“One of the worst things about being immortal is watching this same scenario happen over and over.”
Well, that was… interesting. As season finales go, the end of this year’s True Blood felt like a mix of good, bad and indifferent, in an episode that had a lot of entertainment but seemed rather lacking in a balanced dramatic structure. Sure, there was plenty of excitement, but it was unevenly punctuated by lengthy humorous scenes that, while good in themselves, felt like they’d strayed in from another episode where the resolution of the plot wasn’t so urgent.
Not that the (main) plot was resolved, which is something new for this show. True Blood has always ended its seasons on cliffhangers, but they usually presage an entirely new plot for the next year, after the current year’s main plot has been nicely tied up. This time, we got an excellent cliffhanger with Bill’s apparent transformation into a malevolent vampire god – but as a result, the whole running plot about the Authority’s takeover by the Sanguinista cult was never properly concluded.
And the episode seemed to somewhat abandon the seemingly impending civil war between vampires and humans that would logically have been provoked by Eric’s murder of General Cavanaugh last week. True, there was some lip service paid to this, with Sookie’s remark about the current climate of fear towards vampires, along with the Generals’ threatened release of footage of Russell and Steve killing 22 frat boys. But that was about it, and all hell singularly failed to break loose in the way I’d been rather expecting/hoping for.
It was far from the only plot thread that seemed to have been forgotten about almost entirely, though at least it had the excuse that it will presumably be resolved next season. Other things were rather harder to forgive even with this as a potential excuse. Sookie and Jason have spent half the season agonising over the deaths of their parents at the hands of the mysterious ‘Warlow’, and it would have seemed logical to have at least some payoff about this in the season finale. But no, their investigation was abandoned so entirely that it wasn’t even mentioned, despite Jason’s newfound visions of his dead parents egging him on to hate vampires. I know there was more urgent stuff going on, but surely either Jason or Sookie would have at least mentioned their ongoing quest, if only to say, “well, there’s more urgent stuff going on right now”.
It also smacked of a lack of dramatic balance that, after last week’s cliffhanger, Russell was dealt with so quickly, easily and terminally. As I said last week, great though he is as a character, Russell really did need to be decisively killed off to stop the show repeating itself (more than it already has, anyway). But I wasn’t expecting it to happen in the first few minutes of the episode, and by such a peremptory method as a quick staking from Eric. A villain as charismatic as Russell really deserved a better sendoff. As a result, we were also deprived of what had looked like an epic battle between the deranged vampire and the fairies, which felt like a shame.
Still, if Russell’s death felt like a rushed anticlimax, at least our heroes’ raid on Authority HQ dealt out some cool, blood-drenched action. Sookie and Jason joined forces with Eric, Nora and Tara to stage a proper commando raid, armed to the fangs with stakes, wooden bullets and crossbows. That a small group of rebels should get in so easily and slaughter what seemed like the entire vamp population made the lauded Authority security seem surprisingly ineffective after its appearance of hyper efficiency earlier on in the season.
To be fair, Bill had been lambasting them for this earlier in the episode, after it became clear that they’d failed to notice the infiltration of two shapeshifters into their larder. Nonetheless, the ease with which our gang turned pretty much the entire security force into puddles of red goo did tend to make you think that they must have been pretty crap vamps. And it rather undercut the fear/respect Bill and Eric had been according them early on in the season, that not only could Eric polish half of them off in an eyeblink, but they can’t even defend themselves against the awesome might of Jason Stackhouse.
Still, it was fun watching pretty much the entire Authority being reduced to puddles of goo in various inventive ways. Aside from our heroes’ commando raid, probably the most fun was the unfortunate demise of Chancellor Rosalyn, literally exploding from within as Sam transformed from a fly back to himself inside her. Gave a whole new meaning to the old song about an old lady who swallowed a fly…
That scene, with Luna exercising her newfound powers to transform into a replica of Steve Newlin, was kind of fun, but I’d already worked out that it was one of the shapeshifters impersonating Steve. Mind you, I’d guessed it was Sam rather than Luna, who must have also turned into a fly or similar to escape from the vamp larder, then dress in the good reverend’s clothes and reclaim her daughter. But it does beg the question of what happened to the real Newlin, last seen fleeing from the field where his lover had just been staked by Eric.
Bill’ s continuing machinations against Salome were also fun, but I had to wonder which part of Authority HQ that was occurring in, since they seemed fairly ignorant of the carnage being wrought outside. Still, I enjoyed the script again playing with our expectations of Bill, as he simperingly lied that Salome was his chosen leader. For a moment there, you thought he’d gone back to his old self and recognised some falsity in the ‘chosen one’ visions everyone had been having. But no, it turned out to be a scheme to get rid of his only remaining rival, by spiking what seemed to be Lilith’s blood with silver. So now Salome too is a puddle of goo,and Bill is free to be the ultimate leader. But leader of what, I wonder? By then end of this episode, he’s literally the only member of the Authority left.
Occasionally cutting into all this action was the oddly comic subplot of Andy Bellefleur’s fairy-related sexual misadventures. This culminated with his sometime fey lover Morella giving birth to baby after baby on the pool table of Merlotte’s, grudgingly assisted by his disapproving girlfriend Holly. It’s good that Holly and Andy have been given a bit more development this season, but was this really the time to have a comic interlude of fairy birth? It was fun, and made me smile more than once, but I was impatient to get back to Authority HQ and catch up on events there.
Which made it similarly frustrating that the script also chose this moment to return to the subplot dealing with the werewolf pack politics, which I’d thought pretty much dealt with. After all, with the death of Russell, surely it would be harder to get a hold of vampire blood to imbibe anyway?
But no, rascally old JD had been trapping vamps elsewhere, and force feeding V to his sometimes unwilling pack (not to mention forcing himself on some of the younger, more attractive females). Clearly Alice and his reluctant dad were going to have to put a stop to this, but with JD all V’d up, it seemed Alcide would have to fight fire with fire.
Again, this was well done, and good drama in its own right. But it felt inconsequential compared to the larger events going on elsewhere, and this felt like the wrong place for it to be. Still, Robert Patrick’s grizzled portrayal of Alcide’s cynical, broken father went some way to making up for its odd dramatic placement. Hopefully he’ll be back next year.
Along with, again hopefully, the answers to the questions I’d expected to find here. Were the visions of Lilith real? Last week I theorised they might have been Godric in disguise; I may have been wrong, but I still wouldn’t rule it out. How will the human/vampire tensions be reduced short of all out war? Who is/was Warlow? Why were the Authority troops suddenly so utterly incompetent they could have been recruited by Darth Vader?
Lots of questions, no answers. Don’t get me wrong, this was still entertaining. But as season finale its structure seemed all over the place, and the lack of resolution on so many important plot points was frustrating, even with the need for a cliffhanger to lead us into next year. I know a lot of fans have found this year’s season meandering and unfocused to the point of being hugely disappointing; personally, I’ve still enjoyed it even while recognising those flaws.
In one sense, it’s a shame that showrunner/creator Alan Ball is dropping out on a fairly unexceptional ending; but in another, we can hope that the new showrunner will inject some fresh blood into the show. This year, while still enjoyable, has had a real feeling of deja vu about it, with yet another attempt by vampires to take over the world, and the reappearance of fan favourite Russell Edgington. Perhaps next year, more intimate and innovative character-based arcs will help – it gets harder and harder for a show to keep topping its previous portrayals of near Armageddon. True Blood’s strength is its characters; I think that’s what it should be building on more than vague threats of a massive war.