No TV show says summer to us more than True Blood, its Southern Gothic atmosphere and pulpy pleasures providing the perfect complement to sweaty evenings spent drinking mint juleps at home after another exhausting day in the hot sun. The show alternately drives us crazy and enthralls us, and this is season is proving no different — silliness abounds, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. This week: Bill Compton isn’t the messiah, he’s just a very naughty boy. And, y’know, a dick.
Perhaps no character has personified the increasingly outlandish plot structure of True Blood than the erstwhile King of Louisiana and Enduring Undead Nice Guy of OK Cupid, the one and only Bill Compton. From heart-of-gold mainstreamer through political climber, religious fanatic and near-immortal reincarnation of vampire goddess and nekkid blood-drenched charmer Lilith, Compton’s trajectory has been an embodiment of everything there is to love about this whole gloriously silly show — it makes little to no sense, and it’s the sort of thing when you read back over it, you wonder exactly what in god’s name you’re even doing watching this show. And yet next week you find yourself tuning in to see what happens next.
Still, with all that said, Bill is an interesting figure for pretty much the exact reason that Sookie snarls at him when he barges into her house during this episode and then demands her blood, for Christ’s sake: “You’re not god, you’re just an asshole.” Because at it turns out, he is an asshole — a manipulative, passive-aggressive, duplicitous creep, with a side serving of religious fervor thrown in for good measure. (Flavorwire will admit to cackling happily when His Lordship managed to cook himself in the sun during this episode, getting a pretty spectacular lesson in the fact that whether or not he is possessed with the spirit of a vampire goddess, he’s not 100% immortal yet.)
Anyway, the thing is that, setting aside the often absurd manner in which it’s played out, the evolution of Bill Compton has been a long study of the idea that you never really know anyone at all. It’s not often you get to watch an extended dissection of how love can turn to hate, perhaps because it’s such uncomfortable subject matter — there are plenty of vengeful exes on film, of course, and many broken relationships, but rarely do you get to watch the entire sorry trajectory, from the first flush of love to the way you settle into a simple comfort in the other person’s company, through betrayal, disintegration and the lifelong aftermath. (Don and Betty Draper spring to mind here, but beyond that, examples aren’t thick on the ground.)
In this respect, it’s no accident that the show’s most compelling scene this week was the confrontation between Bill and Sookie, and all the more so because the latter continues to be an ever more irrelevant sideshow in a series based on the books that bear her name. The Fairy Grandfather/Godfather/whatever the fuck he is, along with the entire Warlow plot, isn’t exactly gripping stuff (especially as the idea of a terrifying omnipotent vampire seems rather less dramatic when the rest of the show is exploring vampiric vulnerability), and the faery wetbag who is apparently Sookie’s new love interest doesn’t bode well for this changing any time soon.
But this week, at least, there was a reminder that for all its myriad subplots and the distance that its writers have veered from its fundamental concept, True Blood is still a story about love that’s slowly declined into mutual loathing. Bill and Sookie still clearly care for one another, but whatever is left of their love is slowly being replaced by anger, sadness and mutual antipathy. And that’s a universal, relatable story regardless of whether one of the parties happens to be a mind-reading half-faery waitress and the other is a nigh-on-immortal undead dickhead.
And also, it’s been rather intriguing to watch Bill growing into/embracing his own dickishness. I’ve complained over the last couple of weeks that the show’s subplots this season are a bunch of entirely unconnected narrative strands, but the way that Bill seems to be thinking about Bumbling Andy Bellefleur’s brood of faery children at the end of this episode suggests that whole silly plotline has some relevance after all. Is he really going to kidnap a bunch of kids to synthesize their blood? We shall see.
Elsewhere this week:
– The show’s Holocaust allegories continue apace with the appearance of a sinister Mengele-esque doctor who has apparently been performing sinister unspecified “experiments” within the confines of what’s basically a vampire concentration camp. I’ll probably write more on the strangely uncomfortable direction this entire thing is taking, but for now, let’s just note that beyond the fact that vampires are fictional, there’s a fairly fundamental difference between Jews and vampires (and, indeed, between any other oppressed group and vampires), being that vampires are terrifying predators that FEED ON HUMANS;
– Despite the increasingly strange implications of the entire rounding-up-the-vampires subplot, it does provide the week’s best moment with the reappearance of both the Reverend Steve Newlin and his ex-wife Sarah, who’s less than impressed with her former husband’s rebirth as a gay vampire (again, just read back over that and appreciate how gloriously silly this show is.) She gets the week’s best line: “If you really want to do god’s work, you have to be in politics!”;
– There’s a definite whiff of Patti Hearst about the whole Eric-kidnapping-the-evil-governor’s-daughter subplot. This plot also sees the entirely welcome return of brutal, ruthless Eric — exploring his sensitive side is all very well, but it’s nice to be reminded that we’re still dealing with a terrifying 1000-year-old Viking killing/sex machine here;
– Werewolves are far less exciting with their clothes on.