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True Blood Finale Recap: Heaven Can Wait

Summer has ended and so have its escapist pleasures. After a delirious, if confused, season that separated Sookie and Bill, gave us fantasies about Sookie and Eric, and brought us a vampire king, a sociopathic texter, and Nazi werewolves hopped up on "vamper juice," True Blood seems to have lost its momentum at the finish line. In last night’s finale, the show struggled to reconcile all the new developments — inventing unconvincing reasons for characters to put themselves in danger, dragging out stalling plotlines, and hoarding the juiciest bits (save one) for next year.

We wanted to like the episode, we really did. But the hour felt more like bait to keep us watching — with Alan Ball himself promising “more about what we love about True Blood” in season four — than a payoff for sticking it out. Absent a showdown with a Big Bad (à la Renee in season one and Maryann in season two), the pacing was also off. The first three-quarters left us a little lethargic, followed a screeching swerve in an unexpected direction. We’ll take Russell Edgington (check out our interview with actor Denis O’Hare) over Maryann every time, but Russell, who looked like he’d been dipped in something sticky then raked over volcanic ash, was all dialogue (delivered with his customary panache), but no plot development.

Don’t get us wrong. We still enjoyed watching and had to pick our jaw up off the floor when Bill flipped the script. But with no sex, little violence, and a pervasive sense of gloom, it just wasn’t the rocking good time we hoped it would be.

Charbroiled Vampires
On the verge of death after being drained, Sookie finds herself back in fairy world. This time, instead of a pool, there’s a giant chandelier of light in the woods. It looks like a commercial for GE’s Ecomagination™. Bill makes Sookie drink his blood (again), explaining (again) that he seemed (again) like he was betraying her (again) to save her (again). Sookie rushes out to the parking lot to rescue Eric, breaking the handcuffs with a flash of light after Russell goads her into using her powers. Eric needs human blood to de-crisp his face and Sookie obliges with her wrist. The sounds he makes drinking her blood are the evening’s sexual highlight.

While he was preparing to meet the true death, Eric saw a ghostly vision of Godric, dressed like Jawaharlal Nehru. Godric’s message? Blah blah forgiveness and peace blah. Eric doesn’t want to forgive Russell, but he doesn’t want him to find peace in heaven either, so he lets him live for now. This twist is too convenient a justification for dragging out Russell’s eventual demise. The best trick True Blood mastered this season was having its characters voice the audience disbelief at hard-to-swallow revelations, like when Bill told Sookie she was a fairy and she shot back, “That’s so fucking lame.” When Eric decides to let Russell live, Sookie says, “You want me to go get the guy who wants to kill us all and bring him inside?” Yeah, we’re still not buying it.

While Eric and Bill take a nap, Russell (sporting a thick layer of burnt marshmallow makeup) has another extended scene with Sookie. With his face essentially obscured, O’Hare has to rely on his voice and he does incredible things with intonation. Both he and Anna Paquin pull out great performances; it’s our favorite part in the finale, and not just because we find out Bill exhibits Sting-like patience in not draining Sookie’s blood.

Alcide stops by Fangtasia, looking good and talking boring. Even Russell rolls his eyes. We’re dizzy from Sookie’s love-hate roller coaster with her vampire suitors. But at this point she seems more fed up than angry and heads home. Bill grabs a pair of surgical gloves before “eye-fucking” Alcide and heading out the door with Russell’s body.
Body count: Eric and Russell are alive for now.

Hoe Cakes and Haircuts
Tara sticks around in the morning long enough for Sam to serve her homemade hoe cakes, heavy on the bacon grease. It’s a rare pleasure to see Tara smiling, so rare in fact that Rutina Wesley almost looks like a different person. But, since no one’s figured out a way out of this miserable character arc, it doesn’t last long.

