Clarke Peters, Treme

From the beginning, Treme co-creator and executive producer Eric Overmyer has insisted that HBO's post-Katrina New Orleans drama is a different animal from The Wire.

And Overmyer says Sunday's 80-minute finale (10/9c on HBO) proves the point again. While Overmyer's co-creator David Simon often ended seasons of The Wire with big thematic statements, Overmyer says their approach with Treme was to remain solely focused on the characters.

Check out photos of the Treme cast

"We're learning things about these characters as we go," Overmyer says. "We had some notions about these characters to begin with, but they've all changed and evolved as we've discovered how the show works. I think at the end of the season, the characters end where they end at that moment in time. Some people are thinking about leaving, some are more determined than ever to stay. It's just human stuff — it's about these characters and not about New Orleans as the whole."

Janette (Kim Dickens), the chef who was forced to close her restaurant and has given up on repairing her flood-damaged home, is ready to give her culinary skills a test in New York. Davis (Steve Zahn), Janette's part-time boyfriend and unrepentant champion of New Orleans, wants one day to try to change her mind.

"He doesn't want her to go," Overmyer says, noting that it could be time for Davis to make more of a commitment to the relationship. "If he did, how would she react? Maybe the tentative nature of their [relationship] suits them both. That's a question that might get addressed."

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Bringing a little more drama to the finale is the anxiety surrounding St. Joseph's Night. In this season's penultimate episode, Mardi Gras Indian Chief Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters) had a long talk with a policeman (David Morse) about the previous year's violent conflict between the tribes and the cops.

"In 2006, everybody was tense about St. Joseph's Night," says Overmyer, who has lived in New Orleans part time for many years. "[It's] one of the times that the Indians have had trouble with police historically. They don't get a permit to assemble or march, and it's been a long history of conflict and antagonism between the Indians and the police. It only takes one Indian or one cop to set things off."

Hanging over all of this, though, is the mystery surrounding Creighton Bernette (John Goodman), who after battling depression appeared to take his own life by jumping off a ferry boat. Overmyer says Creighton's situation will be clarified in the finale, but that his character represents where the show is going.

Treme renewed for second season

"His depression foreshadows what happened in New Orleans around the spring of 2006," Overmyer says. "The initial adrenaline of dealing with this stuff kind of wore off for people, and they began to realize what a long and seemingly impossible slog it was going to be to get their houses fixed. And crime started to come back, which really depressed people. Our second season is going to deal more with the problems people had in that second year, which in some ways was harder than the first. It was a dark year."

The current BP oil spill may also affect Season 2's storytelling. While the chronology of the show won't allow the spill to be referenced directly, Overmyer says the show might explore ecological issues in the wake of Katrina.

"It's been a shock for the whole city," he says. "With the Saints' [Super Bowl win] and the new mayor, everyone was feeling so good. And then the oil spill. People felt like they finally turned the corner, and then they were hit with this ecological apocalypse. I can't tell you how discouraged everyone is down there."

But Overmyer says he's confident that the city will again overcome, just as his characters do in Treme. "That's one of the things the show's about, celebrating life in the midst of adversity," he says.