True Blood: “Death is Not the End” Review

Four episodes in, True Blood manages a strong episode with a nice mixture of gore, gallows humor, and and nostalgia. In the wake of Alcide’s death and Holly’s return, Sookie grieves but must also help find Arlene and Nicole. Eric and Pam arrive in Shreveport, both in flashbacks and in the present timeline, and we discover why Jessica’s shoulder will not heal. And the group faces down the Hep V infected vampires. “Death is Not the End” works as a lead-up to the mid-season arc, and it does so while looking back at the show’s past.

In the cold open, Alcide’s father is in his trailer in Jackson, MS, with a lover. Sookie calls and informs him of Alcide’s death. Across town, Jason makes a phone call as well—to Hoyt, who is in Alaska, to inform him of Maxine’s death. We’re immediately looking back, then, to the characters’ (and the show’s) past. And this was really nicely done. Jason, of course, remembers everything—their childhood friendship that morphed into an adulthood friendship, Hoyt’s relationship with Jessica, and their break-up over Jason. But Hoyt doesn’t even know Jason. It was an understated moment, and it was better for it. Jason, devastated by the call, turns to Sookie, who reminds him that he has to pull himself together because it’s the apocalypse. (Thanks for ruining my moment—this is the most inconsistent apocalypse I’ve ever seen: communication and transportation seem to be working.)

After the break, we cut to Eric and Pam on a plane, Eric feeding from a stewardess. She tells him they’re going to Baton Rouge, but he re-routes to Shreveport. Pam, of course, “hates tb4.7Shreveport.” And then there’s the first in a series of flashbacks of Pam and Eric in Shreveport after the fiasco with the Yakamono Corporation. It’s 1986, presumably right after the incident. The Magister (Zeljko Ivanek) hands down the sentencing from the vampire authority–Pam and Eric are to stay in Shreveport and run the local video store, and Eric is to be the sheriff. Pam is, of course, horrified by every tacky thing about the place, especially the basement porn stash. Meanwhile, I’m laughing at the nostalgia of video stores in small Southern towns.

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True Blood: “Fire in the Hole” Review

We’re about 1/3 of the way into True Blood‘s final season, and I’m still ambivalent. There are good moments, but the show just doesn’t have the bite (sorry, vampire humor) that it used to. And this week, we saw the return of Sarah Newlin, a character I hate with the fire of a thousand suns. Seriously, I think Harry Potter’s Dolores Umbridge might be the only character I hate more thoroughly. We also get a few more deaths, some flashbacks from Eric, Pam, and Bill, and a confrontation between the angry mob and our heroes.

At the episode’s opening, we’re in a yoga class. A yogi stands at the front of the room, and after a few moments we realize that the brunette in the front is none other than Sarah Newlin, and then there’s a cut to the theme. Cue annoyance from me. Newlin is just too much a distraction from the plots that are already forming—she’ll stretch the plot too thin in this, our final season, I think. And I’m just tired of her as a villain, too.

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After the break, we see Eric and Pam talking. Evidently, he left St. Petersburg some weeks before, aware that he was infected. He’s lethargic and sad, resolute to his death. He’s been alive 1000 years or so; his maker and his sister are dead; and he’s tired. Pam is understandably angry and frustrated.

Eric then has a flashback to France in the 1980’s. He’s in a vineyard with a woman named

And he has awesome hair

And he has awesome hair

Sylvie, a human lover. Enter Nan Flanagan to interrupt the sexy-times. Eric hasn’t properly registered with the Authority and isn’t paying his taxes. And he’s pretty open about being a vampire. Oops. There’s a conversation about the possibility of True Blood, a substance in-development by the infamous Yakimono Corporation, a ruthless Japanese company that doesn’t like what Eric is doing. Eric shrugs off Nan’s warning rudely and comforts a worried Pam after Nan leaves.

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“I have a boyfriend”

Meanwhile, Alcide discovers that Sookie is gone. He follows her scent to Bill’s house, but Sookie and Bill have already left. We see them in Bill’s car, and Sookie is confused about why Bill can’t sense her fear anymore. Evidently, when he was drained of blood, they lost their connection. In order for her plan (to be captured by the Hep V vamps, taken to where they are holding Arlene and Holly, and then call Bill for help) to work, she has to drink his blood. Definitely building up to a Bill and Sookie reunion, or at least an excuse to show the two actors together when Sookie starts having sexy dreams about Bill.

