True Blood: Season 5, Episode 11–Sunset

“Jason and Sookie and the inhabitants of Bon Temps are no longer our concern. They are food, nothing more.”


With the end almost in sight, the few remaining separate plot strands of True Blood’s fifth season have finally intersected, losing that rather meandering feel it’s had a lot of the time this year. With the vampire Authority’s newfound religious fervour now impacting on all walks of society, it could hardly have been otherwise. But more specifically, the only other major plot thread that had remained separate – the Bon Temps fairies and Sookie’s quest for the answers about her parents’ death – is now directly linked to the vampire plotline, as the deranged Russell Edgington is on a determined quest for some fairy blood to enable him to walk in daylight.

This was a fast-moving episode, as plot twist followed plot twist. I’m going to have to swallow my earlier scepticism about Bill’s religious conversion – it seems he really is a true believer. Pam provided something of an explanation for this, as “nesting behaviour”. Apparently when vampires live together and feed together in a nest , they lose their ‘humanity’ becoming something altogether more monstrous and cruel. The explanation, if a little convenient, was necessary, as Bill’s current behaviour seems to fly in the face of what has previously been established about his character. Then again, the Sanguinistas qualify as a cult – and cults have ways of persuading their believers. Bill’s enforced isolation in the Authority’s underground HQ, and the narcotic effects of Lilith’s blood, certainly seem reminiscent of some cults’ brainwashing techniques.

Anyway, enough of making excuses for Bill. Thankfully, Eric really was feigning his ‘blinding light on the road to Damascus’ moment, and what’s more, the vision of Godric has finally persuaded Nora that she’s on the wrong path too. Luckily for them, the Authority think they’re both true believers, enabling them to leave the underground base after Eric’s seemingly reckless murder of a senior Army General. Once out, ostensibly on a quest to clean the trail that led from that murder to the Authority, they were free to messily slaughter the Authority’s handlers/bodyguards and disappear into the night, in a scene nicely underscored with Mozart’s Requiem.

The appearance of General Cavanaugh nicely filled in some backstory gaps about the whole ‘going public’ thing that vampires have done in the True Blood universe. It seems that the Authority have been negotiating with human authorities for decades, with former head honcho Roman having given assurances directly to the president of the US about future vampire behaviour. This makes sense – for such a seismic social event as revealing the existence of supernatural beings to the human world, a fair amount of groundwork would have to be laid.

That the General now feels the need to personally visit the Authority (a pretty bad idea, as it turned out) is because the human governments know that they’re behind the bombing of the Tru Blood factories, and the resultant shift back to vampires hunting humans. And as I’d theorised previously, the humans are more than prepared for such an eventuality. Not that Cavanaugh’s threats of new weapons and using footage of Russell and Steve to turn the public against vampires did him personally much good. At first glance, Eric breaking his neck looked like a damn silly thing to do, given that it was pretty much the first shot in an official war. But then, the war was on its way anyway, and Eric’s just hastened the endgame. Plus, it gave him the aforementioned opportunity to finally slip the Authority’s clutches and work against them.

This may prove less difficult than it first seemed, as cracks are starting to appear in the unity of the Sanguinistas’ religious devotion. Not only has Russell turned heretic and fled the nest, now various different Chancellors (firstly Bill) are being plagued by visions of Lilith herself, telling them that she’s chosen each to be the one true Leader, and that he/she should consume all that is left of her blood.

