Still suffering from its own oversaturation of minutiae, True Blood at least has one thing going for it: there’s never a shortage of obstacles in Sookie’s way. We left her last week with her three de facto guardians, Russell, and an unseen but apparently terrifying threat. This week, just when we think that part is solved, she gets a handful of other problems thrown in her calamity magnet of a lap. And of course, capturing Russell proves to be no simple feat. (Capturing the oldest, strongest vampire alive is near impossible? Who knew?)
But while Sookie’s life always carries a theme of distress – something our heroine is clearly growing tired of on account of her apparent depression and increased “f**k” and “f**king” word count – the series can’t manage to carry a unified theme through an episode. Then again, how you keep an episode with eight different storylines along the lines of any particular theme is a mystery for which anyone working in television would kill to find an easy solution. And for now, True Blood seems to be happy without it, spinning episodes that jump from shifter-facing hate crimes to werewolf politics to smoke monsters and fangbanger ex-boyfriends and back to those things we really care about: the Authority, Bill, Eric, and Sookie. The main Season 5 plot is thickening up like a nice stew, but excuse me while I pick through some of these filler vegetables the chef seems to have haphazardly thrown in.
First up, we’ve got the baby corn of a storyline that is Terry and his not-a-rip-off-of-Lost-we-swear smoke monster. After the Ifrit kills their former comrade, Terry and Patrick finally witness the fire being coming out of the bunker of a home and they break. Patrick is dumbfounded, still unclear on the fact that his poor sergeanting is what got them cursed in the first place (and what’s forcing us, the adoring True Blood audience, to put up with a storyline about which we cannot even pretend to care). Thanks a lot, Patrick. Terry is overwhelmed with guilt – after all, he was the one who fired the final bullets in the woman who cursed them – and his guilt doubles when he realizes his presence is dangerous for Arlene and the kids. He leaves her with tears in her eyes at Merlott’s and while he fully explains himself, Arlene is convinced he’s simply off his meds again, which is even more heartbreaking to her than the truth would be.
To go with that baby corn, we’ve got a bunch of celery, though luckily the dose is rather low this week. Lafayette is called in to see his mother (Alfre Woodard) because she reportedly had a seizure. When he comes into her room, it seems she may have faked it to get his attention. She’s got a message from Jesus (as in Laf's ex-boyfriend, not the Son of God), though most of it is obscured by her incessant babbling about how “Jesus loves you” (ex-boyfriend). We do, however, learn two things: the ability to see mystical, magical nonsense is hereditary and Jesus’ evil magic, which is now in Lafayette, comes from something Jesus’ evil Tio did. So you’re really going through with this magic plot, eh, TB? Great.
And while we were picking out the useless vegetables, we found the spice we wish had been used a little more heavily: the Pam-Tara relationship threw in a pinch of a story. After fighting Jessica over Hoyt, Tara is pulled – by her hair, in typical Pam fashion – into the backroom where Pam lectures her like a true mother before switching gears and telling her she’s proud of the way Tara fought. And just as Tara is feeling some sense of accomplishment, Pam rips it away and says she’s proud of her the way a human is proud of a dog. Kristen Bauer van Staten told me at the beginning of the season that Pam would be like a "crocodile mother," and after seeing how nurturing and simultaneously vicious the she-vamp can be, it seems croc mama might have been an understatement.
But let’s remember who started this whole altercation: the cocktail onion in our stew, Hoyt. Who puts cocktail onions in a stew, anyway? What is this storyline even doing here? It’s simply acting as this flavor filler between three actual storylines: Tara’s transformation, Jessica’s relationship with Hoyt, and the rash of Obama-masked hate-crime committers. After he double-dog-dared Tara to feed on him last week, Hoyt caused a fight between newfound friends Tara and Jessica. And like a delusional teenage girl mooning over her jock of an ex-boyfriend, Hoyt (who is the clingy ex-girlfriend, in case that wasn't clear) watches with a goofy grin as Jessica and Tara rip into each other. He’s convinced he’s still got Jess on the hook, and to sweeten the deal, he offers to let her glamor him and do whatever she wants to him. Not only has she moved on, but Jess is disgusted by this new Hoyt who’s got no regard for his own life – or for matching colors. (Seriously, Hoyt? A purple muscle shirt with a red tie? Did you just lose a Jack Nicholson as the Joker Look-a-like contest?)
