Why Did Creighton Commit Suicide?

Recently I finished the first season of Treme. By the last episode I was truly hooked. I had wiped away tears when LaDonna’s brother was finally found (dead), sung along with Davis as he recorded his campaign song, swayed to Antoine’s “bone”, and embraced Creighton’s righteous rages on YouTube (FYYFF!). And as one who loves literature and whose greatest influences were English teachers, I embraced Creighton himself. How I would have loved to have had classes with him! I wanted him to keep “speaking Truth to Power,” and to write the book he wanted to write.

And then they killed him. The writers had Creighton do something that was not only unexpected, but seemingly out of character.  Oh, they dropped heavy hints:  his passionate kiss good-bye to his wife, stopping his daughter to tell her he thought she looked very pretty, his calmness before the storm.  And The Awakening.  OMG, he’s talking about Edna’s suicide as if it were some hard-fought-for prize.  I practically shook my flat-screen TV, screaming at Creighton not to look so longingly at the water, as if that were the only place he would find peace. I could barely sleep that night, asking myself the same question over and over: Why? Not just, why did Creighton do it; but also, why did the writers do it? Why did the writers choose suicide for Creighton and not the stroke or heart attack that seemed far more likely given his appetites, girth, and volatility.  Why not the death that seemed inevitable if boring?

I found an answer of sorts in a paper by Julia Leyda (http://www.academia.edu/1682220/What_a_Character_Creighton_and_Excess_in_HBOs_Treme_Draft). Leyda points out little clues or red flags spread across Season 1 that suggest Creighton was a doomed character. He was already going off the edge in the very first episode when he lost his cool with the British interviewer and threw the man’s microphone in the water. I thought that whole scene was funny. I was used to seeing Goodman perform outlandish, crazy characters (think The Big Lebowski) and I thought Creighton was more of the same. Yes, there were hints that all was not right with him, that he was stressed and probably depressed. But I don’t think those hints add up to suicide. They could have led to more and more drinking, maybe smoking, more behaviors that would have led to a “natural” death. Was a natural death for Creighton too “banal” for the series’ writers?

And here’s my true gripe:  I think the Treme writers got lazy. For whatever reason, Goodman wouldn’t be back for Season 2 so they had to get rid of Creighton. What’s easier than a suicide? Guy jumps in water, family devastated, life (and series) goes on. Except Creighton had less reason to kill himself than any of the other characters, and he had the best reasons to live (mainly, a loving and lovingly eccentric family). And it seemed so out of character that Creighton would think his suicide would be anything less than a betrayal to his family. He, of all the characters, would know how cruel such an action would be.

I don’t buy Creighton’s suicide. I don’t buy that such an important character, one that, “in his excesses and extreme emotions such as grief and rightgeous anger, represents that city’s critique of the failures that led to the devastation” (Leyda), would off himself in the first season. Maybe in the second season … maybe, but then, I think not.

S.K. Nicholls


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