But aside from these black-and-white tales of good and evil, what holds you are the music, the food, and the texture of individual lives created in nuanced performances by actors like Alexander, Clarke Peters (as a Mardi Gras Indian Chief), and Wendell Pierce as a jazz trombonist who finds that maybe he isn't quite good enough to be top shelf.

What holds you too is the gritty specificity of this particular kind of urban life. The food, the music, the Mardi Gras Indians are all part of a culture and a community lovingly portrayed in Simon's broad canvas. That culture is seen as a delicate ecosystem that has to be fought for. There's plenty of noise in Treme, musical and otherwise. But Simon and his team also know how to say a lot in small, quiet gestures as well — like the image of a Mardi Gras Indian Chief, taking a chemo drip in one arm, while his hand sews the pattern on the apron of his next suit, looking forward to that next Mardi Gras.

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