True Blood: Season 5, Episode 4–We’ll Meet Again

SPOILER WARNING – THIS IS FROM LAST SUNDAY’S US BROADCAST, AND MAJOR PLOT POINTS ARE DISCUSSED. DON’T READ AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN EPISODE 4 YET.

“Oh yeah baby, you survive. You always do. But goddam, do you leave a trail of bodies behind. You know what, you the fuckin’ angel of death.”

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This week, True Blood was mainly beating Sookie Stackhouse with a big guilt stick.

I mean sure, there was as usual plenty going on. But more than usual, Sookie was being dragged into it to face the consequences of her actions. Consequences, as she was reminded by Lafayette, Tara, everyone in Merlotte’s (via their thoughts) and finally herself, that usually leave a lot of people dead.

The biggest problem (ie arrest and conviction) about Sookie’s ‘murder’ of vengeful, V-addicted werewolf Debbie may actually have gone away, thanks to the selfless actions of her friends. Alcide came clean with Debbie’s parents that she was dead, but then lied and blamed it on the now equally dead Marcus Bozeman. Having overheard Sookie’s tearful confession to her brother, ‘ace cop’ Jason Stackhouse of the Bon Temps PD, helpful vampire Jessica contrived to glamour Sheriff Andy into forgetting all about the case.

Still, even if the matter is all cleaned up for everyone else (and that’s by no means certain), it isn’t for Sookie. She’s always been portrayed as an oasis of almost impossible goodness in the steaming pit of iniquity that is Bon Temps, but she can’t escape the fact that, however good her intentions, they always leave a trail of corpses in their wake. But Sookie is basically a nice person, so this realisation is weighing heavy on her conscience.

It doesn’t help that these days, when Lafayette gets pissed off, he does a Hulk-like transformation into some kind of evil Brujeria-style demon. And since it’s Sookie he’s pissed at, he takes it out on her elderly Honda Civic, bewitching it to accelerate unstoppably to speeds that must have been magical – a 1980s Civic couldn’t hope to go that fast without supernatural intervention. Sookie has the presence of mind to jump out, but the Civic gets wrapped around a phone pole – yet another of the show’s major characters that’s now met its maker (Soichiro Honda, presumably).

By this point, the viewer couldn’t help but sympathise with Sookie when she took refuge in the only course of action left – getting roaringly drunk on every bottle of spirits left in her house. Ironic, really, since it was largely ‘spirits’ that caused so many of her problems. But even in guilt-driven drunkenness, Anna Paquin maintained that perky optimism that defines Sookie as a character – perhaps it’s her fairy ancestry. Where most of us might revel in self-pity, Sookie found herself entwined in the understanding arms of the hunky Alcide (finally!), who’d popped round to tell her she was off the hook with Debbie’s parents. But whether it’s entanglement with the law or her own tortured conscience, I doubt we’ve seen the last of this theme about the consequences of Sookie’s actions.

The vampires too were faced with consequences from every angle. Pam had to face up to her responsibility as a Maker by commanding Tara not to destroy herself, while Eric, trying to find a lead on the missing Russell Edgington, faced up to his own responsibility as the Maker of Pam herself. Since only four people knew about Russell’s location, and Pam was one of them, Eric had to mercilessly interrogate her, leading to some all too real tears of betrayal on his progeny’s part.

Having already been dragged unwillingly into caring about Tara, that was plainly a bit much for her to cope with. Weeping tears of blood, it was actually kind of tear jerking when Pam begged Eric to release her from his command. Ultimately he did, but out of his own compassion – he doesn’t want her caught up in what’s to follow (“either Russell will have our heads or the Authority will”). Alexander Skarsgard was back to his icy, commanding demeanour but with hints of some compassion beneath, while Kristin Bauer van Straten brilliantly conveyed the depth of feeling she has under her bitchy facade, at least where her Maker’s concerned.

Back at Authority HQ, the political wrangling and backstabbing was carrying on rather excitingly. They’re a shifty bunch, the Chancellors of the Authority; keen on coexistence they may be, but I wouldn’t trust a one of them. Neither, it seems, does the Guardian who leads them, joining with Salome to browbeat the captive Nora into naming her apparent collaborators.

It still seems unconvincing to me that Nora is a mole for the Sanguinista movement, but if she’s not, it’s a role she’s playing very believably. It would be a bit of a waste of a good actress like Lucy Griffiths if spitting curses in a cell was all she got to do, so I’ve a feeling there’s more to this than there seems. And while we didn’t see it, she did lead Roman and Salome to another traitor – Drew, representing the stock-since-Anne-Rice vampire child.

