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 7 YET.
“I have been born again. Made again, in my new Maker’s image.”
After the glut of action last week, it was back mostly to intrigue and plotting in this week’s True Blood. Hardly a surprise, as the season’s only halfway through – I really don’t think they could have maintained (and stepped up) that level of madness for the next six episodes!
Foremost in the intrigue was the ongoing backstabbing in the vampire Authority. After his deliciously feral rampage last week, Russell Edgington was contained surprisingly easily by Authority security, though not before amusingly hanging Eric from a nearby pillar. Given the sheer power Russell had displayed and his apparent madness, it seemed odd that he should be so easily overpowered. But as usual, there was a reason. As speculated last week, the whole thing had been deliberately orchestrated by Salome as a kind of palace coup. With Roman out of the way, Salome was free to let her Sanguinista beliefs all hang out. Escorted to her chamber, Bill and Eric found her luxuriating in her newfound power, along with the now freed Nora. And – surprise, surprise – a newly contrite, ‘born again’ Russell.
I was as sceptical as Bill and Eric about Russell’s claim to have turned over a new leaf, but I needn’t have been. Whatever Russell’s true intentions, the Sanguinistas’ agenda of subjugating humanity is pretty much in line with what he’s always wanted anyway. As a consequence, we got to see Denis O’Hare back to his sinister, manipulative turn as the deceptively friendly Russell, all laid-back charm and convincing Southern manners. He’s still the best villain the show’s come up with, and it’s nice to be reminded that his evil encompasses far more than just unrestrained ferocity.
Russell may or may not be a believer in the Sanguinistas’ fundamentalist religious beliefs, but he’s certainly playing along convincingly enough. As Salome assembled what was left of the Council to commit the ultimate heresy of drinking Lilith’s long-preserved blood, Dieter was the only dissenter; and for his pains, he got a lightning fast decapitation at Russell’s hands. The Authority are falling like dominoes – Roman last week, and now Dieter. I shall miss actor Christopher Heyerdahl in the part; he does this sort of thing so well that he’s pretty much typecast (see also his bloody terrifying turn as the demon Alastair in Supernatural).
After that demonstration of the rewards dissenters can expect, it was no surprise that the remaining Council members were jumping over themselves to join Salome in her ‘heresy’. Of course, Bill and Eric aren’t ‘believers’, but don’t see the harm in playing along. After all, as Eric says, “it’s just vampire blood. What could happen?”
Quite a lot, as it turns out. As the mother of all vampires, Lilith’s blood plainly has quite a kick. Hence the immediate jump cut to the whole fang gang stumbling through the party thronged streets of New Orleans, plainly in a trippy/drunken state, and eager for confrontation with the ‘”cattle” of humanity. Russell seems to have found a new soulmate in ‘gay vampire American’ Steve Newlin, who admires his Blues Brothers-style disguise.
Bill and Eric were just as affected as the rest, joining in as they terrified an impatient cab driver who dared to sound his horn at them. The cabbie got off lightly though. In a darkly comic scene, the vampires showed up to slaughter a pretty nauseating wedding party at a nearby bar, their appearance heralded by Russell suddenly joining the bride in singing ‘You Light Up My Life’. Frankly, after that I’d have been tempted to slaughter them.
And it seems the slaughter has been capable of actually summoning up Lilith from beyond the grave, as she formed herself from a pool of blood and stepped out full-frontal nude to join her subjects. It wasn’t clear whether this was real, or a hallucination brought on by her powerful blood. But Eric had a different vision, as a spectral Godric popped up to tell him that what was happening was wrong. It seems ironic that Eric, previously shown as pretty amoral, is now becoming the conscience for other vampires. But it was nice to see Allan Hyde as Godric again; being as natively Swedish as Alexander Skarsgard meant that they could carry on a fluent conversation in that language.
So, perhaps unexpectedly, Eric’s conscience may be humanity’s only hope. It’s a measure of how well done True Blood is that I really don’t mind seeing the plot of vampires trying to subjugate humanity yet again – even this show has been there before, with Russell’s plans in the third season. Strategically though, it looks a bit dodgy. After all, humanity all know about vampires now, and they outnumber them millions to one. Surely even with their powers, those are odds the vampires can’t beat? Stay tuned, I guess, and we shall see…
If the Sangunistas’ plans seemed rather familiar, so too did one of this week’s other main narratives, as Hoyt became increasingly caught up with the gang of good ol’ boys going around shooting supernaturals while wearing Obama masks. They may be a bit more amateurish, but this surprisingly diverse hate group are basically a rerun of season two’s Christian hate group (and Steve Newlin’s old outfit) the Fellowship of the Sun.
