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True Blood Recap: The Tyrant Wore Shoulder Pads

How do you prefer your vampires to die? Disappear into a swirl of fire and ash? Shrivel into frowning husks of their former selves? Something more beautiful? Something more nauseating? Every vampire saga has its own basic rules, and most carry through from property to property (e.g., sunlight fries, and wooden stakes kill), so it's really the nuances that make the saga. For all its traditional vampire rules, True Blood has bested most other vampire lore in at least one big way: Its deaths are the hands-down BEST.

Sorry, other vampire franchises: There's just something so incredibly cathartic about watching a vampire explode like an overstuffed blood balloon. True Blood's True Death (a memorable term in its own right) is not only shocking and nasty, but it also cleverly undercuts vampires' self-conscious coolness. There's nothing elegant about the way vampires die on True Blood, and with Nora's death this week from Hepatitis V we got a new variation on this repulsive demise: the slow-melt goo crumble. Surely the most disgusting thing ever featured on a series that takes great pride in being disgusting, Nora's death was perhaps even more shocking for how sad it looked. No cathartic explosion, no thrilling splat. Just a sad, gooey slide from a crying man's arms. The feeling of loss made visceral. Top that, other vampire sagas.

Aside from that viscera-soaked moment of pathos, "In the Evening" was a relatively low-key hour of television. Following last week's stellar episode, it shouldn't be surprising that things slowed this week so that the writers could set up final conflicts. The most important bit of setup involved the establishment of Sarah Newlin as the deceased Governor's lieutenant Big Bad and Lilith-prophesized tyrant that Bill will have to take down. After Sarah discovered the Governor's severed head in his backyard, she choked back nonexistent tears and monologued about how there would be a reckoning or whatever. Unfortunately, even in her tragic rage, Sarah's still too adorable to be taken as a threat, so that's why it was important for this episode to establish just what a nasty business this Hepatitis V is. Never mind the jokey name — this virus behaves much more like ebola than anything. (Should they have called it V-bola?) Whatever. If we're being honest, any virus that kills its host as quickly as it killed Nora will probably not be the species-leveling plague the humans intend it to be (even in this episode, word began to quickly spread about the contaminated Tru Blood). Still, with Sarah keeping the Governor's death a secret and personally overseeing Hep V's distribution, the show's stakes have never seemed higher.

After Eric successfully sneaked a very infected Nora out of the vampire detention facility (by clinging under a truck, obviously), his plotline finally joined up with Bill's when Eric appeared in Bill's threshold begging for his help. Fortunately, Bill's character has been in a bit of a redemptive mode lately, so he looked at Eric's situation with a surprising amount of empathy. Unfortunately, drinking ancient blood did not somehow bestow upon Bill a PhD in vampire medicine, so he didn't quite know how to help cure her virus. Further, Nora seemed pretty ready and willing to die, assuring them both that not even drinking Warlow's blood would cure her.

Thus began a flashback in which we saw Eric and Nora's first meeting, ironically during the Black Death era. Eric had apparently sought Nora out because he'd heard stories of her courage in the face of corruption and offered to cure her bubonic plague by taking her to Godric. This flashback, while poetic in its parallels, was very much a "too little too late" situation in that Nora was never more than a half-formed character at best, and it was like the writers were suddenly trying to give her death more weight at the last minute. While the actress was incredibly appealing, we never really got to know the character as anything other than a plot device or frequent contrarian. Still, though, as happens with many mediocre characters, a memorable death scene all but redeemed her. Watching Nora melt out of Eric's arms was borderline devastating. And disgusting! But definitely moving. I think I might miss Nora, but for now it's probably best to chalk up her death as just one more season-five problem fixed by season six. Rest in peace, baby girl.

The consolidation of plotlines continued when Bill and Eric agreed they needed to team up in order to prevent Bill's vampire holocaust visions from coming true. To do that they'd need Warlow's assistance, but of course at the moment Warlow was busy nude-wrestling with Sookie in a faerie graveyard. Sookie and Warlow had had a pretty serious roll in the tulips, but then he started getting a little weird with talk of them being together forever and whatnot, so she bolted at her first opportunity — specifically, the sound of Arlene sobbing over Terry's freshly covered grave. (Which, that was fast! Bon Temps does not lollygag when it comes to burials.) Sookie comforted Arlene the best she could, but it would be nothing compared to the comfort Pabst Blue Ribbon would bring Arlene later in the day. That's when Bill showed up at Bellefleur manor to extend his condolences and also inform Sookie about what was going on at the vampire camp. Sookie's swift shift from skeptical to concerned did a lot to make their interaction bearable (they both tend to bring out each other's annoying sides), so it's looking like Sookie might be getting back into action-hero mode soon. And on Bill's team! Though Bill could've stood to be slightly more apologetic to Andy Bellefleur on account of Andy's three murdered daughters, Bill was at least trying his best to be a not-terrible person, so that was nice. Might he even become likable again in the near future? Guys, it's seeming more and more possible every week.

In one of the season's more egregious "just go with it" subplots, Jason's rise within the ranks of the vampire camp continued this week as he exercised free reign to summon and confer with prisoners whenever he felt like it. In what will probably lead only to heartache, Jason offered to sneak Jessica out of the camp only to have her decline on the grounds that she is a bad person who deserves her fate. Then she requested a face-to-face meeting with the shirtless hunk who declined to sexually assault her last week. So just when it seemed like Jason was ready to let Jessica back into his heart, it appeared as though her heart had moved on to longer-haired pastures.

Because, yup, within minutes of Jessica meeting up with James in private, his privates were meeting up with her privates. Thus Jessica the perpetual virgin was deflowered once again, but for the first time with another vampire. As much as this season has shown restraint in introducing new characters, this James seems like a real promising addition: Not only does he seem like a good guy, but the kind of drama he'll introduce between Jessica and Jason appears to be of the good, old-fashioned heartache kind, which tends to serve this show well. Welcome, dude! As for Jason, his day got significantly worse when the newly powerful Sarah arrived, stripped him of his badge, and threw him in with the starved lady vampires. Tara immediately protected him from the throngs, but then that mysterious dark-haired lady vampire called dibs. No idea who she is, but this ought to be interesting.

In more minor developments, Pam successfully seduced her therapist/interrogator into allowing her to be released from solitary confinement, and all it took were a few pointed statements about her masturbatory habits! Meanwhile, Lafayette opened Terry's safe-deposit box and discovered that Terry had taken out a lucrative life insurance policy before his death, thereby confirming that he'd had himself killed. Finally, Nicole decided to leave town, but not before jumping Sam's bones in the shower, which was enough to get me to stop rooting for her forever. Get off and out of there, Nicole! Also, to cover up for having not murdered Nicole and Sam, Alcide told his pack that he'd killed them only to have the pack bring out Nicole and her mom bound and gagged. Whoops, looks like Alcide's reign as pack master might be shorter lived than we'd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Sorry, whuh?

"In the Evening" was by no means a misstep for the season; nothing was ostensibly bad about it. It just felt like an unrushed, casual hour of setup, the kind of episode that better series can successfully avoid but for the most part is a necessary element of storytelling reliant on big finales. Fortunately, the season-long elements and relationships have been strong enough to keep things interesting despite a slackened pace. My biggest complaint isn't a huge deal, but still: Doesn't the vampire camp seem much less frightening now that the characters seem to come and go with ease? I realize True Blood loves to limit even the hugest story lines to one or two chintzy sets, but the vampire camp has started to seem pretty small-scale lately. Oh well — as long as we get more scenes involving severed arms and scanners. And, of course, melting vampires. More of those, too, please. True Blood, you are as disgusting as you are beautiful.