It seems so perfectly True Blood that one of the goriest, grossest episodes ever also featured a sweet, sincere funeral. “Life Matters” was basically a microcosm of the show as a whole—where the absurdity of over-the-top violence bumps up next to the human consequence of that violence—but finally, here, it was as if the show was taking a moral stand. When good people die, it matters. (Bad people? Well, that’s a trickier proposition.)
Has there ever been a True Blood episode so purposefully tonally jarring? Tonal inconsistency is a hallmark of the show’s storytelling, but it’s never felt so measured before, so considered. On one hand, there was Eric’s gleeful, disgusting, almost dreamlike takeover of the vampire prison; on the other, a surprisingly somber goodbye to Terry, who started out as a minor character and somehow, even when his story was beyond frustrating, became this show’s representation of human innocence. Objectively, it wasn’t fully successful, but subjectively, I can’t bring myself to care. I loved pretty much every second of it.
Most of this was due to Eric’s ruthless, confident, quick disassembly of everything the humans were building at the vampire prison. While Bon Temps was carefully mourning the loss of human life, Eric and his vampire buddies were busy completely disrespecting it in the most gruesome way possible. Seriously, there were more dismembered body parts, bashed-in skulls, and forcibly-removed genitals than we’ve maybe ever seen before, which is saying something. It works because Alexander Skarsgard always fully commits to everything Eric does, and that is certainly the case here. It certainly helps that he teams up with Jason, as the Skarsgard/Kwanten combo can’t be beat.
Where the story gets interesting, though, is when Bill shows up and feeds the vampires so they don’t die when they meet the sun, and the whole thing turns into The Virgin Suicides meets Natural Born Killers. There’s something strangely gorgeous about seeing these horrible creatures free themselves and be enthralled with the feel of the sun on their skin, to have them revel in their defeat of their captors and then destroy the very TruBlood that their captors tried to use to take their lives. It’s visually interesting and ambitious in a way True Blood sometimes forgets it can be because it’s too occupied with the 43rd visit to Alcide’s werewolf pack.
The craftiest bit of plotting here is that the whole time, Bilith’s vision of his vampire friends meeting the sun was happening because Sarah Newlin was the one who opened the roof to let the sun in. Turning Sarah Newlin into the season’s Big Bad, fueled by her hilariously evangelical (and self-serving) service to God, was the season’s smartest plot twist by far, taking advantage of Anna Camp’s glorious ability to say absolutely ridiculous, campy thing and make you believe Sarah believes every word she’s saying.
Less successful was Jason’s arc from vampire hater to Sarah Newlin hater, and their scene together where he attempts to kill her before having second thoughts was the only big misstep in what was otherwise a really successful story. Jason’s character has made no sense for most of the season, but it was taken completely over the top here, as he attempted to debunk her invocation of God when killing vampires by invoking Jesus in his quest to kill her. It doesn’t work because we know Jason was never going to pull that trigger, and also because it sort of looked like Ryan Kwanten knew Jason was never going to pull that trigger. It isn’t absolutely necessary in a show like True Blood that every character motivation should make sense at all times, but a bit of consistency where Jason Stackhouse is concerned would be nice for a change.
While Eric was slaughtering massive amounts of humans, Arlene was laying Terry to rest in what turned out to be a surprisingly touching ceremony. There have been funerals in the past on this show—Gran’s comes to mind—but so rarely have they been so thorough, so intent on saying a proper goodbye. Part of this was certainly thematic within the episode, but most of it is because Terry—as much as I’ve complained in the past about his superfluous presence—was one of the most purely good people on the show. He started as a very small presence in the series, a wholly damaged person who was just trying to survive. Throughout his six years on the show he grew more than maybe any other person in a mostly straight trajectory toward personal betterment, marrying Arlene and starting a family. If anyone on the show was going to get a sendoff with the purpose of proving human life isn’t just something to be thrown away by these crazy supernatural things, that a person is defined by the connections they made, Terry was the one to do it.
For the most part, this worked—even the usually unnecessary flashbacks felt right. True Blood made the decision to juxtapose the brutality and glee of the prison massacre with a true example of human frailty done right, and although those juxtapositions were sometimes clunky and jarring, the show finally decided to say something, and the measured intent behind it all—coupled with some glorious moments of freedom mixed up with true moments of emotion—completely worked for me.
Sure, it was jarring. Sure, it was awkward at times. But hey, we don’t always like things because they’re perfect. I liked this because what worked was great, and what didn’t was interesting. And that’s good enough for me.
- Hoyt update! He’s apparently happy with an ugly, non-vampire girlfriend. His mother is thrilled. I’m thrilled the mere mention of his name didn’t magically make him reappear with his own random, boring storyline again.
- What’s going on with Bilith? He rejected the bloody merkin gang. Does that mean he’s done with this whole Lilith business? Somehow I doubt it.
- Warlow has to be getting bored hanging out by himself in faerie land. Can someone get him a phone so he can play Candy Crush or something?
- Next week better feature some choice Jason and Eric sex dreams or else this was all for nothing. Nothing!
- “I love you, Jason Stackhouse!” Goodbye, Steve Newlin. You were enjoyable even in death.