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The Price of Bliss: Life, Death, and What Lies in Between on "True Blood"

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become." - Buddha

You had the chance to read my advance review of this week's episode of True Blood ("I Will Rise Up"), written by Nancy Oliver and directed by Scott Winant, but now that the episode has aired, we can finally talk specifics about this heartbreaking and profound installment of the Southern Gothic series.

It's rare that a series can manage to surprise you, much less make you laugh, cry, and shudder all in the same episode. Yet that's just what True Blood managed to do this week, pulling off a death-defying blend of sex, sacrifice, and salvation.

The notion of sacrifice has lurked beneath the surface of Season Two of True Blood in several forms: we see both the frenzied need for human sacrifice from maenad Maryann and her crazed disciples, the misguided zealotry of Luke which leads to his silver-laden suicide bombing at Godric's nest, and the sacrifice that Godric makes not once but twice.

I had a feeling there was something going on between Godric and the Fellowship of the Sun. I never imagined, however, that Godric willingly offered himself up as a target for their hatred and fanaticism. He claims that he did so because the humans would come for one of them eventually and that he made the first move, turned the other cheek, was willing to die for their sins and blood-lust.

But that's not entirely true either: Godric had a death wish. Or rather, he wished for a way out of his eternal prison, an opportunity to cast off the final remnants of his mortal coil and join the infinite. His immortal existence had become a burden to onerous to carry any longer, a cross too heavy to bear.

Godric's self-sacrifice standing in the first rays of morning light was exquisite and in keeping with his role as a Christ figure in the story. That he would be redeemed by Sookie's tears and her human presence at his very end was as touching as it was gut-wrenching. Several characters alluded to being alone in this episode yet Godric wasn't alone at the end as Sookie was there to see him burst into blue flames and become one with the universe.

That it was a human who witnessed his final moments was important and spoke to the message of love and compassion that Godric understood towards the end: there is more to life than kill and survive, there is a higher morality, a sense of right and wrong. There is the potential for love and understanding between these two ancient enemies. That Eric would want to die with his maker underscores the bond between them but it's not his time to "die," and so Godric commands him to leave. But it's Sookie's rather than Eric's tears which symbolize his final benediction.

I knew he would likely die by his own hand before the season was out but never imagined that I'd care for Godric as much as I did after just two episodes (and one dialogue-less scene). Credit goes to Danish newcomer Allan Hyde for turning Godric into a painfully human and complicated figure whose ultimate end is shockingly memorable.

The scene on the roof between Eric and Godric was absolutely heartbreaking. Despite his duplicity earlier in the episode (more on that in a bit), it proved in no uncertain terms that Eric does have a heart, is capable of love, and does feel something other than malice. When Godric said, "Father. Brother. Son," I lost it and I knew that Eric would as well. How does one go on when one's maker cannot? What does immortality matter, if you are alone? Suffice it to say, Alexander Skarsgard was sensational and this scene between he and Allan Hyde should be included on next year's Emmy nomination reel. To say that Skargard's performance was heartrending is a massive understatement.

Contrast this heartbreak with Eric's mercenary behavior after the bombing at Godric's nest. Despite the fact that he willingly shields Sookie with his own body (perhaps even knowingly sacrifices his own safety for hers), he uses the chaos and confusion to take advantage of Sookie's good-nature, compelling her to literally suck the silver out of his chest as he claims to be dying. But it's all just a clever ruse: he was never in any real danger and could have healed himself and pushed the silver out of his wounds. Instead, it's a manifestation of the threat he poses to Bill, an excuse to get Sookie to unwittingly drink his blood and forge a connection between the two of them.

Those stolen moments--which represent a real evolution of Eric's designs on Sookie--forever transform their relationship. As Bill promises, there are sexual feelings developing between Eric and Sookie as a result of her drinking his blood... desires which become all too clear during a haunting dream in which she and Eric lay in bed naked together. Just what will this development mean for Sookie and Bill's romantic relationship? And for Sookie's own future? Just how long can she fight these feelings?

