True Blood Season 4, Episode 1 Review – “She’s Not There”

June 30, 2011

Spoiler Alert:

Anna Paquin as Sookie (4.1) Finally! After months of blood-thirsty anticipation, we were treated to the first episode of the fourth season of HBO‘s True Blood“She’s Not There.

*Spoilers* if you haven’t watched the episode yet.

So… you spend a few minutes in the Faerie World, catching up with Granddaddy Earl (Gary Cole) and you get back to Earth to find a whole year has gone by. A whole year. Wha???

Up until now, True Blood’s timeline has been difficult to keep up with. While we’ve been watching the series for three years, in Bon Temps it’s only been three months (give or take.) Remember – Rene was killed at the end of season 1, but Arlene just found out she was pregnant with his baby in the middle of season 3.  So to pick up a whole year after last season makes for some interesting discoveries. And as we learned, a whole lot can happen in a year.

To me, I think the biggest surprise (at first) was Jason. Now officially a cop and helping out the kids that Crystal left behind, Jason seems to be on the straight and narrow. Bill and Eric both arrive at nightfall to check on Sookie, though neither of them stay long enough to explain their current whereabouts. Jessica and Hoyt are dealing with domestic life, while Sam is meeting with a group of shifters. Jesus convinced Lafayette to check out his witches’ hangout – “It’s not a coven” – where we meet Marnie and fellow witches. Arlene’s baby, named Mikey, is having a blast decapitating Barbies and Andy Bellefleur is hooked on V.

Tara‘s story was the biggest change from where we left her last season, I think. Now a cage fighter in New Orleans, Tara has taken on a romantic relationship with her fighting partner. And we see the tangled web of lies Tara’s been weaving, probably in a desperate attempt to completely demolish any memory of her former life.

And how about Tommy? Taking Hoyt’s place, he seems to like the life of a Momma’s boy. His testy exchange with his brother appears to show thier relationship isn’t in a great place right now.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the faerie opening on its own. It wasn’t until the time lapse was revealed that it all made sense. It makes for a convenient plot device, making the audience figure out what’s going on and not boring us to bloody tears with exposition.

When Eric reveals that his “company” bought Sookie’s house, I felt I should have known. I already had some suspicions when Portia revealed the real estate company didn’t have an actual office, but I didn’t think about it leading back to Eric. Very clever.

My favorite part of the whole thing was the last few minutes. Seeing Bill in his new position of authority and Eric craftily figure out a way to make Sookie his, I was in True Blood heaven.

Season 4 – you have my attention.

What did you guys think?

PS – I haven’t read all of the books, so I can’t say how well the story is following the novels. If anybody can help me out, I’d be happy to hear about it.

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True Blood 3.06 “I Got a Right to Sing the Blues” Review

July 27, 2010

When you see the words “Written by Alan Ball” in the credits, it’s an immediate indication that the episode of True Blood you are about to watch will be bloody, sexy, scary, emotional–everything we love about the show. There are times you may cringe and want to look away (Tara…biting…gross), but it’s just too captivating NOT to watch.

So, to begin with, Russell drags Sookie and Bill back to his mansion, delighted by his discovery of her shocking gift. Bill‘s charade is up. He couldn’t shield her from Russell‘s greedy, power-hungry clutches, so he makes a futile attempt to escape, staking his guard and then leaping onto the King‘s shoulders to drive the stake down into his chest. With a mere shrug, Russell launches Bill up to crash into the ceiling (much to Talbot’s great dismay). Bill can only hope that Eric will help save Sookie, but Eric is too close to the vengeance he has sought for 1,000 years to let anything stand in his way.

Russell orders Bill to be taken to the slave quarters, where Lorena is commanded to kill him. Eric escorts Sookie to the study to wait for the King. She pleads with him, yells at him–anything to try to understand why he’s acting like Russell‘s lap dog and allowing Bill to be carried off to his death. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but shut up.” When she doesn’t, he silences her with his hand over her mouth, “Thank you.”

She continues her questions while he paces, trying to think about how to handle the problems he’s facing. Sookie recalls what he said to her back in Bon Temps on her porch (another amusing impression from Anna Paquin), but Eric blows up at her: “You mean nothing to me! Nothing!” Russell enters the room and Eric puts on a huge, fake smile for him before leaving them alone to talk.

