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A Room Full of Matches: Red Candles, Romance, and Rage on "True Blood"

Wow.

That was my immediate reaction upon seeing the most recent episode of True Blood ("Release Me"), written by Raelle Tucker and directed by Michael Ruscio, which I was lucky enough to snag an advance screener for about a week ago. (I teased my reaction to this shocking and visceral episode on Twitter here.)

This week's episode offered a major turning point in the second season of True Blood, fracturing some alliances (possibly forever), revealing a traitor, and solving one of the season's most enduring mysteries. All while things heat up in a major way in Bon Temps and Tara begins to see things more clearly than she has in a long time.

So just what did I think about this week's installment? Pop open a Tru Blood from the mini-bar, grab yourself a telepath, put on the Victrola, and let's discuss "Release Me."

Need a refresher before we dive in? Here's a video recap for "Release Me":



I really do think that Maryann would have ritually killed Sam if Andy hadn't wandered into the clearing (looking for the mythical pig, no less) and accidentally fired off his gun. It was a distratction that gave Sam the opportunity to flee, even as he was chased by the bull mask-wearing and savagely clawed Maryann and had to shift into an owl in order to make it out in one piece. As for Andy, he got his arm broken by poor frenzy-afflicted Terry and no one seems to believe his story about black-saucer-eyed zombie townspeople.

But Sam took a page out of Andy's book and sought to get some answers from Daphne at gun-point and is shocked to learn that Maryann is an immortal and a maenad, one of the handmaidens of Dionysus. So just how is Sam going to take Maryann down with little more than a pistol and no allies? I have absolutely no idea but the realization that he's dealing with something as ancient and deadly as Maryann clearly shook him to the core. Still, it was the shock of learning that Daphne had used him so completely that left Sam reeling the most. After finally encountering another shifter, he's so woefully unprepared for the basest of betrayals. Daphne says that she sold him out for love, not money or power.

But it's a love that's utterly base; she's filled with darkness from the inside-out, corrupted by Maryann's influence. It's no wonder that she bleeds black when Maryanne finally stabs her with that sacrificial knife. Daphne has done her job and served her well. But the only payment in kind that Maryann can offer is Death itself. And Daphne never saw it coming...

Given all the discussion of Dionysus and ancient Greek cults, it's interesting to note that, in his flashback to the mid-1930s, Bill Compton is seen reading "Gods and Monsters of Ancient Greece" when Lorena comes in. Coincidence? Or was Bill reading that exact tome for a very specific purpose? Curious.

Just as Maryann releases Daphne from her mortal coil, the notion of freedom plays a looming role over this week's installment, most notably in the forcible physical (and emotional) imprisonment of Bill and Sookie. Forced into companionship with his maker Lorena, Bill pleads with her to release him as he can't stand to be with her or defile himself with evil and wanton acts of murder and destruction. (I am curious to see, however, just where this change of heart came from and am hoping further flashbacks reveal its root cause.)

Their tortured relationship takes on the added dimensions of slavery; Bill is chained to Lorena with invisible links and can't leave her, despite his disgust at what he's become. Just as he threatens to stake himself unless she releases him, she turns the tables on him in the present day, keeping him awake during the day and preventing him from rescuing Sookie at the Fellowship of the Sun church. Despite their weakened state, Lorena is stronger and faster than Bill and she intends to keep her promise to Eric and split up Bill and Sookie, even if she has to stake Bill to do so.

Eric might want Sookie for himself but his actions have placed her into extreme danger. Imprisoned below the Fellowship of the Sun church with Hugo--who is revealed to be the traitor to the Area Nine vampires--Sookie is not only trapped with someone whose love for a vampire has twisted into rage, but she's also very nearly raped by Gabe, after Jason manages to disarm him and take him down in the woods. (Looks like Gabe did too good of a job training him, no?)

Hugo's motivation for betraying them comes from the fact that Isabelle wouldn't turn him and that he believes that the vampires just use them and don't want them to be equal. But it's hard to stomach the fact that he would turn to salvation from the blood-thirsty Fellowship of the Sun and betray Godric to boot. Does this somehow make him even with Isabelle? Hardly. If anything, he's proven his unworthiness.

I was thrilled to see that Barry the Bellhop came back into the plot and played such a crucial role. Unable to reach Bill, Sookie reaches out with her mind to the only other person she knows can hear her: fellow telepath Barry, who brings the imprisoned Bill a message that's overheard by Eric. Just who grabs Barry and pulls him into the hotel room? Lorena? Someone else? I just hope that the timid telepath lives to see the next installment...

Tara's worries about Maryann came to a head after her discomfort about the black-out incident, the sight of Maryann dragging a dead rabbit into Sookie's living room, and Arlene's story about forcing herself on Terry during a black-out lead her to believe that all is not right in Bon Temps and Maryann is the cause of it. Will she be able to throw off Maryann's influence long enough to help Sam stop the maenad? Fingers crossed.

