Like a hobbled yet determined Kerri Strug, season six just stuck the landing. And we the viewers are like Béla Károlyi, just scooping True Blood up in our arms and prancing around the arena waggling our mustaches, because VICTORY. Who on Earth could’ve predicted that this show would rebound so dramatically after season five’s various crimes against our attention spans? “Radioactive” represented not only a victory lap after last week’s gratifying climax, it was also just a tremendously entertaining hour of television: big twists, big deaths, character reversals, full-frontal nudity, scenes both as joyful as the last day of school and as devastating as an unkissed crush. And that’s to say nothing of its truly compelling setup for season seven. Guys, this episode was just plum terrific. Those two gentle thumping noises you heard during the end credits were Alan Ball throwing both of his shoes at his TV. “Radioactive” proved that True Blood has tons of life left in it yet and the new showrunner has this thing handled.
As is True Blood tradition, the finale was essentially bifurcated into Old Business and New Business. If you enjoyed seeing vampires frolic in the sun last week, then you must’ve collapsed with pleasure when they all donned resortwear from Target and played volleyball in Bill’s backyard. I hadn’t seen this many overjoyed abominations since the last time I went home for Christmas! [Sad slide whistle.] The relaxed, celebratory nature of these early scenes was sincerely a pleasure to watch after having seen so many of our beloved characters living in death-camp squalor for most of the season. The good vibes proved infectious, permeating even the ickier plotlines. Like Jason’s strange relationship with Violet, that bossy European he met a few episodes back. Sure, she’s jealous and very intense on the volleyball court, but I’m chalking it up to her just being a female version of basically every male romantic lead in any vampire romance ever. It’s called gender equity! Also, did you notice how helpful and awesome Violet became during the gang’s battle against Warlow? I did. This episode made me feel pretty good about Violet as a new character. It’s the same thing with James: True Blood has finally learned that if they must introduce new characters, give us strong personalities rather than new species of monster.
Violet’s changing disposition wasn’t the only vampire redemption in this episode: Bill slowly began changing his ‘tude as well, and it was one of the most satisfying moments of the series so far. In a quiet stunner of a scene, series VIP Jessica reminded Bill that it was her job to keep him human; specifically, she encouraged him to follow his instinct to prevent Sookie’s marriage to Warlow. Obviously Bill had spent the season alternating between being a hero and also being an absolute motherf*cker, but his open acknowledgment of just how much harm he’d done felt honest and borderline sympathetic. More than anything, Jessica appealed to the part of him that back in the day would’ve done anything for that waitress, and she did it just in time, too: As we soon learned, Warlow was NOT a nice guy. Sookie had taken one look at his marital maypole (not a sexual innuendo) and suggested they hold off on a wedding, so he backhanded her and tied her up. Ugh, Warlow. He almost had it in the bag! Here we thought he was a dashing hunk with charming accent and 5,000 years of hard-won wisdom under his belt, but in actuality he was just another primordial a-hole. So yes, Bill was just going to have to take him down.
Because a Lilith-free Bill was now significantly more humble, he recruited a posse to help him invade the faerie plane, including Jason, Violet, Andy Bellefleur, and a super-jazzed Adilyn (faeries got each others’ backs). The eventual battle was brief but satisfying, culminating in a showdown in Sookie’s bathroom where a deus ex machina in a fright wig popped through the faerie membrane and grabbed Warlow while Jason staked him. Although Warlow melted into a conspicuously neat puddle of blood (suggesting that he may eventually pop back out of it with a Lilith-style merkin someday?), Warlow’s death had much bigger implications for all the vampires who suddenly had their sun-walking privileges revoked. Well, the local Bon Temps vampires were fine since it was nighttime. But for anyone who’d, say, randomly flown to Sweden in order to sunbathe atop glaciers, this posed a much more serious problem.
