A skeleton without cartilage isn’t even a skeleton, it’s merely a scattered pile of State’s evidence. Serialized television needs a strong, fully functional skeleton from which to hang its tricks and surprises and revelations, or else it’ll devolve into a ridiculous blob of jelly bones (hi, Hemlock Grove). But that can mean episodes like “Karma” — ones that merely move pawns into place without offering much in the way of watershed moments — will seem tame by comparison to True Blood’s more pyrotechnic-infused installments. Which doesn’t make them bad per se, merely necessary. “Karma” was admittedly more of a piece of cartilage in season seven’s skeleton than a full-blown femur, but it still managed to be a solid piece of entertainment anyway. You know? Skeleton stuff.
When we last saw Eric, he’d just gotten the upper hand on a Yakuza boss, or at least he’d gotten the lower jaw of one. But this cold open quickly disabused us of the notion that Eric had won that battle, as Sarah Newlin escaped his grasp and then Eric and Pam were both captured by surviving perpetrators of the Great Yakuza Republican Fund-raiser Massacre. (Not before Eric personally fended off countless goons in a hallway fight to rival the famous one from Oldboy.) I’m not sure how plausible it is for vampires as powerful as Pam and Eric to get captured by ordinary dudes with silver chains that appeared to have been purchased at a Party City post-Halloween clearance sale, but regardless, they were suddenly captive and being threatened with a swiftly rising sun. At that point, we met the Japanese corporation’s North American boss (a Southern-accented Japanese man in a white leisure suit) who wanted Sarah Newlin’s head bad. Which meant all parties had a goal in common, and after some quick negotiations, Eric and Pam found themselves working with the Yakuza to track down Sarah. Unsurprisingly, she’d been holing up with her vampire sister, but the real shock was the revelation that she was a walking Hep-V antidote. Yep, last season, she’d gobbled down the only viable Hep-V antidote, her very blood was the key to healing sick vampires, and she’d become just Buddhist enough to actually want to help them. This will presumably make Eric feel slightly conflicted about murdering her, but will hopefully prolong Anna Camp’s arc on this show, as every minute we get to spend with her is a treasure.
The somewhat-tidy solution to the Hep-V pandemic arrived surprisingly soon in the season, but not soon enough for Bill, whose Hep-V began progressing at a startling pace. Wanting to get his vampire affairs in order, he was soon taking a number at his favorite vampire law firm in the grimmest satire of afterlife bureaucracy since the waiting room scene in Beetlejuice. See, tons of dying vampires also want to get their wills notarized, and the human lawyer at this firm was openly accepting $10 million bribes to accelerate the process. But despite a gleefully anti-lawyer sentiment to rival last week’s anti-Republican one, the lawyer scene served as a sly riff on how casually hurtful so many laws were and continue to be toward gay people. True Blood’s insistence that vampirism is a metaphor for the gay rights movement remains dicey even all these years later, but at least it’s consistent. (That “Silence = True Death” sticker Sookie sees at the doctor’s office would probably not be the kind of homage Larry Kramer would appreciate.) Anyway, Bill’s worsening affliction begged the question: How’d he get sick? There were no twists to this explanation, as anyone who’d guessed last week that Sookie had been the carrier was correct. Sookie feared she’d been the culprit and went and got tested in a series of scenes as fraught with the kind of real-life tension you or I would experience getting an STD test. The creepy implication being that her strain of Hep-V, perhaps due to her faerie blood, is somehow more toxic to vampires is a heady concept for a show that often rendered its heroine an accidental grim reaper. Whereas Sookie’s loved ones constantly dropped like flies from tangentially related threats, now Sookie was bringing real death to her loved ones directly.
In another plotline that mostly just confirmed things we’d long suspected, Lettie Mae finally proved to Lafayette that Tara’s spirit was trying to reach out to them. After Lafayette brought her back to his place only to discover a forlorn James needing a place to stay, James almost immediately offered to let Lettie Mae drink his blood (James is very chill about enabling). Thankfully, Lafayette decided to go with her on this mind-altered trip and, sure enough, there was Tara in that misty cemetery, yammering in tongues and running around digging up the dirt. I’m not sure any of us actually believed Tara was gone for good (despite Rutina Wesley’s “I’ve been killed off of True Blood” press tour), but it’s at least a relief that Lettie Mae’s rantings have been vindicated and we’re now headed toward a more interesting revelation concerning life after true death. “Headed toward” being the key term here as, again, this episode was more about setup than answers. But still, Hi, Tara!
It should come as no shock that Violet was not happy about Jason’s infidelity last week, but what was slightly surprising was that her initial reaction wasn’t immediately vindictive. No, in fact, Jason returned home smelling of vampire sexin’ only to find a house strewn with rose petals and candles like something out of Vampire Red-Shoe Diaries. Violet even donned her best lingerie, and for a minute it appeared she was ready to forgive him for straying just so long as he loved her back. But of course he then went and comforted Jessica over Bill’s illness and Violet had no choice but to tear up his bedroom and leave him a “Dear John” letter. If there had been hints that Violet was slowly humanizing over the past few episodes, those hints disappeared when she began plotting cold-blooded revenge against Jessica by kidnapping Adilyn. If we’re being real, the scene where Violet climbed up into a treehouse and convinced Adilyn to break away from her make-out sesh with Holly’s son to go continue making out at Violet’s unspecified lair was surprisingly dumb. But, then again, so is Adilyn, who is a legit newborn. It’s no wonder Andy was so mad at Holly’s son for sexin’ her up in their own home; personally, I don’t think toddlers should be sexually active, but that’s just me. Guys, don’t quote me on this, but Violet probably does not have the best intentions for these teens, so stay tuned for that.
Finally, in a single scene barely even worth mentioning, Nicole told Sam she was leaving town. Sam attempted to stop her by hilariously claiming that Bon Temps was the only place he’d ever felt safe, but, and please don’t be too shocked by this turn of events, she wasn’t convinced. Anyway, I hate to say it, but as much as I love Jurnee Smollett-Bell, it seems as though True Blood does not. Why hasn’t she had anything interesting to do all season? Maybe let’s revisit this question after we see what happens to her. Yes, let’s.
“Karma” provided a couple of crucial reveals, but it was really more about setting up some final conflicts and giving us a glimpse of the dark road True Blood seems poised to traverse. That is not a complaint! We know how episodic television works, we know that delayed gratification enhances a payoff. “Karma” was basically the straight-man performance to the previous weeks’ scenery chewing. But with only four more episodes of True Blood left ever, the next round of fireworks probably isn’t too far off. Get your affairs in order.