A serial is only as good as its surprises. Despite the fact that we’re currently living through the Golden Age of Television, it’s frankly shocking how frequently television shows violate the No. 1 fundamental rule of entertainment: Do Not Be Boring. Highbrow, lowbrow — it doesn’t matter what the program is, its primary purpose should be to rivet us. Steal us away from this world, engage our brains with questions and answers that beg questions without answers. And if a show can’t engage our brains, the least it can do is surprise us. Surprises are the best! Fortunately for a serialized drama (“drama”) like True Blood, a handful of decent surprises can turn an otherwise unimportant mid-season episode like “At Last” into something more memorable. Surprise: This trashy cartoon really knows how to keep us entertained.
Gold star to anybody who predicted that Ben was, in fact, Warlow. You guys are smart! Personally, I was so blinded by my relief that Sookie had a non-monstrous love interest for once that I didn’t suspect her new love interest was totally monstrous. This week we learned in the cold open that Ben is definitely a vampire when he suddenly flicked out his fang-switchblades and used his own blood to cure Jason’s broken brain. But it would be a few scenes before both Niall and Sookie independently deduced that if Ben was both fae and vampire, then he was definitely some kind of ancient immortal creature whose name was probably WARLOW. Obviously some of us had been burned when we jumped to the conclusion that Niall was Warlow, so it was understandable if we didn’t immediately agree with their theory. But then Ben threw a fireball (while nude) at Niall, drained all of his blood, drove him across town in the trunk of his car, and then hurled him into an interdimensional portal. Also, he had a British accent suddenly! So yeah, safe to say that Ben is Warlow and Warlow is not a great guy. Looks pretty decent without clothes on, though, so he’s got that going for him.
Because we’re going in order of importance, we should probably talk about Jason’s dream sequence now. First of all, in a general sense, wasn’t it so nice to see Classic Jason Stackhouse back in action in this episode? By that I mean he was excitable, hilarious, high on vampire drugs, doing hundreds of pull-ups, and also not wearing tons of clothes? I’d missed this guy! Anyway, that scene. Yes, as happens in this world when a straight man drinks the blood of a male vampire, he has sex dreams about that vampire. And this shaving scene between Jason and Ben was, uh, effective. It had been a while since True Blood — certainly one of TV’s gayest shows — had been particularly gay, so this was right up there with the instant classic Eric-Talbot sex/murder scene of season three. Guys, Jason Stackhouse dreamed about licking a dude and then woke up with a boner. (CC: The Peabody Award Committee.)
Speaking of boners (perfect segue), if your thing happens to be young women who dress like tramps and have the mental development of newborn babies, this episode was VERY sexy. (Ugh, society.) That’s right, continuing the most shocking development of season six so far, the faerie quadruplets plotline was still surprisingly entertaining! After a brief scene in which Andy Bellefleur’s four unnamed tweens badgered Terry about his dumb Ifrit story line, the girls went to bed and in darkness transmogrified into teenage hotties with an appetite for Natty Ice, Kools, and joyrides. But their teenage dream only got as far as a nearby convenience store where Jessica and Bill intercepted them and lured them back to Bill’s satanic Jonathan Adler–inspired lair where he’d also been holding captive the Japanese inventor of TruBlood, whom Jessica had stolen from a local college. Per a very bossy Bill, the professor’s task was to use the Bellefleur girls’ faerie blood to synthesize a new flavor of TruBlood that would allow vampires to become daywalkers. Which, good idea! (Especially for True Blood crew members tired of working long nights.) Unfortunately this plan hit a snag when it turned out faerie blood was too volatile to synthesize, and also when Jessica bit all the Bellefleur faeries to death! Or nearly to death, who knows, cliff-hanger stuff. Either way, Bill was not happy with Jessica, and the TruFaeBlood idea would have to remain on the drawing board.
In more important news (sociopolitically, True Blood wishes), Eric turned the Governor’s daughter Willa into a vampire. Yes, it was an ostensibly sexy/romantic scene in which Eric dug a grave, removed his shirt, and bit Willa’s neck a ton, but let’s be real: This whole thing was pretty low, even for Eric. As much as this show wants us to sympathize with the vampires’ status as a persecuted minority, they are murderous A-holes a lot of the time. Sure, I guess Willa was asking for it? Which, maybe this isn’t the place to unpack that message. But was I supposed to feel bad for the Governor when his daughter entered his bedroom a blood-stained ghoul? Because I did, I felt bad for him. Even when his new lover Sarah Newlin (!) pulled out a gun and shot Willa down, I felt she was pretty justified in doing so. So anyway, yeah: Eric’s tactic didn’t work, as the Governor almost immediately severed his emotional ties to Willa and sent her off to “the camp,” where, by the way, a captured Pam had also been sent! Because oh no, Pam’s been captured! That turn of events happened immediately after she and Tara had had yet another tiff and Tara dashed away only seconds before Pam was shot down by the Governor’s task force. See, guys, that’s what’s called genuine stakes. PAM is in trouble! (By the way, I admit Pam’s been kinda whiny lately, but I’m chalking it up to her simply being in the middle section of a character arc. No worries.) The main takeaway here was that the Governor’s camp does not seem like it will be very fun. There are probably no waterslides, no canoes, and next to no coming-of-age scenarios.
Obviously none of us care about the werewolves or Sam Merlotte and probably never will, but it’s worth pointing out that Jurnee Smollett remains wonderful and deserves better. After Nicole’s friends were eaten by dogs, Sam and Emma helped her out of the woods where Lafayette tended to her wounds and then Sam became a horse so that he could take her to a motel and make out with her. Poor Nicole. Meanwhile Alcide yelled at his pack a ton, Robert Patrick continued to be a glorified extra, and the whole werewolf story line was just a big who-cares situation. Sorry to say, but this episode was filthy with who-cares wheel-spinning, up to and including Sookie’s extremely drawn-out plan to, I guess, poison Ben/Warlow? That’s right, I’m sticking this plotline in the who-cares paragraph. After Sookie realized the dude’s identity, we had to witness every step of her plan to poison his fried chicken with silver even though it had been established that basically none of the vampire rules apply to him? And then after it took her forever to realize this, she shifted to Plan B and was in the middle of generating her faerie A-bomb when the episode cut to black? How rude, True Blood! There’s a fine line between a cliff-hanger and a dick move, and True Blood, your trousers sure are twitchin’.
Season six is nearly at the halfway point and things are still feeling pretty solid, in my opinion. If we’re being real, most of this episode’s shortcomings had a lot to do with the fact that it’s only the fourth of ten, so how much forward momentum could we really expect? While the final cop-out left much to be desired, the Warlow reveal, coupled with the faerie abductions and the Stackhouse wet dream were enough to make this a worthwhile exercise.
Speaking of worthwhile exercises, please enjoy this GIF of Jason Stackhouse doing pull-ups: