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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

True Blood: "I Will Rise Up"

Illustration for article titled True Blood: "I Will Rise Up"
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Emily is still in her antediluvian Lost World, where she's fighting off dinosaurs and battling for Wi-Fi, and she will be there until late tonight. So, as it appears, I will again be looking at True Blood with you. She'll return next week.

True Blood both did a lot of the things I think it does well and a lot of the things that irritate me about it in tonight’s episode. About halfway through, I was ready to write the episode off as mostly a loss, but then it turned around in the back half for the most part. As an example, scenes between Sookie and Bill and Sookie and Jason early in the episode were mostly intolerable, a scene between Sookie and Eric about midway through verged back and forth between good and bad and the episode closing scene between Sookie, Eric and Godric was actually pretty good. So, yeah, there was a lot of stuff that didn’t quite work, but the episode proved to be an enjoyable slow-burner.

For one thing, while it was a crazy and fun plot twist, I’m gonna kinda call bullshit on the Fellowship of the Sun employing suicide bombers in pursuit of vampires. Do I think that they would pursue vampires with absolute bloodthirstiness? Sure. Do I think they might subvert the rules of Christianity to do so? Yeah. But suicide bombers? That’s just patently unbelievable, even in the context of True Blood, where the fundamentalist Christians are heightened versions of the ones we have here in real life. There’s just not a strong strain of people willing to take their own lives to advance the fundamentalist Christian cause like there is with, say, fundamentalist Islam. Even abortion clinic bombs tend to be of the variety where the bomber is nowhere near the bomb when it goes off. As a dramatic plot device, the suicide bomber unquestionably works. As a sign that anyone on True Blood understands the world of fundamentalist Christianity, though, it just doesn’t.

For that matter, the small plotline about Hoyt trying to convince his mother to give Jessica a try indulged in more of the show’s weird politicization of its vampires and showed the limits of that approach. Hoyt’s mother was simply not accepting of her son dating a vampire, and she wasn’t afraid to say it. Hoyt, as people on this show do, accused her of being hateful for thinking that, and rather than suggesting that this was the sorta goofy argument of someone in love, the show seemed to endorse that viewpoint wholeheartedly, as Hoyt rattled off a whole list of people that his mother was prejudiced against (from African Americans to people with too large of families) and she tried to say it was just how she was raised. For the most part, actually, this was a really well-written and nicely constructed scene with a lot of humor in it, but the underlying basis of what was going on was so patently false – the idea that vampires – who, let’s face it, ARE cold-blooded monsters much of the time in the True Blood universe – are as worthy of tolerance as any other subculture is just bizarre. (The show actually seemed to acknowledge this in a later scene where Hoyt’s mom pointed out that he and Jessica could never have babies, but that also seemed to have a note of “parents just don’t understand!” to it.)

But if I find the political undertones of the show to be its most troubling aspect, on a purely visceral level, I just don’t like the way that Sookie seems to turn absolutely every scene she’s in into some sort of family soap. I don’t usually complain about Sookie’s general idiocy, but when she drank Eric’s blood, how could she not have known that it was a trick? Trying to trick Sookie is pretty much all Eric does, right? From there, we got a long scene where Bill and Sookie stated things we already knew or pretty much suspected (including an exchange where Bill told her she might start to feel an attraction to Eric and then clarified that he meant a SEXUAL attraction) and another long scene where she and Jason talked about family and other bullshit. Then, there was a dream sequence between Eric and Sookie in bed that tried desperately to be hot and almost pulled it off more often than not only to crash, thuddingly, on the ground of Sookie telling Eric he had love in him and other stuff like that.

And yet, despite all of this, there was some really cool stuff in the episode too. Lafayette turning up at Maryann’s to rescue Tara, her mother in tow, was just a terrific little scene, scored so deftly to the 13th Floor Elevators’ “You’re Gonna Miss Me” that it seemed like the scene was going to break out into sheer insanity at any given moment (the beating Lafayette leveled on Eggs would have to be a substitute). Seeing Nan Flanagan in the flesh was cool, too, especially in the way that she so easily shut down all of the other vampires with her proclamations. And getting a conclusive end to the Dallas arc felt nice after what feels like weeks of false stops.

Our heroes, of course, can’t get back to Bon Temps soon enough, since what’s going on there is going to take everyone to fix. Maryann, realizing that Sam is a threat and craving him for a sacrifice, has pretty much turned the entire town into a Sam detection force, after he manages to escape the jail cell he’s in thanks to the presence of a fortuitous fly. The Maryann plotline has been sort of chugging along in one gear for a few weeks now, but this week, it abruptly leaped up a notch as Maryann let her own lust for power get the best of her and everyone in the town seemed to grow the black eyes to do Maryann’s bidding. Just Sam and Andy against Maryann isn’t going to work, but with everyone else returning, they just might have a shot. I like the vaguely apocalyptic feel this is taking on, and I’m hoping that things get even nuttier before all is said and done.

The best part of the episode, though, was that last scene with Godric’s self-sacrifice, though the portions of the scene between him and Eric were better than the portions between him and Sookie. (Though, to the show’s credit, Sookie was at her best in the episode in this scene, and she was very moving in her reactions to Godric’s sacrifice, for the most part.) The image of Godric walking out into the sunlight, opening his shirt to embrace its burn, is one of the most potent that the series has cooked up so far, and the dialogue between him and Eric, in particular, was strangely moving. The scene was so good, in fact, that it pulled the entire episode up by its bootstraps, almost seeming like it belonged on some other show entirely (not least of which because it ended the episode with a capper, not a cliffhanger). Godric somehow went from brand new character to one of my favorites in the course of about three episodes, but the show sure came up with a great way for him to go out.

Grade: B-

Stray thoughts:

  • Spoilers follow for something from the next week preview: Was that, uh, Jason with a chainsaw in the preview for what’s coming up? Because that’s going to be absolutely fantastic.
  • I do want to say that I think the Jessica and Hoyt pairing is genuinely sweet, and I’m hopeful that the show will continue to exploit it in interesting ways.
  • “All I did was lose my pants! There’s no law against that!”