Sam confesses that he’s a shape-shifter, but it’s too much for Tara to handle. “I wish I could just reboot.” Sam tells her she can start over, but he doesn’t seem like he’s doing that great a job of keeping “the old you” at bay. In the Merlotte’s parking lot, Tara flashes back to seeing Miss Jeanette, Eggs, and Franklin dead or dying. Dang, that parking lot really is cursed! She looks to her mom, who’s been diddling Reverend Daniels, for comfort. But Tara should know better than that.

For the second time this season, we see Tara lost in front of a bathroom mirror. But instead of attempting suicide, she opts for the ol’ television trope of transformative hair-cutting. “Oh my God, I love it,” says Sookie. She’s being too kind. Cut to Tara back in Merlotte’s doomed parking lot. But this time, she looks contented and drives away from Bon Temps smiling. She’ll stay gone if she knows what’s good for her.

Hoytervention
Hoyt arrives at work to find Summer, his mother, and his high-school guidance counselor camped out on lawn chairs prepared help him break his addiction to undead redheads. Hoyt wins big points for letting Summer, with her novice biscuits-then-breasts seduction routine, down easy and standing up to his “mean, prejudiced, old control freak” of a mama.

We wanted to like the episode, we really did. But the hour felt more like bait to keep us watching — with Alan Ball himself promising “more about what we love about True Blood” in season four — than a payoff for sticking it out. Absent a showdown with a Big Bad (à la Renee in season one and Maryann in season two), the pacing was also off. The first three-quarters left us a little lethargic, followed a screeching swerve in an unexpected direction. We’ll take Russell Edgington (check out our interview with actor Denis O’Hare) over Maryann every time, but Russell, who looked like he’d been dipped in something sticky then raked over volcanic ash, was all dialogue (delivered with his customary panache), but no plot development.

Lala Lucks Out
Sleep and alone time don’t put an end to Lafayette’s creepy visions. While Sam is fiddling with his keys, Lafayette has a waking dream of his boss’s hands covered in blood and Sam whispering, “Cross me and you’re a dead man.” It’s a nod to Sam’s murderous past and hint at Tommy’s not-too-distant future. Later, Lafayette sees Renee appear behind Arlene and wrap his hands around her throat saying, “I'm inside her, right now. She can't get rid of me.” At the end of the hallucination, Arlene whispers, “This is hell. We're in hell.” We’ll take this as confirmation of our Rosemary’s Baby theory about the critter in Arlene’s oven.

Lala freaks out that the post-V hallucinations are a sign that he’s becoming schizophrenic like his mother. Jesús assures him that he’s not going crazy, their drug trip just made him more sensitive: “When my Tia Cecilia started teaching me magic, I was in a sweat lodge for three days and the earth started talking to me — literally — with multiple faces.” It takes Lala a second to register the whole magic bit. He steps back and asks Jesús to explain. Cue the scary music. “What are you,” Lafayette asks, the umpteenth time we’ve heard that question. Jesús says he’s a bruja. Lafayette reacts better than expected considering his truth-telling visions showed him Jesús in a monster mask. “You a witch who's a nurse who’s a dude? Holy shit, I guess I lucked out then, huh.”

Sam’s Old You Catches Up With Him
Sam tries to make amends for the previous night’s bad behavior. He runs into Terry, who is sobbing with happiness that his family and his armadillah Felix are all good. Aw, Terry’s the best. Sam tries to mend things with Tommy, but finds the apartment in disarray and his entire safe missing. Are there no banks in Bon Temps? Sam grabs his gun and chases Tommy, who has the cash in a duffel bag, into the woods.

“You came along, changed my whole life, took away everything I knew. And now you're just throwing me away like garbage,” Tommy says. Sam calls him stupid and Tommy, who can’t read, bangs his palm against the side of his head. “Yeah, ‘stupid.’ Good, rub it in.” Well, shit. That kind of broke our heart. Tommy walks away, assuming Sam won’t shoot his own kin. But like he did with his double-crossing girlfriend, Sam fires at Tommy, leaving us with another dangling subplot.