Meanwhile, at Merlotte’s, Arlene and Jessica have to deal with a very rude customer, even though they’re closed and everyone is gone for the night. Arlene accidentally cuts herself, and the scent of blood makes Jessica‘s fangs pop out because she’s so hungry. Jessica (who now knows that Arlene is pregnant) feels guilty that she is having such a bad night. She goes over to glamour the woman: “You’re not hungry anymore. Now I want you to take all the money you have and leave it on the table. Then head to the ladies’. Alright?” It might seem weird to be proud of Jessica for handling the situation like a grown-up (vampire), but she satisfies her hunger, on a woman who deserves it, doesn’t kill her, properly glamours her into forgetting, while managing to do something nice for Arlene!

Lafayette and Jesus continued the date they began last week, talking about their lives. Lafayette explains how he has tried to leave Bon Temps but keeps coming back. Jesus moved around a lot growing up. He doesn’t know who his father was because his mom was raped. When he sees that this beautiful guy has had a hard life, too, Lafayette finds himself relating to Jesus more than he expected, and they share a steamy kiss in the car.

Their attraction is undeniable, but a couple of barriers stood in the way of them getting together. For one thing, Lafayette is slow to trust–he’s used the phrase “Satan in a Sunday hat” on more than one occasion (even though, as Jesus pointed out, his name is the polar opposite). His trust issues are understandable–I have to imagine that someone who has left Bon Temps many times in his life but always returned found that the difficulties and persecution he faced in the outside world were harder to deal with than what he suffers from the country folks back home–that expression “the devil you know” comes to mind.

But he seemed ready and willing to test the water with Jesus, until those drug dealers from Hot Shot showed up at his house and started smashing up his car outside. He and Jesus beat them off, but Lafayette didn’t want to stop pounding one of them in the face. Jesus had to hold him back, and he was very disappointed to learn that Lafayette dealt drugs and V, bringing their night to an early end.

Jason and Crystal are kissing by the lake, whispering sweet nothings. When she rolls over on top of him, he laughs, “Don’t hurt me! Or do, I don’t care.” She jumps to the conclusion that he thinks she’s into perverted stuff and demands to know what he meant. “I meant, um…don’t break my heart.” (Candidate for Best Jason Moment Ever) Crystal softens up and starts crying that what they’re doing is wrong. She hears something in the woods, though, and runs off saying it’s too dangerous for them to be together. Between Jason‘s comment about how warm she is and the way she sniffed the air, it seems pretty evident that Crystal is a shifter of some sort.

In Russell‘s conversation with Sookie, they take turns asking each other questions. Sookie begs him to stop Lorena from killing Bill, but Russell wonders why she still wants him. He shows her the dossier Bill kept on her family, but she barely even has time to process it. When it becomes clear that Sookie doesn’t understand her powers or her value to vampires like himself and the Queen, he asks condescendingly, “Oh, sweetheart, you really don’t know anything at all, do you?”

The scenes in which Lorena tortures Bill, while tough to watch, are Mariana Klaveno‘s best work on the series. She deals with her suffering (over her inability to make Bill love her, and the fact that she will lose him forever when he’s dead) in the sadistic way that she cuts him with silver and inflicts as much pain on him as possible. Not to mention cutting herself and mixing her blood in his cuts so that she will be inside him in the end. Bill looks up at her with pity in his eyes, “I wish I had known you before you were Made, before you turned hard. I would liked to have seen you smile with light in your eyes, instead of darkness. That would’ve been something.”

What has gotten into Tara?! She stops letting herself being a victim and takes charge of the situation with Franklin in an intense way. She convinces him that she truly wants to be with him so that he’ll untie her. Then she says she wants to drink his blood and get high on it while making love to him as her last human act before “giving myself to you, then Death.” “Kinky,” he says, but he’s totally into it. She steels herself up and then rips open his neck. Afterwards, Tara lies in Franklin‘s arms, with blood all over her white gown. She sends a mental message to Sookie, who is locked in another guest room, to expect her when the sun comes up: Be ready. We’re gonna need all the luck in the world, but I’m gonna get us out of here. I am not giving up with out a fight.

Talbot and Eric are flirting and playing cards when the King comes in and asks Eric to accompany him on an errand. That seems to be the last straw with Talbot: “You never take me anywhere! You prefer to be in the company of sycophants. Deep down, my darling, you’re a very wicked character.” He walks off muttering to himself in Greek. Eric turns on the charm with Russell as well when they take a ride over to visit Sophie-Anne.

Eric admits to killing the werewolf that attacked him at Sookie‘s house, not out of love for her but to protect himself and because he despises those creatures. Russell gives him a glimpse into his ultimate dream: “If all the supernaturals would stop squabbling among themselves and unite, we could conquer humans in a matter of days.” He believes that mankind is heading “towards oblivion,” destroying themselves and the planet. Vampires are the master race, and everything he has done and planned has been to making that a reality on earth.

Russell finds the Queen on the ground by her pool, scratching lottery tickets and rejoicing over winning $100. He presents her with a rose and gets down on one knee. She has rejected his proposal over and over again, but now he knows that she has been selling V because she owes money. He promises to settle her debts, and when she still doesn’t accept, Eric rushes in and pins her to the ground. Her fangs pop out threateningly, but he just laughs: “I’m older and stronger than you. I’ve only submitted to you in the past because of respect. But you framed me, so I renounce any and all allegiance to you. I am his now. I will rip your head off and throw it in the pool, and I will have fun doing it.”

Sophie-Anne fumes in anger, but Russell knows that he has won. Now he will help Eric with the Magister. No Pam for the past two weeks now, as she is being held prisoner at Fangtasia. In show time, it’s only been two days, but I still can’t help missing Kristin Bauer van Straten‘s great presence and Pam’s sarcastic wit.

Next we see Lorena and Bill, she is licking his blood off a knife as bloody tears pour down her face, waiting for him to die. “What will you do then?” he asks. “Find another man that you deem honorable, so that you can turn him into a violent, hateful thing like yourself, destroying whatever it was that you loved about him to begin with.” She wants him to admit that he enjoyed all the time they spent together in the beginning, killing and making love.

We get a revealing moment about her when Bill brings up her Maker and the horrible things Lorena did for him: “He made you his mirror, just as you’ve tried to make me yours. He is the reason that a girl who once marveled in the beauty of all life, now delights in bringing pain and horror to every moment.” For a moment, it seems as though Lorena will be too upset to actually go through with killing him, but when Debbie and Coot stumble in for a taste of Bill‘s blood, she leaves them to finish him off.

Melinda comes to Sam’s to speak with Tommy. She tells him that he has to go back out on “the circuit” because she’s too old and hurt now. He can’t escape their life just because Sam seems willing to help him in the short-term. She convinces Tommy that she and Joe Lee are all he has, that Sam isn’t really family, and he leaves with her. Sam has no idea where he went, until Arlene mentions the Mickens loading a pit bull into the back of their van. Then he approaches Andy to start asking questions about local dog fighting.

Jason gets dressed up in his letterman jacket from high school football (awww, Crystal makes him feel like a schoolboy) and takes flowers to her house in Hot Shot. She pretends not to know him because her fiance (the same idiot Lafayette beat up the night before) answers the door. She calls him a dumbass and kicks him out, and Jason‘s temporary happiness (the first he’s had since what happened with Eggs) is over too soon.

In the morning, Tara crawls out of bed, grabs a mace from the wall, and smashes Franklin‘s head in. (She is a fearsome thing to behold, covered in blood!) She changes clothes and pretends to be bringing food to Sookie so that the werewolf guard will let her in: “If she ain’t eating almonds, Talbot ain’t gonna be happy, and if Talbot ain’t happy, Russell ain’t happy, and if Russell ain’t happy, you dog boys ain’t gonna be getting any vampire blood. Now open up the damn door!” Together the two girls knock him out and make a run for it. Tara goes to look for a car, while Sookie insists on finding Bill in case he’s still alive. Tara thinks she’s an idiot because of all the things Bill has done, but Sookie refuses to leave without him.

Tara is running across the yard when a white wolf chases her down, but when he shifts, it’s Alcide (naked!) who has come to help. Sookie is over at the slave quarters waiting for a high Debbie and Coot to leave. When she gets inside, Bill is drained to the very edge of death. Crying, she shakes him, and then he whispers her name. “I’m gonna get you out of here. I’m gonna make you well if it’s the last thing I do! Because I love you, Bill Compton, I’m not about to let you go.” Lorena interrupts, no longer sad but fiery mad, saying this is all Sookie‘s fault and pinning her to wall and biting into her. The end!

“I Got a Right to Sing the Blues” was shocking, to be sure, but it has also set up the action for what’s going to happen in the second half of the season. What did everybody else think about this episode, and what were your favorite quotes?

(Photo credit: HBO Inc.)

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True Blood 3.05 “Trouble” Review

July 19, 2010

Trouble” is an understatement for what happened on True Blood last night! Not that I didn’t love every second of it. This was my favorite episode of Season 3 so far, with some great acting from the whole cast and engaging writing by Nancy Oliver. For the first time, I felt like what was going on in Bon Temps was just as interesting as the events brewing down in Jackson, MS.

