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

True Blood: “Radioactive”

Illustration for article titled True Blood: “Radioactive”

What in the fresh hell?

No, really, please tell me: What just happened? True Blood has done a lot of strange things over the course of its own history, but that was perhaps one of the strangest, most incomprehensible season finales I’ve experienced not just in True Blood history but in all of my years watching television. There’s making good narrative decisions, making bad narrative decisions, and then whatever True Blood attempted to do tonight, which was basically making unintelligible narrative decisions. Just when everything was going so well!

It started out innocently enough, continuing the drama from last week in the same endless plot dump the show has accustomed us to over the years. Sookie’s reflective moment with Alcide in the cemetery after Terry’s funeral portends the drama that is about to ensue between her and Warlow, because no one is allowed to get reflective on this show without paying for it grievously. Remember Warlow? Sweet, loving Warlow whom we’ve barely seen in the last four episodes? He obviously spent that time building up his asshole reserves, because when Sookie decides she doesn’t necessarily want to jump into being his fairy vampire bride, he doesn’t take it well, tying her up and threatening to take it by force.

That’s when the finale takes its first truly disastrous turn, from something that could have been interesting into a tired “save Sookie” narrative. The interesting bit of this—when Bill starts to slowly realize he’s lost all sense of Lilith and has inexplicably returned to his own form—is quickly shoved aside for him to begin a redemption arc by saving Sookie, with Jason, Andy, and Adelyn by his side to help. It’s nothing the show hasn’t done at least five times before, and better, except this time punctuated by the added contrivance of Niall bursting in from whatever faerie plane he’s on to hold Warlow down long enough for Jason to stake him out of their lives for good.

As Warlow dissolved into a puddle of goo, all I could think was: What was the point? His death was tired and completely dramatically inert, a wholly predictable end to what turned out to be a fairly half-baked arc. Not to mention, the entire season Sookie had a faerie light nuclear bomb that only works against vampires, and she doesn’t even get to use it against the one vampire who wants to own her and use her as a blood bag for the rest of eternity? Talk about bungling what could have been a nice, strong moment for Sookie.

But this finale wasn’t done, fading to black halfway through and pulling a six-month time jump via white words superimposed on a black screen. The mid-episode time jump is a brave move under normal circumstances, and at first, I was so angry about the dramatically inert beginning of the finale I embraced the time jump. That was until it became clear this time jump was less about doing something brave and more about the show backing itself into such a corner it had to do something drastic to pull back out.


Maintaining a continuous timeline over a series of several seasons without burning out is next to impossible, so True Blood’s decision to jump six months in the future isn’t surprising. What’s surprising is the decision to do it smack dab in the middle of this season finale, without presenting any real justification for it beyond “Hey, guys, wouldn’t this be neat?” There wasn’t anything that happened in the fast forward that was interesting enough on further investigation to make any of it work beyond the initial shock factor. The six-month jump was all shock factor, a way to change the dynamics of the show without doing any of the actual story or character work necessary to make those dynamics work. Sam’s the mayor? Sure! Arlene took over Merlotte’s, which is now called Bellefleur’s? You bet! Sookie and Alcide are a committed couple? Okay! Bands of sick, hungry vamps are roaming the state, feasting on small towns like Chinese buffets? If you say so!

It’s spectacle masquerading as something clever, and frankly, it made me angry. True Blood backed itself into this crazy corner where its structure is built on one continuous storyline, and while freeing the show from the suffocating nature of this narrative structure is an exciting proposition, this was an awful way to handle it. It’s essentially the equivalent of the writers waving a big white flag around this whole season and saying “We give up! We don’t know how to fix it!”


This is especially frustrating because this season was actually pretty darn good. It streamlined most of the main characters into one big story arc. It featured a generous amount of Eric being competent and getting shit done, which is when the show works the best. It even figured out a way to give Sookie something to do that wasn’t wholly awful, right up until it blew everything up in this finale.

Now the season leaves us with humans and vampires forming symbiotic relationships in order to keep the humans safe and the vampires alive, as packs of infected vamps descend upon Bon Temps like zombies on The Walking Dead. But it’s really difficult to care about an ending the show didn’t even remotely earn. True Blood has a lot of work to do next season to make these new plotlines feel lived-in, and not just a shock-value gimmick.


Stray observations:

  • Eric is not dead. Even if he was dead, I would reject it for giving the character such a lame ending and pretend he was just off being awesome somewhere else besides Bon Temps.
  • Where did Niall go once Jason and Sookie pulled him from the faerie plane? Waffle House, maybe?
  • My favorite random bit had to be the vampire lawn party. It looked like they tried to copy a J. Crew catalogue picture but translated everything just a little bit incorrectly.
  • In case we weren’t already certain Violet is horrible, she’s apparently been receiving oral sex from Jason for six straight months without any reciprocation on her part. She sounds like a peach, Stackhouse. Good luck with that.
  • Bill wrote a memoir of his time as Billith and the origins of Hep V called And God Bled. Then he peddled it on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. That was a thing that happened. (Okay, that was actually kind of awesome.)
  • So did Tara’s mom save her or just infect her with Hep V? Knowing how True Blood treats Tara, I’m betting on the latter.