True Blood Recap: Praise Jaw

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Photo: HBO/John P Johnson
True Blood
True Blood
Episode Title
Lost Cause
Editor’s Rating
Full Star Full Star Full Star Full Star Full Star

We all know True Blood names its episodes after whatever song plays during the end credits, and yeah, Beck's "Lost Cause" is one of the great songs of our time. But was there not a song out there called "Victory Lap"? Because that's what this episode felt like: just an hourlong heavy-petting of our pleasure centers (gross, sorry). Last week's series-highlight-of-an-episode culminated in an insane massacre involving Molotov cocktails, exploding vampires, and deathbed ghost hallucinations. But "Lost Cause" showed us that when True Blood's thrilling/disgusting pyrotechnics are stripped away, we're left with a pretty fantastic little soap opera.

I realize that when I say "True Blood is basically a soap opera," your response is something along the lines of "Like, no doy, dude," but first of all, (1) why are you talking to me like a Valley girl all of a sudden; and (2) this episode provoked as many emotions in me as a typical episode of Friday Night Lights or My So-Called Life. And those comparisons are NOT off-limits here, considering cast members from both shows appeared in this episode. Patty Chase was murdered by the Yakuza, guys. In other words, "Lost Cause" was another very good installment of my favorite season of True Blood ever.

But yeah, aside from a brief Republican fund-raiser Yakuza massacre (!), "Lost Cause" was mostly about basking in the afterglow of last week's victory and letting us just sort of hang out at a house party with a lot of shockingly sympathetic monsters. Sorry for yelling at straw men every week, but if you weren't thrilled by the sight of most of the characters of True Blood just sitting around a kitchen listening to "Got to Give It Up," then this is not the show for you, and it probably never was. Let's talk about this party, though, as it summed up exactly what this season's going for: coziness, pathos, and fuckin'.

Photo: HBO

At one point Sookie lamented that Alcide's festive wake was "more of a celebration of life than I was ready for," and that was before everything took a turn for the scandalous. But the fact is, after returning home from her victorious operation to extract the Fangtasia hostages, Sookie suddenly found herself fully grappling with Alcide's absence. True Blood is not historically a show about the realistic exploration of grief, but now, suddenly, it was? While a full hour of extreme sadness would've made for a very good lead-in for The Leftovers, I think we were all pretty grateful when Lafayette forced Sookie to go sleep for 16 hours while he decked out the house in beads and baked goods and then e-vited the entire town to come dance for a while. At first Sookie had some trouble accepting that a wake could be so festive, but who among us wouldn't want a house party thrown in our honor?

In addition to the warm, lived-in coziness of seeing a room of familiar faces letting their guards down for a spell, "Lost Cause" was dotted with what felt like a baker's dozen of incredibly well-written and acted speeches about the nature of love, death, marriage, friendship — all the biggies. From Arlene's advice to Sookie on how to deal with the death of a partner to Andy's touching admission to Jessica that her guilt was harming his own healing process, True Blood has never been more thoughtful and affecting than this. Like, come on, Lettie Mae mouthing "thank you" to Sookie for letting her eulogize Tara? Amazing. Or that moment when Sookie walked through the party reading everyone's thoughts and they were saying nice things about her? So good. Andy's marriage proposal to Holly? Don't get me started. One could argue that all this humanism was anathema to the cartoonish nihilism of earlier seasons, but it's absolutely the right way to close out a long-running series, and it's absolutely the right way to celebrate what these actors can do.

Photo: HBO

But seeing as this was not the series finale, the back half of the episode worked overtime to undo so much of that earlier harmony. Now that the Hep-V vampires are no longer a threat, the new Big Bad this season seems to be the damage we do to one another. I think we all saw that James-Lafayette hookup coming, but did we know how badly everyone would react? Or that it would directly lead to Jessica hooking up with Jason? Or that it would cause other outward ripples of compelling moments, like Lafayette's speech about what it feels like to be a side character, or Violet's silent jealousy? Okay, wait, I just want to talk about Violet for a second: I really had no idea where this character was going or what even was the point of her when she first appeared last year, but suddenly she's like a walking thesis statement. Violet is literally an ancient being who now socializes with relative newborns, but even she can see the charms of living in a quaint small town. With this character, True Blood is saying that it doesn't matter how alien your existence becomes; humanity still lurks within you somewhere. Just seeing Violet show up and attempt to fit in was vaguely heartbreaking. Or when Violet attempted to comfort Sookie by confiding that "I've had a hundred boyfriends die over the years, but I remember how painful those first ones were." The irony is very clearly there, but so is the sincerity, and beneath it all, a little menace too. That's True Blood for you.

Photo: HBO

If we had any reason to cringe at "Lost Cause," it had to be whenever Bill would stare into the middle distance and imagine a very blurry Civil War–era South when he'd decided to become a deserter. This season obviously has a lot of work to do in order to make Bill sympathetic again, but this was as good a start as any. The man loved his family and he didn't always do what the Man told him to do, so that's at least consistent with our earliest conceptions of him. We'll see how well this stuff plays out, but between his touching scene with his wife (a.k.a. Lindsay from The O.C.) and some nice, quiet moments with Sookie on her front porch, Original-Recipe Bill is starting to show through again. While it's no shock that True Blood seems to be heading for some kind of Bill-Sookie romantic reunion, let's hope that if Sookie and Bill's journeys DO intersect again, it's only after they've both been enriched by their time apart.

Photo: HBO

Or this is all moot anyway, because BILL HAS HEP-V NOW. Whoops, that certainly levels the playing field for those worried that Sookie couldn't end up with Eric due to his Hep-V. At this point, the endgame looks to be less about which vampire hunk Sookie will end up with and more about whether she can prevent them both from dissolving into puddles of black goo. Honestly? That is a much more interesting dilemma.

Photo: HBO

Which brings us to the biggest holy-shit sequence of the night: Pam and Eric's Republican fund-raiser adventures. For as restrained and heartfelt as the rest of the episode was, this was straight-up insane in the best way. After some wonderful fan-service moments involving a screaming, coffin-straddling Ginger (who, it was confirmed, is Eric's sex slave with whom he does not have sex) and a visit to the Hotel Carmilla, Eric and Pam descended upon the George W. Bush Presidential Library in their finest "Republicunt" and bolo-tie ensembles. They'd been tipped off by Sarah Newlin's secret-vampire sister that the Newlin family would be in attendance (at a Ted Cruz fund-raiser, obviously), and sure enough, Sarah Newlin snuck in to confront her mother (played by My So-Called Life's Bess Armstrong!) and apologized for starting a vampire Holocaust by assuring her "I'm not a monster, I'm a Buddhist!" Anyway, long story short, yadda yadda yadda, the Yakuza busted in and murdered everybody, including the Newlins; Eric intercepted Sarah; and then Eric ripped apart the main Yakuza guy's face in a manner that made a certain Game of Thrones death look tame by comparison. The best, all of it was the best.

Photo: HBO

Are you one of these people who holds it against a TV show when you don't know where it's headed? Don't be one of those people. Aside from a very vague sense that Sookie will probably be holding hands with a vampire or two, I truly have no idea what True Blood has up its sleeve for a closing salvo. It resolved its big threat last week, and this episode had hookups and breakups and jaw-rippings. Heck, Nicole even had a line or two. Literally ANYTHING can happen now, and that is intensely exciting to me. I like surprises. I like emotions. I like Yakuza massacres. I love True Blood.