When things seemed to be going relatively well for most characters, "What Is New Orleans?" shocks us back into reality with a series of downers before the gruesome ending. Annie and Harley are walking after a gig and are robbed at gunpoint, and Harley, unfortunately, speaks up. He receives a close-range shot to the face, The Wire-style, and is likely dead.
Harley's shooting represents the balance of New Orleans, which is excellently defined in the brief exchange between Sonny and Antoine. A raucous group runs past them and Sonny states that that's what New Orleans is. As soon as they pass, however, a group of police cars, with sirens blaring and lights flashing, pass them, and Antoine notes that that's New Orleans as well. We're instantly reminded, soon afterwards, that the crime can strike at anyone, anywhere.
For all the great music and culture of the city, there is a dark underbelly to it. The police department did not suddenly turn bad after Katrina, but its problems were brought to the top and exposed in this time of need. The corruption of city officials and greed of people like Nelson is not a new phenomenon, but something exacerbated by the glut of post-Katrina rebuilding money. While Katrina is a large force which influenced everything, it is not the defining factor of New Orleans. There was New Orleans before the storm, New Orleans after the storm, and everything still exists, the good and the bad.
This is illustrated by the exchange between Delmond and his father, who apparently is so obstinate that he believes that Africans learned to use feathers from the Indians. We begin to wonder, was he like this before Katrina? Was he changed by Katrina, perhaps in a depression? Or, like New Orleans's problems, was he already this stubborn before the storm?
Davis's musical aspirations hit a big roadblock after Lil Calliope decides to promote his own thing, a catchy dance song which upstages Davis's own song. Antoine's battle with Kermit was awesome, even if it won't have long-term ramifications. Larry finally confronts Ladonna about her apathy and ownership of the bar. At the end of the episode, he prepares to sell it, but there are still many hurdles ahead. And it's possible they may not be able to get over them.
The one thing that continues to bother me is Janette's plot. She's cooking at a new restaurant, Chang is really cool, but she's going back to New Orleans eventually, and her development this season seems stunted. It just seems like the same stuff again and again.