First off, many thanks to Josh Modell for filling in on last week’s write-up and doing an excellent job. For what it’s worth, I found myself agreeing entirely with his review after catching up with the 10th episode earlier in the week. No, it wasn’t nearly as strong as the previous episode—by far the best in the series—but it was still solid, and confirmed that the infusion of fresh blood (Stephen Root, Lizzy Caplan, Zeljko Ivanek, et al.) had given life to a show in desperate need of it.
And now that they’re all gone, the sucktitude returns with a vengeance…
The penultimate episode of a season is always where a great show excels the most. Think of The Wire: The Wire’s penultimate episode was generally left to crime novelist George P. Pelecanos to write—he did so in three of the five seasons—and that was usually when the heavy shit went down. The final episode, in contrast, was more of a sigh, like a sorrowful morning after in comparison. Ditto The Sopranos. Ideally, the second-to-last episode is where the myriad subplots finally come together in a conclusive way and the show really starts paying off. Or, in the case of True Blood, it’s the point where all the rot in the foundation takes the building down.
The end of Stephen Root’s brief, touching arc on the show last week also hastened the end of Caplan’s run as Amy, Jason’s crazy-hippie girlfriend, but perhaps not in the way one might have expected. Amy killing off Root’s character also drove a stake through the heart of her relationship with Jason, who had too much of a conscience to abide the continued abduction and slow-drain of a vampire he came to like. It’s a sneaky bit of misdirection that her demise comes not at Jason’s hands—he wouldn’t kill her, of course, but a break-up seemed reasonable—but at the hands of the psycho who’s been murdering all of his lays. To me, it’s a copout, an easy way to wipe out a character whose motives and past remains a mystery. Why was she at Fangtasia that night and why did she zero in on Jason? Is her saving that last drop of vampire blood about completing the circle or was it another gateway into shared addiction? Alas, we’ll never know.
And sweet lord, what a disappointment that Bill’s forced “turning” of an innocent young belle was played as a big joke, and an obvious one at that. Ooo, how ironic that a sweet, Christian, home-schooled, conservative girl would become a whiny, profane, bloodthirsty handful now that she doesn’t have to play by the rules? I’m not sure who’s to blame—perhaps Charlaine Harris, though I haven’t read her Sookie Stackhouse books—but it smacked of Alan Ball at his worst. (See also: Super-conservative bully Chris Cooper being closeted homosexual in American Beauty or all-American neighbor and military man Aaron Eckhart being a sexual predator in Towelhead. Even if these conceits were taken from novels, Ball can’t seem to resist them.) Having Bill, who’d worked so diligently at “mainstreaming,” be forced to turn a frightened teenager was a tragic, low moment for him, and that fact comes home at the end of the episode, when he returns to have Sookie dis-invite him from her house. But the scenes between Bill and Jessica, the girl he sired, were painfully broad, like some sort of sitcom spinoff in the making. I know True Blood is supposed to be irreverent and fun, but tonal shifts like this are hard to forgive: If we’re to take Bill seriously as a character and see how he struggles with the humanity he’s lost and the humanity he hopes to regain through Sookie, then why diffuse all the tension with so much disposable silliness?
Lest I bury the lede any further… hey, we know who the killer is now! It’s that guy! Arlene’s fiancé! The only castmember who seems to have set foot in the state of Louisiana for more than a day or two in his life! I have to admit, I guessed the wrong guy: I felt like I was on the right track when Jason was conversing with his workmates on the construction site, because the other guy—the earnest weirdo not marrying Arlene—had been my pony in this race all along. But alas, red herring. Nonetheless, there’s zero reason for that conversation to talk place other than for Jason to reveal the information that Amy is a vamp-blood-drinking (and likely vamp-fucking) girl who one of them is now free to kill. Anyone get it right? Be honest now.
Finding the killer’s identity involves Sam, Sookie, and their romantic baggage traveling to another town, where Sookie’s telepathic flashes hold the key to the mystery. And here we circle right on back to where we started: Sam having eyes for Sookie, Sookie devoted to Bill (to a point), and the two men at odds. That leads to a brief shapeshifter-vampire brawl, which admittedly was exciting in the show’s typically visceral way, but the whole love triangle (particularly the Sam part) is a bore, even with the fresh revelations about Sam and the complications of the Tara factor.
As for Tara, she gets arrested after nearly hitting a naked woman (and a hog) on the road. In the clink, she contends with her sober and newly self-righteous mother, who has the gall to kick her out of the house. Meanwhile, Lafayette discovers that the politician he’s been, um, servicing is an anti-V, anti-gay demagogue when he’s not enjoying the V and the gay sex. That’s right: They’re all hypocrites! Oh Alan Ball, you’ve done it again…
• One laugh-out-loud moment, courtesy of the Merlotte’s barkeep (who I remember as Lane’s affable boyfriend on Gilmore Girls): I can’t listen to politicians no more. I get a seizure.”
• I left out any discussion of Michelle Forbes, the mysteriously wealthy social worker of sorts who comes in to rescue Tara from jail. (After being the zombie woman in the middle of the road who landed her there, of course.) Great to see Forbes, who was so chilling in Battlestar Galactica, make an appearance, even if it’s this late in the game. Her presence is the one thing (beside obligation) that’s beckoning me to tune in next week.
• A small but cool detail: The fact that Bill has to lay down in the earth with the woman he sired. There’s an intimacy there—they’re “sleeping” with each other, in a sense—that underlines just how much Bill has been forced to compromise himself.
• Sam: “Are you looking in my head?” Sookie: “I’m looking in your heart” Me, my wife: “Ugh!”