At one point in this week's True Blood, Sam and Tara share a drink and reminisce on old times and it's like a perfect storm of boredom. No offence to Rutina Wesley or Sam Trammell, but it's a great example of how this show suffers when it's not put on the backs of good actors. Amazingly, the "Eric's amnesia" storyline wasn't completely awful this week (although it is inherently a cheesy plot) and that's largely because Alexander Skarsgard just knows what he's doing. The same goes for a most of the characters on this show; the ensemble has always been strong enough to carry off some of the worst twists and turns.
But we’re at the point where so many of the plots (Jason getting turned into a panther, Andy getting hooked on V, Tara's whatever, Sam's whatever, Tommy's whatever, fairy godmothers) are so incoherent/abysmal that a freakin' pantheon of Shakespearean greats couldn't save this show. The Tara/Sam scene, complete with lame flirting and clunky dialogue, could have come right out of a Patrick Swayze movie from the 80s. When True Blood has enough panache, it can pull that shit off; but its panache quotient seems to be less and less these days.
I tried to keep track of just what the mythology of the panthers nippin' at Jason was; I picked up something about ghost daddies and sky people but the whole thing seems like another excuse to get Ryan Kwanten into a shirtless configuration. The sight of him being ridden by Crystal, with all the other women of Hotshot lining up to go next, was more horrifying than erotic, but it's still notable that every time Jason tries a new direction in life, he quickly ends up shirtless and pinned by a woman to a bed. He's also being kept from the rest of the action as he always is; Sam's always caught up in his own plotline that intersects with the rest of the show only at the very end of the season. He's never been a particularly forceful subject, what with the quizzical babyface and his tendency to get suckered into something by everyone he meets.
But this panther stuff really takes the cake. If I cared about the Crystal character at all, I'd be wondering why all the work they did with her last season seems to be going out the window; sure, we've been told she's hooked on V, but this still seems like it'll be difficult for her to recover her relationship with Sam afterwards. Even if he does turn into a panther. Really, the larger question is, why did we spend so much time on Hotshot last season to have all this happen this year? You could have compressed the twelve episodes of nothing we suffered through and gotten to Sam tied to a bed much faster.
The episode was called "If You Love Me, Why Am I Dyin'?" which was suitable considering all the fucked-up relationships on display. Alcide made an unwelcome return (although I'm sure he and his abs have their fans around the country) and his girlfriend Debbie, even more unwelcome, is also back -- not only is she obviously there as an obstacle for Sookie's pursuit of Alcide, but she's not even crazy anymore, just boring and reformed. Aside from giving us all that info, the scene was utterly pointless, although it did remind us just how little chemistry Anna Paquin has with Joe Manganiello.
You've also got the continuing ballad of Sam and Tommy Merlotte, which, as I noted, had a hopeful lilt to it in the last episode. But quickly we learn that Tommy is back to his thievin' ways, planning to steal Maxine's house from under her to get at the natural gas underneath. At the same time, he's back to his stupid idiot ways, since he immediately tells Sam what he's planning and then is stunned to find out Sam is a high-and-mighty dude who likes to yell at people who are being jerks. I don't know how Tommy read his partial reconciliation with Sam last week as "please involve me in your criminal schemes to rob old ladies" but he's just dumb enough that it's plausible, I suppose.
On a more interesting note, though, I liked the conclusion of Jessica and Hoyt's argument, where she heeds Bill's advice to go home and be honest about feeding on someone else (Bill, obviously, speaks from experience about honesty). Jessica's honesty goes about as well as she could have predicted, so instead she ends up glamoring Hoyt in a surprisingly sweet and sad moment, played well by both Deborah Ann Woll and Jim Parrack. She promises herself she'll never do it again, but the way the whole thing is played, it's obvious how slippery a slope that can be. What's interesting about Jessica's character is that we're watching her make typical vampire mistakes for the first time -- everyone else can chide and advise her, but they're mostly speaking from similar experience in doing so, just hundreds of years in the past. Either way, I hope that's the end of that little mini-arc and Jessica can do a little more exploring this season.
The main event this week was Eric's amnesia, played mostly for comedy as Sookie marvels at the spectacle of Eric with all his vampire powers but none of his bite (plus, at one point he calls her "Snooki"). Pam immediately realizes the danger of the situation; this means she'll be doing more than dispensing quips for the season, as Eric is, at least for now, out of the spotlight. She did a good job this week, especially in her threat to the moron Scooby gang of Lafayette, Tara and Jesus to produce Marnie the witch in 24 hours. "If you don't, I will personally eat, fuck, and kill all three of you." Nice.
Skarsgard, as I mentioned, did a fine, surprisingly subtle job playing Eric's plight for a mixture of laughs and sympathy. I still can't stand the idea of the story, especially if it's supposed to draw him and Sookie closer together. But I can definitely enjoy Eric's animal instincts (he drains and kills Sookie's fairy godmother, and thank god for that) being replaced at a moment's notice by his little-boy-lost amnesiac persona. "You just killed my fairy godmother!" Sookie screams at him. "Sorry," he replies, sheepish.
That woman who Marnie is tapping into makes her first on-screen appearance this week. Fiona Shaw did a good job in the scene, but it's hard to know what to make of it since the witch plot remains mostly mysterious.
Bill's stuff with Portia was boring, but his scene condemning the dude to death for getting filmed was nice and clipped and scary efficient. He's a bureaucrat of a king, but he seems like a pretty good bureaucrat.
I'm glad we got yet another scene of Arlene staring worryingly at her kid this week. I will admit, though, that Jessica giving the kid that creepy-ass doll that keeps walking back to her house (or whatever is happening) gave me a laugh.
So, the fairies have been helping Sookie since the beginning? She's right. They really, really suck at their jobs.