Still, the show’s having some fun with them – they got some laugh out loud dialogue as Hoyt proclaimed “I’ve felt more love and affection in this hate group than I have anywhere else”, to which their leader passionately replied, “that’s right, hate groups are about so much more than just hate!” They may be pretty dense, and the dialogue may be pretty funny, but there’s a good underlying point there about the feeling of community and shared identity that presumably holds hate groups together. Perhaps it will be developed further in later episodes.
Sam and Sheriff Andy got their fair share of this plotline too, as they continued their investigation into the shooters. So we got treated to the spectacle of Sam writhing around sniffing at the floor to track them while a deputy looked on in some surprise, and Andy paying a visit to his crusty predecessor as Sheriff, Bud Dearborne, for a bit of professional reassurance. It was nice to see the ever excellent William Sanderson back for a cameo as Bud, who was none too sympathetic at being interrupted by Andy when he had a hot tub appointment with his fancy woman in his wife’s absence!
Lafayette’s brujo demon problem also got some prominence this week, as he travelled down to see Jesus’ uncle Don Bartolo, unsurprisingly the one behind the whole thing. As nasty as ever, Bartolo promptly clobbered Lafayette, sewed his lips shut and prepared to sacrifice him to retake the ‘magic’ that Jesus had given him. I expected Lafayette to be last minute saved by Jesus’ ghost, but in the event it was Don Bartolo’s abused wife who stepped up and stabbed him from behind. Like the Master said in Doctor Who after a similar plot development, “it’s always the women”. But are Lafayette’s problems over? Somehow, I rather doubt that…
There was also time to pay quick visits to some of the other plotlines, just to keep them bubbling along. Tara and Pam got one significant scene, as Tara’s reformed alcoholic Christian mom turned up at Fangtasia to disown her while she was pole dancing. A comforting chat with Pam showed how she’s mellowed as a character, despite trying to hide it; she now thinks of herself as Tara’s real mother. It was a nicely played little exchange, though I kept being distracted by Pam’s new frizzy hairstyle – I don’t like it. Nice to know I’m paying attention to the dramatic details that really matter.
After a scene of Arlene watching her and Terry’s wedding video (presumably a new recording, as it was clear this happened during Sookie’s absence in fairyland), we got to see a quick look at the man himself as he waited resignedly for death at the hands of the fiery Ifrit. But as it turns out, the Ifrit isn’t ready to kill him or Patrick – yet. It popped up, laughed at them, and buggered off. I’m guessing they’ve made a strategic miscalculation here – the curse was that “you and all you love will burn”. I think Arlene and the kids are probably next on the charbroiling list, and Terry had better get back to Bon Temps pronto.
And finally, Jason and Sookie were dealing with the revelations from their fairy cousins. Jason, trying to reconcile his friendship with Jessica with the newfound knowledge that vampires killed his parents, ended up in an almighty fight with her at Bill’s mansion. Only in True Blood could a domestic tiff end with one of the participants being shot in the head after having tried to drink the blood of the other, with both able to come back for round two at a later date!
Sookie, meanwhile, had been told by Claude (more of Claude, please) that, being only half-fairy, her magic was finite and could be exhausted. Leaving her, basically, as normal and human as anyone else (which isn’t many people in this show). It was an interesting dilemma, summed up in a conversation with Sam – if you’re in a minority group trying to fight prejudice from ‘normals’, would it count as giving up to simply succumb to the temptation to join their number?
Given the show’s recurring subtexts, it was hard not to see this as another comment on real life outsiders like homosexuals, particularly with the myriad, usually religiously-backed, ‘ex-gay’ therapies so common in the US. Sookie maintained that even as a ‘normal’ she could continue her fight against prejudice and injustice, but even so it was disappointing to see her decision to try and exhaust her fairy magic and give up her identity. Jason was rushing off to investigate, so perhaps he’ll talk her out of it…
It would be easy to criticise the show this season for a few things – primarily, redoing plots it seems to have done before, retreading past glories by bringing back previous villains, and cramming so many plots in that it’s hard to keep up with them. But True Blood does it all with such gusto that it’s still hugely enjoyable, a mad, OTT supernatural soap whose excesses are hard not to love. There may be little here that’s new, but I’m still enjoying it immensely.