SPOILER WARNING – THIS IS FROM LAST NIGHT’S US BROADCAST, AND MAJOR PLOT POINTS ARE DISCUSSED. DON’T READ AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN EPISODE 3 YET.
“Seriously Sookie, this is your plan? Pretend none of it ever happened?”
This week’s episode of True Blood continued to restlessly stir the overseasoned pot of plotlines in this year’s supernatural gumbo, with plenty of steamy Southern Gothic soap to enjoy. Bill and Eric continued to be held in the clutches of the vampire Authority, which is increasingly being revealed to be full of unscrupulous, backstabbing political operators with secret agendas. Tara is not adjusting well (to put it mildly) to being a vampire, while Sookie is discovering that burying a corpse doesn’t make all your problems go away.
That last has become a surprisingly major plot point, in a show that often treats such deaths in a fairly cavalier way. Usually, the deaths that result from Bon Temps’ supernatural hijinks are quickly dismissed, but Sookie’s shooting of Alcide’s girlfriend Debbie is plainly coming back to haunt her in a big way. After discovering Debbie’s abandoned car last week, dogged sheriff Andy Bellefleur is making a typically sloppy Bon Temps PD attempt at investigation, but the arrival of Debbie’s parents has upped the stakes a notch. To add to the worry, Sookie’s going to find keeping the death secret rather difficult, given that she’s just turned one of the major witnesses into a vampire who’s none too happy about that.
There was a lot of focus on Tara this week, as her frantic flight from chez Stackhouse has rendered any attempt at keeping her vampirism secret a moot point. She’s really not happy about her new life, and not thinking too clearly; fleeing to Sam Merlotte for sanctuary, she makes him promise not to tell Sookie where she is. She seems to have forgotten that Sookie can READ MINDS, making that somewhat pointless. Add to that the fact that Sam’s ‘resourceful’ attempt at hiding her from daylight amounts to putting her in the diner’s freezer, where anyone could walk in and discover her, and you realise that Tara really didn’t think this through. Perhaps that shotgun blast left her mind more damaged than we thought…
But such are the problems of the newborn vampire, and they’re usually the responsibility of that vampire’s Maker, as Pam found herself unable to ignore however much she wanted to. The script drew parallels with the circumstances of Pam’s own turning, in more of those gradually unfolding flashbacks to 1905 San Francisco. All credit to Kristin Bauer van Straten, she manages to make her performance as the still-human Pam distinctive from the hard-bitten vampire we know today. She’s no less cynical, but still has some idealism about being a vampire; so much so that she forces Eric to turn her, slitting her wrists and declaring, “let me walk the world with you, Mr Northman, or watch me die.”
There was much musing on the making of vampires, and the responsibility of turning one loose on the world. We got to see Bill’s Maker Lorena again, as it turned out that the killer stalking Pam’s brothel was none other than Bill Compton himself. Later, Eric laid down the law about the responsibility of making a vampire, not willing to condemn Pam to that state (or to take responsibility for it).
Pam’s story was intertwined with Tara’s, to make the point that they had more in common than Pam was willing to admit. She may be willing to ignore Sookie’s frantic pleas for help (receiving a blast of fairy magic for her callousness), but when it comes to it, she can’t ignore the vampire she made. At the end of the episode, it was with an exasperated, resigned sigh that Pam put aside her pen to go to the aid of the suicidal Tara, currently cooking merrily away on a tanning bed.
The theme continued amid the Machiavellian intrigue among the vampire Authority, still divided over whether to execute Bill and Eric or take them up on their offer of hunting down Russell Edgington. Each season of True Blood has revealed a little more about the hierarchy of vampire ‘society’; previously, we’d only seen Zeljko Ivanek as the Magister, representing a higher authority. Now, we’re seeing that Authority itself, and while their machinations are fun, I can’t help feeling that we’ve seen them before – in Blade, for a start.
Still, there’s little truly original left for vampire stories to do, so that’s one we just have to take on board. And the bickering Chancellors of the Authority are good fun, especially the commanding performance of Christopher Meloni as hunky leader and Guardian, Roman. Clad in an immaculately tailored suit, it was still obvious that he was pretty buff underneath it; it was therefore no surprise that he finally got naked for a scene with the other most interesting member of the Authority – Salome. Who, as it turns out, actually is that Salome, the one who asked Herod for John the Baptist’s head on a plate.