Meanwhile, Andy and Jessica break Adilyn and Wade out of jail (in the middle of an almost-kiss). And back in the church, the Reverend is speaking with Sam when Willa rushes in to tell him what has happened. Lettie May is right behind her, begging to be able to see Tara again. The Reverend asks Sam to go, and he concentrates on calming down Lettie May. Sam and Matt are stopped by the mob, though. Vince has usurped Sam as mayor; tensions run high, and Matt is shot. Sam turns into an owl and flies away.

At Jason’s home, he and Violet discuss the possibility of children. Oh, Jason Stackhouse. He wants them to adopt, but Violet is bored by his suggestion, annoyed that he is so “soft.” Andy and the group show up at Jason’s home in the middle of this conversation. He needs help finding a safe place for the children and fighting the mob. Adilyn and Wade stay at the house while Andy, Violet, Jessica, and Jason leave to find the mob.

Back at Layfayette’s, James shows up wanting to get high. Lafayette is out of weed, but he TB3.5concocts a potent mixture of pills, takes them, and then allows James to feed off him. The two are high as they can be. In the midst of lots of flirting, they discuss James’s relationship with Jessica, which seems to have cooled down substantially. She doesn’t even notice him, he says. I kept waiting for Lafayette to say “I notice you” or some such—but I’m glad that didn’t come.

Instead, we cut to Fangtasia, where the vampires are arguing about food. It seems they must eat on a schedule to stay alive longer. They decide to take one of the humans with them, a snack-on-the-go. They go downstairs, where they interrupt a ritual. Ooo, I’d love it if witchcraft made a comeback here in the last season. Holly is chosen to go with them after she comes forward as the circle leader. Back in the woods, Sookie and Bill have set up camp, waiting for the Hep V vampires. They talk a bit about her relationship with Alcide, and we finally hear her admit that she’s completely aware that he loves her more than she loves him. It’s nice to hear the show finally voice that.

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Goodbye, Maxine

Elsewhere, Jason and the group have found the mob. Maxine is still furious at Jessica and Jason, and she leads the charge against them. She shoots Jessica, after which Violet rips her heart out. So long Maxine Fortenberry. I’ll miss your one-liners. Jessica doesn’t heal as quickly as she should—in fact, she seems not to be healing at all. Is she sick, or is this some kind of new ammo? The mob scatters in the wake of Maxine’s death, and Violet goes to retrieve Rocky, Holly’s son.

In the woods, naked-because-they’ve-just-transformed Alcide and Sam run into one another while Sookie whines that the vampires aren’t finding her fast enough. Bill has a flashback to life during the Civil War just before he left to fight. A Fortenberry ancestor takes portraits of the family, and Bill assures his daughter that he’ll come TB3.1home. The flashback is poignant, but it’s oddly placed here, and it’s jarring when we return to the present to the Reverend’s home. The Reverend tucks in Lettie May before talking to Willa. He tells her about his past and about Lettie May’s predilection for addiction, and then he says that she must find someplace else to go, otherwise Lettie May will continue the cycle. And back at Lafayette’s home, he and James are high. They flirt, and Lafayette questions James’s feelings. James, however, says that because of his relationship with Jessica, he will not act on the attraction, and then he goes home.

Back in Eric’s flashback, the Yakimono have decided to pay Eric a visit. They capture Pam and Sylvie, and Eric is forced to choose between the two. He chooses Pam, of course, but not without a loss. Now we know why Sylvie was mentioned among Godric and Nora as those Eric misses, but it’s a misstep to have completely left her until the final season and so use her mainly as a plot device. Back in present day, Pam urges Eric to live, to fight. Apparently, Hep-V vampires are living longer than before, meaning that there have been some sort of developments in treating the disease. And then she comes upon the best reason she can think of for Eric to live—Sarah Newlin is still alive. Eric agrees that finding Newlin is a pretty good reason to try to stay alive for a while, it seems. Revenge can be a powerful motivator.

