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 season is proving no different — silliness abounds, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. This week: the return of the Bill ‘n’ Eric show!
By this stage of its existence, the appeal of True Blood‘s plot lines can be summarized pretty effectively with a simple Orwellian aphorism: vampires good, everything else bad. Or, at least, vampires interesting, everything else kinda dull. So it went that after two of the best episodes in the show’s recent history over the last couple of weeks, this week’s installment returned to just-kinda-OK status, for the simple reason that it spent a relatively large amount of time tying up non-vampiric loose ends.
Basically, there was too much Sam and too much Alcide — the former deciding to risk life and limb to return to Bon Temps for Terry’s funeral, the latter getting himself into all sorts of trouble with his wolf pack for deciding to spare the life of Sam’s do-gooding paramour. There was also plenty of time devoted to the aftermath of Terry’s by-proxy suicide, which rather undermines what was presumably the whole point of killing off Terry in the first place — i.e., removing one extraneous subplot from the show. Sigh.
As far as highlights go, Sarah Newlin continues to prove in (relatively) limited screen time that she’s the single best non-vampiric character on the show — the sight of her rolling into the late governor’s mansion while listening to “Elocution Classes For Spreading The Gospel” was hilarious, and her discovery of what was left of her lover after Billith got to him led to one of the more dramatic televisual interactions that anyone’s ever had with a severed head.
Later, her proclamation later in the episode that “When God’s message is this clear, I am a truly unstoppable woman” seemed all too believable, and her Mr. Wolf-style handling of the situation suggested that in killing off the governor, Billith only succeeded in putting an even more dangerous lunatic in charge of the state of Louisiana’s anti-vampiric efforts. The sledgehammer satire on right-wing Christian lunatics that Newlin’s character provides is perhaps a bit too unsubtle for its own good — the character verges on caricature at times — but the aptly named Anna Camp carries off the role with such relish and aplomb that it largely doesn’t matter.
Elsewhere, the Pam-in-therapy subplot continues to be gold, for the simple reason that it gives us Awesome Pam in all her glory — thankfully, the grief-stricken chasing-after-Eric Pam of the early part of this series has largely disappeared, replaced by the character we came to love when the show was in its infancy. The way she’s slowly wrapped her therapist around her little finger over the course of this series has been thoroughly excellent, and the process reached its conclusion this week with the hapless psychologist on his back, straddled by a randy vampire. It’s not going to end well for him, one suspects.
Beyond that, this episode was largely given over to the slow demise of Nora, which culminated in an impressively gruesome death sequence. It’s hard to imagine any of the show’s fans mourning her departure — honestly, she was kinda annoying, and her character was never developed sufficiently for her presence to be any more than a mild diversion. Despite Alexander Skarsgård’s best efforts, there was never the chemistry between her and Eric to rival that between Eric and Pam, who really do seem to have an enduring bond (despite Nora’s relationship with Eric predating Pam’s by some 400 years).
That said, her death meant that this week we saw Eric as vulnerable and desperate as we’ve ever seen him. His development — from the impressively evil long-haired Fangtasia overlord of the show’s first season to the actually-good-in-his-own-way character we know today — has been one of the show’s more enduringly interesting subplots. It’s also always interesting to get more of his backstory, even if this week’s installment involved a silly English accent and a silly haircut.
The episode closed with Nora’s death from the gnarly Hep V virus that humans plan to unleash on vampirekind, and if the murderous look Eric gave Bill just before the credits rolled was anything to judge by, the consequences for the (surviving) humans behind the plot are gonna be pretty nasty. Getting the Eric-‘n’-Bill band back together has seemed inevitable from the start of the series, and the fact that Bill is now a daywalking übervampire means that he rather less pales in comparison to his Nordic counterpart. There will be blood? Bring it on.