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Nice Day for a White Wedding: Endings and Beginnings on the Season Finale of "True Blood"

I don't know about you but the hellishly long wait for True Blood to return next summer is liable to kill me with anticipation.

Yes, HBO's vampire drama sunk its teeth into me in a major way this season, offering us a complex and layered series that's at once a bodice-ripping romance with bite, a series of social metaphors about religion, persecution, hatred and fear, a supernatural drama about the things that go bump in the night, a Southern Gothic drama about a backwater Louisiana town, and ultimately, a bloody good yarn.

Last night's second season finale ("Beyond Here Lies Nothin'"), written by Alexander Woo and directed by Michael Cuesta, wrapped up some of the season's frenzied storylines while setting up some rather intriguing new plot threads to be discussed in Season Three of True Blood.

So what did I think of the True Blood season finale? Grab yourself a Tru Blood, park your truck, order up some French food, and let's discuss "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'."

In my mind, True Blood thrives when it deals us a series of provocative and disparate storylines for the wide array of talented actors in the series' ensemble cast. And last night's episode adroitly set up a slew of new plot threads for characters such as Sookie, Bill, Eric, Jason, Andy, Tara, Jessica, and Sam while also tying up the overarching Maryann/frenzy plot that had hijacked the second season after the Dallas interlude.

Looking back at the season as a whole, the Dallas storyline was far more compelling and forceful than the Maryann one this season. Between its usage of the Fellowship of the Sun and Godric's sacrifice, the Dallas plot gave Sookie a proactive and integral role in the plot while also fleshing out the hierarchy of vampire culture and offering a very different side to Eric Northman, one that wasn't all terror and body-ripping but a heartbreaking vulnerability as he's forced to come to terms with the death of his maker.

Conceptually, there were some intriguing and even tantalizing elements to the Maryann plot, which offered a sobering look at not only the power of cults to prey on people's fears and insecurities (and in this case wanton lust) but also in how a town can quite literally go over the edge together, descending into abject terror and chaos. However, I did feel as though much of the action here was a bit like treading water, with a constant repeat of various townfolk engaging in licentious behavior over and over again and then promptly forgetting their wrongdoing during the light of day.

So it was with a sense of relief that we were able last night to bid farewell to malevolent maenad Maryann Forrester and get Bon Temps back to normal (or as close to normal as it will ever be, anyway). After the strength of the Dallas storyline with its spiritual heft and weight, the maenad storyline seemed somewhat more trite and less inspired as a result. Was it creepy? You bet. But I also wanted a stronger throughline here and the entire storyline seemed to wrap itself up within about the first fifteen or so minutes of the season finale.

Still, there were some fantastic moments in the climax of this storyline. The sacrifice of Sam was one, with Sam offering himself up in order to save Sookie and put an end to Maryann's reign of terror. Of course, he does so with the knowledge that he and Bill Compton will be able to kill Maryann if they position themselves just so and that Bill has promised to save Sam's life should he be skewered by Maryann's minions. Their partnership, behind the scenes though it was, was a nice touch here, given their history as romantic rivals for the love of Sookie Stackhouse. Still, I wish there had been some way that Sookie could have known about said plan and had played a more integral (rather than tangential) role in Maryann's destruction.

However, the scene between Maryann and Sam (in the guise of the horned god himself) in the woods was shocking and terrific. While I should have known that the grey ox was shifter Sam, it was still surprising to see him gore her in the midst of her ecstatic moment of completion, one that enabled her death. (Looks like Sophie-Anne was right about the power of belief: just as Maryann believed herself to be immortal, this moment enabled her to die for the will of her god.) Nicely played, Sam and Bill.

I'm already deeply invested in what will likely be a major storyline for Sam Merlotte next season as the shifter tracks down his adoptive parents (the ones who moved and left him behind as a child) and looks for some answers about his true nature. If this week's season finale is about consequences, then Sam is looking for some explanation from the people who were meant to raise him and look after him. While his adoptive mother is unwilling to give him information about his birth parents ("they're bad people"), his adoptive father, who is dying a slow and agonizing death, not only apologizes to Sam but shakily scrawls the names of his birth parents on a piece of paper. Are they shifters? That remains to be seen but I think we're seeing the start of a very important arc for Sam Merlotte...