Sam escaping Maryann by transforming into a fly? Genius. Sam Trammel is playing Sam Merlotte pitch perfectly, managing in a look, a shudder, a turn of the head, to convey a palpable sense of absolute mortal terror every time he is on screen. More than anything, it's his morality that's betrayed when he finds Daphne in the walk-in and he can't come to grips, despite his own preternatural abilities, that he lives in a broken world where callous and brutal murder would be possible.

That Sam would have to turn to Andy Bellefleur as his only possible ally in the battle against Maryann (and turns up at his motel stark naked)? Brilliant. I can't wait to see just what this twisted partnership leads to... but I am very worried for Sam Merlotte. After all, a god's vengeance is raining down upon his head and there seem to be very few who can withstand Maryann's spell. Do he and Andy have a snowball's chance in hell of stopping Maryann? I shudder to think.

I loved the scene between Sookie and Jason at the hotel, in which they finally expressed their love and support for one another. These two siblings have been through so much in the last two seasons yet haven't ever sat down to talk about the death of Gran, what happened with Eddie and Amy, and their own recent, uh, troubles with the Fellowship of the Sun. Anna Paquin and Ryan Kwanten effortlessly pulled off a completely genuine sense of sibling camaraderie in their touching scene together, infusing it with the deep sense of familial love and also a sense of humor. (Kick his head in a bucket around the yard indeed.)

As for Hoyt and Jessica, there is another huge speed bumps to their relationship this week in the form of the spiteful Maxine. I couldn't believe that Hoyt stood up to his bigoted mother (and walked out with half of his grilled cheese and potato chip sandwich) and that he still wanted to introduce Jessica to her even after her reaction. While the encounter at Merlotte's could have been stereotypical--overbearing mother, eager-to-please girlfriend, and Hoyt in the middle--the end result was brutally blunt as poor Jessica, egged on by Maxine, comes to the depressing realization that she can't give Hoyt babies. Deborah Ann Woll's plaintive expression when Jessica realizes this was profoundly agonizing.

The Lafayette-Tara-Lettie Mae-Eggs confrontation had me on the edge of my seat. I love Tara and I hate seeing her being pulled deeper and deeper into the darkness by Maryann. I'm hoping she finds the strength to throw off her influence, though judging from this week's episode, Maryann has her claws sunk pretty deep into Tara. That she could push Tara into a frenzy so easily, send her strangling Lettie Mae without blinking an eye is terrifying. And I'm more than a little worried about what it means that Lafayette and Lettie Mae took Tara... and don't really have a means of calming her down. There's going to be hell to pay... and from the terrifying visage of Maryann at Merlotte's--"a god demands his sacrifice"--there's one hell of a showdown in store for Bon Temps.

Best line of the evening: "I hate your hair." - Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp) to Nan Flanagan (Jessica Tuck)

Ultimately, I thought that this week's installment of True Blood not only ramped up the tension and set in motion a final showdown in Bon Temps but also transformed this seductive supernatural series into something deeper and more profound, pushing it from the darkness into the territory of the divine.

Next week on True Blood ("New World in My View"), Sookie, Bill and Jason return to Bon Temps; Sam and Andy find themselves attacked by a group of bloodthirsty revelers at Merlotte's; Bill discovers that traditional vampire techniques don’t work on Maryann; Hoyt and Jessica try to keep a lid on Maxine’s madness; Sookie tries to push through the darkness consuming Tara.

Next on True Blood: Episode 22:

Comments

ewench said…
As always a great review Jace but while I found this episode gripping and beautifully written, for me it was not quite as jaw droppingly, edge of my seat as the two previous were.

Having read the books I suspected what would happen to Godric but hoped they would change it for the show - yes it was all so poignant and the scenes with Eric touching but...ultimately depressing, I still wish Godic was going to be around!

Eric's smirk as he tricked Sookie into sucking out the silver was great; the dream scene of them in bed was HAWT!

I am so ready for the whole Maryann storyline to be resolved, it's really becoming boring and I find the stories involving the vamps much more interesting.
cheflittle15 said…
Thanks for the thoughtful review. This was a great and textured episode, as always, but the turning point of Eric seemed to take center stage. I had been wondering how AB would handle reconciling harsh, brutal, out-for-number-one True Blood Eric with The Southern Vampire books Eric. How could Sookie care for him portrayed as he has been? This episode answered those questions as well as portrayed Bill as the annoying gnat he has become to Eric. It was a good reminder that Bill is not second-in-command or in any position of great power among the vampire community. He just happens to have something that they want.

