True Blood: “Death Is Not The End”
B+

True Blood: “Death Is Not The End”

When the storm clouds gather ‘round you, and heavy rains descend

After season seven’s stagnant, almost insultingly banal beginning, this episode was like a breath of fresh air. True Blood is always better when it brings all of its disparate character threads together to give an episode a singular, driving focus, and that’s exactly the case here, as everyone finally figures out the Hep V vamps are hiding out at Fangtasia and devise a plan to take them down. Is it ridiculous that it took four episodes to get here? Sure. But the resulting episode was almost good enough to overcome the inanity of what came before. (Almost.)

True Blood has so many random characters doing so many random things that it makes it difficult to care at all about what is happening at times. The show also has a bad habit of stranding uninteresting characters together in scenes all by themselves and losing the thread of its more dynamic characters in the process, which creates a sort of “show lost at sea” narrative that is immensely frustrating to watch. “Death Is Not The End” immediately ignores all of the show’s worst instincts by first having Eric and Pam return to Bon Temps to interact with everyone else, and then putting other core characters together in interesting, meaningful scenes, such as Lafayette and Jessica or Jason and Sam. The result is an engaging, interesting, and funny hour that is also legitimately poignant at times, while still maintaining the show’s campy charm.

Clearly the best thing about the entire episode is Eric and Pam’s return to Bon Temps, but even their flashbacks are compelling (if ultimately kind of unnecessary, though they do tie nicely into the present-day proceedings at Fangtasia). Eric immediately brings a gravitas to scenes that probably shouldn’t have any such thing, and even the tiresome Eric/Sookie relationship feels like an important beat to play here, as he quietly consoles her after learning of Alcide’s death. Also, it’s only appropriate that Eric and Pam be there to help liberate Fangtasia from the grips of the Hep V vampires. The showdown between the Bon Temps vamps and the Hep V vamps is ultimately a little bit silly, but silly in the way True Blood is supposed to be. Satisfyingly silly.

For an episode all about devising and executing a plan to slaughter a bunch of vampires, what impresses most is how it manages to be much more than that. Some of the best scenes involve Jessica, which isn’t surprising considering Jessica remains one of the better characters on the show. Jessica’s refusal to feed following her fairy-killing debacle is interesting as her entire mindset following that incident has been building slowly to this revelation, an impressive feat in a show that forgets about such character beats. Sookie even gets a chance to be a badass when in Jessica’s orbit, espousing a new “I don’t give a fuck about your problems, we all have problems” attitude that is a smart, smart direction to take the character in this final season. But where Jessica’s story really shines is when Lafayette comes to feed her, and in the process is able to connect with her on a level no one else can when he tells her about the horrible things he’s done. Putting two of your best characters and then just letting them make magic together is one thing, but the writing in the scene was wonderful as well.

There have been enough of these quiet, character-driven moments to think that True Blood has a plan for where it wants all of its characters to end up when this thing is all over, and that’s an encouraging development. Even Arlene gets a nice moment with Terry when she almost dies and is halfway in the afterlife, a moment she never got last season before he died. Everything around these moments might devolve back into a mess, but for this one episode, True Blood was basically firing on all cylinders. And it was a blast.

Stray observations:

  • Jason calling Hoyt to inform him of his mother’s death was one of the most quietly heartbreaking things True Blood has ever done. There was a lot of nice, quiet subtext there about Jason carrying all of the burden of their “forgotten” friendship.
  • So Ginger was a genius this whole time and Pam just glamoured all of her good ideas out of her? This...makes perfect sense, actually. Poor, brain-addled Ginger.
  • Of course True Blood is introducing a new vampire (Riley Smith) six episodes before the series finale. Of course they are.
  • Those driving greenscreen effects were terrible. Somehow it feels like greenscreen driving effects on television are getting worse instead of better. How is this possible?

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