With Maryann destroyed (and the body concealed by Bill), the town reverts back to normal, with few of them able to recall just what happened over the last days or so. Other than Jason and Andy, who believe themselves responsible for saving the day. True heroism happens behind the scenes, against impossible odds, and rarely comes with glory. Despite Andy's belief that heroes deserve recognition, they really don't. True heroism comes from the moments when no one's looking or from true self-sacrifice, not from trigger-happy ego-hounds.

Which brings us to poor Eggs. I had a feeling that if Eggs somehow made it out of the frenzy alive, he wasn't long for Bon Temps. He's the ultimate victim of Maryann's madness, corrupted by her influence and forced to commit heinous acts of murder upon several women without his knowledge. His experience begs the question: are we responsible for our actions when someone else is pulling our strings? Can we ever wash off the blood on our hands if we didn't willingly put it there in the first place? Is ignorance of such horror bliss? Eggs sadly needs to know what he did, even if it wasn't his actions that caused such destruction. He wants to be accountable for his crimes, however unwittingly, and the knowledge that Sookie pulls from the darkness inside his head slowly pushes him over the edge.

Yet Eggs wasn't threatening Andy. Was he standing over him with a knife, ranting and raving? Yes. But he wasn't going to hurt Andy; he wanted to be locked up, to be punished. He wanted to prove that he wasn't beyond redemption and that, no matter what Sookie said about it not being him who did those awful things, he was going to uphold his responsibility and turn himself in. Sadly, he never gets the chance. Mistaking the scene for that of assault and probable intent to kill, Jason Stackhouse shoots Eggs in the back of the head. It's a clean shot--thanks to his paramilitary training at the hands of the Fellowship of the Sun--and Jason is stunned when he realizes that he's taken a human life.

Was Jason trying to be heroic? Did his training and instinct kick in? Or did he want to save Andy and "save the day" once again? After all, he killed a man with someone else's gun, a man who was confessing a murder and looking to be arrested. So who is the hero then? Jason for killing Eggs? Or Andy for covering up and saving Jason's life? If heroism comes in the quiet moments when no one's looking, then Andy Bellefleur might just be a true hero.

I worry what Eggs' death will mean for Tara. She's truly been through the ringer in the last few months, between everything with Lettie Mae, the exorcism, unknowingly summoning Maryann in the first place, and the hell she's been put through by the maenad. Despite everything, she wanted to look forward and not back and start a new life with Eggs, a life that's been shattered by the former love of her life, Jason Stackhouse. Will she find a way to go on or will we see a Tara next season who's twisted by darkness, loss, and anguish? Hmmm...

Speaking of lovers, there's the matter of Jessica and Hoyt. Hoyt finally stands up to Maxine, who admits that she's been lying to him for nearly twenty years about the truth behind his father's death, and storms off to try to win back Jessica. And in a touching and beautifully underplayed scene, Jessica claims that she's going to ask Hoyt for forgiveness, a very human action that pleases her maker Bill. The scene plays out with both of them leaving the house and joking, almost lovingly in a father-daughter way, about their evenings.

That sweetness is diametrically opposed to what happens next as Jessica is seen, not at Hoyt's house but atop a redneck trucker. Rather than have sex with him (he says her being a virgin doesn't bother him), she rips into his jugular and feeds off him.... as Hoyt stands outside Bill's house with flowers, hoping to reconcile with his vampire girlfriend. Has Jessica crossed a line that can't be uncrossed? Has her taste of forbidden fruit--human blood--unleashed a killer hunger that can't be contained? And how long before Bill learns about just what she's actually up to?

I'm extremely intrigued by the revelation that Eric and Sophie-Anne are in cahoots and that it is Sophie-Anne who is supplying Eric with vampire blood to sell to the humans. Just why would Sophie-Anne willingly concoct such a plot and for for what ends? Financial gain... or something different altogether? And just whose blood is it, anyway? Unfortunately for Bill Compton, Sophie-Anne doesn't want her plot known and when he threatened to expose Eric in the last episode, he made a very unwise enemy out of the petulant and quixotic Queen Sophie-Anne.

