B+

True Blood: Scratches

 

B+

True Blood

Scratches

Season 2, Episode 3

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Just in case you thought Bon Temps might be getting a little boring, the True Blood writers have decided to throw another dart at the mythology-inspiration dartboard. Let's see, we've already got a maenad, a shapeshifter, a telepath, a slew of vampires, some crazy-ass Christians, and... oh I know, let's do Greek again--how about a fucking minotaur?

That's the bookend neatly wrapping tonight's "Scratches." The minotaur turns Sookie into Slasher Victim Barbie before the opening credits, and we see the same claw marks on Daphne's scarred back before she jumps in the hot-tub bayou with Sam at the close of the episode.

But if True Blood has taught me anything, it's that I shouldn't assume anything in writing. So I'm not ready to commit 100 percent to this creature being a minotaur, especially since that word seems to be oddly absent from everyone's vocabulary. They tiptoe around it so much that even though all signs point to minotaur--head of bull, bull-man, human tracks, smells of animal--they might be misleading us. Who knows, maybe it's the delicious, crispy baby of a minotaur and a Komodo dragon. Those talons certainly don't read hoof or hand.

Bookends aside, though, this week's episode mostly hits us with the artificial dichotomy of light and dark, those old stand-ins for good and evil. Over at Camp Brainwash, the light of God and the smile of Sarah Newlin are shining on Jason. Every time someone says the word "light," something perks up in Jason's brain, sometimes even causing him to stammer "light" as a refrain. Good boy. But where even dumb-as-rocks Jason Stackhouse sees a complicated issue, recognizing that vampires kill but so did his best friend Rene, the fundies see black and white. You're either with us or against us, human or vampire, an emotionally (and literally) scarred slut or an honesty ring-wearing angel. Jason's few minutes of clarity during the meeting pull us back to him and the fight for him; he's not lost yet! He's still a gentle soul! I was nearly proud of him when he stormed out of the meeting. But, alas, we're about to watch him fall to Brainwasher 3000.

Sookie is also increasingly vulnerable to the simplistic vamps-are-bad party line. The more she opens her mind, she says, the more she sees evil. The brat can't even appreciate Sheriff Eric saving her life, and really, Sook, cancer? Alex Skarsgard is way preferable to cancer, and way hotter. But Sookie huffs and muses on the sad state of vampire-human affairs during some dialogue on the way home, which had me worried about Bill crashing the car while looking too long at Sookie. Eyes on the road, pal! They ride along, in and out of the streetlamps' reach, giving us a shot that nicely reinforces the subject matter at hand, alternating between the soft glow of the light and the dark shadows. It's there that Vampire Bill sets us straight: "Most of us--vampire, human, or otherwise--are capable of both good and evil, often simultaneously." This is pretty clearly the message aimed at us, too. We're presented a bunch of extremes this episode, but we're not to drop them in uncomplicated buckets of good or bad. Maryann has a sinister underbelly, for example, but also seems to genuinely care for and provide pleasure to those around her (butler excepted).

Jason's not lucky enough to have an introspective vampire mentor, though--instead, the ever-smiling Sarah uses her own backstory to bring Jason back to the herd. Newlin's the unsettling kind of villain who smiles evenly when she's serious or upset, a sort of watered down version of Joan Cusack's homemaker-terrorist in Arlington Road. She's sweet and on point, and like a good fundamentalist, she preys on Jason's emotions, turning Jason into the little crusader that could. Her assertion that she and Jason are the same, and her story about her sister's death, though, could point to a vulnerable spot as we march toward war.

But on with the comedy, which nicely litters this episode. I'm not going to spend too much time on Maryann's plot line this week; it doesn't really advance much. We finally get the orgy we've all been waiting for, though Tara's the only one immune to the blood-colored juniper punch. These shenanigans result in the funniest line of the episode for me, delivered by detective Bellefleur: "What are you doing in there, pig?" Equally well-played was the is-she-going-to-suck-him-dry-or-simply-suck-him suspense surrounding Jessica and Hoyt's budding romance. There were several moments where I thought we'd seen the end of nice-guy Hoyt. "She is a loaded gun, Sookie, not a girl for you to dress up and play with!" I'd say that warning from Bill goes for you, too, Hoyt.

The week's strongest moment, though, comes when Lafayette arrives home from Fangtasia. True Blood rarely lets us be alone with characters absent of dialogue, traumatic flashbacks, or encroaching danger. Here, though, Lafayette returns home, grizzled, limping, and defeated. The strung lights and purple mattress play a sharp contrast to the fun-loving Lafayette who last left that house, and we get to watch him crumple once the door has closed. It's one of the first truly poignant moments for True Blood and for Nelsan Ellis in this role.

Grade: B+

STRAY OBSERVATIONS

--Is that a portrait of a dog hanging in Sam's office?

--This episode ends same as last time--with Bill holding someone in his clutches, fangs out, up close and growling. Roll credits!

--Tara reminds us that Bellefleur should be investigating a murder. Good thing; I'd almost forgotten that there's a killer on the loose. I mean, besides the vampires and the minotaur.

--Ryan Kwanten got me to laugh twice this episode: when Jason hit his head on the wall with a quiet "ow" and when he looked wide-eyed outside to see the war. Well done.

--"Sarah doesn't whip out her pudding for just anybody."

Filed Under: TV, True Blood

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