One point, though: I think Sarah Newlin was telling her husband that she hates his hair. He blanched when she said it, too. They were fighting with each other more than Nan.
naya said…
Awesome review. I knew I was going to love this ep based on your orig. review but I had no idea that I would end up crying my eyes out at the end. Thanks for setting us up for an amazing ep. that delivered everything you promised. I am so upset about Godric killing himself. He was amazing!! Skarsgard nailed it with this ep!!! I second motion that he should get an Emmy nom for last night. I am going to watch it again today as I'm still too sad to watch anything else!
TxGowan said…
I enjoyed the episode almost as much as you did, but I had some minor nits with it. The largest is with Sookie drinking Eric's blood.

Vampire blood has been well-established as a drug for humans. To date, Sookie has only been exposed to Bill's blood. I would have expected being exposed to vampire blood five times as old/strong would cause a marked reaction. It certainly did when Lafayette had some.

Next week's episode looks terrifying and terrific. I wish I didn't have to wait a whole week.
Jace Lacob said…
TxGowan,

True. However, it's also been clearly shown in the series that vampire blood, Maryann's frenzy, etc. have different results on other supernaturals. Lafayette's reaction to Eric's blood was based on his being a human while Sookie is... something other than a baseline human. Her reaction to Eric's blood can--and likely is--different than that of a regular human.
Sasha said…
Oh thank goodness a thoughtful, intelligent, and serious discussion of True Blood! Soo glad I found you!

As for "I Will Rise Up" I am utterly, utterly convinced that the bomb blast aftermath sequence was Vampire Bill's wishful thinking. Sookie IS tender hearted and would never have behaved the way she did toward Eric, who was suffering and had just saved her life. Bill WISHES that was how she had behaved, and he WISHES that Eric had been a mercenary conniver who tricked Sookie. Something MUCH more threatening to Bill happened during that bullet sucking scene, and I trust we will see a far different, more accurate perspective in a future episode.

I mean, come on. Who here thinks the adoring Eric wouldn't be concerned about Godric's safety in the aftermath of the explosion? He neither called out for him, like Sookie did Jason, nor did he rush to check if he was alright. Sookie has witnessed Eric's devotion to Godric, Bill has not. Therefore, from his pov thougths of Godric would be entirely absent.

Just my two cents. ;-)
Bella Spruce said…
This was a sad and poignant episode but I loved the humorous bits as well -- like Jason giving Sookie the "thumbs up" to show that he was okay after the bomb went off and the on camera fighting between the Newlins and the tiff between Hoyt and Maxine in which Maxine says her hate for black people is supposed to be secret (as though that somehow makes it okay). Fantastic writing!
mary said…
What an eloquent and thoughtful review! Well said, well put, well done! I just have ONE thing to add. We all need to give credit to the incredibly gifted composer nathan barr who lends his auditory genius to the show creating the atmosphere we all have grown to love.
Mazza said…
Reviews like this one are why I come to Televisionary instead of inane "I <3 Eric!" commentary like on some other sites. Thanks for always covering T.V. with intelligence and thought Jace.

Last night's ep was incredible and worth the painful wait. I'm sad everyone seems to be leaving Dallas now. Well not Godric but we knew that. Any chance that the Newlins are sticking around for rest of S2? Or are they off the show now?

Godric's death (second death?) was beautiful & upsetting. Wouldn't change a second of the ep.
Jason said…
Hmm... I thought when Sarah Newlin said, "I hate your hair," she was talking to her husband, Steve.
Anonymous said…
Sasha. Eric likely knew Godric was fine after the blast because they are connected. He couldsense him, especially when they are in close proximity. He knew he was alright and did not need to run around looking for him. Remember, Godric "felt" Eric's presence in the FoTs basement too.

