True Blood’s a strange show. Not just because of its constant sexual assaults, or its inability to focus on one story line, or its more-is-more attitude about the supernatural — though of course all those things are true. True Blood is the type of strange show whose main characters are by far the worst and least interesting of the bunch. Everyone knows Lafayette is the best character, but beyond that he’s also a microcosm of the show. When things make sense for Lafayette’s character, things make sense on True Blood. Yes, it’s rare on both counts.
It’s not that things have to be happy for Lafayette for the show to be enjoyable. (No one on True Blood is ever happy, except sometimes Jason, and he has the mental capabilities of a cucumber.) But are cogent stories too much to ask for? In season two, Eric kidnapped and tortured Lafayette, and the beloved Merlotte’s cook suffered from PTSD and vague eroticized Stockholm Syndrome. Sad, yes, but great TV! The second season fell apart, though, as Lafayette and most of the other characters fell under Marianne’s weird orgy spell. No more weird orgy spells, True Blood. Not coincidentally, Lafayette did not have any real interesting stories in season three, and that’s the season that is by far the most forgettable. (The less we see of Sophie-Ann the Vampire Queen, the better.) Lafayette’s slow, reluctant introduction to the witch community in season four was great, and the first few episodes seemed like a return to season-two silly fun. But then Lafayette and Jesus went to Mexico, and someone dream-killed a goat, and then Lafayette channeled Tio Luca, and then he became a medium, and the constant spirit possession stuff just became too much.
For the first ten seasons of Law & Order: SVU, you could tell within the first few minutes how good the episode was going to be based only on how good Mariska Hargitay’s hair looked. A nicely groomed Detective Olivia Benson means a solid episode; too much hair gel and overly “piece-y” bangs means the episode is skippable. There’s a similar test for True Blood: Does Lafayette appear in a meaningful capacity in the “previously on True Blood” segment? If so, that’s probably going to be a decent episode. If not, that’s because you don’t need to be refreshed on what his story line is, which means it’s either lousy, insignificant, or disconnected from the rest of the plot — which is a bad, bad sign. Not as bad as the reemergence of the werepanther stories, but bad.