True Blood: “And When I Die”
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True Blood: “And When I Die”

Don’t get too excited, folks. Sure, I know it looked like Tara lost a good portion of her skull in that final scene, but if nothing else, Tara has proved herself quite the survivor. She was as dead-weight a character this year as she has been since True Blood started, but somehow, I've got a sneaking suspicion that she’ll find her way back to us.

A lack of energy was the problem with True Blood’s season finale last year. Not so this year, although the resolution of the Marnie-possesses-Lafayette cliffhanger was fairly tepid. Things puttered along fairly aimlessly until that final 10 minutes or so when the bodies started to pile up (Nan and her gay stormtroopers, Debbie Pelt, Tara), and we got the juicy and long-awaited reveal that Russell had escaped his concrete prison.

Tara’s death, if it does turn out to be her ultimate fate, was remarkably pointless. She sacrificed herself on the altar of Sookie like so many characters have done and died at the hands of a character even dumber and more fucked-up than her. But, as Jesus told Lafayette, “everything’s temporary,” and in an episode that saw guest appearances by Gran, Rene, and Reverend Steve (hi Lois Smith, Michael Raymond-James and Michael McMillan!), that couldn’t ring truer.

To me, the most profound line of the episode was: “I am so over Sookie and her precious fairy vagina and her unbelievably stupid name! FUCK SOOKIE!” Well said, Pam. I know Sookie’s our hero, and there are plenty out there who care deeply for which vampire (or werewolf or whomever) she makes her bed with. But the whole love triangle thing this year has been even lamer than I had feared. Sure, her partnership with Eric turned out surprisingly fruitful (at least on a comedic level), but since he went back to normal, it’s just been a lot of gooey talk and Bambi glances. Sookie’s 400-minute scene (hey, that’s how long it felt) where she broke up with both Bill AND Eric was a long time coming, but that didn’t make it interesting.

Happily, that may well lead to Eric and Bill just deciding there’s no one out there in the world as good as Sookie, and instead, they’ll be an awesome vampire tag-team (with maybe some sex on the side!). Their scene with Nan was probably the most exciting of the episode. I’m very sad to see Nan go, but she had become a little one-note, and I assume the writers felt there was nowhere further to go. Of course, they also set up a situation where they COULD have gone further with Nan by having her mount a rebellion against the vampire authority. But instead, Bill and Eric will be leading that rebellion. Or they’ll be rooting out traitors to the cause. It’s hard to know which side they’re on, if any, at this point. Maybe they can team up with Russell when he shows up next year.

Let’s get back to Marnie, who by all accounts was the major focus of this episode. Nelsan Ellis once again did a fine job playing possessed. Jesus’ death felt visceral; I never loved him but he definitely grew on me this year, as he showed some authority and wasn’t just relegated as a romantic side-plot. But Marnie’s ultimate resolution felt like well-worn territory. It made a certain sort of sense to have her departure be centered around her achieving some peace, with Antonia and Grandma Adele around to help her in her passage. As brutal and sudden as her death was in the last episode, it makes sense that Marnie got a more fitting sendoff here.

But dramatically, it was weak fucking sauce. Bill and Eric tied to a burning stake? It was obvious their lives weren’t at risk. And Antonia’s confrontation with Marnie was just devoid of tension. The dialogue about her being a doormat and discovering her inner self through possession was just stuff we had already covered extensively. As usual, Sookie also didn’t get too involved in the whole thing, although at least she zapped Marnie at one point.

Speaking of zapping, let’s get onto the topic of plots going nowhere, shall we? I’m sure Sookie’s fairy friends will be revisited in season five. But all of the fairy stuff this season just feels like a huge mislead, or, at the very least, a giant waste of time. Same with Crystal and the were-panthers or Bill’s politico ambitions. And was it ever cleared up that Pam got cured of the skin-rotting curse Marnie laid on her? That just got forgotten entirely, unless I missed a line somewhere.

Other season-arc plots just ended up feeling a little limp. Jessica got to be in the action a little more this year, but mostly, she was stuck in her romantic maelstroms with Hoyt and Jason, just like last year, which is strange considering what a good character she is. Tara’s ultimate fighting career/coming out, well, that just got tossed by the wayside and rightly so. I ended up feeling positively about some subplots, though. Terry and Arlene’s baby curse was resolved well; Andy’s battle with V addiction turned out way better and more moving than I could have expected (I very much enjoyed his hug with Holly).

As for Marnie, she had many flaws. Fiona Shaw never really found the heart of that character, and so she never had the presence that Denis O’Hare and Michelle Forbes brought to their arcs. A lot of the witch action was kinda static, the long standoff in the magic shop especially. But I liked the moral ambiguity of the vampires’ battles with the witches, which no other season had. Russell was a monster, Maryann was a force of chaos, and Rene was a psychotic thug. But here, no one really came out looking too good. The best you can say of the vampires is that they’re aware of the sins of the past, more than Marnie was of her sins of the present.

I didn’t hate everything this year. True Blood remains a fairly enjoyable show, as maddening and meandering as it always is. And all these nutty cliffhangers promise a season five that I will at least tune into, even if it is begrudgingly. I’m sure there are many out there declaring this is it for them, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t check in next year anyway.

Stray observations:

  • Sam’s being threatened by werewolves in his cliffhanger. Poor Sam!
  • He met an even worse fate earlier, though, with Mrs. Fortenberry offering him a pork-rind casserole and welcoming him to the family. Poor Sam!
  • Tara is a killjoy to the end, especially when Sookie asks her if her grandma is in heaven. "I've always considered myself to be an atheist," Tara says. Yeesh.
  • Hoyt asks how Jason could have sex with Jessica. But Jason takes it the wrong way. "Weird question to ask, man, but if you really want to know, missionary, then doggy, then her on top, nothing too kinky."
  • Scott Foley will be around next season, I guess, playing a military vet friend of Terry’s. Yay?
  • Arlene’s kid dresses up as “Janelle from Teen Mom 2.”
  • "Excuse me! We're feeling a little crispy up here!"
  • Jesus is very relaxed about death. “I probably would have gotten cancer.” That’s one way to look at it.
  • Bill has some anger to work through, I think. “WE ARE NOT FUCKING PUPPYDOGS!”

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