True Blood: "It Hurts Me Too"
B-

True Blood: "It Hurts Me Too"

After a cracking start, True Blood is slowing down to more of a crawl as characters re-situate themselves and the dust of season two settles, leading to this slightly meandering episode that fills in a lot of information and lays groundwork for this season's major plots. But this is True Blood, so whenever you start to look at your watch, you get a kick in the pants in the closing minutes, as Bill has angry, INSANE sex with Lorena in which he twists her head around 180 degrees. This show has had its fair share of acrobatic lovemaking but this is ridiculous!

Let's start with Bill, who, in a great change from last season, is providing the most entertaining plot of the season so far in his comfy Mississippi imprisonment. I was worried at the introduction of Lorena last night and I was right to be - she's so, so tiresome. It wasn't quite as bad as her circular conversations with Bill in the hotel last year but it bugs me how much power she has over Bill, considering she's not very interesting. The theme this week, framed in flashbacks of Bill's post-death return to see his wife and children, was the push-and-pull between his desire to integrate and Lorena's urging him to stay away from humans, considering the misery that usually arises.

I was a little thrown that we were revisiting Bill's family considering that last season's flashbacks were set decades later, but it's not uninteresting background to see Bill having to glamour his terrified wife into forgetting about him and bury his smallpox-afflicted son. Moyer played the emotional material with his usual roaring gusto -- it's not particularly moving but it suits the show's tone. I'm not sure how well it parallels with his current situation, however, considering the existence of vampires are (uneasily) accepted as reality in the show's contemporary world. The major tragedy in Sookie's life (the death of her grandmother) was brought on by her dating Bill but I don't know that he can really assign himself blame there.

Also, Lorena's insistent that vampire contact with humans is a bad idea, but really I think Lorena contact with anyone is the real problem. It's hard to take the scenes where she advises Bill seriously because she's a psychopath who was looking forward to killing Sookie as Bill watched. "She really is quite unsophisticated for someone so old," Russell notes.

Nevertheless, by the end of the episode, Bill takes Russell's job offer, apparently sparing Sookie from trouble, angrily admits that Lorena is right, and then has crazy death sex with her, all the time saying he doesn't want to. Is Bill gaming the Mississippi crowd and generally being smarter than he looks, or has he taken to the dark side? Consider last season, where one episode had some hectic flashbacks of Bill fucking a woman while he murdered her and bathed in her blood. Next week, he was whining to Lorena about how much he hated being bad and said it was all her fault. So I don't know that Bill is really embracing a life of old-school vampirism. But the show seems determined to throw a wrench in his and Sookie's relationship (and why not?) and this may be what does that.

Sookie, after all, is still on the hunt for her missing sorta-fiancée and, obviously, still thinks the world of him. She's so starry-eyed about rescuing him, as he would do for her, which is why I feel their relationship is being set up for a fall. Eric mostly rolls his eyes at Sookie and tells her to be more careful, but that doesn't stop her simpering at him about saving her life from a crazy werewolf. Clearly Eric is tired of all this crap, so he gives Sookie a sexy new bodyguard, werewolf Alcide (played by Joe Manganiello, who I mostly remember from his recurring role on How I Met Your Mother) to accompany her to a werewolf bar in Mississippi. If Fangtasia is goth-y, Lupine's is your standard biker bar, with a slightly disappointing lack of interesting details, but it seems Alcide will be our portal for more info on werewolf life, so let's hope there's more to him than just being a brooding hunk.

Tara remains entrenched in misery but it was easier to watch because she had some freaky sex with Franklin (James Frain, who gets a name, and an apparent occupation - seems to be some kind of vampire PI), although he declines to bite her: apparently he likes his prey to be unwilling. Frain is charming in this scene but macabre and scary in the rest, which is great to see. He interrogates Jessica about Bill, teasing her with the head of her trucker victim and letting us know that he's allowed to enter vampires houses uninvited (which clears up the mystery of how he got into Bill's house last week). Then he tries to get into Sookie's, where Tara is re-installed since they buried the hatchet at Eggs' funeral. "I got a terrible track record with letting people into this house," she notes, correctly. Doesn't matter: he glamours her and waltzes right in. Christ, Tara! Can't you do anything right?

The rest of this week's plots ranged from amusingly stupid -- Jason trying to pass a police exam but forgetting the one flaw in his plan, that he's a moron -- to the unamusingly dull, with the continued ballad of Sam Merlotte's family of trash. I know something big has to be brooding with these guys, otherwise why would we be subjected to scene after scene of them behaving badly in such a weak, stereotypical manner? At one point, Sam's mom says, "we ain’t alcoholics," and his dad replies, "don’t ever get married, Sam." A lot of this feels like lazy characterization, and his wayward brother hasn't moved much beyond "sullen teenager" yet.

Jason remains a force of levity to be reckoned with, especially in his dating advice to Hoyt. "I’ve heard every breakup excuse from you’re a sum’bitch, Stackhouse, to you’re an asshole, Jason," he says. What's the problem every time? "The heat you're packing." Find a hotter girl. It'll be a wonder if Hoyt isn't dead by the end of the season. I don't know if his policeman storyline is a one-off for this episode or not, but I think it should be pursued, because him sitting around feeling sorry for himself and imagining bulletholes in everyone's head is no fun. The idea of a tag-team squad of him and Andy Bellefleur is too good to let go.

A lot of the show's more-interesting plots (Eric and Godric's wolf-hunting past, Russell's power struggle with Sophie-Anne) got discarded this week and so "It Hurts Me Too" reminded me of some similarly slow-moving episodes in previous seasons that nonetheless felt necessary for the character shading they provided. It feels like the same thing is going on here.

Grade: B-

Stray observations:

The revelation that Arlene's baby is nine to ten weeks old and her shock at that, which made me assume it's Rene's baby, shows just how little time has passed since True Blood first aired. It's something that's always bugged me about the show a little bit but it's nice to see it acknowledged at least.

Only the one great Pam moment this week but it was great, as she rushes Jessica through her panicky phone call ("Did you call the hypothetical hardware store and get the theoretical chainsaw?")and then gets back to feeding on Fangtasia's new dancer. "Lie back, sweetheart, and think of Estonia."

Sherriff Dearborn announces his retirement this week in extremely amusing fashion. I can't tell if William Sanderson is actually leaving the show (he doesn't get a lot to do) but Bud's frustration with the unending bloodbath that is life in Bon Temps is understandable.

Russell and his Greek hubby (who, we learn, he made a vampire many centuries ago) continue to be wonderfully velvet-fisted tyrants.

The werewolf had a Mississippi accent, Eric says, which Sookie didn't notice. "Can’t you people tell the difference?" he asks. Is that a sly dig at this cast's varied level of skill at the bayou accent?

Good to see Sookie using her telepathy for mystery-solving this week. She picks "Jackson" out of the first werewolf's head and then learns details of Bill's kidnapping from another in the bar.

Eric's scene with Lafayette, where he gifts him the car, was creepy and funny. "It might look a little out of place parked outside of that strange plywood hut you live in." I don't really think Lafayette is in any danger with Eric anymore but it's nice to see their relationship evolve a little.  

More TV Club