True Blood: “Karma” Review

The final season of True Blood is now in the downswing, with Sunday’s episode marking the sixth of ten episodes. “Karma” reminded me, much like “Death is Not the End,” of why I’ve spent 7 years watching True Blood. There was a heady mixture of dark humor, heartfelt moments, and plot twists that worked.

TB5.9

At episode’s opening, Eric is still tearing through the Yakuza who showed up at the fundraiser in last week’s “Lost Cause.” It’s only a moment, though, before a group of Yakuza round the corner with a captured Pam covered in silver chains. Eric stops fighting, of course. If we’ve learned one thing in all our years of watching the show, it’s that Eric loves Pam and will do damn near anything to save her. It’s a bit annoying, though, to see a strong character like Pam get caught twice in one season by Yakuza henchmen…She’s tougher than that. Pam and Eric are ushered to the Yakomono Corporations Dallas headquarters (in 3 tricked-out street-racers, no less—hi, racial stereotyping), where they are put in a room with windows open.

But I digress. We cut to Bill, who is still shocked about his Hep-V positive status and trying to cope with the knowledge that death is not far away. He picks up the phone and calls what seems to be a lawyer. We can only hear his side of the conversation, but he’s asking about getting his affairs in order. Jessica, who is walking up the stairs, overhears Bill’s conversation, including his admission that he is Hep-V positive. When he’s off the phone, though, he acts as nonchalantly as possible, and though Jessica is aware of what has happened, she pretends not to be.

Meanwhile, Lafayette and Lettie May have returned from the party and are at Lafayette’s home. He refuses to let her out of his sight because of her attack on Willa. Lettie May maintains that this is not about addiction but about saving Tara. The conversation is interrupted by the appearance of James, who has somehow let himself into Lafayette’s home and is waiting inside. He asks for a place to stay, and Lafayette agrees that he can stay there. Lettie May is warned not to try anything, but James, upon hearing her story about contacting Tara, convinces Lafayette that Lettie might not be as off-base as she seems. Before going to rest for the day, James offers Lettie May and Lafayette drops of his blood so that they can try and contact Tara together.

Across town, Jason has come home. Violet, who left the party after hearing Jason and Jessica together, has lit candles and sprinkled rose petals all over the house. She steps into the room in lingerie, talking to Jason about how they belong together, apologizing for how forceful she can be, explaining that she is from a different time. This is all getting very dangerous. I don’t trust that vampire.

TB6.5

Bill has arrived at the lawyer’s office, and it is absolutely full of vampires with protruding, dark Hep V veins. The clerk explains that the wait will be 5 to 7 hours. Bill is concerned, and annoyed, but there’s nothing to do besides wait. He takes a number and a seat. Bill (and another vampire sitting next to him) notices that his Hep V veins are spreading incredibly fast. I’m not sure what the impetus for Bill’s sickness spreading so quickly is unless it’s either Sookie’s fairy blood (which up until tonight I thought might be the Hep V cure) or something to do with the fact that just a season or two ago he was Billith. Having a god inside you and then not-inside-you has to wreak havoc on one’s immune system.

In Dallas, Yakomono operatives, including the North American president of the company, Gus Jr., surround Pam and Eric. A digital clock is counting down the minutes to sunrise. Pam and Eric have about 3 minutes before they burst into flames, and the Yakomono want information about Sarah Newlin before they’ll pull down the shades. Pam agrees to tell them everything they know in exchange for freedom, but Eric wants to go a step further. He adds to the conditions that he will be the one to kill Sarah Newlin, but the Yakomono Corporation can have the body after she is dead. Just as Pam and Eric are really beginning to sizzle, the corporation president accepts their offer and lowers the shade, saving Pam and Eric from a fiery true death.

TB6.2

Elsewhere in Dallas, Sarah Newlin is on the run. She breaks into her sister’s house. Amber almost kills her, but the Hep V has so weakened her that she passes out before she can truly damage Sarah.

Back in Bon Temps, Andy finds Adilyn and Wade having sex, and he chases Wade out of the house. Holly and Arlene are awakened by the noise, and when Holly realizes what has happened, she is furious with Andy for his treatment of Wade.

