Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

True Blood: “Burning Down The House”

Illustration for article titled True Blood: “Burning Down The House”

Hi, all! David is wrestling with Hurricane Irene, so I am filling in for him this week.

As a viewer, there often comes a time during the lifespan of a television series where you have to make the decision to call it quits. Sometimes the urge hits you suddenly – The West Wing’s “Isaac and Ishmael” put me off the show for years, for example – and other times, it creeps up on you slowly, the result of episode upon episode of accumulated grievances. Well, it took me a long time to get there with True Blood, but I think I’m through. It’s not just that the storytelling is a mess; it’s always been an exercise in patience to witness how the show strings its season together. It’s that the characters who once carried me through the madness have been dissolved almost to the point of nothingness, making it hard to care about anything at all. Sorry, True Blood: it’s not me, it’s you.

The main thing sparking this revelation was the absolute exercise in futility that was tonight’s A story, with the vampires and the witches squaring off for an ultimate duel. The concept has the makings for some juicy drama, but played here like two large set pieces bookmarking an episode populated with filler to distract from what is turning out to be a very thin season arc. The beginning fight with Bill and Eric was fine, though Sookie restoring Eric’s memory with her magic lightning hands is a bit too convenient of a storytelling solution. The last shot of the vamps coming to take their revenge (although aesthetically ridiculous) had enough swagger to glamour us into thinking next week might be different. What came between those moments, though? Kind of a nightmare.

Here’s the problem. Throughout the season so far, little thought has been given to Marnie’s motivation for channeling Antonia and bringing about all of this vampire misery. It’s actually an interesting aspect to explore because if she’s an unwilling body being used as a meatsuit, a la the demons in Supernatural, she’s a compassionate character. If not, she’s an even bigger villain than Antonia herself because she doesn’t have Antonia’s built-in motivation. Instead of delving into this character study in a way that’s even a little bit illuminating, True Blood goes into complete “tell not show” mode, first giving the audience an over-illustrative scene where we learn Marnie isn’t being controlled at all, and actually has more control over Antonia. Then, maddeningly, we have to sit and deal with a significant chunk of screen time devoted to Jesus’ mistaken belief Marnie is trapped, and his quest to bring her out from Antonia’s control. The fact that this happens immediately after the audience learns the truth is not only simply bad storytelling, but the perfect example of the insulting, redundant, killing-time storytelling that has characterized the entire season.

The one bright spot in all of this vampire/witch business is King Bill. Bill is a character who needed definition beyond “in love with Sookie,” and making him King was a fantastic decision. Him standing up to Nan and making the decision to take Marnie down no matter what Nan had to say – and no matter how many innocent lives he has to take in the process – is doing wonders for him, and for Stephen Moyer’s performance. His hateful banter session with Nan in the silver chain room was the absolute highlight of the episode.

Back to things that are terrible, we must discuss Sam Merlotte and his family from hell. I’m not sure if the writers recognized how poorly all of Sam’s family stories have been received, or if they just got bored, but the death of Sam’s last known living relative was not too much of a disappointment. The funny thing is, Tommy becoming a skinwalker was perhaps the most fun they’ve ever been able to muster from any of the Merlotte brood, so it’s strange to see them drop it so quickly. This, especially because it appears to be in service of getting Sam involved in Alcide and the werewolf pack’s story, which seems like a completely unnecessary bit of character overlap as no one actually cares about any of the characters Sam is now overlapping.

Speaking of characters no one cares about (okay, characters I don’t care about) Jason, Jessica, and Hoyt are still involved in the most boring love triangle of all time, and Terry is now Andy’s V sponsor. Those moments actually elicited a few chuckles from me, but they are entirely indicative of how absolutely inessential True Blood has become as a whole. There is no need for at least 60% of most episodes to exist, and yet week after week the stories are treated as if they are as important as the ones with actual content and narrative drive.

True Blood is simply interested in telling stories I am not interested in watching, and that is why the show and I need to take a break. Perhaps I’ll come back to it one day – I eventually did watch the remainder of The West Wing, and enjoyed most of it very much – but for right now, my relationship with the show is too dysfunctional to continue. Goodbye, True Blood. Pam, I’ll miss you most of all.

Stray observations:

  • So Sookie is now trapped with the witches. Gee, do you think Eric and Bill will blow up the place with Sookie in it? I’m SURE they will!
  • It would be nice for Sookie to learn something more about her magic lightning hands. Too bad Eric ate her fairy godmother, or whatever. This is prime example of the short-sightedness of this show’s storytelling. Are we ever going to see the fairies again? What the heck was the point of all of that in the first episode of the season, if not? (Am I over thinking this? Probably.)
  • The Sookie and old Eric thing might be interesting, if they hadn’t completely ruined Sookie and Eric with amnesia Eric.
  • That cover of “Burning Down the House” at the end of the episode needs to not exist. Especially if it’s going to be under a The Right Stuff-style shot of four vamps in Matrix outfits. I don’t have enough laughing-at-you-not-with-you in my body.
  • “Fucking humans. I’m going to go find someone to eat.”
  • “God, I hate her.”
  • “No drugs for me, except the anti-psychotics.”
  • “I don’t care what happens as long as I get to kill shit!”
  • “It’s a…Latin thing.”
  • “Yeah, well I’m a sheriff and you’re only a fucking fry cook so I win.”