Jacob Hopkins carried himself rather well in the part, exuding the necessarily unnerving adult confidence in a child’s body, so it felt like rather a shame when Roman staked him with the Authority’s Special Stake – whittled from the branch where Judas hanged himself, and tipped with silver cast from the thirty pieces he earned for his betrayal. The show’s sailing satisfyingly close to the wind on its religious overtones this year. Not only have we had the Vampire Bible and Salome explaining the truth of her story in the regular one, this week we had Dieter’s comment on the vampires’ holy text: “It’s just a book! I know the guy who wrote it and he was high the whole time!” A cheap shot maybe, but I smirked.

Again, these two plots took up the lion’s share of the episode, making me think that they’re going to be the dominant ones this year. But there was room for other subplots too. Terry and Patrick were off in South Dakota looking for their army buddy who might be setting all those fires, leading to another Iraq flashback that (perhaps) explained what it’s all to do with. Looks like Terry’s unit, defiling a mosque while stoned, half-assedly instigated a massacre of innocent civilians. No wonder he’s been so traumatised. Surprising though to see such a trenchant critique of such a recent war in a show like True Blood, where political allusions are usually oblique at best. Terry and Patrick found their old comrade in an underground bunker lined with murals of burning buildings – but I’m still not convinced he’s the man responsible.

And we found out about the mysterious young man who smelled so good to Jessica last week, in a pretty unexpected way. Sheriff Andy and the loyal Jason were invited to a debauched secret club night by the local judge who they’d helped out by ripping up his son’s speeding ticket. Suspicions were aroused when the busty beauties conveying them to the club insisted they be blindfolded, then hardened into certainty when they were thrust through a mystical invisible gateway to a party full of beautiful people dancing around semi-clad. Yes, the fairies are back!

This may not go down too well with some of the show’s fans, who found the inclusion of the fair folk in last year’s season a bit much to stomach. But I like the way True Blood’s fairies are shown in a very old school way, as tricksy, deceptive creatures to be trusted as little as the vampires they’re hiding from.

That they are hiding was confirmed in an infodump from Sookie and Jason’s cousin Hadley, last seen dejectedly giving blood to Louisiana’s now deceased queen vampire Sophie-Anne. At that point, she was dropping hints to Sookie that she knew just what she was; now she’s hanging out with the fairies for real, that’s pretty much confirmed. She assumes Jason’s come to hide too (which makes you wonder whether he too has some fairy blood, being Sookie’s brother and all), then drops some very heavy hints that their parents were actually killed by vampires, not a flood as everyone previously thought. This led to, predictably, a ruckus that involved Jason and Sheriff Andy being bodily thrown out of the invisible gateway, with two angry fairies giving them the old energy blast from the hands…

So, the plot thickens – but we can now be pretty sure that the main focus is going to be on the potential vampire sectarian conflict, and on Sookie’s growing guilt about her actions. How will the fairies fit into this? Despite their unpopularity last year, they didn’t actually feature all that much, but this year I have the feeling that they’re going to e quite heavily intertwined through the other plots. As, pretty much, an ongoing supernatural soap opera, True Blood has an enviable consistency of quality in its episodes (though not always brilliant) which means it’s easier to critique whole seasons than individual episodes. On the basis of what we’ve seen so far though, I’m not disappointed.

True Blood: Season 5, Episode 3–Whatever I Am, You Made Me

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?”

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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.

True Blood: Season 5, Episode 2–Authority Always Wins

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 2 YET.

“..as the beetle nourishes the lark, so shall human nourish vampire.”

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As it’s still only episode 2, the ingredients of the torrid Louisiana gumbo that is True Blood season 5 are still stirring restlessly in the pot without any clear direction. Having set out the season’s stall in last week’s rather frenetic premiere, this week’s was allowed to simmer slowly as the various plots marinaded in their juices. The result was an episode that felt a little deeper than last week’s even if it moved more slowly, but still managed to address the mass of convoluted plots we’d already established.

First and foremost was resolving last week’s cliffhanger, as the enraged, bestial vampire-Tara burst from the ground lunging instantly for Sookie’s throat. This was not entirely unexpected. We’ve already seen that a newborn vampire always wakes hungry, and is totally lacking in self-control, and this case had the added complication, as Pam pointed out last week, that Tara’s gunshot wound had removed a sizeable chunk of her head. Even with vampire healing powers, would she be too far gone to even remember who she was?

