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 6 YET.
“Maybe you’re ready to die. Maybe you’re bored after a thousand years. But you do not get to make that decision for me.”
As I predicted last week, it was all action in this week’s ep of True Blood, as the multifarious plots careered forward at breakneck speed. Unlike, say, Game of Thrones, which rests some plotlines in most episodes, this one managed to squeeze pretty much every one in, while showrunner Alan Ball’s script, typically, still managed not to neglect the rich characters in the mix.
Sookie had her hands full dealing with two of the plotlines this week. First, we had to deal with her expedition to find the missing Russell Edgington, along with Bill, Eric and Alcide. In the deserted hospital last week, they’d found Russell seemingly laid out on a stretcher and barely capable of movement. Again as predicted, he was faking it, and mayhem soon ensued as his werewolf henchmen erupted from every available crevice.
As I’ve remarked before, Russell is probably the show’s most effective villain, due in large part to Denis O’Hare’s full throttle performance. Returned from the grave and plenty pissed, he didn’t hold back this week with the mania. After Alcide had seen off the werewolves, some taciturn Authority soldiers turned up to retrieve Russell, Bill and Eric, and Russell was set to stand trial at Authority HQ.
Sookie had already left, which was unfortunate as her fairy magic had once again been capable of blasting Russell off his feet. As is standard in this plotline (see Marvel’s The Avengers for a recent example) the Authority’s confidence that they could hold the deranged villain was entirely misplaced. Dragged in for execution, Russell revealed his true colours (as if he’d ever been hiding them) in an enraged tirade against both the Sanguinistas and the Authority, calling them both hypocrites for their differing fundamentalist views of a holy book he regards as nonsense.
Yet again, this is interesting stuff from a religious perspective, painting both factions as irreconcilable fundamentalists whose only difference is their interpretation of the vampire Bible. As almost every major religion is rent with sectarian conflict derived from such different interpretations, you couldn’t really look at it as just an attack on Christianity per se. And yet the universe of True Blood has rarely featured any other religion (Greek gods and Celtic faeries notwithstanding), so it’s hard to see it as anything else.
It looked like Russell was poised to be a Sanguinista martyr, regardless of his own views and much to the cellbound Nora’s apparent ecstasy. And yet when Roman used his phone to activate Russell’s iStake, things went tits up in a major way. Not only did it not work, but Russell was on the hunky Authority leader in a microsecond, gorily staking him. I shall miss Christopher Meloni as Roman, but this was not at all an unexpected turn of events. Nora may indeed be the Sanguinista fanatic she seems, but I think she and her movement are going to find out that Russell is far from the easily manipulated pawn they expected!
The only question we still haven’t had answered is that of who freed him in the first place. Given that it was her responsibility to fit Russell with that iStake that mysteriously failed to function, it looks like it could be Salome. But the delight of this show is that this kind of reveal at this point is almost certainly a red herring. Or is it a double bluff, and that’s what we’re meant to think?
Still, Russell’s back to cause havoc, which can only be a good thing for the fans, and we can expect more of him next week. Unaware of his rampage, Sookie had to deal first with Alcide’s apparent, sudden revulsion to her (a nice touch, as jealous old Eric had glamored him not to touch Sookie “like that”). Understandably vexed she went off on a rant at the bar about how much of a pain in the ass the men in her life were. As if to prove it, up popped Jason, to drag her off to the fairy nightclub in search of the truth about their parents’ death.
No surprise again that Sookie found the magic gate to the club in seconds, dragging Jason in behind her. The fairies, as ever, are all deceptively good looking, but in a very artificial, photoshopped-magazine way. Given that they apparently shape themselves to the onlooker’s conception of beauty, that’s an amusing comment on society’s unreal expectations of appearances these days. Unless, of course, the show’s casting people missed the irony…
Be that as it may, I’ve never cared much for artificially gym-buffed men with curiously hairless bodies, so it was a relief for me that Sookie’s required torrent of exposition was delivered by one much more to my taste. Claude (previously played by a different actor when he helped Sookie escape Queen Mab last year) is played by cute, slender Brit Giles Matthey, who we’d previously seen so intriguing Jessica a couple of episodes ago. I hope to see more of him (as it were) as the season progresses.
Together with Hadley, he revealed that these were a rogue sect of fairies hiding both from Mab and the vampires, and that a mysterious vampire had indeed lured the Stackhouse parents to their death in a flood all those years ago, drawn by the scent of Sookie’s blood in their car. As we didn’t see the vampire’s face, this is yet more intrigue, not to mention another burden of guilt for poor old Sookie, the unluckiest woman in Bon Temps.
Arlene wasn’t faring much better though. Terry and Patrick had fled the frankly terrifying Ifrit and returned to Bon Temps, only for Terry to finally explain the whole thing, including his part in what is, basically, a war crime. Of course, Arlene leapt to the conclusion that he was off his meds, and this was another manifestation of his PTSD, but Terry was adamant about not returning to their house and putting her and the kids in danger. So maybe Sookie has competition for that ‘unluckiest woman’ title; after all, Arlene has had her first husband turn out to be a serial killer, been haunted by a baby snatching ghost and had her house burned down already since the series began!
Terry’s cousin Sheriff Andy was meanwhile on the trail of the redneck shooters who’d been hunting shapeshifters (and it turned out, other supernaturals), with Sam as his ‘dogged’ assistant. Luna’s daughter, in wolf form, had fled the attack to her grandmother’s house, and it looks like this plot at least might be put to rest now; Martha seems happy to be involved in her granddaughter’s life without wanting to take her from her mother.
In an increasingly crowded season, putting one plot at least to bed has to be a good idea. But there’s still Marcus’ old pack to deal with; Alcide knows they were the ones helping Russell, and he’s out for blood in a duel with their nominal leader. Lafayette got to discuss his dead boyfriend’s spectral head apparition with his incarcerated mother (the excellent Alfre Woodard). And Tara, taking something of a back seat this week, is still smarting at Pam’s virtual enslavement of her. While Hoyt, desperate for anyone to suck his blood, can’t be convinced that Jessica doesn’t want him any more (and it looks like he’s right). Resorting to offering his throat to a scuzzy older guy vampire, he’s rudely interrupted by the mob of shooters, who seem to know who he is…
As I said, a heck of a lot going on this week, with the action slightly crowding out the ironic humour that’s often present in the show. The characters were far from neglected, but with so much going on, they didn’t really develop very much. Still, it’s hard to carp when the show is moving with this kind of breathless, riveting pace. We’re actually only halfway through the season, so I’m guessing the show’s going to have to take a breather at some point!