Hallelujah, they've still got it. After what I thought was a slow season première, the second episode of True Blood delivers on the promise of the first season. It struck a nice balance between humor and suspense, gave reason to some of the seemingly superfluous dialogue from episode one (magnetic ass), and included an always welcome topless turn from both the Stackhouse siblings.
The new life in tonight's show comes largely from Jessica, who's really coming into her own as a character. Her impression of Bill's outdated syntax (his "errands, errands which do not require your presence") had me cracking up, and her talk with Sookie makes us care about Jessica again.
Jessica's kidnapping and killing in season one inspired immediate sympathy, but that sympathy soon dissolved in a caricature of teenage rebellion, all shrieking and sulking with little in between. When she sees her parents appearing on television, pleading for the safe return of their missing girl, all that changes. She becomes a person--well, as much as she can be. She misses her family, feels lonely, and looks to Sookie for a friend. Her bloody tears highlight both Bill's mismanagement as her maker (she didn't know the tears would be blood), and Sookie's empathy (which she then seizes on). Jessica turns her vampire self on her father, an asshole who beat her with a belt and presumes that Jessica must have given it up for a vampire.
Jessica's change of heart isn't the only transformation on display this episode. Jason Stackhouse is seeing a complete reversal of fortune at the Light Of Day Leadership Conference. While in Bon Temps in the first season, nearly every girl Jason touched turned up dead. Now in the second season at Light Of Day, he's the golden boy. He commands the attention and respect of the highest-ups. He crushes the other team at Capture The Flag--shirtless, which seems to have the holy Sarah Newlin licking her chops--and then wows the couple during the evening roleplay activity by nearly killing Sarah when she springs some plastic vampire teeth on him. [Insert joke about Jason's phallus as broken American flagpole.]
This action has both Newlins panting after Jason, almost as much as the girl who got all hot and bothered on her singing date with Jesus. (Oh hello again, hypocrisy motif, I didn't see you there with the pigtails and daddy-cooing. Also: All this bottled sexual tension at Jesus camp is just begging for a little of Maryann's powers. Honesty!) Of course, Jason's good graces could be spoiled by The Lukinator, Jason's foil at camp, or by his own humanity. That sweet flashback to him nursing Stephen Root back to health with Tru Blood through a straw gives me hope yet for Jason.
Light Of Day's location in Texas seems to be shaping up as the battleground for the eventual fight between the vampires and the fundamentalist Christians. Eric, after receiving compliments from Bill on his new hairdo at the mall, threatens to steal Sookie and use her mental capacities to investigate the disappearance of Godric, a sheriff in Area 9 in Texas. If he does take Sookie from Bill, we could see Sookie and Jason pitted directly against each other.
Meanwhile, a hell of a lot is going on at Merlotte's with our biggest supernatural unknown, Maryann, who has turned the bar into a dance-infused Bacchanalian orgy in the making. (Anyone know if that was Greek Sookie heard in Maryann's head?) We're not yet sure exactly what being she's worshiping, but she's well on her way to becoming another example of extreme religious fervor. With some magical powers thrown in.
And man, this show does a cliffhanger right. Here we're left invested in the fate of Lafayette and Jessica's family. Nelsan Ellis stands as one of the cast's strongest actors, with Lafyette one of the most complete and sympathetic characters. It's a no-brainer to keep him around. The big question, of course, is whether he emerges from this episode vampire or human. (But seriously, who wouldn't want a personal badass vampire who promises to move heaven and earth go-go style?) Jessica's family's fate is less certain--I'm assuming they'll be dead or glamoured--either way, Bill's got a long ride home with the ladies.
-- I'm kind of hoping Lafayette goes vampire. He'd sit really well in Fangtasia, and with any luck, pull us back there more often.
--Speaking of Fangtasia, Alex Skarsgard continues to deliver some of the best visual comedy on the show. I loved the dried blood all over his chin while he got his hair done/interrogated Lafayette, and I'm hoping the show pulls out a dozen more outfits like the tracksuit he wore to the mall.
-- Andy Bellefleur dancing as an epileptic on meth! Is there anything more perfect in this world?