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True Blood Series Finale Recap: Miss Stake

And then Bill exploded. But let's be clear: True Blood should not have ended any other way. This seven-year saga was always Sookie Stackhouse's story, and Bill's entrance as the mysterious, tousled, pancake-makeup-wearing Merlotte's patron ushered in years of trauma that Sookie probably could have done without. Everybody warned Sookie that dating Bill would be bad news, and this finale confirmed that everybody was right. So, if there's one thing we can truly appreciate about "Thank You," True Blood's otherwise highly disappointing series finale, it's that Bill exploded. Finally.

The acceptability of this series finale rests on whether you thought this episode was actually trying to make us sympathize with Bill, or that his final descent was pure subversion, True Blood's sly confirmation that Bill was the secret antagonist all along. Sure, his final plea for Sookie to kill him (and use the last of her faerie powers in the process) was nowhere near the blood-soaked assholery of his Billith stint, but perhaps this made his final request that much more insidious. He not only sought to condemn Sookie to a lifetime of trauma by having staked her former lover; he wanted to rob her of her very identity in the process.

Again, if there were a chance that Bill's final plotline was intentionally designed to dismantle and destroy True Blood's centerpiece romance once and for all, then this could have been a five-star episode. But there were just too many other frustrating choices made during these past few episodes for us to be able to trust this was the case. Yeah, sorry, guys, it's looking like True Blood whiffed its series finale in a pretty big way, which is a major bummer considering that for a good stretch, this season was shaping up to be its best.

Sookie staking Bill was both the best and worst thing about this episode. On the positive side, it was a suitably powerful moment on which to end the series, and it darkly dovetailed with how the series began (as an ostensible romance between the two). The problem was the journey that brought us to that point. Did Bill really have to enlist Sookie to kill him? Wasn't he bound to dissolve into black goo at any moment? Why was he showing up at her house and giving Tennessee Williams–esque speeches about how he needed to die so that Sookie could finally stop loving him and move on with her life? (Uh, don't flatter yourself?) It was bad enough that he refused to live on as a friend and supporter to his loved ones, but he also wanted to make sure Sookie participated in his death, too? I'm honestly trying to imagine a way for this narrative beat to have made better sense, but all I can come up with is that if Bill really did feel the need to die, he should have probably done it in secret. You know, like pretend to take the antidote, make sure all his affairs were in order and that everyone was going to be okay, and then slink off and lay down in a grave. That would have been a hero move, but Bill was no hero. Despite this season's flirtations with redemption, Bill's final salvo was so unforgivable that it's hard to view him as anything other than a total villain in hindsight. But again, could that have been the point? I honestly doubt it.

One reason "Thank You" doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt was because of how badly it miscalculated our interest in Jessica and Hoyt's relationship. Yes, those two provided True Blood's heartbeat for several seasons, but that particular arc ended with such poetic and heartbreaking closure that the resurrection of their love felt rushed, unearned, and perfunctory. The only thing worse than using suicide as a source of melodrama is the love-at-first-sight narrative. A wedding between two people without a (remembered) history isn't romantic, it's stressful. Again, I'm trying to imagine a version of this that could have worked, but staging a shotgun wedding with an amnesiac is not the one. If True Blood wanted to wring pathos from Jessica and Hoyt's reunion, why not just close the episode with Jessica showing up at his oil rig and hinting that they might be able to start over? Instead, "Thank You" asked us to get excited about a wedding between two characters we'd long since stopped rooting for, and then proceeded to subject us to several interminable scenes about it. (And am I crazy, or is this version of Hoyt way more hardened and unpleasant than he used to be?) Anyway, yeah, the longer this wedding scene went on, the madder I got that Lafayette and Tara had been brushed aside so hard this season.