I said last week that the ‘vampire Bible’ might cause concern for more devout Christian viewers of the show (assuming there are any). The presence of Salome is sure to exacerbate that, as she details the real story of what went on at Herod’s court, as distinct from what is said in “the human Bible.” We’ve already had Godric claiming to have met Christ back in season two, and now here’s another two thousand year old vampire to put the cat among the religious pigeons. She’s an interesting character, wily and seductive, and as incarnated by Italian actress Valentina Cervi is certainly easy on the eye for those who like girls. Bill and Eric obviously think so, as she manages to bed each of them in turn, plainly up to something.
Which, it turns out, is to try and discover whether either really is working with the Sanguinista fundamentalist movement (based on shagging, she concludes that they aren’t). We learned more about these fanatics this week, and it’s looking like they’re going to be the major plot for the season. Their intent is to rule the world, farming humans like cattle (again, we’ve seen this before – Ultraviolet, Daybreakers, Blade again). Not surprisingly, they consider the deranged Russell Edgington a hero (“the vampire Osama Bin Laden”). It’s therefore looking extremely likely that they’re the ones who dug him up and are currently feeding him luckless passersby.
So Bill and Eric are to be sent out as bait after all. But the Authority don’t completely trust them, so they’re equipped with self, destructing, Battle Royale-style “i-Stakes”, an amusing application of modern technology shaped like a crucifix that will administer a lethal pointy bit of wood should they misbehave. As commented by the vampire techie fitting them, “there’s an app for that” – ie, if Bill and Eric don’t do what they’re told, the press of a virtual iPhone button will turn them into piles of goo. I’m betting this will be a crucial plot point in upcoming episodes…
Back in Bon Temps, there wasn’t much of Terry Bellefleur’s mysterious ex-army-buddy subplot this week, just a quick altercation with Arlene as he took off on a ‘need-to-know’ basis with Patrick. Three episodes in and we’re already finding episodes being selective about which plots they feature; a necessary factor when you’ve got this many of them to deal with. Bearing that in mind, I was surprised when yet another was introduced; the tormented Lafayette, his conscience pricked by Arlene’s contempt for turning Tara into a vampire, went to the Dark Side for a mo, his visage turning demonic as he poured bleach into the diner’s gumbo. He recovered quickly enough to pour it away, but this does not look good for his culinary career.
Terry’s cousin, Sheriff Andy, was distracted from his already lackadaisical pursuit of police work by the revelation that his butt was all over Facebook, a result of his dalliance with Holly being discovered by her white trash kids. Touchingly, this made him decide to “go steady” with her – not a result I would expect from this scenario.
Fortunately, Bon Temps’ Police Department still has the razor sharp forensic skills of Jason Stackhouse. But Jason too is distracted this week by his ongoing existential crisis about meaningless sex. Perhaps he’s been talking to Don Draper. As a store clerk memorably comments to Jessica, “God gave him a penis and a brain, but only enough blood to run one at a time”. Actually that seems a fair description of a lot of men, but to give Jason credit, he seems to be realising this. Not that it stops him revisiting his schooldays when the teacher who ‘initiated’ him into sex returns to Bon Temps. He just feels bad about it afterwards.
Bad enough to actually turn down Jessica when she arrives on his doorstep, flustered after an encounter with a pretty young man who ran off when he saw her fangs. Who is he, what is he, and why does he smell so good to her? It’s enough to make her want to sit down and chat with poor tormented Jason rather than bang his brains out, which I’d be tempted to do. Perhaps that “only enough blood” comment applies equally to me…
So, plenty more to bite on this week, with at least two new plotlines – Lafayette’s ‘dark side’ and Jessica’s mysteriously nice-smelling boy – added to the already crowded mix. As I say, there are hints of having been here before with the vampire storyline, but if it’s done well enough that needn’t matter. And the rest of the overheated supernatural melee that is everyday life in Bon Temps has plenty we haven’t seen before to keep us interested as we go.