Jessica calls Jason and asks him to pick up Sookie and come to Bill’s house. Jason is visibly torn, but he heads off to pick up Sookie. Downstairs, Violet has overheard everything, and in a fit of anger begins destroying the bedroom. I’m wondering at what point all of this is going to bite Jason in the ass, and I’m just hoping that the bite doesn’t come in the form of Violet killing him. That’d be a terrible ending for both characters, as Violet’s anger is justified and as Jason is an integral character.

About this time, Jason arrives at Sookie’s house. He hasn’t been able to get her to answer the phone (which I think might still be in the woods anyway). Sookie is curled up in Alcide’s jacket, sleeping away the day. She has a hangover, and Jason has a difficult time rousing her from the bed. But when she hears that Jessica has news she cannot and will not say over the phone, she knows something must be seriously wrong, and she leaves with Jason for Bill’s home. It’s nice to have some Sookie and Jason time again, as in recent season the two haven’t had the type of relationship that was so endearing in the first two seasons of the show.

Then we have a brief moment of Sam and Nicole. They’re at home, and Nicole has just gotten off of the phone. She tells Sam that she’s leaving, going back home, and that he can either come with her or stay in Bon Temps. She asks him to think about it. At this point, I think Sam would be better off going with her as a way to tie up his character. In the past few seasons he’s been little more than comic relief, and the strength of character established in the first few seasons has been wasted.

TB6.1

In the meantime, the vampire blood that Lettie May and Lafayette ingested has taken effect. They see Tara on a cross, a snake around her neck, just as in Lettie May’s original vision. She’s talking, but she can’t really be heard. Lettie May manages to help Tara off the cross, but when she cradles Tara, she realizes that Tara is gone. She’s running through the woods, and Lettie May and Lafayette follow.

Sookie and Jason have arrived at Bill’s house, and Jessica tells them what she overheard. Jason tries to rationalize the conversation, suggesting that Bill might have been exaggerating because he wanted to get his affairs in order in the event of being infected. But Sookie remembers the fight with the infected vampires and the open wound that she had. She suspects that she was infected when the Hep V vampires exploded on her, and she asks Jason to take her to the clinic to be tested.

In Bellefleur’s, Arlene is trying to mediate between Andy and Holly, who are still fighting about how to handle the kids. Holly blames the occurrence on Adilyn’s fairy nature and is angry that Andy blames most of it on Wade. Arlene is a pretty good mediator, and the whole scene serves as a commentary on parenting, double standards, and slut-shaming. (Holly: I’m sorry I called her a slut.  I don’t even…Believe in that word.) They return home only to find that Adilyn and Wade have run off to the fort/tree-house together.

TB6.8

And across town, Sookie is in a health clinic. Blood is drawn, a label attached to it, and then all that’s left to do is wait. Jason is about to take Sookie home, but she doesn’t want to be at home. I’m not sure I blame her. Again, this leads to some wonderful Jason-and-Sookie moments that we haven’t seen since the first few seasons. It’s also a stark commentary on transmittable diseases and the nothing-to-do-but wait when you are almost positive that you’re sick in a way that cannot be fixed.

Lettie May and Lafayette, meanwhile, are still on the V, still chasing Tara through the woods. She leads them to their old home, and she’s digging in the yard for something. But before she can finish, before Lettie May and Lafayette can figure out what is going on, the Reverend arrives and interrupts their vision. Both Lettie May and Lafayette are annoyed by this intrusion. When the Reverend gives Lettie May an ultimatum—the V or me—Lettie May stands firm, saying that this is something she has to do, with or without him.

TB6.4

Jason and Sookie are dealing with different sorts of relationship crises. They sit in the back of a truck, waiting for the phone call from the clinic. Jason and Sookie talk about Violet. He admits that he’s afraid of her. This is as close to admitting that Jason is in an abusive relationship as I’ve seen the show come, but I’d really like it to acknowledge that in a bigger way somehow. And then the phone call comes—Sookie is Hep V positive.

In the law office, Bill’s number is finally called. He wants to pass his estate to Jessica, but due to complications with the law, he cannot do so. He becomes frustrated by the legalese (the law doesn’t recognize progeny or posthumous wills) and the extortion that is attempted ($10 mil buys a front-of-the-line spot), and he stabs the lawyer in the throat and kills another vampire on his way out. Aside from showing his frustration, I’m not sure what the purpose of that tirade was—it’s very out of character.