The script played around with us there, as every time the ep returned to the increasingly desperate Sookie and Lafayette, Tara was still unspeaking and feral. Pam was no help; as far as she was concerned, she’d held up her end of the bargain turning Tara in the first place. “But you’re her maker,” pleaded Sookie, to be met with the expected sardonic shrug and acid tongue from Pam: “and I made her. I’ve done my part.”

Pam’s one of my favourite characters, with her dry bitchiness and reliably sharp tongue. I was glad that Kristin Bauer got promoted to the main cast a couple of seasons ago, but Pam’s still not been given any real history beyond occasional hints. We know Eric’s her maker, and she’s unswervingly devoted to him (in one of her rare examples of actual emotion that isn’t bitchiness).

But it looks like we’re going to learn a bit more this year, as this week showed a few flashbacks to Pam’s pre-vampire life in 1905 San Francisco, as a brothel madam plagued by a serial killer. Said serial killer was swiftly dispatched by Eric as soon as he got his hands on Pam (and didn’t Alexander Skarsgard look great in top hat and tails?), after which Eric high speed vamped it out of there with Pam looking lustfully after her mysterious saviour. The flashbacks didn’t go as far as showing her being turned, so I’m betting we’ll be seeing more of these as the season progresses.

Pam only turned Tara to gain Sookie’s help in finding the absent Eric; quite apart from her unrequited love, they’ve got a bar to run. But Eric and Bill were ‘safely’ in the arms of the Authority, and it was this plotline that the episode seemed to spend the most time on. It may be that this will become the main plotline for the season; but it’s still too early to really tell, on past experience.

Authority HQ was nicely realised as a grandiose (underground) office facility, complete with modern-style reception facilities and holding cells that looked suspiciously like redressed sets from last year, in which identical cells were to be found under Bill Compton’s house. Still, I suppose there’s probably a standard design for cells that will hold incredibly strong, near invulnerable supernatural creatures, so I can’t hold the similarity too much against the show.

What the cells also have are nifty vamp torture devices, in the form of UV lights in the roof, which explains the horrific burn scars on Bill, Eric and Nora’s cellmate, a wretched vamp with an insatiable desire to eat babies. In fact, the Authority seem to be dab hands at torturing other vampires, though I guess they’ve had plenty of centuries to refine their methods. Bill and Eric discovered another of these as they were interrogated; IV lines that injected silver solution into their veins. This seemed a bit extreme – since vampires are basically allergic to silver, and can’t metabolise it, this seemed likely to actually kill them.

Still, internal logic is best ignored in a show like True Blood, so I got on with finding out what the Authority were so pissed about. Turns out to be quite a lot. Not only are they rather unhappy about their PR spokeswoman having been staked by one of their captives, they’re also none too keen that one of their own was helping said captives to escape. On top of that, they’re pretty fanatical that their attempts to integrate with human society should succeed, and worried that a fundamentalist sect determined to interpret the ‘Vampire Bible’ literally could derail the whole thing.

This was pretty much a mountain of exposition as Bill discussed this new aspect of vampire society with his deceptively genial inquisitor Dieter. But the script kept it lively, cutting from Bill’s interrogation to Eric’s, and revealing relevant info in a drip feed (while drip feeding silver into our harried heroes’ veins). This ‘Vampire Bible’ (that’s not going to go down well in more Christian viewing areas) predates both Old and New Testaments, and claims that God created the vampire in his own image, then provided humans as food. They even have their own Adam figure, and tellingly, it’s female – Lilith (in our own Bible, the name for a demon in Hebrew mythology).

The Authority seem convinced that Bill and/or Eric know something about the fundamentalists who want to screw up the whole ‘mainstreaming’ process. Which they don’t. Well, unless they do, and it’s going to be retconned in; this is the first we humble viewers have heard of this ‘Sanguinista’ cult.

The Authority are also rather pissed off at Bill and Eric’s general disobedience and untrustworthiness. This suggests an almost complete lack of self awareness, as the show has established that these are some of the defining traits of vampires -  even Nan Flanagan was trying to recruit Bill and Eric to a revolution when they staked her. But still, you can see their point. Bill and Eric have defied orders from everyone at pretty much every turn, sometimes, very very stupidly.