This is plainly not going to end well. Bill has already beheaded one rival, and perhaps the realisation that he’s not the only one to have such visions might finally break the spell that vampire religion has him under. But it also makes one wonder why Lilith would act so counter-productively to her own revolution. We’re still not sure if the ‘visions’ of her are any more than just hallucinations induced by the narcotic effects of her powerful blood. But if they are more than that, and given that the disunity and potential exhaustion of her last remaining blood seem sure to pretty much destroy the new fundamentalist Authority, I’m betting that these ‘visions’ aren’t Lilith at all. In fact, I’m wondering if next week will see the revelation that it’s actually Godric under the skin of that bloodsoaked female form…

Meanwhile, other characters are being drawn into the Authority’s clutches, even as Eric and Nora finally break free. Sam and Luna are already in, having disguised themselves as mice to try and recover the kidnapped Emma. Unfortunately for them, just as they find her (while in their human form), Authority guards turn up and make the assumption that they’ve escaped from the larder. Sam makes the interesting choice to volunteer as Bill Compton’s lunch; perhaps he can succeed in talking some sense back into ol’ tall, dark and undead before it’s too late…

And on his way up, he bumps into Pam, being hustled into a cell for the murder of irritating goth vampire Elijah. Pam’s taken the fall for Tara here, and again we see that beneath the snarky, bitchy exterior is someone who does have loyalty to her friends – even if she won’t ever admit she has any. I’ve enjoyed the way Pam’s been given so much screen time this year, and particularly loved her double act with Tara, whose vampirisation has given her previously tired character a new lease of life. Let’s hope that next week’s finale won’t be the end of her.

Or indeed of Jason, having served as bait in a trap set by the fairies for Russell Edgington. Having evaded Jessica’s faux-attempt to vampirise him (with her sly help), he now knows the deal with the Authority, and what Russell’s planning. Unfortunately for Sookie, his revelation of the news served to prematurely cut short her meeting with the fairy elder who seems to know the truth about the mysterious ‘Warlow’.

The elder was marvellously cryptic, existing on a “different plane” due to her immense age. In practice, this meant that she constantly danced around while frequently diverting the topic of conversation to whether Sookie liked various pop acts, including Kesha, Boyz II Men and John Mellencamp. Her erratic weirdness was nicely reminiscent of characters such as Delirium from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, although weird and cryptic beings of supernatural power are hardly a new idea.

Nevertheless, she was fun, so it’s a shame that Russell, having glamoured Jason into taking him and Steve to the fairy field, despatched her so quickly. Or did he? I wonder if it’s all part of her plan, and her apparent death will serve some suitably cryptic purpose of which Sookie and the other fairies are not yet aware.

They’d better hope so, because Russell, chock full of fairy blood, can now see their refuge and it’s a fair bet that he can get in too. Denis O’Hare’s performance as Russell this week was as marvellously full-throated OTT as ever – an actor who’s capable of subtlety elsewhere, he’s sensibly discarded it for the grand guignol excesses of this show. But having served as major villain twice over now, it would seems sensible for him to be properly killed off next week, lest the show become repetitive in its choice of opponents as so many long-running comic series do.

This penultimate episode had the feeling of a chess match, as the showrunner moved the various pieces into the necessary places for next week’s endgame. For me, that’s a better choice than last year, when all the plots seemed concluded in the penultimate episode and the finale served as a kind of epilogue. I’m expecting some serious action next week, as creator Alan Ball finally bows out as showrunner – let’s hope he goes out on a high.

True Blood: Season 5, Episode 9–Everybody Wants To Rule the World

“What if they’re not crazy? What if God is a vampire?”


Another packed episode of True Blood this week, with the religious-crazed vampire Authority still sequestered underground, while Sookie’s continued quest for her parents’ killer brought her into collision with the police – and shapeshifter – search for the Obama-masked hate group killing supernaturals. Elsewhere, Terry and Patrick wrestled with the requirement to kill each other to lift the Iraqi fire demon curse, and the werewolf pack politics intersected with the vampire plot as Russell showed up to demand fealty from the newly official pack leader.

That’s a lot to be going on by anyone’s standards. It’s notable that, unlike previous seasons, this year hasn’t focused on one or two main plotlines, but given them all pretty much equal weighting. In terms of importance, the vampire fundamentalists’ plan to, effectively, rule the world seems dominant, but actually it’s given no more screen time than any of the other multifarious subplots going on. This does give each episode a rich mixture of complex goings-on, but can also seem like a lack of focus.

