series finales

Grew Tired of True Blood a Few Seasons Ago But Want to Watch the Finale? Let Us Catch You Up

Photo: HBO

A lot can happen in two years. Especially for the residents of Bon Temps, where every sundown brings untold trauma, tragedy, and shirtless hugging. If we’re being real, True Blood is the kind of show that dared viewers to stop watching since about minute one, but if water-cooler chatter is any indication, many viewers actually did stop watching sometime around season five, when executive producer and creator Alan Ball exited the show. Putting aside the fact that, like many big-name producers, he was much less involved or invested in the series than people might assume, his official departure was like the decaying canary in the mineshaft that caused many viewers to suddenly turn against this once beloved sex cartoon. So the question is, did you jump ship two seasons ago yet still kinda want to tune in to tonight’s series finale and see how things end?

Well here’s what happened during the last two seasons of True Blood.

As a prelude, I think we can all agree that season five more or less shit the coffin. Bill’s sudden ascension up the Authority ranks led him to become obsessed with some kind of Biblical vampire god named Lilith and by season’s end he drank a vial of her blood, died, and was resurrected as a vampire god himself. Meanwhile Sookie found herself the target of an ancient vampire named Warlow who had apparently murdered her parents back in the day. In both cases, these were such narrative dead-ends that it’s possible Alan Ball was trying to torpedo his own show to get back at HBO for insisting on renewing it so often. ANYWAY, most of season six was tasked with fixing these two story lines, and for the most part it succeeded.

For example, in season six, “Billith,” as fans came to call him, was converted into less of an omnipotent god and more an ordinary messiah tasked to save vampire-kind from the humans. This became especially necessary when the governor of Louisiana teamed up with Sarah Newlin (the ambitious blonde ex-wife of disgraced anti-vampire crusader Reverend Steve Newlin) to round up all vampires into camps and later unleash Hep V, a highly infectious AIDS-like disease intended to wipe out vampires once and for all. Both of these threats were as meaty and compelling as anything True Blood had explored, and Bill’s efforts to thwart them went a long way toward redeeming his earlier assholery while also making him seem downright heroic again. At the same time, Eric Northman became a bit of a tragic superhero figure when he led the charge to rescue our beloved characters from the prison camp only to then witness his sister Nora succumb to Hep V and melt into a pile of goo in his arms.

Unfortunately, and despite the new showrunner’s best efforts, the Warlow story line was a nonstarter from the beginning. In an admirable bit of retconning, it turned out that he wasn’t quite the evil predator that season five had suggested, but was actually Lilith’s first progeny, a hunky faerie-vampire hybrid who’d merely been stalking Sookie because he believed they were soul mates (and he’d only murdered her parents because they had been psychopaths who’d been trying to kill her). But of course their eventual romance could never be a happily-ever-after scenario (particularly not for viewers who’d been so invested in Sookie ending up with either Eric or Bill) and Warlow was revealed to be an abusive jerk after all. So, a double twist, in which the first twist ended up being misdirection! Not very satisfying. Still, though, at least Warlow’s death resulted in one of the best things to happen to this series yet: the end of the faerie stuff. Because the faerie stuff was the worst. (In fact, there’s a good chance season five’s god-awful faerie nightclub scenes single-handedly made you quit the show.)

From there we flashed forward several months to a noticeably changed Bon Temps. Merlotte’s Bar was now owned by Arlene and renamed Bellefleur’s (in honor of her husband, Terry, who’d committed suicide); Sam was now mayor; Pam was off searching for Eric; and Sookie was now in a serious relationship with Alcide. Unfortunately this new status quo wouldn’t last long as the town was suddenly invaded by Hep-V-infected vampires, whose late-stage infections had turned them into monstrous, bloodthirsty cretins. Sadly, Tara was killed during their initial attack and several women (including Arlene, Holly, and Sam’s girlfriend Nicole) were kidnapped and chained up in the Fangtasia basement. Various townsfolk banded together into a vicious anti-vampire mob, but that didn’t go so well, especially when Alcide was accidentally murdered by a yokel with a rifle. Meanwhile Pam found Eric only to discover that he, too, had become infected with Hep V.

