HBO’s True Blood is back for its final season. Before we hear the iconic theme song, we’ve lost a major character, and after it, things don’t get much better. The town of Bon Temps is in a chaotic state after the vampire attack that ended last season. Eric has yet to make an appearance, though we see Pam searching for her Maker in the only portions of the episode that happen outside of the small town.
As a fan, I’m not sure what I want to see this season. True Blood is among a small list of shows that I’ve seen in their entirety—Lost, Six Feet Under, and Weeds are the only things that come to mind. I have tendency to start shows but then to lose the thread eventually because of scheduling or loss of interest. And I did do that with True Blood—more than once. But I’ve always picked back up the thread, and I’ve enjoyed doing so. Truthfully, it’s one of the best for binge-watching, adding one guilty pleasure to another. Add popcorn and peanut M&Ms, and you’ve got a triple threat.
I’m not binge watching anymore, though. I’m all caught up, and I turns out that’s a good thing. The episode hits the ground running. There’s no “previously on” or “last season” montage to catch-up. We’re thrown immediately into the horrific attack on the vampire/human mixer in Bon Temps, the infected vampires in their rampage. The attack is called off, and we start to see the aftermath—some of have been taken, and some are dead. (Warning: Spoilers below!)
Among the dead is Tara, who we saw fighting another vampire, desperately trying to save her mother, but whose true death we didn’t see. Lots of people are speculating that this suggests she’s alive; over the seasons, True Blood has taught us that if we don’t see the character die, then (s)he isn’t dead. But I’m inclined to think that Lettie May screaming, covered in vampire remains, is enough of a confirmation that this is Tara. I’m ambivalent—I admire the gutsiness of killing off such a major character so quickly and of killing such a major character off-screen. We learn about the death in the way that normal people find out about death—-when they’re told. But the two combined are just too much for a character that has been an integral part of the show for 6 seasons. Even Lafayette seems ambivalent, though Lettie May’s dramatic reaction is predictable, as is the vampire blood addiction that it’s already evident she’s beginning.
Once the humans and vampires that are left have gathered inside Bellefleur’s, we realize that Holly, Arlene, and Nicole have been taken. Later, we see them in the basement of Fangtasia, chained up and terrified as a group of vampires feeds on another prisoner above. In the meantime, we see the price of living after the True Blood factories have been bombed and with Hep-V vampires on the loose. Sam is mayor of the town and is working with Bill as much as possible; they declare “one vampire for every human.” The humans’ jobs—to feed the vampires; the vampires’ jobs—-to protect the humans. This seems a more tenuous operation than ever after the infected vampires attack the party, especially given one man’s observation of Sam’s shape-shifting, prompting even more suspicion and concern.
A small mob forms, and despite warnings from Jason go after Bill. Later, this leads to a tense situation between the group and Bill and Andy, who has stayed home from the mixer entirely, vowing instead to protect his daughter Adilyn, the only one of his half-fairy daughters still living. Jessica, who killed the other girls and almost killed Adilyn, sits outside. She has promised to protect Adilyn at any cost in an effort to make up for the loss of control that led to the death of the other girls, and she almost has to pay with her life. Andy leaves after hearing of the vampire attack, and Jessica stands on the porch, aware of Tara’s death but unable and unwilling to leave Adilyn. When Bill and Andy encounter the mob, they form an uneasy alliance, as Andy protects Bill. Moyer and Bauer are at their best here, and the tension between them is mesmerizing.
Sookie is once again an outcast, blamed for the situation by most of the townspeople. It isn’t long before she can’t listen anymore to the multitude of negative thoughts in Bellefleur’s and walks home. Even Alcide succumbs to “what if” thoughts, blaming Sookie for her fascination with dead things. We see the two discuss this, later, their emotional distress obvious. Alcide isn’t my favorite Sookie pairing, mostly because I’d just like to see her on her own for a while, but they seem better matched than she did in her previous relationships.
Jessica (Deobrah Ann Woll) and Adilyn (Baily Noble) have some of the best scenes of the night, as we watch Adilyn talk to Jessica through the door, Jessica clearly struggling to maintain control and Adilyn clearly struggling against fear and revulsion, the two reaching out to each other and talking about friendship, boys, and Jessica’s transgressions. When an infected vampire shows up, Jessica enters a stand-off that lasts until dawn. Against the advice of both her father and Jessica herself, Adilyn invites Jessica in just as the sun is rising; the infected vampire bursts into flames, and Jessica locks herself away in the attic.
Outside of Bon Temps, Pam searches for Eric. We see her play a game of Russian roulette with another vampire, refusing to drink the only clean blood in Africa because it is child’s blood, and moving through informants in Morocco to find her maker. Kristin Bauer van Straten is still one of the best parts of this show—Pam is darkly funny, and van Straten manages to make her likable and almost fragile at times. I hope she’ll soon be reunited with Eric, both so that Alexander Skaarsgard will have screen time in our final season and because I enjoy watching the two actors play off one another.
In the episode’s final scene, everyone is gathered for Tara’s funeral. Sookie places her hand on Lettie May, who unleashes a torrent of anger in the middle of the funeral. When the outburst has ended, Sookie can hear the townspeople’s thoughts, and they are as ugly as they were after the infected vampires attacked Bellefleur’s. She gets up to leave, and then turns to give a heartfelt speech about her love for the town and the people, asking them to let her help. And so we end our first hour of the final season with Sookie’s martyr complex, but at least this time it seems to make sense. “Jesus Gonna Be Here” is one of the most engaging season premiere’s that I’ve seen for the show since its second season, so I’m interested to see what happens here at the end.