Thankfully, even in the melee of plotlines, True Blood never neglects the aspect that makes it good drama as well as horror/soap – the vividly-drawn and charismatically acted characters. Pretty much the entire ensemble got a chance to shine again this week, as the plots began to collide and coalesce into something with a little more focus.

Hence, the newly Sanguinista Authority’s plans (from an idea by Bill Compton) to destroy the world’s producers of Tru Blood, leaving vampires with no alternative to feeding on humans, were impacting Pam and Tara’s stewardship of Fangtasia in Eric’s absence. This gave Kristin Bauer van Straten and Rutina Wesley some spiky exchanges as they mulled over what would happen if the synthetic blood ran out. Pam and Tara have, unexpectedly, been a great double act this year – effectively, they’re two of the show’s bitchiest, most-sharp-tongued characters, and they work really well together. And it’s nice to see that their snarky sniping at each other is underpinned by an unwilling liking and respect, which they’ll need now that the Authority have replaced Eric as area Sheriff with a human-guzzling, arrogant, goth-wannabe.

The Authority themselves were still locked in their underground bunker (shades of Adolf Hitler?), as their plans unfolded outside. They all seem to be in a state of tranced-out religious bliss as the Tru Blood factories burn merrily away on the news – all except Eric Northman, who’s champing at the bit to get out, but can’t without some of Salome’s blood to trip the lock. It’s an interesting twist to make the usually aloof, uncaring Eric into humanity’s sole hope for peace, but the scripts have been playing it well. Eric’s always been a rebel, but now that rebellious streak just happens to coincide with humanity’s interests.

He’s still the same old Eric, with his contempt for everyone except the few he occasionally admits to caring about. Hence an emotionally charged attempt to ‘rescue’ Nora, who’s now obviously a True Believer. Eric admits that “I want to believe” – and perhaps he really does, but it’s not in his nature. Alexander Skarsgard was as brilliant as ever as the deeply repressed Viking vampire – and still very easy on the eye. And tall. Very, very tall…

Unfortunately for him, it looks like Bill not only wants to believe but actually does. I’d thought his suggestion of burning the Tru Blood factories last week must be some sort of feint, but no – when it comes down to it, he’s sold Eric out as a heretic. Salome, keen for another bookmark in history after demanding the head of John the Baptist, will presumably be sharpening her blades again.

Eric might not be able to get out, but it seems the newly-infatuated Russell Edgington and Steve Newlin face no such problems. Russell’s taking his new feller to visit his ‘pets’ – the werewolves who’ve served him so well for so long. Under newly-affirmed, V-addicted pack leader JD, they seem prepared to roll over and take this lowly position – all except crusty old Martha, who seems to be the last bastion of wolf decency. This gave Denis O’Hare another chance to show how Russell can turn in an instant from humorous geniality to terrifying monster, as he grabbed her currently wolf-shaped daughter to be a hostage to fortune.

So, the Sanguinista plot has already intersected with Pam and Tara at Fangtasia, and now with the wolves. Perhaps Alcide will ride to their rescue, but he’s sloped off to visit his bitter old dad (a great turn from former T-1000 and X Files investigator Robert Patrick). In the mean time, Russell’s ‘kidnap’ of wolf-Emma will presumably also drag Sam and Luna into the fray, though Luna’s problems of late seem to have made her forget she has a daughter to worry about.

Luna seems to have suffered little ill effect from her involuntary skin walking as Sam last week, and the pair of them are yet again trailing the bloodhounds of Bon Temps’ Police Department to find the leaders of the Obama-masked lynch mob doing the rounds. Andy Bellefleur may be no great genius, but as a man of the South, he knows instantly what it means that the Obamas call their leader “dragon” – they’re trying to be a new version of the good ol’ Ku Klux Klan.