Which brings us to the final scene of the season then, one between Bill and Sookie where Bill orchestrates an elaborate romantic evening for himself and Sookie at a French restaurant and then pops the question, handing Sookie a diamond engagement ring and tickets to Burlington, Vermont, so they can legally wed. But after everything that's happened, Sookie is conflicted and rightly so: she doesn't know who or what she even is or if she's even human. That's to say nothing of the allusions Maryann makes to some higher power keeping a watchful eye over her and protecting her, a dangling plot thread that's existed since the pilot episode. Just who or what helped her battle the Rattrays in the woods that night? Hmmm...

But no matter how conflicted Sookie may be about her nature, one thing is true and that's the love she shares with Bill. After sobbing in the restaurant's restroom, Sookie puts on the engagement ring and makes up her mind: she will marry Bill. But she's a few seconds too late as a black gloved man strangles Bill with a silver chain, incapacitating him, and then kidnapping him.

But rather than a romantic engagement, Sookie is left with a disturbing scene indicating a struggle and a missing would-be fiancé. So who is behind Bill's disappearance? The likely suspect is Eric, of course. He promised Sophie-Anne that he would deal with Bill Compton now that he knows about Eric's vampire blood business. And the killer was wearing thick gloves, not only indicating stealth and an unwillingness to leave fingerprints but also possibly that the perpetrator was a vampire and didn't want to come into contact with the silver himself. So was it Eric or someone in his employ? We'll have to wait a rather long time to find out.

All in all, last night's season finale of True Blood wrapped up the Maryann Forrester storyline while offering some enticing possibilities for next season and setting up some new dynamics for the third season. Despite Season Three not getting underway until next summer, I'm already hungry for another bite.

What did you think of the season finale? Did it live up to your expectations? What will happen to Sookie, Bill, Eric, and the rest in Season Three? And under what circumstances will we find our cast of characters when we next catch up with them? Discuss.

True Blood will return for a third season next summer.

Comments

alex said…
I think the whole season is about religion and how people use their faith to justify whatever they want to do deep down...
Unknown said…
I thought the finale was fulfilling and intriguing - gave me some resolution but also opened some new doors and ponderings.

I'm happy that the Maryann arc was resolved early in the episode. It would have been too much for me if it had taken up the whole hour. While the storyline was interesting, it had run its course. I was a bit bummed that Jason's and Andy's plan to save the day was so short-lived; would have been nice to see a bit more action there, but it made sense that they would quickly succumb to Maryann's control. I do have to say though that Jason's recital of famous "into battle" lines was great, especially when he finished with, "I love the smell of nail polish in the morning." Hilarious!

Other musings:

Lafayette, when he grabbed Sookie, said something to the effect of, "I have 1000 year old vampire blood in me; you don't want to mess with that" and it made me wonder if there is more to Eric's blood than just the usual vampire/human connection.

I'm also worried about Tara and how she will deal with Eggs' death. Just how much can that girl take??

And I'm really anxious about what Sam is going to discover when he finds his real parents. That whole scene was quite ominous.

And did Eric really kidnap Bill? Seems too obvious. And why would he bother kidnapping him anyway? Unless he felt so much of what Sookie was feeling in that moment that it drew him to them, and he felt he had to dramatically interrupt them? Curious.

Thanks, Jace, for all your good work. It's great fun to read your write-ups. I, too, am going to have a difficult time muddling through the next few months until True Blood returns!
ewench said…
I couldn’t agree more that the Dallas storyline was the most compelling and I love the scenes best that give us insight into the exciting inner vampire world.

Loved Lafayette as a “bridesmaid”, loved this line from Jason “if a tree falls in the woods it is still a tree” lol.

Frankly I just breathed a sigh of relief the whole maenad storyline was over and that it was wrapped up quickly. Yes let’s move on.