The prime example of which was in not actually killing Russell Edgington – that’s bloody stupid by any measure. Have Bill and Eric never seen the show they’re in? Still, fortunately for them, it gave them a handy bargaining chip with the vengeful (and very angry) Authority council. Russell’s going to be coming for Bill and Eric; if the council want him stopped, they’d better keep their bait alive.

As I said, this was quite an infodump, so it was no wonder the episode had to focus on this plot strand particularly. It looks like religion – and religious sectarianism – may be shaping up to be one of the main themes this year. The script found time to show that from other angles too, as we found that the lovelorn Steve Newlin had ‘come out of the coffin’ to pretty much replace Nan Flanagan as vampire spokesperson on national TV. It’s a good strategy; what could reconcile religious vamp-haters better than a converted Christian?

Amusingly though, Steve may be out of the coffin but he’s certainly not out of the closet, at least as far as TV is concerned. Asked about his ‘significant other’, he referred to a ‘she’. The show may have been making a bit of a point here – middle America is starting to accept vampires, but gays are still a step too far in the True Blood universe!

That’s unfortunate for Steve, since he’s still absolutely fixated on the undoubted physical charms of the none-too-bright Jason Stackhouse. As he gatecrashed Jessica’s keg party and actually attempted to buy Jason from her, it became clear that once again, Steve’s going to be the more comic adversary this year.

With the focus this week mainly on the vamp-Tara and Authority plotlines, the other subplots got little more than a cursory glance, but each had its own little moment. Jason, still (disturbingly) the sharpest mind on the Bon Temps PD, was advising Sheriff Andy on his sex life, when his own came crashing back to haunt him. A teenage boy gave him an almighty thump because Jason’s wayward pecker had caused the boy’s parents to split up (“Is there any woman in this town you haven’t slept with?” asked the exasperated Andy). This caused Jason, ever the sensitive soul, to reflect on the damage he’d done, and try to mend fences with former best bud Hoyt. It was to no avail, but at least led to the comic moment of Hoyt’s dragon of a mom thanking Jason for splitting up her son and “that red-haired slut”.

Bon Temps’ other redhead, Arlene, was getting increasingly worried about Terry, who’s taken to seeing Rambo-style flashbacks of Iraq and making doomy pronouncements in his sleep: “We’re all gonna die. It’s coming for us.” This led to a chat with ex-platoon buddy Patrick, but Terry himself turned up before Patrick could spill the beans as to what it’s all about. But Terry himself did spill some beans – the whereabouts of their former comrade who might be setting those fires. Now what’s the betting that it’s actually Patrick who’s been doing that, and Terry’s just given him the location of his next victim? D’oh!

Elsewhere, there’s shenanigans with Marcus’ old werewolf pack. Alcide, defying wolf law, isn’t going to take over the pack. This is probably just as well, as they all seem to want to kill him. At least Sam’s off the hook, but he and Luna have to contend with Marcus’ mom wanting visitation rights for her grandchild, who given her mixed parentage, could just as easily be a werewolf or a shapeshifter. Comic cliffhanger number one came as Luna discovered which; bursting into her daughter’s bedroom, she found a cute little wolf pup in a nightdress. Awww…

OK, that’s hardly too worrying, but the other cliffhangers might be. After toying with us all episode, Tara finally revealed that her mind’s still there after all. Unfortunately. Because her best friend and her cousin have just turned her into the thing she hates most, and her first words to them are “I’ll never forgive you both”. To add injury to insult, she can’t even storm out of chez Stackhouse without being sprayed with liquid silver. I can’t see that helping her get over it.

Meanwhile, the camera panned across a pile of gruesomely dismembered bodies to finally show us Russell Edgington. He’s not looking too good; covered in nasty looking, chain-shaped scars from the silver used to restrain him, he can barely move. But somebody dug him up, and is plainly throwing victims at him – I wonder, could it be these Sanguinista cultists we’ve been hearing so much about?

Week two then, and the gumbo that is True Blood still simmers in search of this year’s true flavour. Traditionally, each season has started in a mess of mutifarious, overheated plotlines, before settling on one (or sometimes two, but no more) as the main ones on which to focus. Which ones these are are rarely clear so early in the season, and again, this year is no exception. But there’s still plenty to enjoy here, in the morass of simmering supernatural excesses. And I note with approval that Denis O’ Hare is in the opening credits – even if Russell isn’t the main Big Bad this year, it was his extraordinary performance that made the character so memorable, and I’m glad he’s back.