We often seek some level of importance in our favorite television dramas, but I’d wager that most of us are just looking for a bloody good time when we sit down for an episode of True Blood mere hours before we embark on another work week. It’s supposed to be an escape, not a test of our political knowledge — and a wonky one at that. This week’s “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” takes the political themes the series has been throwing at a wall of blood-thirsty vampires and blows them out of proportion. Of course, on the bright side, it looks like that overarching theme is helping to weed out a few of our obnoxious, gratuitous storylines.
Season 5’s main plot — that of the vampire revolution — is necessarily political, but the fact that Salome and her new King, Bill, are waging a pro-vampire, anti-human war from their underground palace is so far from reality that it’s easier to find and process the wider political themes. And with a series like True Blood — whose strength lies in its ability to tantalize us — the easier the serious elements are to process, the better.
To some extent, Bill and Salome stay on that path this week. While many fans are still holding out hope that good ol’ Bill hasn’t turned to the dark side, the vamp himself isn’t quite sure either. He tells Eric he’s confused about which way is the right one, and all it takes is some hallucinatory sex with Salome, his apparent new lady, to set him on the path to Sanguinista royalty. He imagines Salome is both Sookie and Lilith (blood-covered edition) and they feed on each other. That’s one way to solidify one’s bloodlust. Bill is firmly (for now) on Salome’s side.
This is terrible news for Eric, who’s formulated an entire escape plan with Molly (Tina Majorino). He even successfully subdues his batty sister-girlfriend Nora with his intoxicating kisses long enough to bring her along for the ride, but Bill proves to be the side-switching traitor we feared. He calls the guards on Eric and has him arrested, and Bill-Sookie shippers everywhere weep. With all these issues plaguing both Bill and Eric, there’s no way either one of those handsome vamps is going to weasel his way back into Sookie’s newly independent little heart.
There is, of course, the possibility that Bill is playing absolutely everyone in some grand scheme to overthrow all the evil in the Authority, but if that’s the case, he’d better have a really amazing plan. His handful of little moves to convince Salome he’s on her side — if that is, in fact, what he’s doing — have cost so many lives already. It simply doesn’t seem like something that formerly-good Bill would do unless he really has changed. Still, we can hang onto the marked change in his face when Eric asked him if Sookie was really just food to him. It’s the only thing standing between Completely Evil Bill and Old Bill.
For now, however, we’re stuck with power-hungry Vampire Bill, seated at the throne with his temptress of a Queen, Salome. And while she claims to be on a mission for Lilith, both she and her king are clearly more intoxicated by their mutual power than they are by this “religious” mission. Their bloody influence is already expanding throughout our True Blood world – even Pam’s Fangtasia realm is threatened when a new, baby Goth Jared Leto vampire is selected to replace Eric as the Section 5 Sheriff and the ban on public feeding on humans is lifted. This surely isn’t helping to keep the Sanguinista duo grounded. It’s a story rife with political themes, but at least it comes in easy-to-digest little niblets.
When we travel back to Bon Temps, however, we find a socio-political explosion so bad, news reporters are even bringing the name Barack Obama into their speculative coverage of the race war brewing in the small Louisiana town. Three storylines converge (thank heavens — it was getting crowded in here) when Sookie goes searching for information about her parents’ death and winds up in the middle of the hate group’s (now referred to as the Obamas, thanks to their disguise of choice) tirade as Sheriff Dearborn’s kidnap victim.
As Sookie’s being thrown into the pig pen alongside an unconscious Hoyt, Andy and Jason find the Obamas’ website, a righteous explosion of hate, pulling from many of the excuses rattled off by U.S. Border vigilante militia: “These darned supernaturals are stealing our jobs and our money,” namely. And, to drive that point home, the perps are wearing Obama masks to prove that their mission is truly for the good of America — or it’s irony, or they’re just masks and we should all stop trying to figure it out as Jason (accidentally) wisely said. The site also provides videos of the group’s various evil deeds, like roasting vampires alive in the sun, and claiming it will make their “Dragon” proud. The group is using an authority model akin to that of the Klu Klux Klan, and when we find that ex-Sheriff Dearborn’s mistress Sweetie (the large Cheeto-eating woman Luna smelled when they rescued Jessica) is the Dragon, she drops some more ridiculous hate on us. “We can’t let them convert all the children to their shifter ways,” declares Sweetie. Well, as we know. You’re born a shifter, it’s not something you pick up at summer camp. Just like that, this hate group is a catch-all metaphor for general intolerance against other races and other lifestyles — which would be a great use of real world context if it felt like it had any real direction.
