Let’s talk about flashbacks. Flashbacks have become a staple of vampire-themed shows—a colorful way to capitalize on the very long history of their characters and showcase some truly magical historical hairstyles in the process—and when deployed well, they can be very satisfying. True Blood has been using flashbacks as a narrative device for most of its run, which is surprising when you consider how almost unfailingly terrible the show is at them.
It’s not necessarily the content of True Blood’s flashbacks that makes them bad—though they do tend to lean on the “self-seriously silly” side too often for it to be a coincidence—but the way they’re inserted into the narrative that bugs. Flashbacks here always seem to come out of nowhere, popping up like random flights of fancy amidst episodes where they seem to have little to no bearing on most anything that’s happening. Eric’s flashback to when he saved Nora from a plague just as she’s dying from a wholly different one is certainly thematically relevant, but really it’s nothing more than cheat; a way for the show to import instantaneous character development, development it failed to establish over the very long time Nora has been part of the show.
I hate to harp on what was essentially a small part of a jam-packed episode, but it was just so relentlessly silly and unsuccessful. Hepatitis V is obviously coming to the forefront of this season as sort of a secondary Big Bad, an insidious silent threat all of the vampires in Louisiana won’t see coming, and to have a fairly significant character succumb to this threat is important. Also, it crystallizes Eric’s focus on the problem at hand, which is essential for the story to work going forward. Maybe it’s just hard to parse exactly what we were supposed to feel when watching Nora dissolve to the sounds of Eric’s wracking, high-pitched sobs. Sadness? Horror? Pathos? I honestly couldn’t hear much over the sound of my maniacal laughter.
The egregiousness of the flashback likely would have been less noticeable if the rest of the episode wasn’t so scattered. This season’s narrative is certainly far better crafted than last’s, but it’s starting to suffer a bit in that everything that happens inside the vampire prison camp is far more interesting than what’s going on outside. Eric and Nora’s escape at the beginning of the episode is quite fun, like a mini-heist movie sneakily placed in the middle of a vampire drama, and this interest makes it hard to adjust to the saga of Sookie and Warlow or the intricacies of Arlene’s grief in losing Terry. The good thing is it appears everything is going to eventually converge back on the prison, if Billith’s vision of the vampire death chamber is to be believed.
As Billith’s visions become closer to being true, it’s becoming more obvious that the true evil of this season is set up not to be Bilith or Governor Burrell (which is good, considering he’s dead) but Sarah Newlin herself. When Sarah discovers Burrell’s severed head she not only soliloquies about it being “God’s plan,” but she does the perfect insane thing and conspires with a sympathetic senator to cover up his death entirely so she can continue his plan to exterminate all vampires. Anna Camp does wonderful things with some ridiculously over-the-top material, making her the perfect villain going forward.
Unfortunately for Jason, this means she’s on to his plans to infiltrate the vampire camp and blows his cover, setting him upon a room full of vampires with an open wound on his arm. Before this, however, poor Jason reveals himself to Jessica and obviously longs for a reconciliation, while Jessica is busy pining over her gallant vampire savior from last week, James. It’s unclear whether or not the show intends for this to be a love triangle between Jason, Jessica, and James, but Jessica’s instant bond with him and insistence on sleeping with him seems like yet another completely random and strangely unnecessary narrative tangent to embark upon, no matter how soulfully James stares into Jessica’s eyes.
As for Arlene’s story, she’s doing what any logical person would do and spending her mourning time drinking PBR to ease her pain. Arlene’s grief is honestly less the point here—though stringing out the reveal to her that Terry knew what was going to happen to him seems like wasted time—than it is an excuse to get a drunk Arlene, Andy, Sookie, and Lafayette all in a room together when day-walking vampire Bill strolls in to pay his respects. Arlene’s horror and amusement at seeing Bill walk around during the daylight might be worth the tediousness of her entire story here, but it also makes more of the characters aware of just how powerful Bill has become.
Which brings me to the most important question: What exactly is going on with Billith’s story? He appears to be solely focused on his status as a God, and now wants to use Warlow’s blood in order to save the friends in his vision so they won’t burn when they meet the sun. But is Billith actually a God, especially if he needs Warlow’s blood to fulfill his destiny? Nora stated that everything in the Book of Lilith has come true, and Eric declares his belief that Billith is a God (though the veracity of that statement might be in question, considering the circumstances), so is this all leading to Billith’s ascension? Or his ultimate disappointment when he turns out to be an ordinary vampire?
Between Sarah’s insistence that God has a plan and Billith’s insistence that Lilith transformed him into a God, True Blood is certainly turning its religious subtext into text. The question is: Will it coalesce into something interesting, or will it just be a big useless mess?
- Alcide pardons Sam and Nicole by lying about their deaths but his pack figures out his lies, kidnapping Nicole and her mother and basically being giant assholes about everything. Can’t the government come up with Hepatitis W instead?
- So who do we think that mysterious female vamp is? The one who claimed Jason as her own? This show sure does like to introduce new characters at the strangest times.
- I just love everyone walking around with that hand in the prison. I’ll miss you, severed hand.
- Fun little fairy moment: Sookie and Adelyn introducing themselves telepathically.
- Jason: “You don’t have that Stockholder Syndrome, do you?”