It’ll swerve at the last minute…like it always does.
Episode 10: I’ll Fly Away (Finale)
— Anonymous Cabbie
“Play for that fucking money.”
“I been keeping time since yo’ diapers been full of that shit you talking now.”
“Sounds like every motherfucker up in there is spinning.”
What a stunning finale. I honestly almost cannot express how genius I found it. The key to the whole thing was the precise way in which it ended. By showing our characters right before Katrina we gained such a depth, such a clear understanding of not only the stakes of the storm—both personal and otherwise—but also the stakes of our commitments as viewers. All too often, it’s too easy to see our characters as simply where they are…as the sorts of people who for whatever reason end up in those situations: but here we see how they got there, who they were prior to Katrina. And it makes all the difference. Obviously, the differences are slight…but to see Albert, Damon, Janette, and most poignantly, I think, Antoine we see a whole different life. Of course, it’s the same characters: we see all of their well known traits (I loved how both Creighton and Davis said the same line), but it’s as if we’re viewing them through a prism or filter where everything looks different, but we know we’re looking at exactly the same thing. It was a really stunning move and forms an amazing counterpoint to Simon’s approach in The Wire vis-à-vis montage in the finales.
What struck me most about this episode was the focus on the everyday. Ladonna says to the lawyer: “The ones left, we got to be about the day to day.” And we say that day to day, both in the aftermath of Katrina, but also now, prior to Katrina. We see how the everyday has absolutely beautiful moments of deep meaning (of which this episode has plenty from Davis’s day with Janette to Damon’s second line to Albert’s march), but that these moments always seem to carry or be intimately close to a dark underbelly (from the cops almost beating Albert to the reason for the second line to Antoine losing most of his money) that is part and parcel of everything. There is nothing more beyond the unassailable relation between these two. And when Toni’s lawyer friend states: “Truth doesn’t set them free, it’s another burden to bear,” I think we know exactly what she means. As Ladonna puts the point: there is nothing there to find, that we can’t already guess. The ordinary is already always extraordinary and vice versa. The way that this finale plays with time by having the finale be the beginning highlights all of this in a way far superior to anything else I could imagine. Seeing Damon in his ordinary, everyday existence amidst the extraordinary event of Katrina and seeing how a different decision by the arresting officer (to let him go…let’s face it, there is always a choice…and I don’t say this in order to blame the officer, but rather to highlight the contingency of his decision) would have radically altered not only so many different lives, but would have altered the very arc of our entire season as viewers. Like I said, it is pure genius and absolutely stunning to watch.
Of course, as usual, the acting was great everywhere, but in this episode I was particularly struck by Melissa Leo (Toni). Her expression, walking in the second line behind Ladonna is so striking and so emotive, it was truly stunning. When she says that you “can’t dance” for Creighton, “when he quit,” we can’t but help be sucked into her world, effortlessly. (I should plug here also her recent performance in Veronika Decides to Die, itself a stunning film.)
In conclusion, I think this series has been brilliant. I am anxiously awaiting the next season and have to thank both Natalie and Kathryn for the opportunity to post here. It’s been a pleasure…so let’s play for that fucking money.