Next: True Blood's political troubles.And that’s where the series gets in trouble — especially with Sweetie’s declaration that shifters could somehow transfer their shifter-status to innocent little kids after her group’s site situated itself in the border-debate. The writers are grabbing us by the neck and slapping us in the face with it: see, this is how ridiculous it is that we’re having a debate about gay rights in this country. Also, intolerance against immigrants is bad. The series is showing us that our real life set of intolerant folks sounds just as ridiculous as these hateful crazies. And even though, to some extent, the writers have a point, dressing up the intolerant side as a band of directionless crazies isn’t helping us win any debates. It’s just placating us for being on the right side of the debate, which is why True Blood should probably dial it back a smidge and leave the explicit writing for its sex scenes.
The good news is that this storyline may in fact be wrapping up, or at least merging with the biggest storyline: the vampires are taking over the world, as Claude the fairy claims. Luna and Sam tell Andy and Jason they smelled pig droppings at the Obamas’ house when they found Jessica, and Jason turns this into actual police work and figures out that Dearborn and his Lady Dragon are at his ex-wife’s farm. There, they find Hoyt and Sookie, and Jason tends to them while Luna and Sam execute their (actually) naked rage on the Obamas. They may feel better now that they’ve caught their tormentors, but they’ll surely have another bout of rage when they learn that Russell wrested puppy Emma from granny Martha.
We’re still not sure if Hoyt is alright, because we leave off with Jason trying to wake him up — if Hoyt is dead, Jason and Jessica are surely going to spend the next few episodes blaming themselves and their raging lust for sending their friend down this path. Jessica and Jason’s strange, uncertain dynamic has been one of the more interesting threads this season, and this guilty wrench is upping the ante. Besides, with Sookie all independent and Bill and Eric smooching Sanguinistas, we need a supernatural sexual entanglement to latch onto.
Finally, we’ve got Terry’s fire monster nonsense, which isn’t as political as a story tied to the war in Afghanistan should be. But boy is it completely useless. Thankfully, after Lafayette did his best Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost impression last week (and then referenced that movie this week and made it all worth it), we’ve witnessed the merge and cleanup of some very inconvenient plot lines. For starters, Lafayette is back to being a hilarious sidekick with some handy powers (like talking to Sookie’s Gran to help her solve the mystery of her parents’ murder). More importantly, Patrick (Scott Foley) is dead. Finally. I can’t even be upset at how abruptly it happened because it needed to happen to keep me from tearing my hair out for the rest of the season.
Terry finally mans up and kills Patrick when the terrible Army sergeant kidnaps Arlene and threatens her life until Terry agrees to be the spilled blood to ward off the Ifrit. Suddenly, Patrick has a wife and kids – something he failed to mention this entire time — and he uses them as an excuse for Terry acting as the martyr. Basically, Patrick is a babbling psycho, and for that he must die. Arlene and Terry pull a few craft punches and wind up holding Patrick in suspense — and at gunpoint — while Terry waits for the Afghani woman to appear to him and bless the murder. She does, Terry kills his old friend, and the Ifrit swallows up the body. Bing, bang, boom. Now let’s just hope we’re not treated to the Terry mope-athon for the next three episodes, because this feeling of freedom from Stories We Don’t Care About will have been completely wasted.
And speaking of things being wasted, why is Alcide spending the entire episode driving to Jackson to see his Lone Wolf of a father? Alcide is one of the most compelling characters on the series, yet we’ve spent all season worrying about Terry and his tormentor stolen out of a Lost episode.
Thankfully, however, True Blood is starting to resemble a sense-making series again. If all goes as planned, all that’s left to solve is the giant supernatural war a-brewing (piece of cake, right?), Sookie’s parents’ murder, and the mystery surrounding Alcide’s lack of shirtless scenes this week.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler