True Blood: "Cold Ground"
C

True Blood: "Cold Ground"

So here’s the problem with an uneven, closer-to-bad-than-good TV series like True Blood: When you get to an episode that’s supposed to have you choking back tears, it ends up leaving you cold. Alan Ball and company have had five hours to get us to care about his characters and it was clear to me tonight just how thoroughly they’ve failed in that capacity. Six episodes in and I couldn’t care less about any of these people, no matter that a couple of them have been intermittently interesting or entertaining.

The brutal, senseless murder of Sookie’s grandmother Adele was bound to shake things up on the show, certainly more than the other two killings leading up to it. The common thread among all three dead women is that they were sympathetic to vampires and had friendships or relationships with one or more of them. It’s safe to assume that a vamp-hater—given True Blood’s gay metaphor, perhaps I should call him a “vampophobe”—is behind the slaughter, though the lunk-headed local police are still looking to Jason as the prime suspect.

No doubt we’ll get back into the mystery in the coming weeks, but for now, as R.E.M. might say, everybody hurts. Sookie’s reaction to her grandmother’s death is sublimated grief and mounting annoyance at the well-wishers whose heads are filled with suspicion and hate. At the wake, her neighbors all come bearing tuna-cheese casseroles and friendly words, but there’s an ugly tempest of bigotry beyond the surface that’s something closer to a recent McCain/Palin rally. Having to grieve under those circumstances would seem impossibly trying, but again… I felt nothing. And I wonder how much the writers felt, too, since her big moment is telling everyone at the funeral to just “shut the fuck up,” which just seemed like a bad joke to me. By the time she finally let go and started crying in her pecan pie, the episode had lost me completely.

In even more excruciating melodrama, Tara’s drunk of a mother stands up to give a rambling elegy at Adele’s funeral, and the spectacle embarrasses her daughter. Their confrontation also rang false, in part because both actresses played it so poorly. Tara’s mother blames a demon inside her for all the bad things she does; Tara faux-laughs at her for saying so, because she thinks it’s a pitiful excuse for her mother failing to take responsibility for her life. We’re supposed to see in this exchange how the two are bound to each other and what a horrible burden that bond has become for Tara, who doesn’t have a life of her own. But again, nothing.

Sam and Bill are fighting openly now about which one has possession of Sookie’s heart. Sam thinks Bill is dangerous and suspects he might have something to do with Adele’s murder. But then who is he to say anything? He’s a dog. (Maybe.) At this point, Sam trails far behind Bill in the Sookie seduction department; there just aren’t any sparks between Sam and Sookie, and the best he can hope is to be a father-figure to her. On the other hand, Adele’s death strengthens Sookie’s connection to Bill, and I liked the image of Sookie waiting until dark to run to him in a modest, old-fashioned nightgown. Very iconic and romantic, in a not-quite-Harlequin sort of way.

Then there’s Jason, who has predictably fallen into full-on vamp-blood junkiehood. I didn’t believe that he would bust his cell phone like that and I didn’t believe that he would slap Sookie, either. Yes, she’s invited some trouble by associating with a vampire, but he was intimately involved with the first two victims, and doesn’t have the latitude to slap his sister.

At least the last five minutes or so were decent. Next!

Grade: C

Stray observations:

• Hated the visual joke of the cat licking up grandma’s blood. It immediately subtracts from the emotional impact Adele’s death (and the episode on the whole) was supposed to have.

• Another suspect pops up in the periphery: A young coroner’s assistant who hopes that Sookie didn’t notice him at the vampire bar in Shreveport.

• Why would the police leave Sookie to mop up her own grandmother’s blood? Isn’t that what Bill’s for?

• Is this the first time Anna Paquin has done a nude scene? I’m reminded of a special issue we did years ago called The A.V. Club For Men, which was our parody of Maxim. Nathan Rabin wrote a piece for it called “Countdown To Legality,” about hot young actresses who had to turn 18. In the entry on her, Nathan wrote that she was “Paquin much sex appeal.” Still makes me laugh.

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