At this time last year, the premiere of the new season of True Blood had inspired a lot emails and blog posts with the excessive use of exclamation points and the cordoning off of the television at 9 p.m. on Sunday so that I wouldn’t miss a hot second of the episode. And then Season 4 happened.
When the premise of a show involves a mind-reading bar waitress, thousand-year-old vampires living in backwoods Louisiana, werewolves, shape shifters, maenads, and one of the dumbest pretty boys to ever grace the small screen, you give the show some slack in its storytelling. But what should have been a fantastic season — a witch-vampire war, hell yeah! — rammed itself off the rails early on and never quite found them again. Is there a category beyond “hot mess”? It even managed to ruin the Sookie-Eric romance, which readers of the books had been anxiously anticipating from, I would guess, the show’s filming started.
So I have to say, my excitement level wasn’t nearly as high for this new season. Russell Edgington and Detective Stabler roped me back in.
“Turn! Turn! Turn!” packed what seemed to be an entire series worth of subplots and setups into an hour, including an absolutely frantically paced intro, and managed to be more coherent than the second of last season. We picked up right up where last season left off — in fact, we started in last season, with Sookie being cornered in her kitchen by Debbie Pelt and Tara’s death. Let’s see where our favorite supernaturals and the humans who love them ended up:
Sookie, Tara, Lafayette
Fortuitously, Pam breezes her way into Sookie’s home in time to come across her and Lafayette cradling Tara’s body. Last season, Pam and Tara were at each other’s throats, so she’s not exactly predisposed to help the gang out. Sookie trades a favor (which certainly won’t come back to bit her in the ass later) AND the promise to fix the rift between Pam/Eric to convince Pam to turn Tara, or what was left of her. Pam ominously (yet offhandedly) mentions she’s been a maker before, “not that it ended up that great.” I predict flashbacks!
Tara’s resurrection is kept to the very last moments of the show, when she explodes from the grave a wild, feral thing headed straight for Sookie.
I can’t say that I’m particularly thrilled with this turn for Tara. The show has given such short shrift to her storylines and repeatedly shown they’re not sure what to do with her, that Tara-as-vampire seems a recipe for failure. TB really loves to kick Tara when she’s down. What better way to do it than to make her a vampire, after her disgust and distrust for them has been a constant for two seasons? Is she going to “come to terms” with Franklin abusing her? Is she going to “understand” the undead better? Is she going to be an object lesson about why you don’t turn people who are missing half their brains?
In a cast this large and sprawling, the show has to get serious about killing some of the characters off. Otherwise there’s no sense of danger to the show. Why do we worry about Tara being shot in the head? She’s just gonna get turned into a vampire.
The King and Sheriff are hot to cover up their assassination of Nan, which for the record, was a total waste. They speed clean, scrub spots of Nan out of the carpet, and plan to get the hell out of dodge. All for naught — the Authority is already at the mansion and the two are captured for “questioning.” Then they spoon. Sometimes the show is generous in its fan service.
We get introduced to Eric’s “sister” Nora, an Authority operative who helps break the boys out of bondage and sets them up in their new life. Ball seems as determined as possible to keep the show firmly Bill-Sookie, since Eric both loudly proclaims “fuck Sookie” when the vamps sense her in danger, and he starts balling his sister within 24 hours of Sookie breaking his heart. Not that he’ll have time for nursing his “broken” heart — Bill, Eric, and Nora are promptly recaptured by a vampire SWAT team.
Big Dumb Jason, Jessica
Vampire Reverend Newlin shows up at Jason’s to declare himself a gay undead American who is in love with Jason Stackhouse. Jason’s pretty and all, and he looks nice with his shirt off, but in love? Unfortunately for Vampire Reverend Newlin, Jessica kicks his ass out pulling rank as an older vampire (by, maybe, a year) and the child of the King of Louisiana. Which, now that Bill is “out of town” kinda makes her the Queen. Their interactions were fantastic and the season preview shows that we’ll have more Baby Jessica-Newlin to look forward to.
Jessica, who is maybe 19 chronologically and only a couple of years into vamp hood, continues to act the way 19-year-olds who are just discovering their power and desirability act — by refusing to commit to puppy-dog-eyes Jason, making out with strangers, and throwing a party in her daddy’s mansion. Jason, being on the other end of moonstruck lover, finds himself reconsidering his lothario behavior. But not so much so that he stops fucking Hoyt’s ex-girlfriend. Which Hoyt points out, repeatedly.
And the rest
There are a lot of B-plots shoved into this episode. Sam gets called to the carpet after Marcus’s pack discovers he’s missing. Alcide shows up opportunely throughout the episode — in the parking garage where Russell has been dug up, at Sookie’s house after Debbie gets cleaned up, and in the woods where the pack is about to disembowel Sam. Andy Bellefleur gets it on with Holly the waitress, gets caught butt naked by her teenage sons, and takes a bribe. Terry’s old army buddy refuses to leave town and implies that the mysterious house fire at Arlene’s was not caused by the pretty ghost, Mabel, but is somehow connected to something that happened in Iraq. More flashbacks! You get a flashback! And you get a flashback! There will be flashbacks for everyone!
Bonus Content: What lies in store