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Fear Makes The Wolf Bigger Than He Is: Nine Crimes on True Blood

"Appetite, a universal wolf.” - William Shakespeare

HBO's seductive vampire drama True Blood has often placed a certain emphasis on the hungers of its characters, both human and otherwise. But last night's riveting installment ("9 Crimes"), written by Kate Barnow and Elisabeth R. Finch and directed by David Petrarca, brought this underlying theme directly to the surface, exploring the way that bloodlust--in its many forms--make the characters tick and offering up a compendium of crimes, from murder and kidnapping to treason and falsifying evidence, that swirl around the denizens of Bon Temps like so much cigar smoke.

The episode also featured some very warped looks at the way that certain relationships can go off the rails, whether it was the painful breakup between Bill and Sookie (which we'll discuss at length in a bit) or the unrequited love that Alcide has for his ex-girlfriend Debbie Pelt. Not to mention the severely creepy obsession that Franklin is harboring for poor Tara, whom this week he not only tied to a toilet and gagged but then brought her across state lines with a bouquet of flowers duct-taped to her hands.

That's one series of images, coming on the heels as it does of the last episode's, uh, twisted sex scene, that I can't scrub from my mind quite yet.

So what did I think of this week's episode of True Blood? Warm up a B-positive Tru Blood and let's discuss "9 Crimes."

I wondered just how the writers of True Blood would be able to top the insanely horrific sex scene between Bill and Lorena from two weeks ago and rather than attempt to go over the top, the writers focused on the lengths that people go in the name of love. It's in that vein that Bill attempts to kill any vestiges of feeling he has for Sookie Stackhouse in an effort to cast himself further into a bleak nighttime of the soul and keep his would-be fiancee safe from harm. While it breaks Sookie's heart to hear Bill call off their relationship (and twist the knife even further as he admits that he had sex with Lorena), his efforts are rooted in a desire to protect Sookie and keep her out of Russell's clutches.

But while Bill schemes to protect Sookie--even at the cost of his own humanity--Russell has plans of his own as his man in Bon Temps, vampire investigator Franklin Mott uses Tara to learn more about Bill and about Sookie. While he's desperate to locate Sookie (even taking control of Tara's dispossessed voice to entrap her best friend), he's also searching for knowledge. Just what is the relationship between Bill and Sookie? Does Sookie's brother Jason share her telepathic abilities? Hmmm... Then there's the matter of that dossier secreted in Bill's things that was tracing Sookie's ancestry and family tree. Could it be that the true target is Sookie herself? Hmmm...

I loved the fact that Bill chose the saddest looking girl at the strip club to "procure" as Russell and Lorena's dinner that evening. (And I loved the reveal that Bill was in fact employed as a procurer for Sophie-Anne in the first place and was "on a break" while in Bon Temps.) It was telling that he sought out the one woman who had given up not only on life but on love as well, seeing it as an eternal hell from which she could not escape. Is his offering of her body to Russell and Lorena a fitting gift then? A mercy for a lost soul like his own, someone who had cast off their own humanity just as he had? Still, it's telling that the woman doesn't go quietly into the good night; she screams with all of her heart, not wanting to die.

While Bill attempts to erase Sookie from his heart, he finds that that's not as easy as he thought it would be. The fact that he twinges when he senses Sookie is in danger--and very nearby--reveals the true depths of his feelings for the telepathic waitress. He might be willing to break her heart or make her believe him to be some villain but his every instinct is still to race to Sookie's aid. But in this situation, with Russell and Lorena watching his every move, he has to put his head in front of his heart.

Sookie, meanwhile, isn't likely to do the same. She's compelled--even after being emotionally gutted by Bill's over-the-phone break-up--to find her former lover, even at the cost of her own life. To that end, she's willing to take all number of risks in search of Bill Compton, putting herself into a literal wolves' den in order to gain further intelligence about Bill's whereabouts. (She's ably assisted by Alcide's sister, who gives the small town girl one hell of a black-hued makeover into tough-as-nails were chick.)

(Aside: I'm loving the fact that the writer are very wisely playing to Anna Paquin's comedic skills. Once again this week, Sookie had a handful of corkers. It's refreshing to see her toss out some hysterical lines rather than play the straight man here.)

Fortunately, Sookie has a reluctant ally in werewolf Alcide, who has his own heartbreak to contend with: namely, one Debbie Pelt. Debbie is Alcide's ex-girlfriend, who not only walked off with his cookware but also his heart. She has shacked up with Coot, the leader of the Eff You Crew, a V-drinking were crew with ties to a centuries-old werewolf cult who has ties to, well, Russell Edgington.

