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'True Blood': The mystery that is Sookie Stackhouse

 The question "True Blood" wants us to be asking is "Who is Sookie Stackhouse?" The entirety of the season apparently hinges on the answer to this question, and this episode delves into it more deeply than any episode before. The list of characters who know her secret is growing by the episode (even as the audience has yet to catch on), and the answer is so surprising that it even shocks Eric. I worry that this is a lot of buildup for this plot point, that by making it seem like it's so shocking, the show will force us to all come up with our own theories (which I'm about to do) and thusly create a situation where the final reveal is something everybody's figured out already and/or something everyone's speculated about, thus making it feel a little anticlimactic. Plus, if it's something that was hinted at or expressed in the books, there's a whole segment of the audience that already knows, and these moments must be painfully boring for them. 

So all those warning expressed, let's speculate about just what Sookie Stackhouse might be, shall we?

An extra in a commercial for a feminine hygiene product and/or yogurt: The weird meadow full of women clad in pastels and whites, dancing around and emerging from a glimmering pond, complete with gentle music lilting along in the background sure seemed like a commercial for something, something that's trying to cover up its unpleasantness by making everything about itself look really, really nice and above board. Obviously this isn't the answer, but the weird lighting, gauzy filters and abundance of pretty extras flitting about sure made it seem as if this might be the case.

Something Greek something or other: When in doubt on "True Blood," think of an obscure Greek or Roman creature that will fit the evidence you have. I don't know of any mind-reading creatures with lightning fingers in either mythological tradition, but the portrayal of the space she went to when in her coma was similar to traditional depictions of Greek maidens frolicking about in meadows, tra-la-laing along, their bare feet skipping through the grass. On the other hand, the show has gone to the Greek well a couple of times before, and it seems unlikely that it would go there again, if it wants to keep things unpredictable. On the other hand, the strong connection to water held by the maidens suggests that Sookie may be a Naiad.

Some other sort of water spirit: This seems like the best guess, given all of the evidence. A nymph (also from the Greek, and naiads are a kind of nymph) would be my best shot at trying to figure out what we're talking about. The restorative pool, the way that everyone had to disappear into the water when Bill drew near and the talk about how the water was filled with light all suggest that Sookie's life is closely tied to the water in one form or another. Plus, water spirits are somewhere the show hasn't played before.

Sookie is also a shape-shifter, improbably: I have basically no evidence for this, but given the way this season is going ...

A higher power, just below a god but above, say, a vampire: This would fit in with the show's gradual arc of having Sookie attain more and more importance as it goes along. I'm thinking of something akin to, say, one of the Fates (again, with the Greek). This doesn't quite fit the scene that we're shown, but it would fit with Eric's surprise at Sookie's identity and ultimate role, as expressed by her cousin. Still, it seems unlikely that something like this would be hereditary, and it sure seems as though Hadley is at least partly in possession of Sookie's secret abilities and talents. I highly doubt this one is the case, and I'm sticking with water spirit for now, but I could see an argument for this all the same.

Sookie is a fairy: Nah. Too obvious!

Naturally, Sookie's travails — which involved nearly dying when Bill almost drained her dry and the hospital couldn't find a matching blood type for her (hmmmm ...) — were only a portion of this episode, but they were again the most involving part of the show. She killed Lorena (in one of the most disgusting scenes in the history of the show). She rode in the back of a truck and offered her blood to an ailing Bill to help him recover (a move that nearly resulted in her being killed). She had her visit to the other world, then came back to scream at her once-almost-fiancee. She was even involved in a long standoff with some werewolves that ended with Tara using Sookie's mind-reading powers to take out Alcide's ex-fiancee. (Have I mentioned that I much prefer feisty Tara?) It was an all-around good episode for the character and for actress Anna Paquin, and it once again suggests the series had the right idea by giving the character so much to do in this storyline.

It's not as though there's nothing else going on elsewhere. It just continues to disappoint. For once, the story of Russell and Sophie-Anne got kind of boring, because it delved a little too deeply into vampire politics, with Russell debating authority with the Magister, then finally killing the guy (in another of those patented bloody killings). At the same time, though, this whole thing was filled with a lot of blather that I just didn't find as interesting as I usually do the political sections. Maybe it was the removal from the Sookie storyline, which was really cooking along, that irked me. I suspect, though, that it was all a little overwritten.

