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 its final season is as silly as ever. This week: more death! More blood! And the birth of Fangtasia!
Typical: you leave for a week and you miss the show’s most annoying character getting eviscerated on camera. Curses. There are no deaths to rival that of the generally loathsome Maxine Fortenberry this week — instead, all we get this week is the sad aftermath, which is made all the more awkward by the fact that poor Hoyt has no idea who he’s talking to when Jason calls to break the news that his mother’s heart has been unilaterally removed for being a pain in the ass once too often.
Yep, this week starts with most of True Blood‘s characters surveying the wreckage wrought by last week’s dramatic events — apart from Jason calling Hoyt to break the news of Maxine’s long-overdue death, there’s Sookie doing the same for Alcide’s father, and then forcing poor Holly to remember all the fucked-up shit that’s happened to her over the last couple of weeks, so as to find where she’d been locked up. The answer: Fangtasia!
Indeed, this episode centers on Shreveport’s favorite vampire bar, because we also get its backstory: it turns out to have had its genesis as an adult video store “gifted” to Eric and Pam as a means for the Vampire Authority to keep an eye on them. The Pam-‘n’-Eric backstory is one of those things that makes this show still worth watching, and the exposition this week is pretty great — especially when, circa the mid-’80s, a clueless Bauhaus-lovin’ human comes into the store looking for vampire movies for a course called Monsters In Our Midst (“Examining the plight of the other”), takes one look at Eric… and turns out to be Ginger, the perpetually addled Eric-obsessed Fangtasia bartender. (Related: Eric’s ’80s hair is amazing.)
The skipping-between timelines structure of the episode is clumsy, but it’s forgivable because, well, look, the stuff that involves Pam and Eric and Ginger is much more interesting than modern-day plotlines like angsty Sam Merlotte or Bill/Sookie’s will-they won’t-they potential relationship rekindling. In particular, it’s excellent to see Pam in gloriously withering form (“Look at yourself and look at me, Ginger, and tell me: who has better taste?”) It also turns out that Fangtasia was Ginger’s vision all along — not that she remembers, because Pam lifts the idea and glamors poor Ginger into forgetting she ever had it.
And anyway, by the end of the episode the two timelines meet — Eric and Pam return to Shreveport in search of Sarah Newlin (who sadly isn’t sighted in this episode), but instead end up reuniting with Sookie and the rest of the gang. (Pam is, predictably enough, just delighted to see Sookie: “She’s like a fucking fungus that won’t go away”.) All our old favorites join forces in a raid on Fangtasia to rescue Arlene et al from the dungeon downstairs.
Cue a mass vampire fight scene, which frankly isn’t as compelling as it might be, and some awfully mawkish scenes where Arlene apparently communes with the spirit of Dead Terry before deciding that no, she’s not going to die. Happily, the bloodbath does see the end of both the tiresome vigilante posse (who get butchered wholesale after picking a fight that they can’t handle with not one but two groups of pissed-off vampires) and the tiresome Hep V vampire posse (who are sentenced to death en masse for harboring an actor with the worst English accent you’ll hear this side of Don Cheadle.) This trims away two of this final season’s duller plotlines, suggesting that we’re gonna be left with more Eric and Pam and Sarah Newlin going forward. Things are looking up!
And finally, if there isn’t a threesome between James and Jessica and Lafayette before this season is out, I’ll feel very let down. It turns out Jessica’s not healing from last week’s gunshot wound because she’s not been eating. James summons Lafayette to convince her to do so, and the scene between the three of them is genuinely compelling, and gave rise to some of the episode’s best dialogue, mainly because it involves peak Lafayette — when Jessica denounces the fact that vampires need to feed off innocent humans to survive, Lafayette retorts that she can feed off him because “I ain’t no motherfuckin’ innocent.” But in this show, really, who is?