Dont know how to open account... so this is ErinN.
Unknown said…
Jace, I totally agree with you that the scene between Eric and Godric on the roof was spectacular, there was so much tenderness and love between the two of them. I have loved every single interaction between Eric and Godric. Nothing is hotter than a bad ass vampire who gets on his knees in devotion and love; I also loved how he completely ignored Sookie whenever Godric was around. Eric’s character has developed into the most fascinating and multi-leveled.

However I'm sad to say that I find the opposite to be true for Sookie. Last night's 3 (THREE) inspirational and extremely predictable speeches to Jason, Bill and Godric left me only wishing for something dreadful and bloody to happen to put an end to the cheesiness. It was sad to see Godric after 2000 years having to go with yet another one of Ms. Stackhouses simply conveyed universal truths.

I was also extremely disappointed with the dream scene between Eric and Sookie, the sex scenes between Bill and Sookie in season 1 were incomparably hotter. If anything I was hoping with Eric it would be even more wild, dirty and dangerous and not some kind of unthreatening vanilla romance that your 13 year old Twilight fan would dream of.

I was however pleasantly surprised with Maryann showing her passion and tears and loved Lafayette kicking Eggs’ boring ass.
Chrissi said…
This episode was great and I am extremely sad to know there are only 3 more left. I do find the Maryann scenes a little boring and odd. She was a weird addition to the show for me, and I do hope in the next episode her power over the town ends.
I am also nervous to see how Sookie and Eric will be. I love Sookie and Bill together and their sex scenes are great. Although Eric is very hot so I wouldn't mind seeing more of him naked.
Ha, can't wait for Sunday!
rockauteur said…
Can't wait for Maryann (and Eggs) to go!!!! I'm definitely over that story line. All the Godric/Fellowship of the Sun stuff is wayyyy more interesting... and I can't wait to find it if Steve Newlin really did kill his father as a power play.

Great episode though. And yeah, Sarah was insulting her husband's hair. My only thing is - how come no one arrested the Newlins for the suicide bomber? They did kill humans and vampires alike, and pretty much admitted to doing it on live television.
Barbara said…
It's very interesting to me that a number of comments here reflect the attitude of "being over" the whole Maryann story line. Why is it that we haven't responded to the concept of a whole town's descent into madness as strongly as we have to the plight of the outsider vamps? Or is it really just the romance, and the ageless battle of who will win the girl that we want more of? And just for the record, how many TV series do you think there have been that have tried to explain, to illustrate as thoughtfully and truly the Greek concept of ekstasis--to stand outside of oneself, whether in sexual pleasure or in search of the godhead? There's never been anything like True Blood.

And as a point of agreement, I'm a little sick of Sookie, too. I feel a bit confused, like Lorena, at what all the fuss is about.
Katie M. said…
@Barbara I think it's b/c the main characters aren't in the Maryanne subplot than the romance stuff. Now that it's all coming together I think people will like it more.
Unknown said…
@Barbara, I think the Maryann storyline was interesting as long as we were still guessing and trying to figure out but now it has dragged on way too long. It's difficult to keep suspense and interest when the audience knows so much more than the characters. I for one was thoroughly fed up with that whole storyline but probably most of all with recurring and redundant scenes of orgies, black eyes, obstinate Tara and boring Eggs.

However in the magnificent delivery of last episode's ecstasy speech Maryann showed that she actually had passion and reason behind her actions and isn't only a cruel and raging god, that really draw my in and now I'm almost sad to see her go.

I guess it was hard to balance the 2 storylines over the season, but I for one would have been happier to see Maryann go sooner and Godric later, but c'est la vie.
beadrbop said…
Thank you for once again conveying the heart of the episode and how it does have the ability to evoke so many emotions! The impending sacrifice by Godric and interaction with Eric was amazing. Looking forward to your next review!
Zazazu said…
My favorite line of the episode was Nan Flanagan's "Hey, I'm on TV. Try me."

While I love Hoyt and Jessica's sweetness, I'm kind of cringing because you know it's going to go wrong at some point. I'm also wondering how Jason is going to react to having to share Hoyt's attention. In the books, after he sort of loses Hoyt, he gets kind of lost.

I think what annoys me most about tv Sookie is that she's not as ruthless as book Sookie. Eric calls her ruthless in their little pillow talk session (which isn't a sex scene), but she's so not.

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