Newlin, meanwhile, is in bed with the yogi. She goes to fetch a bottle of wine for the two, and then Yakimono show up here, too. They’re none too happy about her involvement in bombing their factories. When the yogi won’t tell them where Sarah is, the chop off his head. But from the wine cellar she hears the confrontation and sees the blood seeping beneath the door. Sarah, you in trouble, girl.

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And back in the clearing, Holly finds Sookie. The Hep V vamps show up just as Sam and Alcide and Andy, Jessica, and Jason do, and they manage to kill most of the vampires. Sookie is covered with infected blood, though, and while they try to clean her off, the mob shows up. In the chaos, Alcide is shot. Sookie is offered the chance to turn him into a vampire, but she refuses. Part of this is, I’m sure, an act of mercy. But after what she said to Bill, we know that part of this is also because of her complex feelings about Alcide.

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So long, Alcide

And that’s it for this week. All in all it wasn’t a bad episode, but it doesn’t feel like a show a third of the way to its series finale. We’ll see what the group is up to next week, as I review the show from the beach! 🙂

True Blood: “I Found You” Review

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True Blood is two hours into its final season, and the second episode of the show focuses on the tensions in Bon Temps in the wake of the attack on Bellefleur’s. We finally see Eric; Arlene, Holly, and Nicole almost make their way out of Fangtasia; Sookie, Sam, Jason, Alcide, and Andy visit a ransacked town for clues about the Hep-V vampires; and the angry mob is even angrier.

We begin the episode with one of Jason’s Eric dreams. Drinking vampire blood causes dreams TBE2and fantasies about that vampire and forges a vampire/human bond; Jason drank Eric’s blood a few seasons back. That said, I’m not entirely clear on the point of this scene, even if it was enjoyable. It doesn’t add to the story in any real way, but it does add some much needed screen-time for Alexander Skarsgard. I think we’ll make our way back to this dream at some point, but it wasn’t in this episode.

Cut to outside the police station. Andy is frustrated by the search for Arlene, Holly, and Nicole, and he doesn’t have a clue what to do. Now, Andy—townspeople in general—don’t you think Fangtasia might at least be a place to start? Shreveport isn’t far away, and the place has been a centerpiece of the show. But Sookie, at least, has an idea. She saw a body in the woods, and ID’ing the body, finding out where the girl came from, might be a start to finding the vampires. Does this mean Sookie didn’t tell anyone she found a dead girl in the woods until now? Really? Either way, Andy decides this is a Good Idea and the beginning of a Sound Plan, so they go off to find the corpse.

Meanwhile, the infected vampires that are nesting in Fangtasia are still hungry. They’re arguing over who will go and get the next person (remember that unfortunate incident in the basement from last week) and what they’re going to do for food. An older-looking woman, Betty, is given the keys to the basement to go and fetch the food. When she comes downstairs,TBE2.2 Arlene recognizes her son’s former teacher, and Betty recognizes Arlene, too. She looks directly at her before choosing a man and leading him upstairs. Arlene and Holly, who now recognizes Betty, begin to hatch an escape plan.

Having ID’ed the girl by her driver’s license, the group realizes that she’s from “two towns away” and that that is a good place to start looking. Before leaving, Sam asks the townspeople to tidy up, to clean up Bellefleur’s. He’s trying to give them a way to be useful in the wake of the crisis and discourage mob mentality. Andy, Jason, Sookie, Alcide, and Sam then leave for St. Alice. I can’t tell if they even plan to try to notify the next-of-kin, because this is all about finding the vampires. The dead girl is irrelevant, evidently.

Elsewhere in Bon Temps, Lettie May is knocking down Lafayette’s door. He reluctantly lets her in, and the two chat about Tara for a moment. Lettie May asks Lafayette for V (vampire blood), as she says it’s the only way she can help Tara, who is somewhere between worlds. Lafayette isn’t buying what she’s selling, though, and he shoos her out without giving her any V. Lettie May’s track record being what it is, she’s gotten herself hooked on V already.

Back in Bellefleur’s, Vince is rabble-rousing. He’s tired of Sam; he’s tired of vampires; and he thinks this is his time to shine. He mentions seeing Sam turn into a dog, and then several other people tell similar stories. We get some really funny dialogue here, especially from Maxine Fortenberry. Adilyn, who is helping with the clean-up, tries to talk down the crowd, but she is unsuccessful. She overhears a woman thinking about taking the cache of weapons from the police station, and she runs to warn them. Apparently, guns and ammo are on short supply in these days of Hep-V vampires.

