True Blood: "You'll Be The Death Of Me"
C+

True Blood: "You'll Be The Death Of Me"

C+

True Blood

"You'll Be The Death Of Me"

Season 1, Episode 12

“Cajun Dialect For Actors”? Really, True Blood? That’s the best you can do?

It’s kind of amazing that Rene, a.k.a. Drew Marshall, has been able to kill fang-bangers for so long with his Big Box Of Incriminating Stuff sitting within a child’s reach. Along with the fang-banging videos and dialect CD, why not just throw in the bloody knife or the strangulation belt for good measure? He was smart to find a dim bulb like Arlene for cover; with her two kids and spotty romantic history, she’s a lot like Rita is to Dexter on Dexter, a woman so emotionally damaged that she’s well-nigh oblivious to her man’s shortcomings. In any case, it’s no small irony that the most convincingly Cajun character in the entire cast was the one with the fake accent.

But that’s nitpicking. Looking at the larger picture, tonight’s True Blood finale delivered predictably on the Rene-is-the-killer setup from last week while setting the table for the second season with cliffhangers and question marks galore. (I’m pretty sure the masochist in me will keep on watching to see what happens next, though blogging duties will likely be handed over to a writer more committed to the series, should we ever find such a creature.) By the show’s standards, it was a relatively solid hour, but when you feel it’s as fundamentally flawed as I do, the big payoffs are only going to be as good as the 11 episodes that set them up.

The Rene stuff was handled in pretty rote thriller fashion, with the fake-Cajun (hey, why did he even need to make up an accent, especially in that crowd?) getting the drop on Sookie in the prison while visiting the incarcerated Jason and discovering that she’s onto the Drew Marshall case. That gives him extra motivation to do what he’s wanted to do all along, and kill Sookie for getting involved with Bill. (I’m happy we see an explanation for why Rene killed her grandmother in such bloody, which was not his M.O.) Rene accompanies Sookie back to her place, but can’t hide his thoughts from her for too long before she’s onto him. Fortunately for Sookie, the two men who love her have heightened animal senses: Sam the dog smells essence o’ Dawn on Rene’s flak jacket (which he conveniently leaves behind) while Bill wakes up from his slumber in an attempt to save her. The image of Bill defiantly marching out into the sunlight, his skin crisping into black flakes, isa  good example of a big romantic payoff that was probably quite powerful for people emotionally invested in the show. I wish I could count myself as one of them.

For a season finale, however, there was a surprising amount of new developments, as if the writers were eager to put Season One behind them and work on a fresh set of storylines. The most intriguing thread is Tara’s new benefactor (and Sam’s old nemesis) Maryann, played with the same terrifying self-assurance that actress Michelle Forbes brought to her great run on Battlestar Galactica. Tara finds herself waking up in a resort, complete with high-thread-count sheets, a robe, a pool, a cell-stealing man-servant, large spreads of fresh fruits and vegetables, and a handsome young guest on acoustic guitar. The skeptic in her recognizes that it’s all too good to be true, but in the short terms, she doesn’t seem to mind setting her concerns aside and believing in Maryann’s philanthropic rhetoric about her being deserving of a new life. It’s the audacity of hope, you see.

Forbes’ presence on the show underlines another running complaint I’ve had with the season: The guest stars have been infinitely more interesting than the principal cast. Whenever True Blood has twitched to life this season, it’s been on the strength of ace character actors breezing through Bon Temps for a few episodes: Stephen Root as the sad, pitiable vampire Eddie, Lizzy Caplan as Jason’s crazy-sexy-hippie-drug-addict-psychopath girlfriend, Zeljko Ivanek in a brief but potent cameo as the vampire magistrate, and now Forbes, who looks to be sticking around well into next season. It says a lot about the importance of casting, but I’d also say that they were given more interesting things to do, perhaps because they served as the colorful catalysts that set the action into motion. All the regulars can do is respond accordingly.

The other big development is the resurgence of the Fellowship Of The Sun, a virulently anti-vampire congregation that unofficially worships Jason for allegedly killing four fang-banging women. It’s a convincing transformation in that converts usually make the leap when they’ve hit bottom rung, and it’s safe to say the pile of bodies at Jason’s feet—and his confusion over what exactly he did to them—puts him in a vulnerable spot. Then again, it’s hard to believe that Jason would join the church, given his relationship to dear, departed Eddie and his subsequent refusal to take V or indulge Amy’s bigotry. Still, you can always count on Jason doing something stupid and he’s definitely the type to be suggestible to a smooth-talker with a briefcase and a pamphlet.

So what of Lafayette? I’m guessing he was killed, though we never actually see what happened to him. The super-speedy camera move implies that Bill killed him in order to recharge, since the very same move puts him at Sookie’s doorstep, but my guess is that it’s a fakeout. More likely, Lafayette’s fate has something to do with his threat to expose a gay, V-blood-using Louisiana politician as a hypocrite, but we’ll have to wait and see. It’ll be sad if he doesn’t come back, though, since I came to like him more than the other major cast members, despite dismissing early on as a sassy Kim Cattrall type. He showed some depth and soul as the season went on, and the one-liners were more sparingly parceled out.

That’s it for now. I eagerly volunteered to write up True Blood every week before ever seeing an episode, convinced that Alan Ball’s return to HBO after Six Feet Under would be a triumph or at least deliver some strong gothic thrills. I leave disappointed, in part because I could never muster anything close to the enthusiasm of the show’s most ardent fans, and I honestly wished to share in their excitement. Still, I suspect that many followers of this blog were in my camp: Irritated most of the time, intrigued at others, and unable to throw in the towel no matter how frustrating it got. In that case, I’m happy to have spoken for you.

Grade: C+

Stray observations:

• Block that metaphor! Maybe it was the return of Alan Ball (as director) that brought it on, but the whole vampires-as-sweeping-gay-metaphor returned with a vengeance tonight, what with the Fundamentalist church and the news that Vermont is allowing vampire marriages. Does this mean California voters ratify a hateful ballot initiative next season? It would be topical.

• Tara’s dreamy acoustic guitar-playing guest at Maryann’s house is named Eggs Benedict. That’s only the second most ridiculous name I’ve heard this weekend, after Bronx Mowgli Wentz.

• Sam is still unwilling to confess to his canine qualities. Based on what everyone has seen in Bon Temps lately, he should know that no one would bat an eye.

• So who said the name “Sookie” more annoyingly this season? Bill in a walk, right?

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