Distraught over Jessica’s clear disdain, Hoyt stumbles out and finds the nearest old prospector variety vampire and nearly lets him drain him before the mysterious Obama mask-wearing battalion drives up to kill the vamp and save Hoyt. Apparently, they know Hoyt, which narrows down the pool of possible suspects to a whopping 20 or so generic dudes who’ve milled around Hoyt at any given moment in the last four and a half years. Fantasic.
Next: Did Sam and Luna actually survive the Obama-mask attack?
Sam and Andy, however, are getting a little closer to the truth. This meaty storyline – which is surprising because Sam’s storylines are usually so auxiliary – ramps up this week thanks to the miraculous survival of Luna, who looked very, very dead when we left her on her front lawn last week. Sam, delusional from blood loss, imagines he’s totally qualified to do some police work and find the perps. Andy is dumb enough to let him – but when we look at Andy’s track record, he really could use the help, laws n’ stuff be damned.
They start at the source: the purveyor of the silver-cored wooden bullets that killed Sam’s shifter friends. Andy’s questions about the bullets and who buys them gives the shop owner a case of guilty shifty eyes and it’s not long before he reaches under the counter for his gun. Luckily, he’s an idiot shop keeper who leaves loaded crossbows sitting around on the shelves, so Sam is able to conveniently grab one and kill the guy right before Andy’s law-shirking eyes. Are we headed for a K-9 inspector plotline? Sam can handle a gun and he’s got the doglike ability to smell every subtle little odor, but let’s not, True Blood. I like my Sam behind the bar, maintaining his down-home, semi-removed lifestyle. Watching him seek vengeance for what happened to him and his friends will be a treat, but let’s not go all Jason Stackhouse and give him a badge. Try to remember that real policemen need training of some sort to wear that uniform.
And while the emergence of a hate-crime-ring in Bon Temps is a plot that is sure to produce a hefty story that might even have us thinking again, the real beef in this True Blood stew is always our main trio: Sookie, Bill, and Eric.
After last week’s mysterious ambush, we find the attackers are werewolves, whom Alcide determines are working for Russell and his mysterious rescuer for the readily available V. While Alcide, Bill, and Eric are fighting the three wolves, Russell descends on Sookie who’s perfectly able to defend herself with her light blast. The Authority sweeps in to take Russell, but demands that Bill and Eric wipe Sookie and Alcide’s memories – they have no idea that Sookie’s impervious to glamoring. So while Eric is enjoying emasculating Alcide and convincing him to protect Sookie sans sex after he caught him “humping” Sookie “like livestock” (he’s really got a way with words, doesn’t he?), Bill is only pretending to glamor Sookie. She’s hearing every word of his heartbreaking speech: he’s White-Fanging her, as New Girl’s Schmidt would say. He tells her to forget she ever knew him and Eric and to go on a live a normal, human life. (Which would be easier if she was human).
While the Authority general slaughters the humans Russell had in the basement (oh boy, another Sanguinista hiding in their midst, didn’t see that coming at all), Bill and Eric are taken back to headquarters and Sookie is crying to a very confused and disoriented Alcide. When they return to her house, it doesn’t take the mind-reader long to figure out that Eric played anti-match-maker with Alcide. As he starts remembering their make-out and almost-coupling, his brow becomes furrowed and when Sookie tries to comfort him, he recoils. By now, Sookie’s well-versed enough in vamp life that she knows exactly what happened. She’s also apparently well-versed enough in anti-glamoring, now that she’s done it a handful of times, and she snatches Alcide's hand and restores his memory of the violent evening. (And hopefully, his memory of his feelings for her – amirite, Alcide fans?)
Next: So will there be more Sookie-Alcide action in our future?
Unfortunately, the result of her memory restoring move isn’t as romantic as some of us might have hoped. Instead, Alcide remembers that he saw Marcus’ father as one of the wolves on V and he storms off to resume control of his old pack. When he gets there, he needs a second wolf to support the challenge and to my dismay, the sexy lady wolf from the season premiere answers the call. Which means they’re totally going to hook up. Instead of Sookie and Alcide. Damnit. The she-wolf may be gorgeous, but right now, all I can see is a ruiner.