Meanwhile, over in Sam land, he infiltrated a dog-fighting ring that was both the new employment office for Johnny Burns from "Deadwood" and something that felt like it was out of a Charlie Daniels Band novelty single. I was glad the Sam plot at least had a little momentum, but he still feels stranded off in some other, far worse show than "True Blood." Similarly, Jason continues to be stuck over in some sort of "Dukes of Hazzard"/"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" hybrid, and while I don't necessarily need these two to be attached to the main story to have fun with their storylines, it would help if they had even an ounce as much drive as the Sookie and Bill storylines have had. I feel slightly weird complaining about this, since Sookie and Bill were my least favorite parts of Seasons 1 and 2, but it's like the writers figured out how to fix their storylines, then summarily forgot how to write for everyone else.

Still, the central storyline is so compelling and the central question of who Sookie is is so fascinating that I couldn't help but like this episode all the same. Was it as good as last week's? No. But it was a fun and gory trip back into the Gothic Southern atmosphere of the show, and any missteps it made were more than canceled out by the over-the-top theatrics of Sookie visiting the other world or Lorena exploding in a pile of giblets or Eric standing the background and brooding over his master plan. I really feel like "True Blood" is building toward something that will be grand, over-the-top fun this season, and I hope it doesn't short circuit on the way there.

Other thoughts

  • Come to think of it, Eric needs more to do. He was central to a lot of scenes tonight, but it doesn't seem as if he's driving his own fate at this point, and that's central to the character being as entertaining as he can be.
  • Critic Dan Fienberg has described this show as the most "visceral" on TV. After seeing so many people exploding in blood, I'm hard-pressed to disagree.
  • Honestly, after "Buffy," I'm always surprised when a vampire is killed on this show and doesn't explode into dust.
  • This episode was a little shorter than many others this season and felt it. Everything seemed to be going along all pell-mell throughout.
  • If Sookie isn't through with Bill after this latest ordeal, I don't know what I'll do. Their love may be pure or whatever, but there is just no way the two can exist in each other's worlds. Now I'm sounding like Lorena, aren't I?
  • Send me your thoughts, either in comments, in my e-mail, or on my Twitter.
  • "You wouldn't know love if it kicked you in the fangs."
  • "Vampire burrito? For me?"
  • "I never really thought I was smart enough to get depressed, but here I am."

Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)

Photo: Brit Morgan plays Debbie on "True Blood." I honestly don't remember seeing this shot in tonight's episode, though HBO insists it was. Credit: HBO.

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'True Blood': A great, gory, good time

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Comments () | Archives (41)

i really like this article you have written. Last night's episode was explosive and i loved every minute...im about 98% positive they are going to go the Fairy route with sookie.

Also that pic of Debbie...that was def not last night's episode. It looks like it is in Sookie's house. i dont want to give too much away for someone who hasn't read the book but it looks like it might be the scene in book 4 i believe between sookie and Debbie..that would be awesome if it is that scene!!

I love True Blood, but I am starting to get a little worried that it is painting itself into a corner that it will be hard to get out of: Sookie's identity looks dopey at best, and Todd is right about the episode necessitating a Bill-Sookie breakup. ("If Sookie isn't through with Bill after this latest ordeal, I don't know what I'll do. Their love may be pure or whatever, but there is just no way the two can exist in each other's worlds" - indeed.)

So, despite my faith that Ball & Co. will pull it out in the end, where do we go from here? Would a revelation that Sookie is a fairy, nmyph, etc. be anything other than ridiculous based on last night's Claudine sequence? Assuming Bill and Sookie are done, I would find it hard to get behind a Sookie-Alcide-Eric triangle. It could be the lack of material from the writers, but Alcide seems like he's all abs and no charisma - yawn.

Peter: The photo credit identifies her as Debbie. HBO didn't put up any photos of Sookie in this episode.

There have been hints in interviews of a Bill Eric Sookie triangle, in the books Bill and Sookie have broken up books before she goes for Eric but Bill keeps carrying a torch for her. She is with Alcide totally seperately and it doesn't last long. The interviews suggested Bill and Eric get it on, maybe in a dream sequence.

I was extremely disappointed in Claudine, she and Claudette and Claude are supposed to be super tall and striking. The sequence in the garden reminded me too much of the maened garden with all the orgies from last season but juvenile and cornier. ewwww. But Ball does seem to be departing from the books more and more frequently. Some I'm very happy about like Lafayette. In the book finding out Bill betrayed her and was spying on her was enough for her to break up with him.