TB6.6

Back in Dallas, Amber wakes up after having passed out earlier. Sarah is waiting there for her, relieved that Amber isn’t dead. Sarah tries to tell Amber that she’s a new person, Noomi (“new me”?), grounded in Buddhist teachings and fully enlightened in a way that she wasn’t before. Amber is infuriated by her sister’s attempt to absolve herself of her past crimes. But then we get a major twister—Sarah drank the antidote to Hep V when the lab was attacked, and she is now the walking antidote to the disease. She can heal everyone. Karma indeed.

In Bon Temps, Sookie tells Jessica that she gave Bill Hep V, and Jason returns home, prepared to break up with Violet. But she’s left him with a note and lots of broken furniture in the bedroom. Jason seems relieved, but it’s a bit too early for that. Violet arrives at Fort B and convinces Adilyn and Wade to come with her. I can only assume that she’s up to something very, very bad.

In Dallas again, Eric and Pam lead the Yakomon Corporation to Amber’s house. She opens the door, and the first thing that Eric notices is that she’s cured. Cue everyone’s surprise and “how did you do that.” We cut back briefly to Bill’s house. He opens the door and sees Jessica and Sookie sitting on the staircase, tears running down their faces. He knows they know. The door closes, and the episode ends.

TB6.3

Next week we’re set to see more of Amber, who appears to have shifted to protecting her sister. I hope we’ll also see more of why Violet chose Adilyn and Wade, of all the Bon Temps residents, to go after, though I suspect that Adilyn’s fairy blood has something to do with that.

Advertisements

Doctor Who Review: Time of the Angels/Flesh and Stone

By William Hohmeister

I’m reviewing two Doctor Who episodes again this week, the two-parter: The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone, in which the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy (Karen Gillan) run into several old faces.

River Song (Alex Kingston) reappears in The Time of Angels. We last saw her in Forest of the Dead, when she died to save the Tenth Doctor’s life (David Tennant). River and the Doctor meet in the wrong order: River’s past is the Doctor’s future, and vice-versa. River doesn’t know she’s going to die when she meets Ten, and this is only the second time the Doctor has met her at all.

Dr. Song  image © BBC Worldwide. Fair use applies.

Dr. Song
image © BBC Worldwide. Fair use applies.

He does know that River is important to his future, however. River leaves a message requesting a rescue on the black box of a space ship, which the Doctor finds 12,000 years later while browsing a museum. He and Amy steal the box and escape to rescue River, who tells them to “follow that ship” as it blasts off.

River and the Doctor fly the Tardis in pursuit until the space ship crashes on a planet. The Doctor asks where River learned to fly, but she only says she was taught by the best – “Shame you [the Doctor] were busy that day”. She lands the Tardis without the traditional braying noise, which she says only occurs because the Doctor “drives with the brakes on”.

River is a nice contrast to the Doctor. She challenges him. She drives the Tardis better than he does, knows more about him than he does about her, and takes absolutely zero crap from him. When the Doctor shows off, she only says to Amy: “He thinks he’s so hot when he does that”.

Father Octavian

Father Octavian
image © BBC Worldwide. Fair use applies.

The ship crashes on a human-colonized planet, where River introduces the Doctor to a group of Clerics, soldiers for the Space Catholic Church, and reveals why they’re here: a Weeping Angel was onboard the crashed ship. The Cleric leader, Father Octavian (Iain Glen), tells River she promised him an army. She replies she promised the equivalent of an army, and turns to the Doctor. I love this, because it shows right away that at least one character understands Eleven well enough to realize that he’s dangerous, deadly, and incredibly useful if pointed in the right direction. River seems just manipulative enough to get the Doctor involved in an interesting story.

River apparently has an interesting future/past as well. Father Octavian warns River not to reveal too much about herself to the Doctor. He claims that the Doctor won’t help them if he finds out what crimes River has committed. I’m more interested in River than any other character we’ve met so far, including the Doctor.

