Okay, so True Blood put forth perhaps the strongest of the three episodes so far—strengths magnified, weaknesses relatively muted, a couple of good twists, nice atmosphere (courtesy of guest director John Dahl, of Red Rock West and The Last Seduction fame), more kinky sex, etc. And here’s the thing that’s worrying me about it: I still don’t care. On a fundamental level, creator Alan Ball just hasn’t invested his characters with a lot of heart; they’re emotional vampires, feeding and feeding and feeding without suggesting anything like a soul. They can be funny. They can be sexy. They can scary. (And tonight, they were all three to some degree.) But I’m becoming more convinced that the show won’t transcend “time-passer” status.
First thing’s best: Last week’s cliffhanger, which had Sookie greeted by three malicious vamps at Bill’s house, was not a dream sequence. Turns out the dude actually hangs out with this crowd, though not exactly by choice. When his fanged friends are around, Bill has a hard time glossing over the world of many vampires, which isn’t about integrating with humans at all, but about snacking on their plasma and keeping them around as sex slaves. When Bill’s cohorts circle Sookie like vultures—virgin blood being the best-tasting blood there is, after baby’s blood—it’s a testament to Bill’s hold on her that she doesn’t run screaming.
What I like about Bill’s friends—one of whom, you’ll remember, was the vamp in the videotape with the late Maudette—is that they add a much-needed element of danger to the show. They’re unambiguously evil and vicious, which adds some tension and suspense while allowing us to see how Bill struggles against his nature in order to keep from going down that path. We’ve seen already that vampires are being persecuted—as it’s been said more than once on this show, humans have been responsible for mass destruction of their own—but they are monsters, after all, and a sizable number of them have no interest in “coming out of the closet” and integrating into society. Unlike Bill, these new vampires are not wracked with self-doubt. When they appear a second time, they have a victim cocooned in other room, hanging like a fresh carcass in a meat freezer.
Meanwhile, back in boringsville, Sam and Tara commiserate about carrying a torch for an unattainable partner—Sookie in Sam’s case, Jason in Tara’s—and how it’s keeping them lonely and unsnogged. It doesn’t take these dim bulbs too long to realize that they have a short-term solution in each other: Their boss-employee relationship isn’t really jeopardized because Tara doesn’t care about the job, so what do they have to lose? It’s worth noting that theirs is the most conventional pairing we’ve yet to see on the show; we don’t see much, granted, but it’s the first time that sex is expressed as anything other than raw aggression.
As for Sookie, she’s starting to open up a bit sexually, too, and coming to terms with the fact that Bill, flawed and dangerous though he is, may be the only guy for her. (It makes sense, in light of her telepathic gifts, that she would feel most at ease with a man who sends off no brainwaves for her to read.) To paraphrase the Divinyl’s song: When she thinks about him, she touches herself. It’s interesting how Sookie’s belated coming-of-age mirrors 13-year-old Summer Bashil’s premature coming-of-age in Ball’s new film Towelhead. Both are naïvely heading into treacherous territory by taking an interest in men vastly more experienced than they are—with Bashil, it’s a married next-door neighbor (Aaron Eckhart); with Sookie, it’s a 173-year-old vampire—and both take pleasure in private. Bashil furtively shifts her legs in a skirt, focusing on the images in a girlie magazine, while Sookie dreams of yielding to Bill in her sleep. It’s only a matter of time before both characters have to deal with the reality of sex, and it’s likely to be as harrowing for Sookie as it is for Bashil.
Lastly, we have our first major-ish character death: The leggy waitress Dawn (Lynn Collins), whose offing significantly threatens the show’s more prurient, Skinamax-y appeals. She’s also the second woman to die after having relations with Jason, which raises questions not so much about him (he’s too dumb to do anything but fuck) but about the killer who seems to be following him around. Gotta hand it to this show: It knows how to hook us in for next week.
• Gotta say, I may be turning around a little on Lafayette. He’s still a bit of a one-liner-bot in the Kim Cattrall mode, but it was interesting to get a look at how he lives and his little side businesses. (One doesn’t live that well washing dishes at a backwoods bar and grill, clearly.) It was a little much to have him hooking up with a buttoned-down state senator, though; too on-the-nose in the age of Larry Craig and Mark Foley.
• Dropping a big hint about Hep D-infected blood: It makes vampires weak for about a month. Just something to keep in mind.
• What are the chances of Jason using that vampire blood as prescribed? Is there a figure less than 0%?