treme" is terrific in the way it balances both.

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