Jason Finds His Flock
Jason and Crystal show up at Hotshot to warn the clan about the DEA raid. Crystal’s dentally challenged kin slowly come out of the woodwork, some of whom appear to shop at the same Dirty Underwear Depot as Joe Lee. One of the kids returns with a bag of V to get rid of the evidence. “Here you go, Uncle-Daddy Calvin.” Oh, ick.

Why no one is turning into a werepanther despite the fact that the DEA is on their way is beyond us. But Felton, high on V, interrupts the rescue mission and shoots his daddy (or possibly uncle-daddy) in the face. He threatens to shoot Jason, too, if Crystal doesn’t come with him. Crystal convinces Jason to let Felton kidnap her. “This is what I was born for, Jason.” Double ick. She asks Jason to help the folks in Hotshot and Jason introduces himself to his new inbred kingdom.

We’re not big fans of this plotline. It’s a logical end to Jason’s messiah complex. He’s always trying to save someone, and these people are in such bad shape he might actually be able to help. But the prospect of watching Jason rebuild Hotshot seems like it belongs in a different show.
Body count: So long, Uncle-Daddy.

A Very Literal Interpretation of Burying One’s Problems
So what’s Eric’s big plan for Russell? Instead of killing him, Eric’s going to pin him down with silver chains and drown him in cement. Come again? After all the glorious, campy, violent deaths this season, we get a mobster ending? This way, Eric reasons, Russell won’t go to heaven, but he won’t bother anyone for 100 years. Were not sure why Bill and Eric are so jazzed about this 100-year concept. Is there some property of cement we’re not familiar with? Or is that how long it will take Russell to break out? But Russell’s not phased. “That's nothing to me. That’s a NAP!”

Here comes the big triple-crossing twist: Bill goes to shake Eric’s hand, but slaps some silver on him and shoves him into the concrete pit instead. Woah woah woah, Bill finally does something besides ennobling himself and looking dour? This time, it’s Bill, not Eric who delivers the villainous one-liner: “When fate presents one with such grand opportunity, what else is one to do?” Bill then uses Eric’s cell phone to call in a hit on Pam.
Body count: Debatable.

Will the Real Bill Compton Please Stand Up?
Well, that didn’t last very long. Bill shows up at Sookie’s door and proceeds to ennoble himself and look dour. He admits to killing Eric, but explains that he did it to save her. He’s going after every last vampire who knows about her blood in order to protect her.

Eric shows up at Sookie’s door caked in cement and with a different story. (We guess we’re meant to decide for ourselves how Eric got out of the cement and why Russell couldn’t just as easily have.) He tells Sookie that Bill tried to kill him not to keep her safe, but so he wouldn’t tell Sookie that Bill was hired to procure her for the Queen. Nothing new there. But then! Eric drops the series’ biggest surprise: "What about you letting two psychos beat her within an inch of her life so you could feed her your blood the night that you met? Think she'll forgive you for that?" Not to be too melodramatic, but this really changes everything. The narrative of their romance is that he saved her once and has been saving her ever since.

Devastated, Sookie banishes Bill and tells him never to come near her ever again. He tells her he’ll love her until the true death. “Love?!,” she spits back. “You don’t get to use that word.” We’ll believe it when we see it, but we don’t know if there’s ever recovering from this. She calls Eric a “fucking dead piece of shit,” but in an echo of their make-out scene, he towers over her and apologizes for making her suffer. Back at his place, Bill goes after the last vampire who knows about Sookie’s true nature: the queen. The two get in a couple of Wire fu moves before we’re cruelly denied a fight scene.

Alienated, Sookie runs to Gran’s grave for comfort. Just as she confesses to being alone in the world, Claudine and her merry band of half-nekkid Fae show up in the cemetery to teleport Sookie away. It’s the first time she doesn’t need to be half-dead or dreaming to see fairies. Where did she go? Stay tuned for season four.

Photo: Doug Hyun/HBO