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'True Blood': The mystery that is Sookie Stackhouse

August 1, 2010 |  9:01 pm

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 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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