Full disclosure: I am not a fan of this show's first season. Despite early promise, in the end I found the pacing dull and the characters thinly drawn, clichéd and difficult to care about. I thought the show made New Orleans look like a ridiculous cartoon of a place. And the music, which I normally enjoy whenever I'm actually in New Orleans, was so aggressively pushed as an additional character that after 13 episodes of non-stop blaring I now can't even look at a trumpet without bursting into tears. So now that the show's second season has premiered, has anything changed? The answer is sort of, but not really.
The Restaurant Scenes
Bringing in Anthony Bourdain this season has certainly paid off already with those scenes -- that hilariously evil chef Janette is working for is more entertaining than the entire cumulative first season. And she's living with Ziggy Sobotka, too? How'd we get so lucky? Could Janette actually be... entertaining this season? It finally seems possible.
The Disaster Capitalist
Pardon me, the salsa-dancing disaster capitalist. Jon Seda is wonderful (and a wonderful dancer!), and if the show takes care to actually make him a complex, layered, even conflicted villain this could be a really interesting arc full of corruption and greed that plays to David Simon's strengths. And I could forgive the character's unrealistic use of random Spanglish. Who is he, anyway? Angel Battista?
More of Lieutenant Colson
He was one of the few characters I actually managed to get invested in last year, so great move bumping him up to series regular this season in the face of New Orleans' escalating crime waves. We get more of a great actor playing one of the few well-written characters on this show, and the promise of more intrigue in his crime-fighting scenes. That's a win all around.
Evil Insurance Companies
The scene with Albert knowingly shaking his head in disgust at his paltry insurance check was heartbreaking and refreshingly subtle for this show. Besides, who doesn't hate insurance companies? We can all relate.
There was kind of a nice moment in the beginning where a young boy just learning to play the trumpet wanders around a cemetery where Antoine and Albert are paying their respects to the graves of their loved ones, a kind of death and new beginnings metaphor that wasn't the most subtle thing in the world, but it was still effective and appropriate. It was less effective later when it was echoed as the same boy wandered over to a crime scene and clutched his trumpet in horror at the sight of a murder victim, but what would this show be without its repetitive anvils?
The Fickle Media
It's true that a year after Katrina the country began to lose interest in the crisis and move on to other things, and the scene where Colson told off the New York Times reporter for wishing there was a higher body count for his crime story was a roundabout way of addressing that, but it was beautifully acerbic, and the kind of genuine wit this show has really lacked. If keeping that attack on the press ever-present in the background this season brings more scenes like that one to the show, I'm all for it.
The entire premiere was a set-up episode, just introducing the new characters and systematically checking in with where each character is living and the degree of their current misery. Thanks for the info, but that doesn't really count as a plot.
New York Is Not Stuffy and Soulless
For such a liberal show, there's something so Sarah Palin about intercutting a wild New Orleans party with Janette miserably sipping bourbon at a silent, stuffy NYC bar, and don't even get me started on Delmond's ridiculously hackneyed interaction with those pseudo-intellectual Manhattanite music snobs. Those scenes made me feel like I was watching a Larry the Cable Guy routine. The South is not the only place where people are "real," you know.
Davis is Still Horrendously Annoying
And so is that damn fiddler girl he's dating. I have never and will never care about either of them. Or fiddles in general.
They're Still Not Utilizing Their Runtime Wisely
In addition to the multiple music breaks, we got a near five-minute scene depicting Davis Febrezing his apartment. And twice a scene opened with a character slowing driving up a long driveway, parking, and leisurely stepping out of the vehicle before the scene's action could begin. I can't believe I have to tell them this, but that is terrible television, and it was the kind of thing that constantly bored me last season.
Like It or Not, The Music Screws the Pacing
I fully understand that music is an indelible part of the New Orleans experience, and that the show considers it a vital character in its own right, and there certainly is validity to that. However, having to stop every other scene for a four-minute trumpet solo every episode just does not work, and I'd wager it's a big reason why the show lost so many viewers as it went on last season. Not to mention the fact that it renders the show utterly unwatchable for people who just happen to not care for that kind of music. Maybe just break for brass band jam sessions once an episode? Is that so horrible to consider?
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