True Blood: “Save Yourself”
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True Blood: “Save Yourself”

In his last episode as showrunner, Alan Ball delivered a True Blood finale that is a great encapsulation of the show as a whole: funny, exciting, bloody, surprising, messy, frustrating, and scattered. Those same things also sum up most of season five, which was simultaneously an uptick in quality from previous seasons and still deeply flawed. Yet despite all of its flaws, both the finale and the season as a whole managed to be a fun ride. (Just don’t think about that ride too closely once you get off, or else it all sort of falls apart.)

The biggest development of the finale was Bill’s transformation into full villain, and eventually into what appears to be the reincarnation of Lilith herself. Bill’s slow descent into religious fundamentalist madness was one of the season’s best slow burn stories—that is, once the season finally got around to telling it after wasting time with Roman and Russell. The bizarre thing about this story is that the Authority was always positioned as the season’s sort of “big bad,” starting with Roman, shifting to Russell, and then finally ending up with Bill. The shaggy nature of this story featured a lot of great moments but in the end arrived at simply being a setup for next season, when Bill is definitively the biggest threat. If even Sookie can’t bring Bill back to sanity, what can? And is Bill even Bill now that he exploded and was resurrected?

Aside from Bill finally turning to the dark side for good, the other best thing about the finale was Eric finally regaining some of his swagger and killing Russell, followed immediately by heading up an assault on the Authority, with the help of Nora, Jason, and Tara. The assault itself was bloody and satisfying (seriously, the Authority guards are terrible at their jobs) and also featured some interesting character moments, especially the new romantic relationship between Pam and Tara. It was hinted at last week but the subtext has become full, making-out text. Pam and Tara’s maker/progeny relationship has been one of the highlights of the season, so it will be interesting to see how this twist changes things next season.

The most puzzling thing about the Authority assault, though, was definitely Jason and his head-injury induced ability to see his dead parents, who immediately brainwash him against all vampires. It’s a weirdly lazy storytelling choice, even for this show, and it feels like it only happened so that he could spurn Jessica’s love declarations at the end of the episode. Poor Jason gets so little meaningful character development as it is that giving him a complete personality transplant just seems like piling on. Also, if those are really some sort of incarnation of his parents then his parents are kind of total assholes.

The one thing that’s been surprisingly solid throughout the last few episodes of this season is Sam and Luna’s quest to rescue Emma from Steve Newlin’s clutches, and the entire thing paid off splendidly tonight with the glorious sight of them infiltrating the Authority and Luna shifting into Newlin’s form and then accidentally shifting back while on national television. Between that and Sam transforming into a fly and shifting back while inside a vampire in order to kill them, the often-dicey shifter plots took a definite upswing in quality.

But still, as much as True Blood gives, it almost always takes an equal amount away. Tonight’s big plot casualties were easily Alcide’s ascension to pack leader and Andy’s silly dalliances with the fairies. Alcide’s plot is perhaps the most egregious, simply because it has no place in the episode and also the audacity to be completely humorless and boring. Why bother with J.D. beating Alcide earlier in the season if he was just going to end up being pack master in the end anyway? Was it to show that Alcide will now be corrupted since he had to resort to drinking V in order to beat him? Alcide’s plots are inevitably the worst of the entire show, as the writers have never truly figured out how to integrate the wolf story with the rest of the characters. Now that Alcide’s father is around (and is played by a very capable actor in Robert Patrick), the show needs to find a way to either make his stories work or drop him from the main story rotation altogether. He might look good without a shirt, but that’s simply not enough to carry the 10 minutes an episode the show seems to think he deserves.

As for Andy, well, at least his various stories always have a bit of humor attached to them to make up for their uselessness. Maurella’s weird orgasm light birth was eye-rolling and dumb, but at least Lafayette and Arlene’s running commentary of the spectacle had some comedic value. And although the idea of Andy having to raise four half-fae babies on his own promises far to receive more screentime than the story probably deserves, at least it might have the promise of being amusing—especially if they all can read minds like Sookie.

One thing that’s become abundantly clear this season is that True Blood is almost impossible to judge on a season-long arc basis, because the focus of the stories seems to be a constantly-evolving organism, something the writers are continually fiddling with until they end up at a point they like. The Authority was the best example of that this season. It was a muddled mess of a central story point and yet one that consistently offered some of the most interesting elements of the season. It will be interesting to see not only what happens when one of the show’s supposed “heroes” becomes the true enemy, especially with it happening in the midst of a showrunner change. Season five had its ups and downs, but overall, it was a satisfactory summer diversion, delivering just enough shock and action to coast through some of the weaker story threads.

But I have to be honest: As interesting as Bill’s resurrection might turn out to be, I kind of wish the show had had the guts to kill him off for good. Now that would've been something.

Stray observations:

  • There were a lot of great moments of humor tonight, but my favorite had to be Eric popping up in Jason’s window while they were driving down the road. Vampire power humor!
  • So the receptionist sounded a “level two protocol” alarm, but the notifications don’t go to the living quarters, so Bill and Salome have no idea what’s going on? Vampires: not good at security.
  • Flycam was fairly ridiculous, huh?
  • Jason: “If I want to be a fool then I will be a fool! That is my God-given right as an American.”
  • Meta exchange of the night: “I have no idea what’s happening.” “Who does?”

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