The Clerics, Amy, River, and the Doctor enter a small shuttle to watch a video loop of the Angel trapped in the crashed ship. Later, while the Doctor and River read through a book about the Angels written by a lunatic, the image of the Angel on the screen moves through the screen and threatens Amy. They discover that “whatever holds the image of an Angel, is an Angel”. Amy calls for help, and the Doctor tells her to watch the Angel, but not to look it in the eyes. Amy rescues herself by pausing the video, which freezes the Angel.

The group deduces that the Angel must have descended from the ship into the Maze of the Dead, a necropolis built by the Aplans, the planet’s former native inhabitants. They descend to search for it and kick up a gravity globe to provide light.

Amy Pond doesn’t do anything without the Doctor, and that continues to be her problem. Throughout these episodes the Doctor has to act as her babysitter. When he’s not around, she has no real personality. River brings out a bit of character in her, however. Amy figures out that River and the Doctor must have a romantic past, possibly marriage. River grudgingly admits that Amy is good, but does not confirm or deny it. She and Amy also joke that River knew how to contact the Doctor because he always ends up in museums eventually – it’s how he keeps score. It still centers her character on the Doctor, but it’s better than having no role or point other than being rescued.

image © BBC Worldwide. Fair use applies.

image © BBC Worldwide. Fair use applies.

The Aplan Maze of the Dead is full of statues, which makes looking for the Angel both impossible and deadly. The Angel slowly picks off several Clerics as the group explores. One Cleric, Bob (it’s a holy name), panics and fires randomly. Octavian chastises him for it, but the Doctor steps in. I think we’re supposed to side with the Doctor, as he confronts mean-old-Mister-Octavian and reassures Bob, but I don’t. The Doctor comes off as needlessly hostile and wastes time in a dangerous situation.

It ends up not mattering anyway. While the Doctor tells Bob that “scared makes you fast” and that “anyone not scared is a moron”, the Angel kills Bob just as the Doctor and River realize their mistake. The Aplans were a two-headed species. The statues have only one head. The statues are all Weeping Angels, starving to death. The ship is a rescue ark for these Angels. I am a bit confused and annoyed. How did the Angels – who look human – infiltrate the Aplan (who don’t look human)? The Angels supposedly exist all throughout the universe, but how can they when they look only like one distinct species?

I empathized with the Angels in Blink. Ten called them the “lonely assassins”. They fed off energy produced by sending people back in time, and could never be seen except as statues. This was awful, but understandable because it was how they had to survive. Rather than feeding on the Clerics, though, the Angels snap their necks, feed off the radiation from the engines of the crashed ship, and taunt the Doctor using Bob’s voice. They turn from necessary predators into cliche villains. 

The Doctor shoots the gravity globe, which propels the remaining group onto the crashed ship in the cavern ceiling. They manage to escape into the ship, pursued by the Angels. Eventually they reach a control room, with a door leading to a borg forest. Cyborg trees on board the ship provide air during long spaceflights, and make an awesome setting. The Doctor opens up one to expose the wires and circuits. Another control room lies at the opposite end of the forest.

Amy slows the group down here. She looked into the eyes of the Angel earlier, and is slowly turning into an Angel. She counts down to it without realizing, and the countdown is effective and creepy. The only way to stop the process is to close her eyes. The Angels surround the group in the forest and the Doctor is forced to leave Amy to reach the control room. He takes only River and Octavian with him, and tells the other Clerics to keep Amy safe, or they will answer to him.

What happened to the Doctor between sticking up for Bob and threatening the Clerics if anything happens to Amy? He went very quickly from supporting one Cleric to stating that the other Clerics don’t matter as long as Amy lives. Everyone other than Amy is just a casualty. I think it points to the Doctor’s self-righteousness and self-serving morality. This character can work if it includes repercussions for the Doctor, which I hope to see as the series goes on. So far, the Doctor still gets treated like a regular hero.

The Doctor and River make it through the forest, but Octavian is caught and killed by an Angel. Before he dies, however, he warns the Doctor not to trust River, claiming that she killed “a good man”. The Doctor and River find a new control room and search it for a way to escape, but find only a broken teleporter.

