The psycho girlfriend trope has been a tired, misogynistic cliché for a while now, but its persistence in bro humor says a lot about how certain guys might think. Ladies who openly seek long-term relationships are walking nightmares to be avoided or derided? Got it, dude. Just as upsetting is the flipside: Lady-targeted entertainment in which literal monsters remove women’s agency by forcing love and protection onto them forever and it’s considered wish fulfillment? Uh, okay, weirdos. Everybody just needs to relax about the concept of Forever, already. Whether it terrifies you or turns you on, Forever doesn’t exist! But this week’s episode of True Blood bandied about the concept in ways that might terrify both genders and above all else reaffirmed the fact that vampires are intense, man. No fewer than three vampires promised/threatened eternity to others in “Dead Meat,” and each declaration felt weirder than the last. But you know what? It worked. Save for one truly incredible, instant classic of a scene, this episode was much more about emotional bonding than your typical True Blood late season circus and continued the season’s hot streak even while cooling things down.
In a scene that would set the tone for the episode to follow, “Dead Meat” began immediately after Nora dissolved into a sad pile of fail in Eric’s lap. Like any distraught, grieving brother, he immediately raged at the nearest vampire messiah and the ensuing confrontation was as nasty and intense as any Tennessee Williams Act Four barn-burner. With an unfocused snarl Eric shouted at Bill so much about how he sucked in general, and it was to Bill’s credit that he remained mostly empathetic throughout. Finally Bill grew tired of Eric’s verbal abuse and levitated him across the room (for which Eric hilariously mocked him) and then banished Eric from his home. “I’m already gone,” Eric heartbreakingly replied while lying on the floor. If you’re wondering why I’m spending so much time discussing the cold open it’s because this sort of fraught, emotional scene is EXACTLY what True Blood has needed more of, and the increasing numbers of these scenes (especially in this episode) has been the main reason Season 6 has been so good. More people on this show should shout each other hoarse.
Similarly, Sookie’s plotline slowed to a crawl while still seeming somehow riveting. Essentially she spent the episode struggling to decide whether to lend out Warlow (and his bloodstream) to Bill’s rescue mission in exchange for Warlow’s hand (and vampirism) in marriage OR just tell everybody to fuck off. Six seasons in we know that Sookie will probably opt to save her friends, so the sticking point was really just whether or not she wanted to become a blood-sucking abomination for all of eternity like Warlow insisted. Human heroines in vampire sagas always face this decision (it’s sort of a mandatory plot point by now), but then came Sookie’s graveside monologue to her dead parents which reminded us that True Blood loves to subvert. In a dramatic sleight of hand, Sookie’s tearful speech began as a sentimental confessional to her dead parents but turned into a nasty rejection of them personally, their humanity, and her own in general. Vampirism it was! There admittedly wasn’t much of a decision to make (immortality does seem pretty fun), but it was still a real thrill that Sookie’s and Bill’s and Warlow’s and Eric’s objectives all suddenly overlapped into a singular mission. Eric, unfortunately, wasn’t in the mood for a proper team-up so he independently tracked down Warlow and drank his sunlight-immunizing blood before Bill could. Oh, Eric. This wasn’t the only bad thing to happen to Warlow, though: For a brief moment Sookie remembered the time that he was a CGI ghost in her bathroom all growling and threatening “you’re mine!” so that seems like it might create an issue in their relationship later. I am not a relationship expert though, so who knows.