Elsewhere, Jason's abstinence pledge took an even bigger turn for the worse when he slept with Sarah Newlin in the church balcony... and then had to convince her not to tell Steve about her unfaithfulness. So just what does Steve tell Sarah later? That Jason lied to them and was a spy for the vampires? That he betrayed their beliefs (and, unbeknownst to Steve, Sarah as well)?

There's no way that Sarah chased him down in the dark and then shot him with actual bullets, so I'm not concerned at all that Jason's dead. (We never saw the actual impact and, well, there's no way Alan Ball and Co. are killing off Jason Stackhouse right now.) My thought is that Sarah shot him with tranquilizers to keep him from fleeing... and that the duo will have to team up to make it out of the Fellowship church alive next week.

Meanwhile, back in Dallas, there were the beautifully touching scenes between Jessica and Hoyt as they shared their innermost thoughts and then later lost their virginity together. Hoyt's tenderness--blood-scented candles ("they smell like soup"), roses, and sweet music--were nicely balanced by Jessica's brazen hunger ("take your pants off"), a neat juxtaposition that was surprising and earned. These two might just be my very favorite romantic couple on television and their scenes crackle with an amorous innocence and a sharp-edged sexuality.

And then there was Godric. The missing 2000-year-old vampire finally appeared in the present day to rush to Sookie's aid in the basement of the Fellowship church. That he did so quite so easily makes me more than a little nervous. If he's not chained with silver or cemented into the ground, then why hasn't he broken out of the church before now? What is Godric's agenda and just what role will Sookie, Eric, and Bill play? Hmmm...

All in all, a simply earth-shattering installment of True Blood that brought the tension, sexuality, gore, and seething emotion in spades. I can't wait to see what happens next and next Sunday can't get here quickly enough.

Next week on True Blood ("Timebomb"), Eric arrives to do his master’s bidding on the eve of the Fellowship’s lockdown; Sam makes a gruesome discovery at Merlotte’s and Andy proves no help in coming to his defense; Jessica and Hoyt learn that when it comes to sex, every time is the first time; Tara and Eggs devour a mysterious meal prepared by Maryann, with unexpected results; Jason pays off his debt; Godric looks to enlighten his more single-minded followers.

Comments

Mel said…
Nice recap, Jace. So much happened last night that it's hard to believe the show is only an hour long!

Regarding Jason's fate, Sarah shot him with a paintball gun, so you're right not to worry. The prominence of the "Gods and Goddesses in Ancient Greece" book that Bill was reading puzzles me, as well. Was it simply a clue to Maryann's identity, or will Bill prove to have the solution for defeating Maryann?
Lisa said…
OK, Jace. Finished reading, and, as always, another great wrap-up to what was an INCREDIBLE show. I can't for the life of me figure out how they're going to get rid of MaryAnn after the (vivid!) description Daphne gave of her. "She's never NOT been here" gave me the creeps. That said, SO LONG, PIG. No more being mean to Sam...

I don't see the MA arc continuing into next season. While it's GOOD, there are bigger and better things to move on to - Eric & Sook, namely!

I'm always amazed at how Alan Ball takes characters who you THINK you already know, and then teases out further developments throughout each episode. Glad to see Lafayette back in old form (scene with him in the girls bathroom had me CRACKING UP). Still trying to figure out what Pam's (& Eric's) intent is in having him sell the V again - and WHO'S it might be. Eric's maybe? To see who's 'out to get' the vamps?

This ep was so good, that for the first time, I watched it TWICE in one night. I usually review it in parts throughout the week - but found myself watching the whole thing, all the way through, just a few hours apart.

GOD I need a life. Maybe Eric can stop by to give me an eternal one someday...

*sigh*
Hadley said…
I'm sure that Sarah didn't kill Jason but that image of her speeding down the road with her blonde hair flying wild in the wind (all while brandishing some sort of gun) was priceless!
Mad Typist said…
Another great recap. Quick thought: if Daphne was correct that supernaturals are unaffected by MaryAnn's powers, then does that mean Andy Bellefleur has some kind of supernatural ability that we haven't seen yet? He's resisted her spell several times now. Or is it that Andy's head is so thick, that even her power can't penetrate that numbskull?

I too was shocked at Godric standing there, apparently free and able-bodied. I can't wait to find out what his true agenda is. I think his disappearance was about luring Eric there to serve as a martyr for the upcoming war that Newlin (and perhaps Godric) wish to provoke
Ridolph said…
Great episode! Great recap!

I guess it was a paintball gun. I was thinking that it might have been a wooden bullet. Wouldn't a wooden bullet disintegrate?

Yeah, really wondering what Godric is up to.

Can Andy be redeemed?

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