But who could the dragon be? After a bit of ‘enhanced interrogation’ of their only captive (ie beating the crap out of him), Andy and the faithful Officer Stackhouse figure it out by far easier means – the Obamas’ website has a video clip in which one of the masked men has a very familiar pair of cowboy boots. Yep, it’s none other than former sheriff Bud Dearborne. This was less of a surprise than it could have been, after William Sanderson’s brief appearance a couple of weeks ago, but the twist was that it was actually Bud’s fancy woman, the inaptly named ‘Sweetie’, who was running the group.

And here, yet another plotline intersected, as Sweetie and Bud not only have Hoyt tied up and drugged in their pig barn, but also Sookie Stackhouse, who’d been visiting Bud to find out what he knew about her parents’ death. Not much,as it turned out, but her mind-reading ability and fairy thunderbolts marked her out as yet another target for the Obamas. Fortunately for her – and Hoyt – two of the pigs turn out to be Sam and Luna. Again, not much of a surprise,and with the arrival of the cops, it looks like this plotline’s over for now. Just as well, as after making some interesting allusions earlier, it did seem to have run out of steam somewhat. The irony, of course, is that hatemongering Sweetie actually has a point – the vampires really are trying to take over the world.

Another plot came to an end as Terry cornered Patrick, who’d kidnapped Arlene as bait. It’s a horrible dilemma – could you kill your old buddy to save your family? And yet Patrick had been shown to be pretty contemptible in the flashbacks, being the principal instigator of the war crime that Terry was complicit in. Nevertheless, it still felt a bit shocking that Terry actually went through with it, shooting his former comrade in the head just as he had with the Iraqi woman who started the whole thing. Fortunately for Terry and Arlene, she showed up as a ghost and had the Ifrit clean up the body – looks like death in Bon Temps is getting back to its old, consequence-free status!

So, we’ve now seen the conclusion of the Ifrit storyline, along with (apparently) the end of the Obamas, to go along with the winding up of the Lafayette-is-a-brujo-demon plot and the apparent forgetting of Sookie’s murder of Debbie van Pelt. The Sanguinista storyline is intersecting with that of Russell, and the werewolf pack, and Fangtasia, with only the fairies and the vampire murderer of the Stackhouse parents till unconnected with the rest of it. With only three episodes to go, it seems that the show is (finally) cleaning narrative house and gaining a sense of focus. Not that it’s been anything less than entertaining throughout, but we’re getting into the endgame now, and hopefully things will build to a climax without an entire episode of ‘epilogue’ like the one we had last year after the main plot was over.

True Blood: Season 5, Episode 1–Turn! Turn! Turn!


“We are done with all this supernatural shit!”


Rejoice, for True Blood is back! Yes, I know there’s a glut of vampires infesting our TVs these days, but this overripe high camp gothic treat is one of the finest. I know many fans felt that its previous, fourth season had jumped the shark somewhat. The addition of ‘dark fairies’ felt like one supernatural creature too far in a show that already features vampires, werewolves, ghosts, witches, maenads, shapeshifters and werepanthers. And some felt that reincarnated witch Antonia and her possessee, failed modern witch Marnie, lacked the ‘bite’ of season three’s uber bad guy, deranged vampire king Russell Edgington.

But I enjoyed season four personally. It did take a while to get going – this show’s seasons usually do. But once it did, I thought it worked at what True Blood does best – massively overdramatic, debauched OTT tales of the supernatural, liberally drenched with gore and sex. This is a show that doesn’t know the meaning of the word restraint, and last year gave us some great storylines, including an amnesiac Eric Northman falling for Sookie, Lafayette killing his boyfriend while possessed, and of course Antonia/Marnie’s threat of a vampire Holocaust.

In its normal full throttle style, the show ended its fourth season with a veritable orgy of cliffhangers, and this premiere of season five has its work cut out in addressing them all. The result is an episode that entertains but never really thrills, satisfies rather than grabs you by the throat as some season premieres strive to do. But then, True Blood premieres are usually like that; stuffed so full of new plotlines, creatures and tensions that it takes several episodes for it to settle down into a coherent story. In that, this year’s season opener is no different.