Meanwhile at vampire camp, Jessica and James put their clothes back on and stared at each other with heart-shaped eyes. Because James seems extremely perfect and Jessica likes him so much, TV logic dictates that he’s not long for this world. It definitely seemed like he was headed for trouble when he told a sniveling Steve Newlin about the tainted Tru Blood and Steve Newlin repaid the favor by ratting him out to Sarah. And this was how Bill’s prophecy began coming into focus: Any vampires not drinking Tru Blood were rounded up and sent into the white chamber, so suddenly James and Steve were joined by Pam, Tara, Jessica, Willa, and Violet, the extremely intense lady who claimed Jason Stackhouse as hers last week. Uh, how weird was this plotline, by the way? Violet and Jason spent a really long scene holed up in a morgue drawer (the camp’s version of prison cots) and she very intensely informed him that her old school Catholicism compelled her to make him hers but not rape him. Or something? The actress who played Violet was so good and this story seemed so out-of-nowhere that I suspect we’re seeing the early stages of a Season 7 plotline here. Who is this lady? Why do all the vampires inherently fear her? Will Jason eventually beg her for some sexin’ like she claims? These are questions that I have! No complaints though.
Speaking of no complaints, you know which scene we need to talk about now. Uh, that smackdown between Sarah Newlin and the Tru Blood distributor woman was not only straight-up incredible, it was one of the best things I’ve seen on television all year? Everything about it was perfect: Sarah Newlin walking the hallway frantically alternating between visible fear and smiling at the guards; the woman kicking Sarah in the crotch in order to gain access to the Hep-V lab; Sarah attempting (and failing!) to snap the woman’s neck; their hallway high heel chase; the woman getting momentarily distracted by two male vampires having sex behind a one-way mirror; Sarah Newlin smashing the woman’s bleeding face into a grate over the vampire holding cell; Sarah Newlin finishing the woman off with a stiletto to the skull; Sarah Newlin sobbing with joy and sincerely thanking Jesus Christ. All of it was PERFECT. Amid an episode full of quiet moments and interpersonal tension, an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon played out before our eyes and it was as welcome as it was awful as it was hilarious. Man do I love this show.
Anyway, then there was blah: Nicole and her mom were freed from the werewolf pack after Alcide beat up a gaggle of female werewolves and returned them to Sam’s care. Though I was kind of digging Alcide as a villain and I appreciated the fact that the other two members of his ménage à trois attempted to kick his ass, it was still nice to see him make nice with Sam Merlotte over drinks later that night. Alcide no longer had a pack, but he still had a sad-sack shapeshifter to hang with, so that was nice consolation maybe. Oh, but one creepy thing was, because both of them have animal instincts, they could smell that Nicole was now pregnant. Two days pregnant! Disgusting, fellas. Still, it looked like Nicole was here to stay, which is sad for us because so far her character kind of sucks, but is good for us because maybe Jurnee Smollett-Bell might be given a better plotline in the future? Dare to dream.
Elsewhere, Arlene and Andy continued to deal with the aftermath of Terry’s death, in particular, grappling with revelation that it was a suicide and questioning whether a military funeral would really be appropriate for him. This plotline was unusual in that it had very little to do with supernatural monsters of any kind. I’m tempted to say it felt out of place on this show, but it’s really the contrary: These kinds of low-key, very human moments increase my empathy for these characters a ton and it’s always nice getting to see Carrie Preston show what a fantastic actress she is. Arlene’s sobbing demand for “Carnations. They are happy and I want ‘em!” really summed up that character. In other Bellefleur news, Holly’s teenage sons lured Adilyn out of the house for a topless graveyard make-out session. Sure, the scene only existed to get her within fangs-reach of Eric so that he could cross over into the faerie dimension, but still: It was nice seeing teenagers on this show just doing Southern teenager stuff. Call me basic, but I really like when this show just basks in Southern living. You know? Noisy insects, Spanish moss, rowdy teens, bacon-fried toast. The more Southern this show feels the more immersive it is. Simple pleasures.
That’s what made “Dead Meat” so solid: Small moments writ large. It seems crazy to say this, but True Blood scaling back its storytelling theatrics has been possibly the boldest move this show could be making at this point. There was nothing restrained about Sarah Newlin’s epic catfight, but that’s why the scene felt so cathartic. Loud scenes work better surrounded by quiet ones, and it’s this contrast that made “Dead Meat” work so well. This episode may have been just be a temporary stopover before the last two episodes unleash total madness, but let’s not worry too much about the long term. Let’s leave that sort of thing to very intense vampires, okay?