Do you ever play the game where you try to describe something that happened in True Blood to someone who’s never watched it — just to see how ludicrous it sounds to the uninitiated? Like, “Then back at the good werewolf’s condo, the telepathic waitress zapped a biker named Cooter with super-powered lightning, but the old, gay vampire just laughed.” Last night pretty much destroyed that game. In an hour of psychotic bloodletting, it was hard enough to believe you were seeing what you actually saw on your screen. The episode, the first one this season written by show-runner Alan Ball — he’ll also pen the finale — started off on an all-season high note. With the first few seconds shot in slow-mo, all our favorite vampires come out of their corners to gather in Edgington’s foyer, like in a pre-battle pow-wow in a superhero flick. But after a rapid-paced first half, the levity that carried over from the last episode fell away, and suddenly watching half the cast (Sookie, Eric, Tara) sublimate their fears to survive and the other half (Jason, Lafayette, Tommy) realize just how little agency their have in their own messed-up lives started to feel almost as uncomfortable as the gore.
In the Foyer, With the Vampires
After the showdown at Alcide’s, the jig is up for Bill, but not without a fight. From the floor, Bill grabs a table leg and stakes the king’s bodyguard, who collapses into a fat block of flesh and blood, tendons still hanging mid-air. Bill jumps on top of the king to try the same maneuver, but Edgington swats him off like a fly. Sookie and Talbot squeal in unison. Maybe you have to watch the show for three years to appreciate it, but it’s pretty hilarious to watch a fanger scream like a girl.
In a stroke of costuming genius, they kept Eric in the same blue sweater. He urges the king to keep Sookie alive, but only as piece of valuable property. In previous seasons, we would have wasted time with Sookie’s hand-wringing. Here she comes out and just says, “Eric, what the fuck Please tell me you were doing that for the king’s benefit.” Eric’s priority is vengeance for his family and he wraps his hand around Sookie’s mouth so can have a moment of silence to think. Shutting up Sookie — way to tap into viewers' fantasies.
Once he lets his hand up, Sookie does an impression of Eric (she does a much better Bill). It’s the confident teasing of someone who thinks she’ll get a good response in the end. She doesn’t.
Body count: Poor Mr. Muscles.
Appeasing the King
For once someone is immune to Sookie’s charms. But, naturally, not for long. She convinces the king that they both deserve a chance to ask questions and they go back and forth quizzing each other on vampire royalty and Sookie’s lineage. It’s a good way to get through a lot of exposition, and Denis O’Hare as the king is, as always, in fine form alternating between villain and co-conspirator. What we learn: even she has no inkling about the source of her power.
This is the hardest we’ve ever seen Eric work. He’s throwing every seduction technique in the book at Talbot and the king to lull them into thinking he’s on their side, not to mention grinning like a Ken doll. We’re so not used to see Eric’s teeth sans fangs that they look like fakes. On the drive to the queen’s, he flashes it again when the king says, “Preening little fool that he was, Adolf was right about one thing: There is a master race. It's just not the human race.” Cue the maniacal laughter, and the nausea. We’re not sure why a 3,000-year-old vampire would need Eric’s help to bully Evan Rachel Wood into doing something. But the queen finally agrees to his proposal. Talbot’s gonna be miffed.
Body count: Several of the queen’s guards.
“Where do you think you are, lady — Red Lobster?”
The impulse control of a baby vamp is not unlike that of a hormone-addled adolescent. When Arlene accidentally slices her finger cutting lemon wedges for a fussy customer in curlers, Jessica can’t help but bare her fangs. Arlene — the funniest we’ve seen her — makes a cross sign with her fingers. “Don’t kill me, I’m pregnant,” she begs, then whispers to herself, “That probably just makes you want to eat me more.” But when Curlers stays past closing time and refuses to tip, Jessica, who hasn’t eaten in a few days, sees her chance to make everybody happy. She glamours Curlers into leaving Arlene all her money, then takes a bite out of her in the ladies' room, sending her out with a scarf around her neck. It’s a nice little break from Gorefest 2010.
Bite count: Curlers in the bathroom with Jessica.
Tara’s tied to the bedposts again, still playing along with the vampire wedding, waiting for her moment to escape. During the same sociopath/suitor routine from last week, Tara gets him to untie her by telling him she wants to drink his blood. Franklin: “I’ll go there.” Tara: “I bet you will.” We’re not sure how Franklin is buying her intermittent stink faces and actual trembling terror as wanton lust. But cut to a close-up of Tara with a hunk of Franklin’s bloody neck flesh in her mouth, moving her head back and forth like she’s motorboating the wound. Gross. After it’s over, Tara (now presumably high on V) sends a telepathic message to Sookie to wait until sunrise. While Franklin’s asleep, Tara picks a medieval mace from Talbot’s display wall and bludgeons her captor in the head until it looks like a plastic doll's with all the air let out. If a vampire’s regenerative powers worked on Lorena’s neck, Franklin can rebuild his smashed-in face. (Read our interview with James Frain, who plays Franklin, here.)
Body count: Debatable.
Booty count: Yes, but ick.
Bite count: Oh, Tara, what has become of you.
The Life of a Shifter
Commenter Ice_Queen guessed it first: Joe Lee wasn’t sexually abusing Tommy, he was using him to make money dog fighting, just like he’d done with Tommy’s mother. In our TV rulebook, a show should only be allowed to hint at a different explanation if the hints apply equally to the real story and the red herring. Everything’s technically on the up-and-up here, but it ended up making the truth feel less dangerous. With Nan Flanagan as a talking head in the background (more on her in the next episode), Melinda bullies Tommy into coming back into the ring. “It ain’t right,” Tommy pleads with her. “The world ain’t right, you selfish little shit,” she fires back. Bon Temps is one big lesson in just that fact.
Too Good to Be True
Lafayette and Jesús are still on last night’s marathon date. After helping him fry up a chicken-fried steak (is there nothing this boy won’t do to win Lafayette?), Jesús reveals that he doesn’t know who his father is because his mother was raped. “Maybe I actually can relate to you,” Lafayette responds. Just what we were thinking. Back at Lafayette’s house, Jesús schools him on the proper way to worship a religious idol (eh, a little too pious for our tastes). But they’re interrupted by the sound of hillbilly drug dealers smashing Lafayette’s “non-American car.” Jesús grabs a bat and jumps into the fracas, but wants out of the relationship when he finds out Lafayette is dealing V.
Booty count: The PG kind, although we doubt it will be the last.
License Plate: QB ONE
Jason is busy making Crystal feel “110 percent woman,” but she still can’t seem to stay in the moment. In the middle of straddling him, she sniffs something suspicious in the air, then arches her back (like a cat — hint, hint) and scampers off.
Undeterred, he shows up to her house in his varsity jacket with a bouquet of white roses. But when Crystal’s fiancé (the same drug-dealing thug who destroyed Lafayette’s car) answers the door, she pretends she doesn’t know him. Without the girl, the football-hero uniform starts to feel like a joke. At Merlotte’s, Jason spots the upstart high-school quarterback having sex with his girlfriend and yanks the kid out of the backseat to make a citizen’s arrest for lewd behavior with more than a little unnecessary roughness. For all his ill-fated endeavors, Jason’s defining characteristic is the impulse to do the right thing. Are we in the process of watching him become a corrupt cop?
Booty count: One act of tender, moonlit make-outs; one act of less-than-tender copulation
The Long, Boring Saga of Lorena and Bill
How could there be so much violence this episode and none of it directed at Lorena? As per the king’s orders, she has Bill chained to the floor of the slave’s quarters with her mise en place of torture (scissors, saws, knives) at hand. Bill’s sanctimonious and Lorena’s whiny — these scenes bring out the worst in both them. But we do get a little more on Lorena’s history. Apparently she is the way she is because her maker made her in his own messed-up image. Still, it’s hard to forget how much Bill looked like he was enjoying himself in the flashback (from season one) where the two of them had sex with the dying flapper a foot away on the bed.
Being force-fed lilies last week gave Tara an idea. She gets past Sookie’s werewolf guard by claiming Talbot will be mad if the prisoner eats anything but the bowl of almonds in her hands. The two make it to the front door, but Sookie, of course, insists on rescuing Bill. Never mind his recent cruelty, or the fact that he was going to let her best friend get turned. Wisely, Tara’s having none of that. She runs off down the lawn, but this time the wolf she meets is Alcide, with a getaway car. Sookie waits while Debbie and Cooter drain Bill, then rushes to his side vowing to make him well if it’s the last thing she does. “Oh, isn’t that heartwarming,” says Lorena before she throws Sookie against the wall and clamps down on her neck.
Bite count: Debbie and Cooter vs. Bill, Lorena vs. Sookie
Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker thought the episode explored the way all of this season’s major characters seek love and control, and tend to lose both.
The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy thought the episode should’ve been called “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.”
Becca Wilcott at the National Post thinks this season is “better, faster, stronger,” than the previous two.