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True Blood: 7 Steps for a Better Season 7

Yes, True Blood was a little anemic in season five, costing the show a few viewers who quit out of frustration. But season six (which came to a close Sunday night) provided some of the blood work required to get the show back on track, killing off a slew of characters (Luna, Terry, Nora, Steve, and more) and streamlining story lines so most of our main characters ended up back in Bon Temps, just in time for the Hep V–infected vamps to descend on the town. Now it's time for the True Blood brass to take its own advice and adopt a version of Sam Merlotte's Feed-A-Vamp buddy plan for season seven: Feed the characters with good material and they'll protect you against viewer drop-off. Here are seven things True Blood can do to return to form.

1. Make the Big Bad unite all the characters.
In season one, we had a serial killer. Season two, a maenad. Season three, a vampire king with werewolves under his control. Season four, a witch. But season five? That was a mess. The Authority wasn't even that authoritative. For a vampire old enough to be name-checked in the Bible, Salome was a drag. Russell was tempered by his relationship with Steve Newlin. I guess Lilith (or even the idea of her) was supposed to be the villain? But off in Bon Temps, the rest of the characters were not so blissfully unaware of this, dealing with an Ifrit and so many other problems that even one of the show's own cast members called it "schizophrenic." The characters didn't have overlapping objectives, or an interconnected, season-long story. Season six took a step toward repairing that with vamp camp and Warlow's blood, but the werewolves were distracted by activists. Season seven has real potential to get everyone under one umbrella, and it would be nice to see some of this play out before the approaching horde descends — who would Lafayette feed, for instance? Does pregnant Nicole get an exemption? And about that ...

2. Get rid of Nicole.
I'm not suggesting Sam ditch his baby mama — he's too loyal for that. But given that the couple got together mere days after Luna's death, Nicole is not his true love but a rebound, albeit a pregnant one. (Doesn't anyone in Bon Temps use condoms anymore? Guess not.) And since those sick and starving vampires are approaching Bellefleur's Bar & Grill (still not used to saying that), a pregnant woman might look extra tasty to them. Poor in utero shifter! Even if Sam's now mayor, he can't protect everyone, and a personal tragedy might help unify the town under his leadership, since there seemed to be some holdouts to his plan.

3. Give Violet some power.
If Eric has met the True Death (and we're not saying he has), she's now the oldest vamp on the show, at 800 years old — the reason she was rated a level one at vamp camp. She had the idea to secure herself a healthy food-and-oral-sex source in Jason Stackhouse, which shows some foresight. But there's got to be more to her than petty jealousy issues. Why is she so intimidating? What would she do to females perceived as threats, besides bonk them with volleyballs? And how will she impact the rest of Bon Temps with this new vampire threat arriving? What's her story?

4. Give Alexander Skarsgård a great entrance in the season seven premiere.
Granted, our last image of Eric is him burning up in the Swedish snow, the effects of Warlow's daywalking hybrid blood wearing off. It doesn't look good for our favorite Viking vamp, but given the news that Eric will be a regular character on the show next season, there must be some way he'll counter the burn. Will he bury himself in the snow? Fly off to a less-bright part of the globe? Pam is on the way, so maybe she can bring help? And it's not like he's as far gone as Godric was when he met the sun (no blue light) or as crispy as Bill daywalking in season one. Regardless, Eric is Pam's true North (and our true Northman) — give the two of them a grand reunion, some new adventures, and a tale to tell everyone when they re-open Fangtasia. (Surely they can take back control of the bar, and help with Sam Merlotte's buddy plan?)

5. Make Bill trustworthy (or at least sexy) again.
A tall order, to be sure. His attempt to save Sookie in the finale was a good step, but he's got a long way to go toward character rehabilitation. Claiming that you've changed, saying that you're trustworthy, isn't the same thing as actually being trustworthy, after all that bad blood and betrayal. (His "You're dead to me, Sookie Stackhouse"? Probably not his best move.) If he pulls a Jessica and protects Sookie and Alcide without requiring blood in return, he has a chance. (But how will he and Jessica feed? This isn't a long-term solution.) Short of this, Sookie and Bill could have hate sex, which would at least be interesting. But until then, give us the Sookie-and-Alcide sex scene that we were denied in the finale flash forward.

6. Give Lafayette some love.
It's been a while since our favorite short-order cook had much to do, and while we understand his need to be celibate while mourning his late boyfriend Jesus, it's time that we got to see the full range of all of his activities again. Once upon a time, he had a lot of extra jobs to bring in the cash, from being part of the road crew to dealing drugs, to making pervy web-cam videos and doing light sex trade work, all of which presumably helped him pay for the care of his mother in a nursing home. Now? We barely see him work at all, let alone go on a date, or meet up with any of his friends in nearby towns. Lafayette is no hermit, so let's see him out and about — perhaps with his new vampire protector as wingman!

7. No more new faeries, weres, or other new supernaturals for a while.
Adilyn can stay. Grandpa Niall can stay. Even Hunter (who must be out there somewhere) can come back for a visit. But let's ease up on meeting other faeries or halflings for a while. Let's focus on the human-vampire relationships and keep the other supes on the back burner. Since Alcide left his pack, that should keep the werewolves at bay, so we're happy to hear showrunner Brian Buckner confirm that they'll move on from that storyline; they were getting tedious, anyway, which is something monsters should never be.

Photo-Illustration: HBO