The episode begins in the King’s mansion with Talbot and Franklin throwing snide remarks at one another and baring their fangs threateningly until Russell, Lorena, and Bill walk in, still bloody from their evening meal (depressed stripper a la carte). Tied to a chair, Tara is shocked to find her best friend’s boyfriend in such strange company. Bill doesn’t do anything to rescue her from her situation, which makes Lorena gloat, as if his seeming indifference to Tara proves something. She follows him up to his room, thinking he’s just playing hard to get and will be hers again eventually. Bill couldn’t care less: “You know, Russell was right–you’re not very smart. You’ve played yourself into a corner, you tiresome cow.” (Hopefully she finally gets the message!)

Franklin presents Russell with the file on Sookie that he uncovered in Bill’s home. The King is now certain that his new Sheriff isn’t sharing everything with him. He changes his mind about Sookie and wants her brought to him. Franklin gets to tell him the joyful news–he won’t have to look far since she’s already in Jackson. The exchange between them is just one of many brilliant moments for James Frain throughout this episode, from his request that he be paid in cash (“The last time you had any real money, you ended up at the slots in Biloxi slaughtering a church group of elderly women.” “They wouldn’t let me have a turn!”), to his insistence that his relationship with Tara is different because she’s so messed up, they could be twins.

Franklin’s psychotic antics continue. He dresses Tara in a white gown and ties her to the bed. He sees a text message on her cell phone from Lafayette and is jealous until she tells him it’s her gay cousin. Franklin has lots of fun showing off how fast he can type a response with his vampire reflexes. During the day, Tara unties herself and creeps out of the house while all the vamps are dead to the world. She takes off running across the yard, but Coot chasesher down in wolf form and brings her back. When Franklin learns that she tried to escape, he cries like a baby: “[I tie you up] to keep you safe! What other reason could there be?! You have no idea how much you’ve hurt me. I feel like I’ve been staked!” Tara plays her part well. She knows she’ll lose her life if she upsets him.

Franklin later finds her crying, sitting at the table with a bowl of flowers in front of her: “Who made you cry? I’ll kill him!” “Nobody,” Tara replies. “It’s only–I’m hungry, and they brought me this. And I can’t eat daylilies.” She calmly explains that if they’re going to be together, she needs things like food. He apologizes for forgetting to take care of her, but it won’t matter in a day–he’s going to make her his vampire bride. Lesson to Tara: if you get through this, perhaps in the future you should be more cautious of strangers.

Eric arrives to visit Russell to ask for permission to hunt Bill and bring him to justice for selling vampire blood. Russell teases Eric a little bit: “Oh no! That’s heinous. Are you sure? Let’s ask him.” Bill enters, not surprised that Eric has tried to pin Queen Sophie-Anne’s plot on him. For a few seconds, Eric looks around in surprise at this new arrangement. Then he smiles at the realization that Bill has relinquished Sookie as his human. Eric turns to the King for advice on how to address the situation with Pam. Russell growls about the Magister’s outdated methods of judgment and inflated power. He invites Eric to stay while they figure out how to proceed. Bill looks grumpy about their new house guest, but Talbot couldn’t be more thrilled. The next night, he delights in giving Eric a tour of the house. Eric admires some of the interesting and beautiful objects, while Talbot admires the beautiful vampire.

Alcide drives Sookie back to his place, still upset over what happened at Lou Pine’s. He reminisces about how good Debbie could be sometimes: “She used to play horseshoes with my dad, help my mom plant tomatoes.” But whoever that woman was has been corrupted by her new pack, lost to her V addiction. She shows up later screaming at Alcide, but good intentions almost shine through–she might actually be trying to warn him for his own safety. But Debbie goes crazy when Sookie wanders in: “Awww, hell no! You’re f—ing my wolf, bitch!…I will cut you!” From overhearing her thoughts, Sookie can tell that Debbie has no idea who or where Bill is.

Jason shows up at the police station reporting for his first day on duty. Andy puts him behind the desk to answer phones, and he spends the day passing the time with various amusements–making a chain of paper clips to limbo under; paper football; playing with the fingerprinting stuff and getting ink all over his face and shirt like a little boy. He gets very frustrated and demands he be given a special assignment, so Andy sets him to work washing the police cars. When the pretty blonde girl from the drug house in Hot Shot drives by, Jason jumps in the car and follows her. He puts on the flashing lights and pulls her over. He turns on the charm, but all he gets from her is her name: Crystal. Gotta give that girl credit–confronted with a shirtless Jason and she doesn’t cave easily! He invites her to Merlotte’s that night. Even though she says she can’t come, he says he’ll be waiting. And he does. Crystal shows up just as he’s leaving, but she’s hesitant for some reason. There are things about her that she can’t explain to him. He takes her for a walk to the lake. They kiss, and she tells him this thing between them can’t last: “Now is everything. Now is perfect. I’ve never been happier in my whole life than I am right now with you.”

