True Blood season three has had its faults -- the never-ending ballad of Sookie and Bill, the damp squib that was Alcide, a lot of the Bon Temps arcs -- but so far it's always cleaned up any boring bits with its very exciting main storyline and Denis O'Hare's fabulous, magnetic performance as King Russell. "Everything is Broken" wasn't the best episode but honestly, I can barely remember the first 55 minutes after Russell's imperious ranting on a live newscast, an anchorman's bloody spine in his hand, about how "mine is the true face of vampires!"
It was a great entry in True Blood's long list of shocking cliffhangers, and I applaud how writer Alexander Woo pulled it off, since I was sure the final scene would involve Russell ripping Nan Flannigan to shreds in her limo. His TV speech, which ended with "Why would we seek equal rights? You are not our equals. We will eat you after we eat your children. Now, time for the weather. Tiffany?" was a much better game-changer and should set us up for an exciting final three episodes as we explore the wider implications of a world with vampires in it.
There actually wasn't much Russell this week as he mourned Talbot's loss -- O'Hare did his best with the two scenes where he had to mourn to a pile of blood and gore (later helpfully stored in a glass urn that he can address more artfully). After weeks of werewolf rasslin' and Eric's false alliance with the Mississippi king, things were comparatively sedate as Eric's crimes were taken up with the big bosses of the vampires, the Authority. I was a little disappointed that they turned out to be a bunch of faceless suits. Each time we've progressed up the vampire food chain (from Eric, to the Magister, to Sophie-Anne, to Russell) the characters have gotten more flamboyant and colorful, so I was hoping the Authority would be the campiest of all. But maybe True Blood has enough camp as it is.
Alexander Skarsgard did his usual excellent work in pleading to convince the Authority that Russell is a cleansing force of nature to be reckoned with that had a hand in the collapse of the Byzantine and Olmec empires. I think? I didn't take notes quickly enough, but he seemed to suggest Russell and his werewolves were allied with the Holy Roman Empire and the Aztecs, and of course the Nazis, in bringing down whole civilizations. All this talk of Olmecs and Aztecs certainly has me thinking that Jesus will be connected to the big storyline in some way.
But back to Eric; I think his scenes with Pam in Fangtasia were the strongest of the episode. Skarsgard and Kristen Bauer van Straten are two of True Blood's biggest players acting-wise and they showed it with their melancholy contemplation of their impending doom, and especially in Pam's compassion for the loss of Eric's family, and him subsequently saying it's time for her to have kids (make a vampire). We didn't need to know the specifics of what he was talking about, because the emotion of the scene made it clear that Eric was blessing Pam into true vampire adulthood. Also, the sight of Eric at his desk, piled high with papers, made me think that there's a three-camera sitcom about the perils of running a vampire bar just waiting to be spun off here.
Back at home, Bill got a glimpse of Sookie's magical world and the haughty Claudine, who zapped his ass and accused him of stealing her light. Whatever. "I know what you are," he tells Sookie, but that's being left for next week. Argh. I was so annoyed by their reuniting at the end of the last episode that I wanted to ignore these two completely, but I was impressed by Sookie's speech near the start about how Bill should "stop thinking about me as a thing that needs to be protected," a lesson the show would do very well to learn, and I hope it will, because Sookie-as-damsel has been done to death. Sookie also cutely deflated the pretention of last week's intense fuck-session (and their post-coital shower that opened the episode) with humor, complaining, "just for once, I'd like to not find a dead body in my house."
Answers were also frustratingly left unanswered in the case of Jason and Crystal, even though it's high fucking time he start asking just what the hell is up with her and her Hotshot family. I'd usually be willing to dismiss Jason's failure to acknowledge all the spooky shit that's going on around him as a by-product of his stupidity, but it's gotten to the point where Crystal has switched sides on him a couple times and we don't even know the basic facts about what she is. Their argument at the end of the episode where she accompanied her brutally beaten father to the hospital rang hollow because she's just too damn ethereal to care about. I did like one line: when Crystal says they can't lock her fiancée up with handcuffs because he'll escape, instead of asking "what the fuck are you talking about," Jason hiccups, "what is he, a MAGICIAN?"
The show's two underused redheads, Arlene and Jessica, got a pair of excellent scenes this week that made the most of their meager storylines. Arlene's confession to new waitress Holly (who is so kind and understanding that I'm automatically suspicious of her) about fearing the demon spawn inside of her was well-played by Carrie Preston, in a moment that could have been wincingly over-the-top. Better still was Jessica's heart-to-heart with Hoyt about his annoying new girlfriend ("God help me, but I fucking hate her," Hoyt cutely confesses) and Jessica subsequently bursting into tears herself. Jessica's just a hormonal teenager times ten, and it's one of the few vampire metaphors True Blood employs largely successfully. I just wish they'd use her more.
But, in a lot of ways, the most impressive thing about "Everything is Broken" is how deftly Tara's plotline, which has been the most amusingly manic, became something the audience had to take more seriously. Franklin was such a bug-fuck psycho that you couldn't help but laugh at his tormenting Tara, and at first I was scribbling in my notes that she was being annoyingly "emo" as per usual, but no doubt, her abduction and rape isn't something True Blood could just paper over as being another nutty chapter in Tara's fucked-up life. Their final confrontation, where Franklin tried to extract fear and begging from Tara and she stood up to him (possibly because she attended a rape victims group earlier in the episode) was creepy, gripping and not at all funny. Jason, in a nice payoff from his getting the wooden bullets last week, dispatched Franklin for good, so maybe Tara can try and get right now. Of course, I was thinking that at the end of last season, too.
Nice to see the return of Ginger, who ends the cold open with one of her traditional hollers. Nan amusingly dismisses her as a "screaming fang-cushion of a barmaid."
The Authority's V-Fed storm troopers were pretty goofy looking.
Not much to say about Tommy's naked hoedown and his continued SERIOUS authority problems except that Marshall Allman is clearly trying to snag some fans by prancing around naked a lot. I wonder if it's working - there's been a lot of new man-meat (Talbot, Jesus, Alcide) this season.
The hillbillies from Hotshot are just the latest in a long line of exaggerated white trash that have shown up on this show and I'm getting tired of it. They might be dog-fighters, or religious nuts, or meth dealers, but it's a crutch True Blood has to stop leaning on.
Alfre Woodard made another gloriously pointless appearance as Ruby, including a nice, tender moment with Lafayette where she noticed he wasn't wearing his makeup.
Rosie the secretary crying over injured Deputy Kevin, and Jason and Andy's discomfort at it, was a funny little mini-scene.