After that though, the rest of the show almost felt like filler, though yes there were a few sort of interesting things set up for next season. Many things seemed unrealistic, like Bill proposing, I mean they just got through this huge traumatic thing 5 minutes ago. I was waiting for a poignant reunion between Hoyt and Jessica so seeing her at the truck stop was definitely shocking.

This whole season was an amazing and at times breathtaking ride that unfortunately kind of fizzled at the end here, I just hope it doesn’t continue further down into too much of a cartoony “Xena Warrior Princess”-esque kind of comedy but keeps it more real. I am not giving up on it yet and yes it’s going to be a long wait til next summer.
Bella Spruce said…
The finale had some interesting moments but I thought that there were certainly stronger episodes this season. I just wish there had been some way to make the Maryann story less prominent and finish the season with Dallas and The Newlins. I loved The Newlins as characters and really hope they'll be back at some point!
Jennifer Roland said…
I had the same reaction.

I enjoyed the season finale, and I think they did a great job of wrapping up the Maryann storyline and introducing the new plotlines for next season.

But, I kept wishing they had spent more time in Dallas and relegated Maryann to the background for more of the season.

Dallas was compelling and explored complex emotional issues. Maryann was an excuse to show naked bodies. I am fine with the boobs and blood mix that True Blood represents, but did we have to see all of the orgies? Wouldn't one or two orgy shots have been enough to convey the concept?
rustle said…
Michelle Forbes did an amazing job of keeping Maryann threatening through many potentially absurd scenes (there must be some truly hilarious out-takes). My guess was that Bill would bring in the Fellowship of the Sun to take on Maryann, since if they truly believed they were divinely chosen, they should have been immune to her influence. But no...
Violhaine said…
The Dallas storyline was the most interesting and intriguing of the season because it was about vampires. The reason we tune into the show even though it keeps getting bogged down with human oriented storylines. Episod 9: "I Will Rise Up" which was the death of Godric was the best of the entire series. Revealed how much potential this show has and how much it has squandered on a tiresome arc like the manead's rape of Bon Temps. I really wish they would focus more on the vampires, especially Eric Northman. Alexander Skarsguard is doing a fantastic job of giving this character more depth than what seems to be the tendency of the writers to make him the heavy. You can't take your eyes off him when he's in the scene. Hopefully they'll expand his role next season. I would give this season a D- grade and hope the writers step up their game in Season 3.
Sasha said…
Nicely played, Sam and Bill

No. I don't know what Ball was playing at, but he dropped the ball, so to speak, on the mythology of the maenad. Maryann told Sookie earlier in the episode that "My husband will love it" talking about the heart of the vessel. "It's the *very thing* that gives him life". Yet she didn't HAVE the heart. Her ritual was in shambles and she STILL believed her god had come? What, she forgot about the shape shifter? What, after "perfecting" her "recipe" for centuries, she believed she had called him forth anyway, despite the complete mess Sookie had made of the ritual?

And even after that, she questioned her belief in her god even knowing Sam had fooled her? And allowed him to kill her? I thought the queen said she had to BELIEVE her god had come, that HE was the only one who could kill her because death at HIS hands was what she was truly seeking? I know the queen told Eric she might have given Bill a load of gorilla sh*t but she was LYING to him. She didn't want him running to Sookie's rescue and mucking up whatever plot she's got going with Bill. Sookie's safety is obviously important to her, why would she give Bill false information?

So in conclusion, they messed it up. Big time. Some people like consistency and logic in their tv shows. I don't watch or read illogical crap, I refuse to. Ball has some 'splainin' to do.
Ridolph said…
Yahtzee!
Ridolph said…
Pretty much agree with the general feeling. The last 2 episodes were weak, with some good moments. I did like that they got the face-lightning out of the way at the top. And every scene with Michelle Forbes was great. But the whole thing just didn't impress like the rest of the season. The scene with the actual sacrifice had plot-holes, but then I was glad that they finished the whole thing off. I would have preferred that Maryann got away though.
OldDarth said…
Both storylines were interesting and the Bon Temps storyline only went into the toilet when the Dallas one ended.

Weak finish, after such a strong showing, with the last three episodes.

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