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'True Blood': If everybody's supernatural, then nobody is

August 22, 2010 | 10:00 pm

Trueblood10_10  Usually, after a big, game-changing event like last week's Russell newscaster massacre, a TV show like "True Blood" will take a breather episode, figuring out a way to slow things for a week or two before heading in for another big episode. Part of the fun of the second season of "True Blood" was that it never slowed down, but that also meant that it ran out of story around Episode 10 and then dragged out the revelation of how the gang got rid of Mary Ann over the last two episodes, which were truly terrible. This season, the show has interspersed slower-moving episodes among all of the other ones, and the pacing is working better. But it still feels weird to go from an episode that ends on such a huge note and head into an episode where the big event is barely even mentioned. 

Still, we got plenty of developments in this one, enough to make it mostly enjoyable, even if it felt patchy in places. There was definitely a sense at points of the writers realizing they had only three episodes to wrap up all of the storylines they've set in motion, and that led to scenes that felt disjointed from everything else. (I'm still not sure just why we had to keep flashing back to Sam's adventures as a con-man drifter type in 2003 other than as an oblique promo for Fox's excellent new series "Lone Star.") The whole season has felt disjointed in places — that's been its biggest problem — but this episode felt especially ADD, because we learned that Sookie's a fairy, Lafayette's some sort of shaman voodoo king dude, and Crystal is, uh, a were-panther. Now that's the sort of reveal you don't get on just any other show.

The Sookie reveal was the most satisfying. I know I said a few weeks ago that I would be disappointed if she turned out to be a fairy, since that seemed so predictable. While that's still the case, I liked all of the backstory that got filled in here. Fairy blood is so delectable to vampires that the fairy "race," as it were, was hunted to extinction or at least the brink of it by the vampires. That would explain why all of Sookie's newfound fairy friends thought that Bill would steal her light, and it would also explain just why he was able to stumble around in sunlight after drinking her blood. It also explains why all vampires seem to find the merest drop of Sookie's blood irresistible and keep following the girl around with hangdog expressions. Frankly, it's a reveal that could have been built to better, but aside from the initial disappointment of how predictable it was, everything hung together in the end. It's not my favorite moment in the show's history, but it also didn't rub me the wrong way like I thought it would. (Just why is Sookie a fairy? Well, a fairy seduced one of her female ancestors, and the "fairy gene" has been passed down, apparently. I'd say it was on the X chromosome, since Jason seems blissfully and completely human, but her little boy cousin had fairy powers last week. So the fairy gene must just be recessive.)

On the other hand, the other two reveals were fairly laughable. The lengthy sequence where Jesus and Lafayette wandered through some kind of video collage of their mutual ancestries was just strikingly poorly filmed, looking like something out of a shoddy student film or something. I liked some of the touches in it — like the two speaking with each other's voices at one point — but most of it just felt clumsy and overly expository. I get that Lafayette died in the books, so they have to figure out something to do with the guy, who was one of the most vital characters in Season 1. However, there's no reason to make him yet another person uncovering a secret origin story filled with powers he was only half aware of. It didn't help that this weird dream sequence seemed to go on forever.

I honestly don't know what to say about the Crystal revelation. At one point, Jason was shouting. Then he looked back over his shoulder, and there was a panther where Crystal was. Then the panther turned back into Crystal, and she gave him a cagey smile. I'm sure we'll get more fallout from this next week, but it was another reveal that was handled in a graceless, poorly directed fashion. Now you see her; now you see a panther. I did like the kiss between Jason and Tara and his informing her that he was the one who killed Eggs. Both of those developments have been a long time in coming, and both of them felt fairly natural coming in the context of this episode. But the whole were-panther thing? That could have been much, much smoother.

Honestly, it's starting to feel like the show is just giving everyone supernatural powers for the heck of it. I suspect that Jason will never get powers, but the world of "True Blood" works better when we're seeing the vampires interact with SOME humans, and I'm worried the show is losing that central core as we turn even old stalwarts like Lafayette into shamans and stuff. In addition, the show returned to its trudging political allegory, because it tried to make the argument that what one vampire does should not stand in for what all vampires do. This is an argument I guess I'd buy if vampires could subsist on something other than human blood (and yeah, yeah True Blood exists and they can eat that instead and so on), but the show's political allegory has always been one of its weakest points, and I had hoped last week's revelations would blow that up.

All in all, this episode had the feel of a giant faucet being opened, to let out all of the plot points the show's been holding back for a few weeks. Sookie and Eric kissed, first in a dream, then in real life. Then he locked her in a basement. Sam ... did some stuff. Hoyt attempted to reunite with Jessica, and then Sam's younger brother (whom I keep wanting to call LJ, after his "Prison Break" character) attacked him in dog form. Russell's outburst was all the talk of the 24-hour cable news networks, but it seemed to have little-to-no effect on the characters on the show. Eric signed some paperwork and tried to get everyone on board with his plan to take out Russell, with little effect. Other stuff happened, washing over the audience with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. I know I said above that this episode was slow-moving, but it also wasn't. It was an episode where a lot happened, but it all happened in the most boring and expository fashion possible. It was the worst episode of the season.

Other thoughts:

  • One of the best things about "True Blood" is the way it suggests this whole other supernatural world that's been going on behind the scenes of human history. I dearly hope we get to see some of the history of the fairies next season.
  • Listen, I'm just going to say this: If you hook up with a guy in an alley, and that guy has been all over the TV for MURDERING SOMEONE BY RIPPING OUT THEIR SPINE, you deserve what's coming to you. I get that things are heady when you're young and in love, but, c'mon. Current events, people!
  • Congratulations to Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer on their recent nuptials (assuming they ever read this).
  • I didn't watch tonight's episode on DVR for reasons you won't care about. So if I messed anything up above, let me know, and I'll correct it. (DVR is definitely helpful on a show that moves as quickly and among as many storylines as this one does, and I was missing my rewind button tonight.) Me messing things up does NOT extend, however, to my overall opinion of the episode, which would have been terrible if I had watched it frame by frame.
  • Or you can let me know just how wrong I am in comments, via e-mail, or via Twitter.
  • "Fairy blood is delectable and intoxicating to vampires."
  • "I may be skinny, but I ain't evil!"
  • "I can tell you're a sexual person, Hoyt Fortenberry."
  • "It's not respect when your employees think you're a psychopath."
  • "All you see is the quirky vampire girl who bites her nails."

--Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)

Photo: This didn't actually come from tonight's episode, but everybody likes Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten)! Credit: HBO.

Related articles:

'True Blood' Saturdays: 'We will eat you after we eat your children.'

'True Blood': Finally, a 24-hour news channel I'd watch

Complete Show Tracker 'True Blood' coverage


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