Back in Fangtasia, Arlene and Holly manage to convince Betty to help them escape. There are some wonderful, tense moments between the actresses. Betty is aware that she’s dying, but she has no real desire to hasten it. Arlene and Holly give her just the reason, though, reminding her that they know and remember the kindness Betty extended to the children when she was their teacher. Betty decides that it’s worth the cost to save them and takes another prisoner upstairs.

At this point, Sookie and the crew have made their way into St. Alice, and it’s a ghost town. TBE2.8There’s no one walking around, there are no cars driving, and it’s eerily quiet. Windows are boarded up and graffiti is scrawled everywhere, including “FEMA HELP US” written in huge lettering on the road. They go into the dead girl’s home, where they find more evidence of death and destruction. Sookie also finds the woman’s diary, and she reads aloud the tale of a woman who falls in love with a vampire but is eventually killed by the infected vampires. Leaving the town, the group encounters a mass grave, which is the reason we don’t see anyone—there is no one. I wanted to suspend my disbelief here, but I was annoyed by the concept that a modern town could be TBE2.5completely obliterated without anyone noticing. It’s silly. And Sookie’s reading aloud for the diary seemed still to be beating us over the head with the Sookie-is-a-vampire-freak stick, especially when it was interspersed with her memories of Bill.

In Bon Temps, Adilyn and her cousin arrive at the police station just ahead of the mob, and they manage to warn Kenya, a black female officer. They begin moving the weapons to lock them up, but the mob arrives. I’m not sure if she was a friend or family member, but at any rate, a woman speaks to Kenya, reminding her of  the TBE2.9promotion she was been passed over for in favor of Jason, all the work she’s done that has gone unrecognized. And she relents. Adilyn uses her fairy powers to protect herself, while Kenya attempts to restrain her, and the cries carry over to Jessica (whose blood Adilyn drank in the previous episode).  Jessica is locked inside Andy’s home and cannot leave—it is the middle of the day.

Lettie May has gone home, and we now return to her. She’s cooking, and she burns her hand. This gives her an idea—if she burns herself badly, Willa will have to give her blood so that she can heal. She lays her hand down in the skillet. Yeesh. She then goes to wake Willa, and she’s almost killed in the process. Not a good idea to sneak up on a sleeping vampire. It takes a lot of convincing, but Willa finally gives Lettie May some of her blood. While she is high, she has a vision of Tara, in a white dress, hanging on a cross with a snake crawling over her, but she TBE2.7cannot hear Tara. Willa is bewildered, and Lettie May is crushed. Difficult to tell if this is just Lettie May’s predilection for addiction that we’re seeing or if there’s something to her dreams of Tara.

Back at Fangtasia, Betty offers to monitor sleeping for the infected vampires. They agree, and she uses the time to try to rescue Arlene, Holly and Nicole. She’s too weak, though, and needs to feed from one of them before she can attempt the escape. Arlene agrees to let her feed, but Betty becomes ravenous TBE2.6before she dies in a sad, gross pile on Arlene’s lap.

Andy has returned to Bon Temps, and he’s home. Adilyn isn’t, though. He calls for her, but it is Jessica who replies. Andy is near killing her, and I’m not sure I blame him, but she manages to convince him that Adilyn is in danger somewhere else and that she hasn’t hurt Adilyn. At their return, Sookie sneaks out of the house while Alcide showers. She goes to Bill’s home, asking him if he could still sense her, still feel her fear if she felt it. Oh please, don’t let us go for a Bill and Sookie reunion.

And then we cut to France. Pam walks up to a house. There are female vampires inside, but she quickly ushers them out. And then we’re face-to-face with Eric, who is infected with Hep-V. Cut to the end. And maybe I should’ve seen that coming, but I didn’t really, and I think it’s a damn shame. I’ll just say that if he dies, I hope it’s in a blaze of glory with Pam beside him.

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True Blood: “Jesus Gonna Be Here” Review

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—LostSix 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!)

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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.TB3 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 TB4situation 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 TB2maintain 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, TB5and 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.