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True Blood: "Sparks Fly Out"


True Blood

"Sparks Fly Out"

Season 1 , Episode 5

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Oh, True Blood. Why can’t I quit you? (Beyond professional obligation, that is.)

After last week’s low water mark, I’d begun to think that True Blood was circling the drain, but lo and behold, it comes right back with its strongest episode to date. (Not a huge compliment there, mind. I’ve liked only two of the five episodes so far, and haven’t come close to loving any of them.) The big reason: The supporting characters are finally getting a little meat on them bones, and the added depth has helped me overcome my indifference to them, at least for the time being. Let’s go one by one:

Lafayette: I had initially dismissed Lafayette as a Kim Cattrall-like sass-bot, an urban caricature transplanted into Nowhereville, Louisiana, mainly for comic relief. So it’s been nice to see more dimensions than edgy line cook out of him the last two weeks: He’s your friendly neighborhood prostitute and drug dealer, someone who value sensuality over all other considerations, like his own health or the near-certainty that a dope like Jason would abuse his vial of vampire blood. (The latter decision Tara likens to “giving Ho-Hos to a diabetic.”) He could still recede into sass-bot mode at any time, but I’d like to see him in more situations where he’s making decisions rather playing commentator.

Sam: Okay, he’s still a little vanilla, but far less so than in the first few episodes. By now, we know that he’s not 100% human and Sookie can sense it too, since his thoughts are not as easy for her to read as other humans. He also has no past to speak of and remains a quiet, reserved fellow, despite owning a raucous bar. And for the first time, he seems dangerous: His interaction with Sookie on their date—which included showing up Bill gratuitously—was a far cry from the retiring guy we knew and didn’t much care for. He’s pushy and possessive in a way that scares Sookie more than blood-sucking Bill ever has, and for the first time, we’re given cause to question his intentions, quite apart from who (or what) he is.

Bill: While Sam got scarier, Bill was, for lack of a better term, humanized a bit in this episode, which used flashbacks extensively and effectively to fill in some gaps in his backstory. Bill’s appearance at the Descendents Of The Glorious Dead meeting revealed quite a bit: The intense bigotry facing vampires (cue rednecks with a garlic press!); the root of Bill’s genuine desire to “mainstream” and reconnect with his country and people like his lost family; and of course, the genesis of his vampirism, which is like a gift bestowed upon him for being his gentlemanly self. Like a certain prominent character in a certain vastly superior vampire-themed TV series I promised never to mention again, Bill certainly has reason to brood. We can also see the complications that come with going against his animal nature and trying to integrate with the meatbags he’d rather be sucking dry. A great scene, too, with the two cops, where he explains why a vampire couldn’t be behind Maudette and Dawn’s murders. (“I have Frescas!”)

Other developments:

• The socially awkward young man with a special interest in True Blood seems like our first solid serial killer candidate, no?

• Jason finally figures out that he cares about Tara, too, but his acid-tabs of vamp blood (which actually functions a lot like Ecstasy crossed with Viagra) get in the way—first when he confesses his feelings while rubbing his hands on her sparky arms, and later when he can’t resist a cheap piece of tail. This relationship still isn’t playing for me, but I’m willing to see how it develops. For now, these two grate on my nerves.

• Bombshell of an ending: Sookie’s grandma in a pool of blood. In light of the serial killer’s M.O., this killing is inexplicable, since she’s not a young, attractive frequenter of the vampire bar in Shreveport and she hasn’t just had sex with her grandson. The plot thickens…

Grade: B+

Stray observations:

• Among the perils of dating a vampire: They’re really into Tuvan throat-singing, apparently.

• Is it possible that Sookie’s grandma’s death may be unrelated to the other murders? Clearly, she was facing some fierce resistance for inviting Bill to the Descendants Of The Glorious Dead and this could be blowback for that.

• It occurred to me during Bill’s speech that his story about the man’s brave great-grandfather could have been contrived to make the guy feel better about his family’s legacy. But then, nothing else in the flashback sequences seemed embellished, so I guess we have to take it at face value.