LadyGhosts of TV Past

True Blood Retro: Episode 5, “Sparks Fly”

“If you’re gonna accuse me of lying, be a man and say it out loud, for Pete’s sake. Either way, I’m gonna hear you whether you look me in the eye or not. Let’s face it, there’s not a whole lotta ideas in there. Like mice in a cage.”

Yeah, sometimes I look at Jason like that too.

I wasn’t looking at the screen when this episode started playing and looked up, concerned that something had happened to my sound system. And then Bill pulls up in front of Sookie’s house and shuts the radio off, which makes the sound go with it and I remember that this is the episode where we find out Bill likes throat singing. Sometimes I get the impression that Bill thinks that the average American listens to throat singing and he’s bought the CD because he thinks that it helps him fit in. This impression is not helped by the argument that Bill and Sookie have.

Bill is trying to defend his glamouring and threatening of the cop that stopped their car in the last episode. He could have ripped the guy’s throat out, but he didn’t, because Sookie was there. He’s trying to mainstream, see? Bill has a sort-of point; he’s a predator who is suppressing his natural instincts. For once, Sookie isn’t buying what Bill is selling. She’s not impressed with a guy who has to fight his instinct to slaughter people or who hold creepy orgies in their homes. She wants a guy whose world doesn’t even involve those things.

Bill won’t be calling on her again.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean he won’t be seeing her again. Adele, Sookie’s gran, has set up her Bill-centered Descendants of the Glorious Dead meeting and that’s all the town is talking about. Adele’s choice of speakers isn’t entirely popular:

Woman on the phone: You will go to hell for this!
Adele: All right, same to you. Bye now.

Adele sees Bill as a link to the past, some romanticized time when the South was fighting for independence. Everyone on this show projects something onto the vampires. Adele and her ideas of the proper Southern gentlemen. Tara and Arlene see boogeymen. Sookie thought they were glamorous and worldly until she got to know a couple.

Sookie and Sam, kissing in a tree.

Now that Sookie is free, Sam worms his snout into the space Bill left behind. He’s quick to ask her out on date. Specifically, to the speech at the Descendants of the Glorious Dead. He’s almost as bad as Bill is, playing this hypermasculine competitive bullshit game.

Speaking of hypermasculine bullshit, Jason has recovered from his eggplant penis situation and is ready to ride the V-train again, with a little prodding from Lafayette. Jason is, you know, dumb.  And a bit of hedonist. With Lafayette guiding the way, he essentially trips his way through most of the episode, staring at glowing flowers and making googly eyes at Tara, and then predictably screwing her over in the most callous way possible.

Bill’s speech and its fallout are the most important things that happen in the episode, so before we talk about what happened in the Bon Temps church, let’s take a moment to digress and talk about Lafayette’s Big Gay Moment of Awesomeness.


When you come to his house, you will eat whatever the hell he makes you.

After the church meeting, most of the town retires down to Merlotte’s to drink and ogle women, including a gaggle of troublemakers who send back a hamburger because it has AIDS.

Oh, Lafayette. There’s no way anyone would predict that your couple of dozen mentions in the first novel would translate into such a BAMF on-screen.

Excuse me, who ordered the hamburger with AIDS?

I know that I’m a recapper, so I should just describe this scene with my words, but sometimes a scene is just so pitch perfect that watching it is the only way to appreciate it.


The meeting: everyone in town, including people who hate vampires like Arlene, Rene, and Sam all show up to hear Bill talk about fighting for the South during the Civil War. Tara seems put out by all the white people getting excited over someone who fought on the pro-slavery team, but she’s there anyway, book in hand and bitch-face on.

This speech is really Bill’s moment to shine. And we, the viewers, get to see what a canny manipulator he really is. He plays to the romance of the Southern Soldier, selling the town the history they’ve canonized. He’s charming. He calls himself a patriot and reverently handles both the American flag and a cross.  He’s careful to not appear overly threatening and to distance himself from vampire stereotypes — there’s no cape or foreign accent. When members of the town ask about their ancestors, Bill has stories to tell about them, and praises their bravery and their love of family. Nothing he says is specifically a lie, it’s just tailored, just so. It works too. Sookie’s face melts and softens while he talks, forgetting why she broke up with him in the first place — because he’s a monster. She’s past that already.

During the speech, the mayor offers up a tintype he’s found of Bill and his human family. It’s the only hitch the talk — Bill stutters, hesitates, starts to explain why he never saw his family after he became a vampire, and then dabs away tears at the memory. None of it is false, not really, but it is unexpected, yet Bill is able to use the moment to further endear himself to a town that wasn’t so sure about embracing a vampire just a couple of weeks before.

After the talk, Bill is unable to shake the memories that the picture has stirred up. The past keeps intruding in the present and we get to see the story of his turning at the hands of Lorena. An unstable vampire posing as a Southern widow, Lorena is hanging out in the woods preying on wounded army veterans as they stumble by. When Bill asks her for help and turns down her sexual advances, Lorena knows she’s found the right kind of gentleman to keep her permanent company. In a room surrounded by the corpses of victims, Lorena trades Bill’s human life for an undead one. Bill’s tragedy is that in his head he thinks he’s still this man, this gentleman who love his family, but a hundred years on, there’s very little of this man left. All of his behavior towards Sookie and her family is a calculated act; after watching this scene, the question really is whose benefit is it for?

I’ve found on this rewatch a bit more sympathy for Bill. I still think he’s manipulative as all get out and gets what he deserves in the end, but there is something terribly tragic about him. I can’t say I’m surprised at the way he turned out.

Coming home after her disastrous date with Sam, Sookie walks into a kitchen covered in blood. For the second time in as many weeks, she finds a murdered body. Just this time, it’s her poor Gran.


By [E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at

She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

2 replies on “True Blood Retro: Episode 5, “Sparks Fly””

Totally agree about Lafayette- in the books he’s just kinda there, nothing special. Alan Ball made him into one of my fave tv characters, period, and is a big part of the success of the show, in my mind.

I really wish Sookie had turned out equally as well; I fell that the tv version lost a lot of the intelligence and autonomy that the book Sookie has.

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