Sorry for burying the lede, but ERIC’S PENIS. Also, he may have died, but ERIC’S PENIS. Listen to me. Wait, what was I saying? It’s kind of hard to think. Oh, yeah, I remember: Eric died. Or, at least, he became engulfed in flames and shouted at the heavens in agony before the scene cut to black. But, but he couldn’t have died, right? Eric’s character is integral to True Blood! For most people Eric is, like, THE character on True Blood. On the other hand, Alexander Skarsgård is starting to become a movie star, and maybe he wanted out? On the other other hand, Pam made a big deal of leaving Bon Temps to go find him, so surely she arrived just in time to save him, right? Except HER sun-walking powers had presumably worn off, too. Also, the story jumped six months into the future and nobody said a word about Eric, not even his progeny Willa. Guys, I don’t know what to think about Eric’s fate, and that’s probably the point. Maybe the producers don’t even know yet. Eric’s either dead or he’s not dead, but this scene was at the very least shocking for how inglorious a “death” it was for such a heroic character. Also, Eric’s penis.
Speaking of that six-month leap into the future, True Blood busted out the ol’ flash-forward, and once again it worked like crazy. Sometimes shows like this really need a good reset, especially if it means Alcide gets a nice haircut and Bill goes on MSNBC to discuss his hilarious-looking vampire memoir. Anyway, yeah: Alcide and Sookie are now shacking up! Which — you know what? — I’m fine with that. Alcide was a real dick this season, but I’m a sucker for a character reversal. As for Bill, the purpose of his educational campaign was to inform the public of the Governor’s evil hep V scheme, and this in effect provided a setup for season seven that is one of the strongest and most interesting dynamics in True Blood’s history: Healthy vampires will now need to team up with uninfected humans (that is, humans who aren’t carriers for hep V) in a symbiotic, feeding-in-exchange-for-protection-from-rabid-vampires relationship. Basically, a Violet-Jason relationship on a massive scale. Honestly? That’s amazing. Just an amazing storytelling concept that immediately began paying off dramatically.
Uh, by the way, Sam Merlotte is Mayor Merlotte now, and we learned this in the middle of a surprisingly grounded and racially charged scene during which he encouraged both of Bon Temps’s church congregations to embrace his vampire-human buddy system. Those who didn’t march out in disgust attended a mixer later that night at Bellefleur’s Bar and Grill (either Sam renamed the place or Arlene was very irresponsible with her insurance money) where humans and vampires circled each other like teenagers at cotillion. Now, chances are you’ve bristled anytime Tara’s mom has come onscreen and that’s for good reason: Their relationship has bordered on shrill from its very inception. But don’t tell me you weren’t moved when Lettie Mae apologized to Tara for having neglected her and then offered up her literal neck to Tara. Sure, both women have been extremely annoying at one time or another, but seeing these two actresses give it their all was as captivating as anything I’ve seen this season. Are you prepared for a True Blood where scenes between Tara and her mom are compelling? Get ready. It’s already happened with Andy Bellefleur.
That’s right: Andy Bellefleur’s two big scenes in this episode were absolutely representative of why season six has been so good. In seasons past, Andy was routinely the least likable and most cartoonish waste of time in the lineup, but now? Understated, sympathetic, devastating. The watery look in his eyes when a guilt-ridden Jessica showed up at his door and offered her personal protection to Adilyn and the rest of his household. The quiver in his voice as he contemplated shooting her on the spot for the grief she’d caused him. His eventual heartrending, wordless acceptance of Jessica’s protection. And then Jessica sadly and quietly standing guard in front of his house. How on Earth did an Andy Bellefleur plotline become one of the most understated and emotional undercurrents of the series? What is happening anymore?
Oh, and then the hep V vampires arrived! But don’t worry, nobody will have to deal with them until season seven.
What’s that old cliché again? Why do we send rockets into space when 95 percent of our oceans remain unexplored? Season six proved that there are rich veins still to be tapped within the established characters and relationships of Bon Temps. Harrowing familial relationships, psychosexual intrigue, good old-fashioned heartache. Heck, Bon Temps is even starting to feel like a real town again rather than a collection of stages in the hills of Los Angeles. By looking inward, season six proved we don’t need newer, more fanciful monsters or increasingly more powerful ancient deities. We just need these characters, we need to root for them, we need to be afraid for them. By looking inward, True Blood will make us want these characters to return home safely. By looking inward, True Blood will make us want to be there, too.
Terrific episode, wonderful season. Thanks for letting me watch with you.