True Blood: "Bad Blood" 
B+

True Blood: "Bad Blood" 

B+

True Blood

"Bad Blood" 

Season 3, Episode 1

Hi y'all. I'm taking over from Emily for this year's True Blood coverage. Don't everyone cheer at once! The show's coming off of its big breakout season where it became HBO's biggest show since its Sopranos/Sex and the City heyday, and it looks like Alan Ball has a lot planned for season 3. "Bad Blood" was mostly about getting various plots going: Bill's kidnapping, Sam getting in touch with his roots, Tara feelin' sorry for herself, Jason dealing with his shooting of Eggs, etc. But it did it at a breakneck pace, with the right dash of absurdity and over-the-topness, making for a pretty entertaining opening hour.

Let's start with Bill's kidnapping, probably the most action-packed part of the episode. I'm firmly of the belief that, pacing-wise, True Blood is best-served by keeping Bill and Sookie apart as much as possible. I enjoy them both a lot more when they're not together making gooey faces at each other. "Bad Blood" really supported that belief. Bill was damn near close to being an actual badass the whole time. His kidnappers, the self-proclaimed "fuck you crew" associated with "operation werewolf," try to drain him dry; after escaping, he buries himself alive to protect himself from the sun; then he feeds on an old woman, glamours her to forget about it, and is raring to go against a whole bunch o'werewolves in the final scene. "I should warn you, I fed," he snarls. It's nice to see this side of Bill more often. His goody-two-shoes act was getting dull. Keeping him on the lam in Mississippi for a while, away from his mansion, his Wii and the lovin' arms of Sookie, will help keep the show's tempo up, I think.

Sookie, meanwhile, catches a lot of flak from the disbelieving Bon Temps townsfolk about her stalling on Bill's wedding proposal/his kidnapping. It's a little unfair, I think: sure, he made a nice grand gesture, but Bill was moving a little quickly considering the mayhem of season two had just died down. She swallows her pride to go ask for Eric's help, who greets her casually during a session of epic boneage with an Estonian dancer in his torture dungeon. His airy hello of "Sookie!" as she entered was pretty great. His post-sex silk boxing robe was even greater. This guy knows how to stay aloof. It is just a veneer, though: we quickly learn through that he was plotting to kidnap Bill himself, over the vampire blood dealing thing, but his guys couldn't make it in time to beat the werewolf crew. Alexander Skarsgard got the opportunity to play supremely confident Eric in his scenes with Sookie, and a much more muted, troubled version in his scenes with Sophie-Anne and the Magister. Naturally, Skarsgard, probably the show's most-skilled cast member, did a great job.

But I am also glad to see the return of both Evan Rachel Wood and Zeljko Ivanek. Wood brought the same nutty aplomb that brightened up the end of season two, and we got a little more background on the Magister, who seems like the most old-school vampire of them all. He spouts vaguely fundamentalist-sounding tracts about how "the blood is sacred, using it for anything other than procreation is blasphemy," getting quick, nervous assents from both Sophie-Anne and Eric, who act like they're kids in Sunday school, insulting him behind his back but terrified and reverent when he's in the room.

While the main storyline definitely held my attention, some of the B-plots were a little weaker. I'm not sure about Sam's journey of self-discovery and his meeting his brother Tommy (played by Marshall Allman, once of Prison Break). Maybe because it was the only plot that didn't have any sex or violence in it, but I feel like some crazy shit had better happen quickly or it just won't be very True Blood. The writers made up for it this week with Sam's outrageous sex fantasy of Bill (whose blood he drank in the season 2 finale) where the southern gentleman vampire coos, "I hear the water is very hard in Arkansas." Yeah, he actually said that. That's gotta be the line of the year. The camera cuts away before they kiss, though. What's up with that? I thought we were watching HBO! I'm sure there'll be internet pandemonium among whatever Sam-Bill slashfiction subset there exists.

Jason, still bugging out about shooting Eggs, tries to get in touch with his first-season roots by picking up and banging a couple of NYU grads, obeying Andy Bellefleur's advice: "Conscience off, dick on, and everything's gonna be alright." Doesn't work though: he keeps imagining them with bullet holes in their heads, which he helpfully tells them about (he's so well-meaning). Could Jason's disinterest in meaningless, aerobic sex be a commentary on True Blood easing off on its T&A quotient for the third season? That would be quite a seismic shift, but I'm not sure we're there yet.

Least interesting of all is Tara's misery spiral following Eggs' death and her learning that Sookie helped him remember all his bad deeds. She invites her mother back to care for her, which quickly leads to a reverend telling her it was "all part of God's plan" to reunite her with her crazy mama. Christ. Tara needs to just avoid role models for a while. Or at least listen to Lafayette, who chides Lettie Mae by saying, "Instead of looking up at God, you need to keep your eyes on your fucking daughter." Good advice, rendered even better by his wearing of an awesome hat with a feather in it.

I sort of sympathize with Tara's sadness and subsequent suicide attempt at the end of the episode, but it's hard to remember how long she even knew Eggs for. True Blood moves at such a quick pace, could it have been much more than a month or so? I mean, the dude was cut from marble, but he was really just a big smile and a six-pack. I think there might be other fish in the sea.

I'm not too worried about the Tara and Jason plots though, because it's nice to have scenes set in Bon Temps that don't involve massive orgies, and I hope the writers let us have a few more weeks of normal town life before shit gets crazy again. Both characters are sliding into comfortable tones: for Tara, misery; for Jason, airhead comedy. Coupled with the excitement of Bill on the run and the intrigue of Eric, Jessica and Sookie looking for him, we're off to a solid start so far.

Stray observations

This episode was listed as "Pack of Wolves" on my TV and on some websites, but I'm going with what HBO's publicity materials tell me.

I didn't say anything about Jessica's "oh shit, I killed a trucker!" plot because there isn't much to say yet: either this descends into Weekend at Bernie's-esque antics or they take her first kill over-seriously and she goes nuts. We'll see.

Sookie doesn't want any "lesbian weirdness" from Pam. This episode still had it in spades. Nice to see Kristen Bauer in the main titles and all over the promo material.

Be warned: when you're Jason Stackhouse's roommate, "There's a certain amount of pussy overflow you're just gonna have to get used to dealing with."

Terry's reaction to the pregnant Arlene freaking out at him over something small was priceless. "Peculiar," he murmurs. Speaking as a long-time Gilmore Girls fan, I'd like to have more Todd Lowe this season.

For example, his little speech to Andy was just lovely in how on-the-nose and support-groupy it was. "You're still a man who is capable of goodness and heartbreaking generosity of spirit, and if you cling to that with everything you've got, it'll be alright."

Getting a psychic call from one's maker is much like that time she drank Kahlua, Jessica says.

Probably the best sight gag of the week was Lettie Mae reading an issue of Men's Health at Lafayette's house. With Obama on the cover, no less. I wonder what the President's opinion on vampire marriage is?

"I'm sorry you fell in love with a serial killer, but honestly, around here, who hasn't?" Arlene's attempt at sympathizing with Tara probably could have used a little rethinking.

Hoyt is ever the gentleman: "real nice seeing y'all," he contributes as two scantily-clad ladies leave the house.

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