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.”
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.