Speaking of time wasted on inessential characters: Was True Blood kidding us with all this Bridget stuff? I understand that the show wanted Jason to end up settling down somehow, but (a) why do we need to see Jason settle down at all; and (b) was giving a brand-new character her own arc really that essential, again, when there's a stable of established, more compelling characters at the ready? Again, let's be constructive here: Couldn't Jason have shared a scene or two with Lafayette? Could Eric have interacted with Jason, or any other of the core characters, somehow? Could the writers have found a better way to reincorporate Tara and bring her relationship with Jason full circle? Sorry to backseat-write this thing, but I am honestly astonished at how True Blood could spend most of this season establishing a cozy tone and intimate vibe only to open the story up to outsiders in the end. Get out of here, Hoyt and Bridget, we want to see our friends.

"Thank You" wasn't without its redeeming qualities, however, and that even includes aspects of the two plotlines I just got finished hating on. For example, I loved the bracingly moving scene between Sookie and the reverend, in which they discussed whether God made monsters on purpose or whether they were merely mistakes. I also appreciated that Bill's ludicrous request for Sookie to stop being a faerie was ultimately denied, thus retaining Sookie's agency while Bill lay in that coffin looking like a confused goon. And Jessica and Hoyt's wedding scene: Such a nice touch that Sookie could suddenly hear Bill's thoughts. But, again, if I'd had my way, that should've been her first clue that he was not, in fact, cured. Despite his well-meaning villainy, his silent wish that Sookie have a wedding of her own someday was undeniably moving, if only for Anna Paquin's watery-eyed reaction shots. See what I'm saying? Even buried among the time-wasters, there were golden moments. Classic True Blood!

Which brings us to the most enjoyably True Blood–esque elements of the episode: the conclusion of the Yakuza story line. As most of us predicted last week, Eric remembered that he can singlehandedly murder an army of humans at super speed, so he promptly did so at the beginning of the episode. Farewell, Yakuza! The fun twist was that he and Pam decided to take over for the Japanese corporation and market Sarah Newlin's blood on their own, so the episode concluded five years in the future, when Eric and Pam are opening the New York Stock Exchange and filming infomercials for New Blood.

And they're apparently so successful that they're able to hire the author of a best-selling southern supernatural novel series to work the sound board:

I'm not entirely sure why this episode devoted so much time to Sarah and Pam hanging out at a carousel (though the scene did afford us Pam's observation, "Sarah Newlin, eatin' garbage. Who'da thunk?"), because despite Sarah's plea for mercy, she still ended the episode five years later, chained up in the Fangtasia basement, being tormented by the ghost of Steve Newlin. A fitting end, yes, but why the earlier, sympathy-forging scene? For an episode that ran ten minutes long, "Thank You" sure felt pretty cavalier about having pointless, overly long scenes. Like, yes, we like these characters, but we like them best when there's a point, you know?

Many of the best parts of this episode involved closure, old business, and the promise of happily-ever-afters. For example, we finally learned the thrilling conclusion of Bill's legal affairs: Andy would inherit his house, but would rent it to Jessica for $1 a month. Meanwhile, Sookie flashed back to a scene in which Gran gave her good life advice and young Tara's voice was dubbed over to sound like a demon, so that was nice. But also, in the end, Sookie finally found a human husband and became pregnant. We didn't get to see his face, but we saw her happiness, and that was all that mattered. Also, Bill had exploded.

"Thank You" ended with a final, lovely moment as the surviving gang and their many children reunited for a Thanksgiving dinner in Sookie's front yard. Because what True Blood  will always come down to, even in the face of a disappointing finale, is that Bon Temps is a place where I want to spend time. Be it Stars Hollow or Twin Peaks or Mystic Falls or Sunnydale or Neptune, the best escapist television takes place in towns we'd actually want to escape to. That's what Bon Temps has been for me, at least for an hour a week every summer Sunday. I've really and truly loved True Blood all these seven seasons, and the final shot of these characters enjoying their final, cozy, friendly dinner made my heart hurt. Whatever my frustrations (and anyone who loves True Blood knows frustration), I will miss this show dearly. What a hilarious, sexy, ridiculous Tilt-a-Whirl ride it's been. 

Sincere gratitude to Alan Ball, Charlaine Harris, Brian Buckner, and everyone involved for making it. 

Photo: null/John P Johnson