True Blood: "Fresh Blood"
C+

True Blood: "Fresh Blood"

C+

True Blood

"Fresh Blood"

Season 3, Episode 11

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Hey guys, it's good to be back! I'm sorry I was away on vacation last week but if I had to miss an episode, I'm glad it was "I Smell a Rat," which had to be the worst offering of an overall-strong season 3. Even though it was loaded with crazy revelations -- Sookie's a fairy, Sam was a jewel thief who killed two people, Jesus' granddad was an evil magician, Crystal's a panther, Jason admitted he shot Eggs to Tara, and Arlene admitted the baby was Rene's to Terry -- it was still all so boring and dreary. Part of that was because a lot of these plots, especially Sam, Jesus, and Crystal's, were uninteresting for so many episodes that we had all long stopped caring about them. To have them revived in such detail -- Sam's extended flashbacks, Jesus and Lafayette's freaky drug trip -- felt kinda cheap. We've been teased on this stuff for so many episodes, and then they take one episode to just infodump everything so they can start building up to the grand finale.

"Fresh Blood" was a little better because it had a lot more action from the central Russell's-going-to-take-over-the-world storyline but it also featured some of the same faults. But before the episode proper, there was a pretty hilarious "in memoriam" to all the people, vampire or no, that "met the true death" over the last three years, which I assume was an Emmy spoof. If so, well played, sirs, and I shed a tear for poor Karl, Maryann's manservant who brought the unnecessary towels, most of all.

The battle against Russell was played out as it has been for most of the season: Eric pretending to be a bad guy (even chaining Sookie up in his dungeon), Bill being a whiny bitch, with their stupid love triangle in the foreground even though, as Sookie wisely noted, she'd have to be out of her mind to love either of them at this point. Both vampires have played the I'm-bad-I'm-good card way too many times this season for that trick to be dramatically effective. And all it's done is confuse Sookie, to no end -- first she gets locked in a dungeon, then Eric and Russell feed on her simultaneously while she screams for Bill to help. It's irritating that as usual, Sookie's a passive player in all this -- her hold over vampires, sadly, lies in her blood, which means she has to be restrained to be a useful bargaining chip.

I hope that for the season finale, Sookie gets to finally cut loose and do some damage (maybe with those electricity-shootin' hands of hers) because watching Bill lecture her about not following his orders and then plead to Pam later in the episode to let him help her just left me with a bad taste in my mouth. All this yucky stuff has happened to her this season, and yet the only way to get her out of it is…to feed her vampire blood. Sookie's less a character, more a walking bag of magic powers (and breasts). Her only big scene this week was her wistful monologue with Bill about how they would live their lives if they really could start a clean slate. He'd be a teacher, she a real estate agent; Bill would go fishing with Jason (a terrific image) and they'd never think about Eric Northman again. Quite a nice, humorous little scene in all the chaos, amusingly dispatched by the sight of Eric and Russell on the road, snapping them out of their reverie, which is never gonna happen.

Even though I have my problems with Sookie as a character, that part of True Blood is, and always will be, very watchable. But the Bon Temps stuff was the usual mix of mediocre-to-dreadful this week. On the decent side was Jessica reuniting with Hoyt, and him allowing her to feed on him to sate her thirst for blood. Here's where the vampires-as-metaphor stuff kinda works -- rather than hating on Jessica because she killed someone, Hoyt accepts that what she did is part of her identity, an identity that she can't be held responsible for having, because it was hardly a "choice" for her to become a vampire, right? Still, it's very murky territory to wander into, which is why I've always avoided it -- the "evil" nature of so many vampires on the show really ruins any larger point they may be trying to make. But I don't really care; I enjoy True Blood for its shock value and genre plotting, not its relevance to the world at large.

Also on the decent side was Arlene's wiccan abortion, performed by Holly (who, I learned while watching the Emmys, is played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus' half-sister!) and the aftermath. That's not because of the ridiculously long, dragged-out ritual scene, nor the stupid twist that the herbal remedies worked, but did not kill the baby -- I hated both of those things. But Carrie Preston and Todd Lowe did great work with what they were given, especially Preston, who could be accused of dialing her performance a little high in the past but did a great job here of keeping things realistically subdued. I was happy about Terry's promise to surround Rene's baby with love in the last episode, thinking it put a nice cap on the whole Arlene-baby subplot, so I'm confused as to why the tangled web she's weaving won't go away.

On the insipid side, I really don't care about Crystal the were-panther, or were-cougar, whatever she is, especially since she's both insistent on running away from Hotshot and protecting all the meth dealers in it. Her excuse -- that there's innocent children cookin' too -- is especially ludicrous, as one would think those kids would be better off if their in-breeding meth-head parents were arrested. Jason, meanwhile, goes out to go "looking for Sookie" except all he does is go to the football field to bother QB1, who he realizes is using V to boost his performance. Who cares? It's irritating how V is used as a metaphor for sports doping in this plot, and is also a way for Lafayette to hallucinate his dolls talking to him, as well as an instant healer for anyone who's close to death. It's becoming a cure-all the show is using as a crutch.

Worst of all, though, was definitely Sam's instant plunge into drunken misery. Was I not watching closely enough last episode, or did he really get this shit-drunk onscreen while flashing back to his past? And is he that miserable because he shot two idiot con artists who held him at gunpoint and tried to rob him? Sam's never been that good a character -- as he himself says, he's usually around for shit jobs no one else wants to do -- and having him drunkenly wail on everyone for no reason isn't helping none. His reunion with Tara, the show's other largely useless human character, makes as much sense as it did in season one -- at least we can compress their shitty plots together to save time.

All this, as usual, is forgotten by the time you get to the last five minutes and the legitimately edge-of-your-seat cliffhanger that was Eric silver-handcuffing himself to Russell so they can both burn to death in the sun together. In this case, Nancy Oliver did well to conceal his big plan from us, because it was all the more tense as we realized that it involved him sacrificing himself for the greater good. The reveal, first conveyed through Pam's tears as she watched her maker on the closed-circuit TVs, was a darn good one. And while I'm sure this won't be the end of Eric, I have to applaud True Blood's unfailing success record with its cliffhangers.

Stray observations:

Among the dead memorialized in the montage? "Vikings." Poor guys!

The Estonian stripper, derided by Pam as an "idiot immigrant," gets a nice moment as she chains her to a pole. "In Tallinn, I am cardiologist!"

Pam also gets a kick-ass moment when she calls Bill an "infatuated tween" and maces his eyes with colloidal silver. We've all wanted to do that!

As silly as Jesus and Lafayette's subplot is (and it really is very silly) I'll admit, the moment where he lunges at him wearing a mask made me jump.

Sam bitches out everyone in the bar but the nastiest was his calling Terry a "shellshocked motherfucker." Terry, always the better man, responds, "You're going to hate yourself for saying that."

That guy chewing on something dead in Hotshot? That's Crystal's double-cousin Buford. Don't worry, he never hurt nobody.

Filed Under: TV, True Blood

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