Though the rabid-vampire plotline was resolved fairly quickly, the second half of this season has been more concerned with finding the cure to Hep V, especially after it’s discovered that Bill was infected as well. That made TWO romantic leads dying of a gruesome disease. Fortunately, the key to the cure ended up being Sarah Newlin, who’d chugged the antidote before going on the run at the end of season six. (She’d also become a Buddhist to perhaps atone for starting a vampire Holocaust.) Entering the story at this point is, obviously, the Yakuza, who are working with the same Japanese company who developed TruBlood, the synthetic blood replacement that was basically the catalyst for this entire series to begin with (i.e., vampires were able to “come out of the coffin”). So the Yakuza enlisted Eric to capture Sarah as they intend to market a facsimile of her blood as a lucrative treatment for infected vampires. In doing so, Eric was able to cure himself of Hep V, but Bill has so far declined to be cured, instead going the martyrdom route after realizing that a vampire’s existence is “darkness.”

So here’s where we are now for the finale: The Yakuza are now descending upon Bon Temps to kill anyone who knows about the cure’s existence (Sookie being the main target), and Bill could dissolve into black goo at any moment. Eric must now do his best to stop both things from happening.

That’s the macro summary of what’s gone down during the last two seasons, but you may be interested in what’s going on with individual characters. Tara and Pam were pretty hot and heavy throughout season six, but then Tara died while Pam was out of town looking for Eric and since then we’ve only seen Tara when she’s appeared to her mother Lettie Mae in V-induced visions. Meanwhile Jason entered into a bizarre relationship with a medieval vampire named Violet, who treated Jason like a piece of property and eventually went insane with jealousy when he cheated on her with Jessica. Back in the prison camp, Jessica had fallen in love with a soulful vampire hunk named James, but their relationship fizzled after he arrived in Bon Temps and fell in love with Lafayette, which was what caused Jessica to hook up with Jason. But now Hoyt has returned to town and has fallen in love with Jessica again despite having had his memory of their earlier relationship erased. You know how love is.

Something that may really shock you if you haven’t watched the past few seasons is that Andy Bellefleur has quietly become one of the show’s best characters. Where he used to be a blustery, unfunny Foghorn Leghorn riff, he’s now the tragic, grizzled heart of the show. After a one-night stand with a faerie left him responsible for four newborn babies, he transformed from a doofus into a doting dad. But what started as a charming joke about fatherhood got dark and heavy when three of his daughters (who’d grown into teenagers) were killed by Jessica, who’d been driven mad by their faerie blood. Adilyn is now his last remaining daughter and the show has mined tons of pathos out of Andy’s concern for her safety, not to mention Jessica’s guilt-induced need to atone for what she’d done. Similar to Andy’s transformation from cartoon to flesh-and-blood object of sympathy is Tara’s mom, Lettie Mae, whose manic craziness once rendered entire scenes unwatchable, but is now one of TV’s most compelling characters. I’m not sure if we’ll be seeing much of her now that Tara’s soul has crossed over to the other side, but she’s worth mentioning in that she’s another example of how seasons six and seven did a lot of course correction for the better.

Again, True Blood is a show that outright dared viewers to call it stupid or shameless or unworthy of our time, and to some extent people finally started to accept that dare. But what you should really know about this final season is that it was designed to cap off the entire series with emotional closure and full-circle callbacks. That means visits from old favorites, allusions to earlier seasons, and, more than anything else, a reinvigorated sense of coziness in Bon Temps. Like the appealing Southern hospitality these characters live by, you won’t need to have seen every episode to feel included. When it comes to tonight’s series finale, just feel free to drop on by.

What to Remember Before the True Blood Finale