While Alcide finds a new love interest, Sookie finds some new trouble. Jason comes to her with his information about the vampire who killed their parents and the fact that their cousin Hadley works at the fairy nightclub. Convinced all fairies are actually ugly, Queen Mab sympathizers looking to feed humans light fruit, Sookie demands to see the field where the club is hidden. (And even for a True Blood fan, all this magical pixie dust feels like a little much.)
Sookie gets right into the club because of her fairy blood, and once inside she finds the fairy who actually saved her when she was first ensnared by Queen Mab. She’s convinced he’s evil too, but when he reveals the truth about her parents’ demise, she puts her apprehensions on hold temporarily. He tells her that the vampire stopped her parents’ car (on a bridge that doesn’t look unlike the bridge where a certain other vampire-problem-laden heroine’s parents also died) because he smelled her blood, which was on a kid’s bandage in the back seat. Wrought with guilt – let’s not forget that just a few weeks ago, Lafayette called her the “Angel of Death” – Sookie reacts with her light force, an attack which every nearby fairy meets with their own beams. And after a reaction like this, and everything we already know about stubborn Sookie, you can bet she’s not going to join their merry little Moulin Rouge operation. And since Rene’s evil reveal in Season 1, Sookie’s been pretty good about knowing who to trust, so she may be onto something with the fairies, who are curiously keen on keeping her parents’ story a secret.
And while that problem is growing, it seems that her Russell problem may be coming to a swift end. But, it only seems that way. Waltzing through the Authority’s main chamber like a proud dad on a 1950s sitcom, Roman congratulates Bill and Eric and praises their commitment to his side of the bloodlust divide, removes their iStakes, and orders one for Russell. He’s all about saving human blood, but he’ll happily spill Russell’s like it was a keg to be tapped for Monday Night Football.
Eric can’t bring himself to play into the Authority culture the way the increasingly duplicitous Bill is. Mr. Northman apparently cannot tell a lie (any more) and he admits he’s not a mainstreamer, he likes some humans, and tries to stay out of their lives otherwise. He’s no mainstreaming supporter, but he’s no Sanguinsta either (which is surprisingly akin to his mortal enemy Russell's assertion that Sanguinistas and Mainstreamers are both hypocrites.) Roman calls BS on Eric’s hipster act, but grows concerned when Eric asks to see his Nora after learning she’s a Sanguinista. He assures Roman Nora is his sister, nothing more, and Roman seems to be okay with the request for communication as long as Eric gets back in time for the World Series of Executions: Russell vs. a Supposedly Fail-Proof iStake.
When Nora sees Russell being dragged through the prison, she’s overjoyed, declaring the coming of some foreseen prophecy. Eric quickly realizes that Nora couldn’t have been the one who freed Russell because she's genuinely surprised to see him. It has to be one of the other two female chancellors, and our Southern Redhead doesn’t have the right sinister glare. It was clearly Salome. And when Roman clicks the detonate button on his iPhone, the iStake on Russell fails to activate. It was totally Salome. The elderly vampire takes the opportunity to clobber Roman's notion that his selfish reign was about peace, mercy over sadism, and balance before clobbering the virile Roman and killing him as the traitorous Salome sheds a single blood tear. That’s True Blood speak for guilty.
Now the big question is about what Russell will do now that he’s in a room of his opposition. Will he go after Bill and Eric? What is his mission, besides general blood-sucking insanity? Is the mainstreaming movement and the Authority dead in the water? Those other chancellors are more props than viable characters. And what is this foreseen event that Nora is babbling about in her cell? Is Russell’s authority some sort of dark, prophesy? Is taking over the Authority his One Ring to rule them all that will bring darkness to all of Louisiana? Whatever the answers to these questions, the result is going to be something huge and hearty.
This True Blood stew is already filled up with spicy, filling storylines. It would be wise for the next few episodes to start tying up all the boring, vegetable loose ends before the remaining episodes of the season are too packed to handle the brewing Russell Edgington maelstrom.
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