I'm very approving of how True Blood is handling its big arcs this season. "I Got a Right to Sing the Blues" was like a mini-season finale, with all the big arcs coming to a head at Russell's mansion and lots of new directions for the show to pursue (much better than the slow-burn approach season two took, I feel). Sure, things are moving slower in Bon Temps, but there wasn't much Merlotte family nonsense this week and Jason pranced around in his varsity jacket, so I'm even gonna give the townies a pass this week.
I'm going to start with poor Franklin getting his face bashed in by Tara. I actually approved, as much as I've enjoyed the nutty Brit. His antics had escalated so much, it seemed like there was nowhere for him to go except actually turning Tara into a vampire. Now, that would have been an interesting direction for the show to take, but I didn't think the writers would have the guts to do it, and I also didn't think it would be quite right to have Tara turned against her will by a nutball like Franklin. It'd be more interesting for her to choose to be killed, but again, this is territory that so far Alan Ball & co. seem to want to avoid.
So it was nice to just have Tara seize control of her life for the first time in a while, smash Franklin into a jelly, confuse a werewolf with a bowl of almonds and free Sookie in the process. Of course, Sookie has to go and ruin things right away by mewling about rescuing Bill, and good for Tara by saying, essentially, fuck that dude. Tara's the most fun when she's in her attitude mode, which made the almonds scene a delight. Hopefully this is the start of a continued, positive change in direction for her. At the end of the episode, she gets tackled by a naked Alcide (who is a very pretty white wolf in lupine form), the cherry on the cake that was her day.
Most of our heroes, though, are in pretty dire straits while under Russell's thumb. Some (Sophie-Anne, Eric) are grinning and bearing it while obviously plotting their revenge while others (Bill, Sookie) are just doomed prisoners. Denis O'Hare's magnificent presence, much like Michelle Forbes' last season, makes the threat seem very real, as well as keeping you guessing about where his fall will come from when it inevitably does. Probably O'Hare's best scene was the cold open, where Bill turns traitor (again) and takes out a vampire. Russell orders Lorena to kill him; when she blanches, he screams "do not defy me! I am your KING!" To have characters like Eric and Lorena, usually so arrogant and aloof, cowed in his presence might be unrealistic if O'Hare wasn't so damn good.
Alexander Skarsgard laid Eric's duplicitous nature on a bit thick this week, all smiles when Russell's around, even coming onto him a little, wearing that powder-blue sweater, all the while thirsting for hot, bloody Viking vengeance. His flashback last week was pretty cool but I'm not sure how much I care about his thousand-years-dead father. Eric's strength of feeling about Godric and Pam makes sense but I'm less emotionally invested here. He has plenty of reasons to kill Russell and I look forward to his continuing machinations, but I'd rather have the return of Pam or flashbacks to him and Godric than that lame Viking banquet hall.
I'm a little sad to see that bad-Bill is being dispensed with pretty quickly but I thought his conversation with Lorena, in the torture dungeon, was a nice capper on their stupid relationship. Here's to hoping it actually turns out to be the end of their relationship. Lorena, he notes, was trained in the image of her fucked-up maker Istvan, a process she attempted to continue with Bill, but he rejected. Her continual bleating about vampires being human-hating sociopaths was finally and firmly rejected by Bill, and not because Sookie was crying in a corner somewhere. Good to see he arrived at the decision himself, and not because of any damsels in distress. Mariana Klaveno continues to lack the proper gravitas for when she's lording it over Bill, but she was better when she broke down and acknowledged the hold he has on her. She jealously tries to kill Sookie at the end of the episode, but I'm sure that'll backfire on her real fast.
Back in Louisiana, Lafayette's relationship with Jesus starts with some tentative kissing (it's always nice to see him so vulnerable) but looks in trouble by the end of the episode. For pretty appropriate reasons: he finds out Lafayette is a drug dealer and asks to be taken home. That's an acceptable enough dating rule to have, I think. Jesus also seems to be into a religion, or deity, that Lafayette uses as home decoration. That scene's meaning was a little lost on me, though, and will probably require some Wikipedia action in the morning. Nelsan Ellis rocked his scenes as usual, both the brutal beat-down of the homophobe meth dealers and his nervousness at how intense he feels about Jesus. He's right to be nervous: there's some history in this family of being bewitched.
Jason's frolicking with Crystal the nymph (or whatever she is) erred on the side of frustrating, with Crystal shouting lots of vague shit about how it's not fair, and he should just forget her, and yadda yadda, without explaining what the fuck is going on. I'm all for a little mystery but True Blood is often guilty of dragging things out long after the fun has been wrung from them. We finally, however, got an answer to just how fucked up Sam's kin are: looks like they're into dogfighting (I initially thought they were circus freaks before making the connection on Tommy's back scars) and the mom, not the drunken dad, is the real villain of the family. I still don't really care, but at least there's a direction for the story to go in now.
So, what's in store for the latter half of season 3? Russell is now betrothed to Sophie-Anne, so he can start on whatever grand plans he has, and presumably Eric, Bill and Sookie will all be a part of them. Other predictions: Alcide will be shirtless. Tara will be whiny. Alfre Woodard will re-appear. And Pam will resume dispensing saucy bon mots (please!).
So, is Russell, like, Dracula or something? They're dropping a lot of hints about him being Romanian (I'm pretty sure that's the language he spoke) and I know Transylvania is the historically Hungarian part of the country but still, it's starting to feel like there's a further bombshell to drop about him.
Eric's vocal disdain for Sookie ("You mean nothing to me, understand? Nothing!") is obviously just setup for him to ride to the rescue later in the season. I'm just guessing.
Franklin gets one more fabulously nutty moment (and an adorable pair of silk pajamas) before Tara escapes him. "Where've you been?" she asks airily. "I WILL NOT BE POLICED," he barks.
Talbot is a one-note character I thought I'd ignore this season, but he's an excellent background character, and his little tantrums are always fun to watch. He was especially scandalized about Bill smashing their ceiling this week.
Russell brings up "Adolf" in a conversation about taking over the human race with Eric. Yeesh, we get it, this guy is an evil Nazi.
Sophie-Anne using her vampire powers to play endless scratchcards was an excellent way to sum up her frivolity vs. Russell's empire-building. But even Eric, shockingly to me, has the upper hand over her, as he's older. How'd she get to be Queen, and he a lowly sheriff?
Annoyingly, Jessica continues to be relegated to bitchy scenes in Merlotte's rather than getting mixed up in the big story. I really hope they can use her for the better in the latter half of season 3.
HBO has like, no images from this episode on their site, so I'm using a previous week image. Damn them!