True Blood: "The Fourth Man In The Fire"
B

True Blood: "The Fourth Man In The Fire"

B

True Blood

"The Fourth Man In The Fire"

Season 1, Episode 8

First, a mea culpa: Last week, there was an explosion of hateration in the comment section over my review of that night’s episode. I sensed it was coming for a while, given my general disappointment with True Blood so far. And it took one sloppily written recap to open up the floodgates. While I don’t apologize for my opinion of the show, there’s certainly no excuse for the myriad mistakes I made in the write-up (on why the vamp nest was torched, on forgetting the “glamouring” power for some reason, et al.) and I vow to keep things as straight as I can from here on out. Moving on…

I’m happy to say that “The Fourth Man In The Fire” marked a significant improvement over the last couple of episodes, if only for the follow-through on Jason’s slightly deranged new hippie girlfriend Amy (Lizzy Caplan, of Freaks & Geeks and Cloverfield semi-renown) and the introduction of the great character actor Stephen Root as Eddie Gautier, the vampire who gives Lafayette his V supply. The nice thing about both characters is that neither one forces much of a Southern accent, or seems to represent/starkly defy the Bayou stereotypes the show exploits/explodes. They’re just fresh faces bringing some much-needed vitality to the proceedings.

Amy first: Here’s a young woman full of contradictions. For example, she recoils at the thought of sampling Jason’s non-organic pepperoni-and-sausage pizza, yet appreciates the gallery of dead animals on Merlotte’s wall, which to her represents the food chain, the “circle of life,” and a good honest dinner. When the two share a night of sex-free V-gasms, her musings about them being “one giant organism” sounds like hippie bliss, as does the stoned musing that Jason is actually good and “wise” deep down, rather than the dopey horndog we know and… well, some of you, love. She also comes across as very energetic and sweet, if a little overeager, when she steps in for Sookie to wait a few tables at Merlotte’s. Then again, she later ropes Jason into scoring V by breaking into Eddie’s house and presumably drawing right from the source. Many questions about Amy remain unanswered: What’s her background? Did she have ulterior motives for zeroing in on Jason at Fangtasia? Given how things have been going on the show for me lately, I find myself surprised and relieved that I’m actually interested to know more.

As for Eddie, Root is a brilliant comedic actor (see Office Space, NewsRadio, Dodgeball, et al.), but it’s nice to see a little confirmation of his versatility, too. He so disappeared into the skin of this sad, eternally lonely, TV-watching vampire (no doubt sadder and lonelier now that his favorite show, Heroes, has gone down the toilet) that it took me a few double-takes to confirm that it was him. Root has signed on for at least a brief run on the show, so we’ll see more of him than the vamp who trades blood for Lafayette’s intimate company. And again, I’m intrigued about where this is going in the wake of his horrifying assault.

Back to the characters we know all too well, the episode opens with Sookie facing yet another death of someone close to her, all coming in very short order. The bubbling remains of three vampire bodies (and one human) throws her into deep despair and finally forces her to come to terms with her grandmother’s death, too. Of course, we know that Bill isn’t dead and his emergence from the earth like Carrie was both expected and nonetheless shocking; as the two shift quite speedily into sex—her in a flowery dress, him coming up from the earth, like a flower—it’s both natural and, in the spirit of the show, lusty and perverse. She returns to work in a state of post-coital bliss and later on, they play host to Arlene’s kids, doing their best imitation of a happy domesticated couple. (Humans and vampires can’t marry, which is the True Blood-as-ham-handed-gay-rights-metaphor rearing its head.)

(Sidenote: Did we ever get a sense until tonight that Arlene and Sookie were all that close? Sookie considers Arlene a sniping, bigoted hick—and said as much this episode—but didn’t show much affection for her previously.)

In other news, Tara’s mom is a woman reborn after purging the booze demon in a backwoods exorcism. She trashes crate-fulls of liquor, goes back to church, and even cooks her daughter a hearty breakfast. Naturally suspicious of her mother, Tara questions her sudden recovery and even gets a little resentful about it, which only underlines the exorcist’s advise that Tara herself has a demon to expel. Maybe she can expel that hideous Louisiana accent while she’s at it.

Grade: B

Stray observations:

• Another nice cliffhanger. (If there’s one thing the show has done well all season, it’s to give us a reason to tune in next week.) I’ve been waiting for Sookie’s telepathic abilities to come to the fore—after all, the books on which the show is based are called the Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries—and she reveals herself as an exceptionally effective interrogator (the truth in a matter of seconds!).

• After listening to Amy’s take on Merlotte’s and the food chain, Jason makes with the funny: “I want to lick your mind.”

• Painful fight between Tara and Sam, who makes the mistake of criticizing her Serena Williams-like grunting during sex. They can split for good any time now.