It starts not just where we left off last time, but a little before, as we see again the climactic shooting of Sookie’s best friend Tara, this time with other perspectives thrown in. Bill and Eric are busy cleaning up the mess left behind by their assassination of vampire Authority PR queen Nan Flanagan; as Bill chats on the phone to his vampire ‘daughter’ Jessica, Eric is comically doing a hyper-fast Superman turn behind him, mopping up the blood and slime left from Nan’s long overdue demise. Both sense trouble over at Sookie’s, but since they’ve both just had their advances rebuffed, they do nothing about it. “Fuck Sookie,” is Eric’s growled comment; can we hear denial, boys and girls?

We also get to hear the shooting from Lafayette’s perspective. As Tara’s brother, and already wracked with guilt for having stabbed his boyfriend Jesus while possessed, Lafayette is not having a good time this year, and it’s only five minutes in. No surprise then that when Eric’s marvellously bitchy paramour Pam turns up looking for him, it’s a tearful Lafayette who begs her to turn Tara into a vampire rather than let her die.

Elsewhere, Jason Stackhouse had just opened the door to a foe from two seasons ago, anti-vampire fundamentalist minister Rev Steve Newlin – who’s turned into a vampire himself! Shapeshifter Sam had found himself surrounded by the vengeance-hungry werewolf pack of nasty old Marcus Bozeman, killed by the hunky Alcide Herveaux, whose trashy girlfriend Debbie had been the one to shoot Tara, while aiming for Sookie, then ended up shot herself – by Sookie. A mysterious army buddy of Terry Bellefleur had turned up after dire warnings from the ghost of season one’s serial killer Rene. The enigmatic vampire Authority have it in for Bill and Eric, hence their staking of Nan who’d been sent to deliver them to the true death. Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough, somebody’s only gone and dug up the silver-restrained, concrete-encased Russell Edgington. Got all that?

As you can imagine, it’s a tall order to try and deal with so much convoluted, overheated supernatural soap in one episode and still set up new plotlines for the upcoming season, but this has a go. It mostly succeeds, but has its hands too full to truly grab you. And I always think it’s a bit of a warning sign when a show starts to trade in on its own past glories by bringing back fan favourites of yesteryear – counting Rene’s ghost from the season finale, that’s three major Big Bads from previous seasons hanging around Bon Temps now. Perhaps they’ll all have to share a lair.

And with all that going on, the episode still finds time to introduce a few new characters, who look like they’re going to be important. Bill and Eric blow their way out of the Authority car trunk, only to discover that the Authority representative (Lucy Griffiths, Maid Marian out of Robin Hood) is on their side. And she’s someone Eric knows well enough to fall straight into a passionate kiss – his sister! Don’t worry, it’s not shades of the disturbing relationship between Luke and Leia; she’s only his sister in the sense that both were turned by Godric. That’s all right then, Eric can get on with shagging her wildly in a cargo container. Which is fine by me, as any excuse for Alexander Skarsgard to get his clothes off is always good.

Ryan Kwanten too got naked – in fact he started out that way, peering nervously round his door at the grinning vampire-Steve. It was one of the funnier scenes as Steve glamoured his way in, then confessed to a tied-up Jason that he’d always loved him (surprising absolutely nobody). Jason, not usually the smartest cookie, actually dealt with that quite sensitively – he’s flattered, but… Unfortunately, the “just friends” gambit doesn’t usually work, particularly with a lovelorn Christian vampire who’s just come out of the closet. Lucky for Jason, he’s still getting it on with Jessica (much to Hoyt’s displeasure), and she turns up in the nick of time to fend off the less experienced vampire. Then disrobes to reveal some sexy undies to the (still naked) Jason. Yep, True Blood is still that kind of show.

