True Blood: “Dead Meat”
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True Blood: “Dead Meat”

True Blood is doing some interesting things this season—not entirely successfully, mind you—but interesting nonetheless. After seasons full of tonally schizophrenic melodrama, suddenly the show expects things to matter in a way the narrative isn’t fully prepared to support. The fact that the show is trying, however, that it wants the things happening to its characters to have meaning beyond whatever flight of supernatural fancy is being dangled under their noses at the moment, might just end up making all the difference.

Unfortunately for the show’s obvious greater ambitions, it’s Sookie’s story—the story that is most focused on having its character be taken seriously— that ends up suffering the most. Sookie has always been a problematic character in that she is irretrievably controlled by the men in her life, and just when it seemed she might be able to crawl out of that trap she is sucked into it yet again via the war between Warlow and Bill. Bill wants to use Warlow to help him prevent his vision of all his friends meeting the sun, but Warlow will only go along with this plan if Sookie agrees to become his fairy vampire bride. Sookie starts out on the right path, talking a good game to both men about not wanting to be controlled by them, but instead of leaving Bon Temps for good and not looking in her rearview mirror, she immediately searches for salvation in the arms of yet another man, Sam.

This is where the show starts laying down narrative stakes its own past can’t really support. Sookie and Sam’s connection hasn’t been a whisper of a thing since who knows when, and even when it was something the show cared about it was never more than a passing thought as Sookie moved on to every other supernatural man in her path. If the show played her plea to Sam as the ridiculous comedy it is, it might work, but this is something we—and Sam—are definitely meant to take as a serious proposition, and it simply doesn’t track. Sookie then basically gives in to the fact she is destined to be Warlow’s fairy vampire bride for eternity, essentially eulogizing herself at her parents’ headstones and dressing for her own funeral. It’s intended to be a deathly serious rumination on Sookie’s realization that her life is about to end, but Sookie has been so cavalierly tossed around as a character for so long it simply doesn’t have the gravitas necessary to be successful. If the show of the past treated Sookie with the care this episode attempted to, though, this sequence really could have been something.

It’s almost beside the point that Sookie’s death march doesn’t land the way it should, though, because it turns out not to be her death march at all. Eric, who has one of his best episodes despite being in very few scenes, throws a wrench in Sookie, Bill, and Warlow’s plans by attacking fairy Adelyn and using her fairy blood to get him into the alternate fairy dimension and drain Warlow, giving him the day walking power he needs to get to the vampire prison and save their friends from meeting the sun himself. Between this bit of scheming and his absolutely wonderful confrontation with Bill in the episode’s open, Eric once again proves himself the best character on the show and maybe the only one with any damn sense in his head. While Bill is off concerning himself with his own power and visions and how that connects to Lilith, all Eric wants to do is get things done, and if Eric is good at anything, it’s getting things done.

Things back in the vampire prison are just plain weird, which is why this portion of the show consistently remains the best, episode after episode. Now that the vamps in the know are actively refusing to drink the tainted TruBlood, Sarah Newlin quickly becomes aware that some of them are on to their schemes and gathers everyone who refuses to drink in the round room—the same room in Bill’s vision. The only thing missing from the vision is Eric, who is hopped up on Warlow blood and likely on his way there right now.

As for Jason, getting thrown into female gen pop at the prison is probably the worst thing that could have happened to him, but for less than obvious reasons. Vampire Violet—the one who claimed him as “hers” in the last episode—is taking her claim very seriously, feeding off him and then declaring their bond as forever because of some medieval Catholic mumbo jumbo (but it’s mostly a “because I said so” sort of situation). Poor Jason is immediately reminded of his horrible days as a sex slave in Hotshot and begs her not to rape him, which is a jarringly somber moment amidst what is really a strange and dumb story. There is no telling where this one is going, but Violet as a character is not looking promising so far.

Taking a turn completely into "what the fuck?" territory this week is Sam and Alcide’s story, which brings them together in an unexpected way. Rikki challenges Alcide’s position as pack leader, assuming he won’t be able to kill her, and she’s right—he simply beats the hell out of her and then takes off with Nicole and her mother, bringing them to Sam’s for safe keeping. Alcide promises he’s done with pack life, which is obviously where his story was leading all along so the reveal is entirely tedious and uninteresting. What is interesting (and completely disgusting) is how Alcide and Sam can both tell Nicole is pregnant with Sam’s baby, sniffing it out on her before she even knows. This is another case of the show trying to make things matter without doing the proper character work necessary, with Sam getting moony-eyed over his unborn child, and Sam and Nicole suddenly declaring their love for each other like anyone cares enough about their connection to make it land.

But that’s the thing—it just might be enough for me that the show is trying. You can’t succeed if you don’t try, and if the show can figure out how to regain that delicate balance between ridiculous and resonant? Then the awkward in between moments as it stumbles towards that goal might be worth it in the end.

Stray observations:

  • Arlene’s story continues to be a bastion of complete sanity in the middle of this season, but although the emotions track it doesn’t necessarily make it more compelling. At least she seems willing to take the life insurance money.
  • Sarah Newlin kicked the shit out of that TruBlood lady and then said “Thank you, Jesus.” I love Sarah Newlin.
  • Warlow’s obsession with Sookie is still very confusing to me. Why does she have to become a vampire for them to be together? Did I miss something? (I probably missed something.)
  • Bilith is certainly the biggest asshole in all the land. It’s fun, though, because he’s just so darn pleased with being a dick.
  • Are Jessica and James in love? James is cute and all, but that is nonsense.
  • Pam, on sex with her therapist: “Oozy. But productive.” 

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