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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

True Blood: “Fire In The Hole”

Illustration for article titled True Blood: “Fire In The Hole”
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Good gravy, True Blood is terrible at killing people. This has the potential to be very unfortunate, because it appears that the show has actually decided to commit to finally killing people in its last season. But man, it is really bad at it.

Take poor Tara, for starters. Tara was treated horribly by the show for much of her run, stuck in strange victim and torture storylines and never given a very clear sense of self. When she was turned into a vampire against her will her journey to deal with her change in circumstances finally became a compelling part of the show, only to be very quickly dispatched this season, off camera, in service of a strange and so far unnecessary storyline for her seldom-seen mother (a mother who was horrible to her when she was alive). Certainly there is much more to come in this story, as Lettie Mae continues to search for a way to “find” Tara again by ingesting more V, but a character that’s been around since the very first episode deserves more than True Blood is giving her.

It isn’t just original characters True Blood is terrible at killing, though; this episode featured the death of everyone’s favorite werewolf Alcide, at the hands of the angry townsperson mob the show introduced last week. Alcide’s actual death wasn’t ridiculous—he died while trying to help save Sookie, which is about the only way he was ever going to die—it’s that the show expects this death to have any sort of weight to the audience. Alcide has been a significant character on the show for several seasons now, but for all of his plot significance he’s rarely had any emotional significance. True Blood wants us to care because he was with Sookie, taking great care to show him sacrificing himself for her just after she confessed she didn’t love him enough. But this is a relationship that took place almost entirely off screen, during a time jump. It’s very difficult to muster the appropriate emotional investment.

The thing about this episode is that other than the awkward attempts at using death to summon emotional resonance, it wasn’t half bad to watch. It was certainly all over the place plot-wise, featuring at least six separate groups of characters, multiple entirely unnecessary flashbacks, and at least one or two genuinely touching moments. Much of it wasn’t exactly meaningful but it was mostly engaging, which is just about enough to recommend an episode these days. It also brought together several separate storylines when everyone converged to help save Sookie from both the Hep V vamps and the townspeople, which is always a highlight.

What’s strange, though, is how things like the immediacy of the Hep V threat and the angry townspeople are cut together so languidly with the more delicate stories, like Lafayette and James’ newfound friendship and the Reverend’s soliloquy on his love for Lettie Mae. True Blood has always had little care for tonal consistency within an episode, but these quiet, character-based moments are so strong in this episode that they almost feel as if they’re being dropped in from a different show as a way to break up the nonsense of all the rest. Lafayette and James’ new friendship—a friendship that looks on its way to being something more—isn’t particularly significant to the plot but it feels real in a way practically nothing else on the show does right now, and that’s enough to make it the best thing on the show. Also surprisingly touching was the Reverend’s goodbye to Willa, where in one very well-written and acted speech he explains why anyone would put up with Lettie Mae for longer than a few minutes. It’s little moments like these that resonate, even in the midst of nonsense.

It’s a shame, then, that the emotional story the show actually does try very, very hard to land just ends up flopping on the ground in halfhearted agony. Primary culprit here is Sookie’s reconnection with Bill, this time as friends, which is just as dull as their initial romantic connection was. This might be technically be Sookie’s show, but her character has been dragged through the metaphorical muck so often that it’s really difficult to suddenly decide to care about her emotional well-being again. Sookie didn’t love Alcide enough, and now he’s dead, using his superior love to protect her. Certainly the next few episodes of her feeling sorry for herself make sense in theory, but there’s not nearly enough here to make them feel earned.


Stray observations:

  • Vampires can’t swallow pills? I do not understand vampire physiology at all.
  • What was the point of Bill’s flashback? There was no point.
  • Eric’s flashbacks, at least, had that fantastic feathered ‘80s hair and introduced us to the Yakuza branch of the vampire hierarchy, which tied into Sara Newlin’s return. Sara Newlin is a hilarious character, but this whole thing seems highly ridiculous.
  • It looks like Eric actually does have Hep V. His story with Pam might be touching if they hadn’t already hit these same relationship beats between the two multiple times in the past.
  • Jason tells his psychotic vampire lover he wants to have children with her. Jason Stackhouse is not an intelligent person, and Violet’s constant stumping for masculinity is tedious.
  • See ya, Ms. Fortenberry. You should have been nicer to Hoyt.