Sookie, meanwhile, found herself with corpses to dispose of – Tara is duly buried to await the results of Pam’s vampirising, but Alcide’s girlfriend Debbie is still cluttering up the kitchen. You’d think the logical thing to do would be to let the cops deal with it – open and shut case of self defence, eh? But Sookie, ever honest, can’t help confessing that she killed Debbie not because she had to, but because she wanted to. Time to get out the shovels again then.

And there’s still the corpse of Lafayette’s boyfriend Jesus to deal with, last seen tied to a chair in Lafayette’s living room. But when they get there, his corpse (and the chair) have mysteriously vanished. Has he, like his namesake, risen again? In this show, I wouldn’t be at all surprised – death isn’t usually a bar to your character reappearing. It also means there’s no need to worry the police about that corpse either.

Which is lucky, because right now it seems like Jason Stackhouse is the brains of Bon Temps’ police department, which is saying something. Sheriff Andy Bellefleur, now over his V addiction, is discovered sleeping with witchy waitress Holly – by her two teenage sons armed with guns, no less. As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, he’s prone to corruption by the shifty local judge, who wants his son’s speeding ticket “forgotten about”. I’d be seriously worried if I ever had to depend on the Bon Temps police department for any actual law enforcement.

After an awkward visit with Sookie (in which she almost mentions killing his girlfriend but thinks better of it), Alcide was off to stop Sam taking the rap for killing werewolf pack leader Marcus. Basically, Sam and Alcide seem to be having a competition as to which can be the more noble and self-sacrificing. It helps that they’re both pretty easy on the eye; I wouldn’t normally go for one as buff as Alcide’s Joe Manganiello, but he’s got something. And Sam’s always been hot, in a kind of unreconstructed, gentleman cowboy way.

There’s weird stuff going on at the house of Terry Bellefleur and Arlene (well, when isn’t there?) For reasons, presumably, of loyalty to a fellow marine, Terry’s let creepy fellow Iraq vet Patrick stay as a house guest. But Patrick seems oddly interested in talk of their recent fire, having noticed that several of their old platoon buddies have died in similar fires.

Terry, the only man who can make post traumatic stress disorder genuinely funny, tries to tell him that this fire was nothing to worry about – it was just caused by a ghost who turned out to be ok after all when she was listened to. Even so, it looks like someone’s offing members of Terry and Patrick’s old unit. Could one of them be next? Could one of them (well, Patrick, probably) actually be behind it? There’s at least one new plotline to be going on with…

There’s shenanigans aplenty with Marcus’ old pack too – looks like Alcide might end up pack leader by default. Which doesn’t please Marcus’ mother, who promptly turns into a wolf and starts eating her dead son’s intestines. Like I say, that kind of show. Bill and Eric seem not to have escaped the Authority after all (luckily for Eric, who would have struggled with the alias ‘Ike Applebaum’). And lastly, where is Russell Edgington? Everyone’s pretty worried by his disappearance, but he’s nowhere to be seen – yet. It looks like he’s being kept behind closed doors by an unidentified somebody, and occasionally fed (cue blood flying all over a door window).

Plenty to chew on then – in fact, maybe more than you can chew if you were lumbered with writing the script for this and trying to cram all that in. Still, it was entertaining enough, in its usual madly over the top way, and filled with the requisite amounts of eye candy (whichever gender you like), gore and overheated Gothic Southern dialogue. I must admit, I’m a little trepidatious about the show repeating itself if Russell is again going to be the Big Bad; it feels like when Being Human brought back similar king vampire Herrick after a season’s absence. But Being Human cleverly subverted it by having him acting (initially) like a new ‘man’. With what seems to be a feral Russell in the thrall of someone as yet unknown, he may not be this year’s Big Bad after all. Like I say, True Blood has always started in a fever of twisting storylines, but usually comes into focus by about episode three or four. On the (still fun) evidence we had here, it’s business as usual.