Look on wikapedia if you think its too obvious.

Why, oh why, do spoilers NEED to be posted here?? It's such a dissapointment. I just don't understand the necessity? I'm sure it's hard to read everyone's take on what happens in an episode - and that it doesn't FIT with what was written in THE BOOKS. But - we'll all find out eventually! We will, we will! Patience is a virtue...

I watched the episode again - and the picture is certainly not in it. It's not even in the preview for next week. The shot of Debbie in the preview is close - but no cigar. Just an oops on the networks part.

What's so stupid about this whole "what is Sookie" debate is that it is obvious Ball is going to follow the books here. I know a lot of viewers haven't read the books (though you really should - much better than the show) but it's easy enough to find out what happened in them - it's a widely published, very successful series. And for all those True Blood fans who have read the books, this "suspenseful" buildup about Sookie's origins is just boring. I also think Ball did a terrible job representing Claudine and the Fair--I mean, other mystical creatures from Sookie's coma dream.

For those of you worried about Sookie and Bill breaking up - if Ball follows Charlaine Harris' lead at all, it only gets better once they drift apart. It's all these cringe-worthy secondary story lines that Ball has written which hurt the show (Sam in x-large overalls at a dog fight? Come on!) Although I do love me some Lafayette.

I don't know what Sookie is exactly, but I DO know that all of the vampires want her blood bc if they drink enough of it, they can go into the sun without burning to a crisp ( i.e. like Bill) But of course, Mr. Allan Ball will keep us hanging until the last episode and then keep us hanging even more for season 4....

I think that Sookie is a reincarnated ancient Druid high priestess. Do we know if the grandfather that had some of the same powers as her was on her mother's or father's side. If it was on her mother's side then it is quite likely that she is a Druid. Their powers usually start to appear at about age 18 but if she didn't have anyone to teach and lead her then they may have taken longer to appear. Also it would make sense that she didn't know what all powers she has and doesn't quite know how to use all of them.

Just wondering have you read the books????? That will answer this question.

She has fairy blood in her. It's all explained in the books. As someone who's read the books I'll say that seeing it visually on screen isnt boring to me. It just brings something I really enjoyed reading more to life for me.

I thought that the Sam arc was very interesting as a depart from Vampire. In the Eric arc, it is obvious that he is bidding his time from previous episodes to go against the king that killed his father. He had to rescue his "child" first.
While i love Buffy, I appreciate the more bloody end that seems more realistic, though I also was surprised that it was just dust. It shows the level that show ingrain themselves in you understanding and expectations. The human brain is ridiculously mailable.
I understand that there need to be a story arc for Jason, but it's far too slow going.
And lastly, about Sookie, though none of the evidence supports it-I', leaning towards muse. I don't know why, but it's the first thing that popped into my head during the Greek scene. The story has definitely butchered Mythology with the meanads and don't think it's improbable that they would the muses off the hill, as it were.

markiejoe: True Blood has jumped the shark but you're looking forward to Weeds coming to the rescue?!!! That is absolutely hilarious. Weeds lost complete direction and relevance after the fire at the end of season 3, and for sure after season 4. In season 5, Nancy is no longer even dealing drugs, for Christ's sake! True Blood admittedly had some wild and crazy detours in season 2, but now in season 3 three seems back on track and heading towards something interesting, particularly concerning Sookie and Bill but also in the world of vampire politics.

Faeries. The END.

my biggest concern is that they are going to make the same mistake with the "mystery" of sookie's identity that they did with maryann's: drag it out long past the time when any sane person would have any interest or investment in how it plays out. i almost gave up on true blood because of maryann, and i'm just worried that the final "reveal" is going to be so disappointing that i'm forced to give up on the show completely.

Maybe she is a valkyrie or something like that. With Eric's intrest in her and him being a nordic lord and all. Obviously she's something pure. I've never heard anything of nymphs or valyries being telepathic though.

Eric *does* need more to do. Waiting for Season 4...

Sookie is part fairy people. Her great granfather is a fairy prince and his son had kids with her grandmother Adele. Hadly has a son that has the same abilities as sookie. Claudine is sookie's cousin. Claudine is a triplet. She has a twin brother, and had a sister, but she was killed. Vampires love fairy blood because it's the best blood of all blood. Jason took after the human side. Jasons dukes of hazard GF is a werepanther. I.E. why that guy was feasting on a bloody body.

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