After last week's rip-roaring start, things slow down a little this week to fill in some plot details, but let's be honest. An episode with flashbacks to Eric and Godric in SS uniforms isn’t exactly going to be called "contemplative." There's maybe a little too much of Tara feeling sorry for herself and Sam getting in touch with his feelings, but there's enough humor and zip to keep the episode from getting bogged down.
We learn a few things about werewolves this week, as True Blood inducts its latest supernatural creatures into its mythology. They're nastier and more rough-and-tumble than vampires, who are usually more arch in their sadism, but that doesn't mean Bill can't rip three of them apart with his fucking teeth, as we see in the terrific opening scene, with naked limbs strewn around him as he works on a mouthful of werewolf ear. Only the gang's leader Cooter ("seriously?" Bill chuckles) has survived intact, and he is called off by his boss Russell Edgington, the vampire King of Mississippi, played by Denis O'Hare.
O'Hare is given quite the entrance here: he's on horseback, in full riding uniform with an ascot and everything, and he quickly metes out justice to other the half-chewed surviving werewolf, who he shoots in the head for feeding on Bill. Cooter is allowed to survive, I assume, because he's played by Grant Bowler, who was the boat captain on Lost and was in Ugly Betty for a while too. Back to O'Hare, though: on the basis of this episode, I am very excited to have him around. This guy is one of the great Broadway actors currently working but since winning a Tony he's appeared in countless films and TV shows, always in thankless roles. Now, playing a preening vampire villain in True Blood probably won't be the biggest acting challenge he's ever faced, but it's a meaty part and on the evidence of this episode he's enjoying sinking his teeth into it.
Russell resides in a stately mansion with a flouncy Greek husband, and he invites Bill to hop on the horse and stay with him, although it's clear Bill has no real choice in the matter. Case in point: he gets a lovely bedroom to sleep in, but the doors are made of sterling silver. We learn that he and Bill has some unspecified past together, and the King clearly values him enough to offer him, over a dinner of tangerine-infused, cruelty-free carbonated blood and blood gelato, a position as Sheriff of an area in Mississippi. But it's part of some larger power play against Sophie-Anne, who Russell is looking to take down. True Blood has done well in gradually expanding its worldview, from the excitement of Bill showing up in Bon Temps in the pilot to the interstate vampire politicking we're into now. The more theatrical the vampire, the more entertaining it all is, so I welcome more jockeying between Russell and Sophie-Anne.
One exception to that theatricality rule, though, is Lorena, who returns this week for about fifteen seconds before Bill throws something at her and sets her on fire. That gave me a jolt, but I don't think that's the last we'll see of her - pity, because I've never been a fan of Mariana Klaveno's performance. She doesn't have the presence or sexiness that Lorena is obviously supposed to exude.
Back in Bon Temps, Sookie figures out with Jessica that the werewolves were once a Nazi commando force (True Blood, subtle as ever) but Eric quickly picks up the slack of her detective work, flashing back awesomely to his time spent posing as an SS soldier with Godric when the two were vampire-huntin' back in WW2. Many a TV show and movie before has struggled with making werewolves look vaguely realistic and failed, so I'm impressed with the job True Blood's doing so far. Eric's fight with the wolf looked pretty good considering this show's CGI budget has never seemed too high. And they appear to be using real, actual wolves for some of the shots, which strikes me as slightly bonkers but looks great.
Also nice to see the return of Godric, who acts as Eric's Yoda this episode, reminding him, "a vampire is never at the mercy of his emotions." This may all be groundwork for the show's continued humanization of Eric as he continues to get all flirty in Sookie's face this week, which I sort of casually support — I'm all for keeping things lively in this vague love triangle but hopefully not at the expense of Eric's badassery. On the one hand, he tells Sookie softly that he "owes her," but he follows that up by growling, "You're going to invite me in so I can protect you or have passionate, primal sex with you." Breaks even.
The wolf-girl Eric caught back in WW2 told him that her master was a vampire: Operation Werewolf appears to be some sort of crack squad of wolves powered by vamp blood, although you wouldn't know it from Bill's kidnappers. Wanna bet that whatever vampire-werewolf hybrid is in charge of these guys is gonna end up being the big bad of the season?