Meanwhile, a new Crack in reality has appeared near Amy and the Clerics. The Angels initially attempt to feed off it, but flee when it consumes some of them. The Crack eats the Clerics one by one, and we learn that the Cracks erase people from existence. This is quite a change from The Eleventh Hour, when a Crack allowed Prisoner Zero to escape through it, and I’m curious about what caused the change.

Amy calls the Doctor, who helps her walk through the forest to him with her eyes still closed. She has to walk through a group of Angels by pretending she can see them, but trips. The Angels slowly turn to look at her. This ruins the remaining mystery of the Angels, as we now know they always look like statues and actually see them move. The Doctor manages to get the teleporter working and saves Amy.

The Angels demand that the Doctor sacrifice himself to close the Crack, which can apparently only be closed by a huge space-time event (though the sonic screwdriver managed it in The Eleventh Hour). Instead, the Doctor turns off the gravity and the Angels fall into and seal the Crack.

Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I own the most books from.

Each week the good folks at The Broke and The Bookish host a meme post called Top Ten Tuesday. This week, we’re listing the top ten authors we own the most books from. Here are mine:

top-ten-tuesday

1. Stephen King tops the list because, when I was a senior in high school, someone I knew was cleaning out her library and sold me first edition hardbacks of most of his early work (Carrie through It) for $0.50 apiece. I’ve added to the collection since then. I also have the illustrated Plume Book Club editions of the first four volumes of the Dark Tower series. He’s the only author who rates two complete bookshelves in my very small apartment library.

2. J.R.R. Tolkien is second because I just have a lot of his work. I have two copies of LOTR: The groovy 1970s boxed set that was read to me as a child, and which no one is allowed to touch; and an indexed hardback version I use for reading. I also have The Silmarillion, The 2-volume Book of Lost Tales, Unfinished Tales, and The Tolkien Reader, a collection of his poems and essays.

3. Ernest Hemingway, surprisingly, is third. I have a ton of his novels. The Hemingway books I go back to are For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Moveable Feast, a series of vignettes about his life in Paris in the 20s. For Whom the Bell Tolls contains perhaps the greatest single chapter of fiction in all of 20th Century American literature, and I consider A Moveable Feast to be Hemingway’s finest work.

4. Neil Gaiman may actually be third. I didn’t really count, but I know some of these books are actually Diana’s, so I just put him in as #4. I have both of his short story collections, Coraline, electronic versions of the entire Sandman Series, both American Gods novels, and Stardust. I’ve read Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (which I recommend), but don’t own them at the moment.

5. Jasper Fforde makes the list because I fell in love with his Thursday Next series a couple of years ago and either bought or downloaded them all. I enjoy his brand of humor and his meta-fictional approach to these novels. They’re quick reads, and they are worth it.

6. Roger Zelazny‘s Chronicles of Amber and Second Chronicles of Amber are important reads if you want to understand the fantasy genre — especially the development of low fantasy. I have both in two hardbound editions, and it adds up to 9 or 10 novels, all told. I’m counting each novel separately, just to get him on the list.

7. Fritz Leiber is just as important as Zelazny, but in a different way. I have all his Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser novels in hardback, as well. If I ever find time to write more about books, I’ll certainly dive into them for some blog posts. They are extremely problematic, and ahead of their time. Popular fantasy would be entirely different if not for these books.

8. C.S. Lewis should probably rank higher. I have his Narnia series and several of his more overt tracts. I’ve read all of his fiction and most of his Christian apologetics. I ended up with copies of many of them, though I haven’t actually turned a page of Lewis’ work in more than a decade.

9. Flannery O’Connor is here because I am sure I have all her short stories and both her novels. She’s the best writer on the list, in my mind. She’d be #1 if her work didn’t fit into so few volumes. I consciously collected every word she ever published when I was in my late 20s.

10. Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman are the co-authors of the first few novels in the Dragonlance series.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the first two Dragonlance Trilogies (Chronicles and Legends), despite the fact that they are some of the most poorly-edited published novels I’ve ever encountered. They’re just what you want in pulp fantasy. TSR turned the franchise into a money pump, and it really went downhill when they did, but Weiss and Hickman have a fantastic command of basic storytelling. The characters in the first six novels have real relationships, and when Dragonlance characters die, it actually makes you sad.

Honorable Mentions:

Continue reading