B

True Blood: "9 Crimes"

B

True Blood

"9 Crimes"

Season 3, Episode 4
B

True Blood

"9 Crimes"

Season 3, Episode 4

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Bill's descent into darkness continues this week on True Blood. Last week he had angry hate-sex with Lorena and twisted her head Exorcist-style as part of it. This week he breaks up with Sookie on the phone, sells his Louisiana buddies down the river to the Magister, and picks up the saddest stripper in the world for his new boss to feed on. Damn, Bill! And I thought last week was rock bottom! I think the question of whether this is all an act was answered by Bill not responding to his psychic awareness that Sookie was in trouble. In season one, he ran to get her in the SUNSHINE. Sure, maybe it's more that he's given up on life altogether than Sookie in particular, but it has the same effect either way.

On the one hand, I'm happy that the show is taking Bill in a darker direction after he mostly sat on the sidelines in season two: he's way more of an interesting character this way. Stephen Moyer had some good, moody moments this week as he dumped Sookie, bargained with Russell to kill Lorena in return for his fealty, and talked to a glamored stripper about how much life sucks. But the timing feels a little rote, in terms of splitting him and Sookie up to throw more love interests at her. Alcide, the hunky, shirtless werewolf, is not doing anything for me so far (but I may not be his target audience). Having Sookie gaze at another brooding, joyless hunk doesn't equal romantic tension in my book.

Still, see how much good it's done to split the two up? Sookie's doing a lot of detective work and this week she even wore a biker chick disguise! Sure, she cried for the first ten minutes after Bill's epic dumping ("We fucked like only two vampires can," he says about Lorena) but then she got right back on her feet and decided Bill was saying those words against his will! OK, so it's a little annoying that she's still hunting for Bill, but it's active behavior, and it's better than the middle part of season two where she seemed to be hanging out in a hotel bed for half of the episodes.

"9 Crimes" took us deeper into Russell's machinations. Franklin is in his employ, and Coot's werewolf clan is under his thrall because he supplies them with blood (in shot glasses!), and his ancestry appears to be German, which may explain the Nazi undertones to much of the werewolf clan revelations so far. Sophie-Anne, we learn from Bill, is hurting financially since the vampires came out because now she has to pay taxes; that's what's driving her blood-selling business. But the house of cards is quickly tumbling on that one; the Magister raids Fangtasia and tortures Pam, and it takes Eric throwing the blame on Bill to stop him holding a scary tribunal. We seem to be moving quickly towards all-out conflict between the Louisiana and Mississippi vamp clans, but since we're only four episodes in, I have a feeling they'll find a way to stall us a little longer. One thing True Blood is incessantly guilty of is teasing the main showdown from early on, but postponing it until the season finale. Hopefully it won't be as anticlimactic as last year's.

This episode was generally very dark and depressing with some cool shit sprinkled in to keep it from being a total drag: I especially dug Eric zipping out of Lafayette's car window (and his levitating at Sookie's window in a dream and explaining his flight talents as being similar to a human singing well). Bill and Lorena didn't quite equal their laughable bed antics of last week, but he did punch her clear across a room and tell her "Any passion you felt was me killing my love for Sookie…now get the fuck out." Eric and Lafayette's buddy relationship also deepened a little, healing the wounds of all the torture-dungeon stuff last year, as they dealt with some homophobic drug dealing douchebags. If Sookie is moving on to Alcide instead of Eric for the rebound, can Eric end up with Lafayette instead? They have great chemistry, and who's to say Eric hasn't dabbled in the last thousand years?

Bon Temps was a lot less interesting as usual, especially the continuing ballad of the Merlotte clan. I have again picked the best lines that shows how lazily his trashy parents are being written: when Sam says Tommy tried to steal from his safe, Mama Merlotte says: "Sometimes I think that boy’s cheese done slid off his cracker." "That boy makes my ass itch," adds Daddy Merlotte. Charming as ever. This week we learn they got evicted and they generally screw up a lot. Fascinating! Can we go back to the vampires and werewolves, please?

Tara's exploits with Franklin goes to new levels of crazy as he feeds on her, ties her to the toilet, tapes her mouth shut and then...brings her flowers. "I can't stop thinking about you," he coos. Driving her to Mississippi, he assures her he's not a bad guy, just a lonely PI who misses the taste of fruit. He doesn't really appear to give a shit that he has to tie Tara down to spend time with her, but I do: can't this girl ever have a storyline that doesn't involve abuse or being forced to do things against her will? Tara's never been one of my favorite characters but I miss even her mighty attitude as she gets shit on by life every week. James Frain, however, remains one of the best things about season three so far. He's very creepily sincere in his scenes with Tara.

The rest of the Bon Temps actions was filler stuff, but we saw the retirement of Sherriff Dearborn, a move that I'm still wondering about -- is it permanent or not? William Sanderson is a talented dude and he did his best with what he got on True Blood but he never got much, so I understand if he's moving on. Andy as Sherriff works fine for me (all you have to do to get promoted is "drink like a fish, hallucinate farm animals and kill a black man" notes Deputy Kenya) and Jason blackmailing him into a job as a cop also makes sense (he loves to cut corners, that boy). But Dearborn is so refreshingly normal in a town of weirdoes, and I've always appreciated the stabilizing impact he has on the show, so I hope it's not the end of him forever.

"9 Crimes" was a little too grim as an episode but if True Blood's deciding to get grim instead of silly for this season I'm willing to see where they take it. But Alan Ball got way too miserable before on Six Feet Under and ruined the show, a pattern I hope doesn't continue here. For now, though, I'm endorsing it; let's see where it goes.

Grade: B

Stray observations:

Alcide "runs hot" like all werewolves, so he's got something over Bill.

Sookie busted out a truly corny exclamation in Eric's dream: "cheese and rice!" Maybe that's what Eric likes about her.

Jason confronts Friday Night Lights knockoff Kitch Maynard ("fucking weird name") with a scary vision of the future: Jason Stackhouse. I don't think it hit home for Kitch, but apparently Jason is getting in touch with how little progress he's made in his life.

Bill was a "procurer" for Sophie-Anne for 35 years, which basically means he fetched humans for her to feed on. That sounds like a really, really boring job.

Oh, and Jessica's Merlotte's new hostess (she can't waitress cause she's perpetually too young to serve alcohol) and she has a run-in with a bible study friend, a scene Deborah Ann Woll played with the right amount of melancholy. (He had just come from picketing the "baby-killing factory," which isn't stereotypical at all).

The Magister notes that Pam is Eric's "child," or that he made her, this week. I forget if we were already privy to this information.

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