Terry also indulges in some detective work, tracking footprints while Sookie looks on lazily, and then giving her a gun, telling her, "I've always liked you and I'd miss you if you got killed." He's so nice. Todd Lowe is already getting great material this season: his confrontation with Arlene where he tells her all of his strong suits, which he doesn't interrupt even when she starts barfing in the bathroom, is the kind of goofy sweetness Lowe excels at playing.
We get a big hefty dose of Tara misery this week which was pretty tough to take. It's dramatically necessary for the show but it just feels like same-old, same-old, and it's alleviated only by Lafayette's no-bullshit response to her attempted suicide. Nelsan Ellis is definitely the star of this week's show, telling Lettie Mae, "You're too busy praising Jesus to realize your daughter's planning on moving in with him permanently." He carts her out to a nursing him to meet his mother, played by Alfre Woodard in a performance that isn't exactly understated. How understated can you be when you're a nasty old woman with Alzheimer's who introduces her nurse with, "this is Jesus, he's a Mexican, but he ain't raped me yet."
I wasn't too sure of the point of Lafayette meeting his mother other than it's interesting background for his character (and a possible love interest in Jesus, played by Kevin Alejandro — Lafayette has been sadly deprived of a boyfriend so far). I guess the idea is to shock Tara back to reality, as she ain't the only one with problems, but it still seemed a little tangential as she's already aware that she has a fucked-up family history.
Much, much better is the introduction of James Frain as some sort of new vampire suitor for Tara — he has the kind of take-charge chutzpah she needs right now, helping her beat down a couple of nasty racists mocking Eggs' death outside of Merlotte's. He's no friend of Bill Compton's, he tells us, so I doubt this will go down well with Sookie, but it's nice to see Frain, a talented Brit often reduced to playing soggy toffs, exuding some real danger and sexiness in the role.
The dullest part of the episode is Sam's family adventure where he meets his trashy shifter mom and non-shifter dad, with Marshall Allman right now a boring "petulant teen" character although there does appear to be a chance for some development there. Not a lot to say, as I felt this material mostly dragged whenever we cut to it. Exploring the concept of Sam's otherness isn't a bad one but it feels like he's often shifted onto these meandering side-plots about his shifter life that don't integrate with the rest of the story until late in the season.
But considering that I'm pretty into the direction of both main plots (Bill's kidnapping and Eric and Sookie's hunt for the werewolves) right now, I'm not going to start complaining too much. True Blood proved last season to be pretty adept at juggling storylines and never letting one slow things down too much, so I'm hoping for more of the same as we start getting to the meat of this season's plot.
Sookie's extreme importance in the grander scheme of things continues to be emphasized with Eric scolding her for putting herself in danger and a POV shot of an unknown man rifling through Sookie's family history, highlighting her grandfather Earl for some reason. Have we heard about him before?
Pam continues to be a fountain of great lines. "Let's go to the ladies room and stare at ourselves in the mirror," she tells Jessica. Later, when educating her on how best to stop drinking someone's blood, she says, "I think about crying children with soggy diapers. Also maggots."
Nice meta-reference to Bill's hilarious accent as Sookie says, "I keep expecting him to come through the door and say, SOOKEH." Anna Paquin nails the impression. Always nice when a show knows how to make fun of itself.
I didn't say anything about Jason and Andy's hijinks this week but I think Mr. Stackhouse's best moment was his wonderment learning werewolves are also real, and excitedly asking, "and Santa?"
Also, Andy notes that Jason is "prettier than most girls." And Jason chases a mysterious lady after a meth lab bust. To be continued, I guess.
I'm also leaving Jessica's "hide the corpse" subplot alone — it's not uninteresting to see her continue to deal with the pressures of being a new vampire, there just isn't much to say yet until the plot moves further along.
Terry's list, in detail, includes that he nursed and raised an injured baby armadillo under his bed, he has a degree in anger management, and he's never killed nothing by accident.