Lafayette has plenty of cute flirting in this episode, too. When Jesus shows up at Merlotte’s out of the blue, he thinks Ruby Jean has passed away. Jesus feels bad for scaring him, but no, she’s fine, still her rude self. He just came by to see if Lafayette wanted to go out with him. When it sinks in with Lafayette that this cute guy has no ulterior motives and just wants to spend time with him, he looks a little shy for the first time ever on this series. Jesus decides to wait around all day for him to get off work.

Tommy is less obnoxious now that Sam has proven he wants to help his family. The Mickens move in to one of the houses he rents out (looks like the same one Dawn lived in before she was killed in Season 1!). Across the street, Terry is moving in with Arlene. He’s positively beaming, and Arlene is positively sick-looking. Her bad mood continues at work, where she hurts Jessica’s feelings by not making eye contact with her because she’s afraid of being hypnotized. (So what does Jessica do, but turn around a glamour a couple not to tip Arlene). Tommy now has a job at Merlotte’s, he shares a nice moment with Jessica when Hoyt shows up with a date (“That’s a giant 6th grade boy…Come on, you’re a smoking hot vampire. You’re the majors.”), but things get weird when we start to see more into Tommy’s relationship with his father. There’s definitely something amiss there–Tommy acts all badass, but he’s clearly frightened of Joe Lee. Sam gets to witness it firsthand when Tommy stays over in his trailer that night and his father shows up infuriated.

Alcide goes out to report what he saw to his pack master. Sookie wants to find out more about Russell, but Alcide doesn’t want to bring her. She won’t take no for an answer: “Work with me, Alcide. It gets easier.” (Ha! As if…) The alpha were is a tough-looking middle aged guy. He already knew about Russell’s dealings with Coot’s pack, and other branded weres for centuries. He commands Alcide to leave it alone, just let Russell do what he wants and then he’ll move on to someplace else. Sookie listens in on the pack master’s mind and realizes how afraid he is.

Russell talks with Bill about Sookie’s family tree. He thinks Bill has been investigating where her telepathy comes from because the Queen has some big reward for him if he discovers the truth. It becomes clear that Bill has fallen out of favor. Coot comes to see Russell and Bill is sent to his room, afraid of what will be done to him. Coot comes in to see him and laughs that he gets to break the news to BillSookie is in the same city, sleeping with a werewolf. Bill’s protective instincts are awakened. He beats Coot bloody: “WHERE IS SOOKEH?!” A guard hears the noise and comes in to check. Bill smashes his face into the silver door and flees. We know that this is a trap laid by Russell, but that doesn’t stop Bill from going to her.

While on his tour with Talbot, Eric sees a gold crown with some engraved designs on it. He recognizes it as a Viking design, and he should know; it belonged to his father. The flashback that follows shows us just why Eric has a vendetta against the pack of werewolves with the ‘Operation Werwolf’ symbol branded onto their skin.

When he was a young man, Eric‘s family was Viking royalty, and had responsibilities within their community. Eric wasn’t ready to take on any those responsibilities, and he and his father argued over dinner one night about it as his mother and baby sister watched. The argument ended with Eric leaving to indulge in some youthful exploits with a redheaded goat girl. While otherwise involved, Eric hears screams and crashes, and he returns to find his entire family killed by wolves. With his father’s dying breath, he says that Eric must seek vengeance. Outside in the snow, a cloaked figure with Russell’s voice takes his father’s crown and sweeps off into the night.

Sookie is lying in bed when Alcide calls her into the living room. He steps aside, revealing Bill standing there. She runs and jumps into his arms (cue their beautiful love theme by Nathan Barr). He has no time to explain, but she has to leave immediately. It’s too late, though. Coot breaks down the door and in comes a hulking vamp to restrain Bill, and Russell (I want to know why Coot was able to invite them in when he doesn’t live there). Coot chases Sookie, but she forces him off with her electro hand shock. And Russell couldn’t be more delighted to see that.

Based on the previews, the drama in Russell’s mansion continues to heat up next week. What will Eric do now that he’s in the presence of the one responsible for his family’s death 1,000 years ago? How will Sookie escape everyone who’s out to hurt her (Russell, Lorena, Coot, Debbie, could this list get any longer)? Will Tara become a vampire?

Ok, everyone, let’s hear it–what did you think about “Trouble“?

(Photo credit: HBO, Inc.)

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