Russell. We knew that Russell had a relationship with the werewolves and employed them for some of his, er, dirtier tasks, such as kidnapping Bill and bringing him to Mississippi. And we suspected that he was the "leader" that Eric and Godric were searching for in World War II. Russell, it seems, pays his followers in vampire blood (his own, in fact) and has been using this branded wolves as mercenary followers for quite a long time, breaking all manner of vampire law in order to... Well, that's not quite clear yet. What is clear is that Russell is as bad as they come and he seems to want to overthrow the vampire monarchy and take over the world. He'll willing to use whatever draconian measures necessary to this end... and now he has Bill in his grasp.

Not good.

But then again, neither is the fact that Sookie is alone in a club filled with werewolves who are forced en masse to shift into the wolf form. Not a good place to be, particularly when those weres have feasted on 2,800-year-old vampire blood.

Eric. I have to say that I'm loving the fact that we're seeing some very different sides to Eric Northman this season, between the quick-witted rapport he shares with Lafayette (and the way he swooped down from the sky to save our favorite short-order cook... and later took off via Lafayette's car window) and the protectiveness he evidenced when he came up on his child Pam being tortured by the sadistic magister.

But there was also that romantic (and provocative) dream he had of Sookie, in which he appeared outside her window in Mississippi and then noticed the saltwater scent of his skin and admitted that she could "smell his memories," conjuring up a vision of a human Eric as a child playing in the North Sea. It was a tiny moment that peeled back the layers of the vampire sheriff to reveal that a heart still beats underneath his cold skin. His dream of claiming Sookie wasn't rendered in blood but in an emotionally resonant context, one that connected his humanity to hers. (It was really a beautiful moment in an episode that was largely about the way that desire twists us around.)

I'm worried, however, about the fact that Pam and Eric have attempted to mislead the magister about the identity of just who is behind the v-supply. While Pam acted out of horror at the thought of a true death, it's Eric who goes along with her hastily concocted plan, concurring that it was Bill Compton who framed them. While it keeps the magister from staking Pam right there, it gives them precious little time to find a solution... though the duo did manage to maintain their fealty to their queen and didn't sell out Sophie-Anne. Hopefully, she sees it that way. (Bill, meanwhile, has already told Russell about the v-trade and Sophie-Anne's financial needs in the face of the Great Revelation.)

Tara. The walls are closing in for every one, even as Franklin makes his way back to Mississippi with poor Tara in his clutches. I'm extremely concerned for Tara both in a mortal sense--Franklin sinking his fangs into her neck made me tense up--but also as a character. She's been victimized so very much the past three seasons and gone to some very dark places. That she'd now be kidnapped, tied to a toilet, and made into a literal trophy girlfriend for a deranged vampire is perhaps a test one too many.

I'm hoping that Tara can find the strength to fight back, to overcome Franklin, and reassert herself. She has been through so much in her life and has always come out swinging. I want to see her snapping out of her self-destructive spiral and finding herself again. In other words: I'm concerned where this is going. Let's just hope she can break free--in more ways than one--sooner rather than later.

Jason. I loved the fact that Jason has finally gained some perspective on his own life, seeing that he's utterly replaceable when faced with a new promising Bon Temps football QB1 eager to take Jason's place in the pantheon of local sports gods. But Jason's not one to let the opportunity to go to place this young upstart in his place, urging him to take a look at just where he'll be in ten years' time, being replaced by someone younger. Rather than submit to self-pity, however, Jason continues his mission to become a cop now that Andy's been named temporary sheriff after Bud quit. He's all too willing, in fact, to blackmail Andy into making him a deputy, reminding him of the fact that he falsified evidence to cover up Eggs' murder. Will Andy buckle to Jason's demands? It certainly seems that way.

Jessica. I love that Sam--who has his own hands full with the Mickens clan--took Sookie's words literally and hired Jessica as a waitress at Merlotte's, a fact that quickly causes tension in the ranks as Arlene is used to being the only redhead at the bar. I'm glad to see Jessica get pulled closer into the center of True Blood, especially with both Sookie and Bill gone and her character currently on the outs with former boyfriend Hoyt. (It was also great to see Jessica easily fall into place as Merlotte's new server. As she put it, she might be a vampire but she's not dumb.)

However, Jessica's sudden appearance at Merlotte's happens to coincide with the arrival of a stranger in town, a man from her Bible study group who recognizes her as the missing Jessica Hamby, a situation that causes some concern for the baby vampire. Rather than kill him, Jessica opts to glamour him and make him forget that he ever saw her. Their communion is witnessed by Hoyt, who watches from afar and doesn't quite seem to understand the relevance of the scene playing out before him.

Sam. Likewise, I was glad to see that Sam didn't boot the Mickens out of town (though he had all right to) but instead attempted to solve their situation in his own way, offering Tommy an opportunity to stay with him and a way to free himself from Melinda and Joe Lee. While he's clearly still freaked out by the idea of his biological family, he does have to look after his own, as Arlene cattily reminds him. To that end, he sets Melinda and Joe Lee up with someplace to stay until they can get back on their feet (remember, Sam owns a bunch of apartments in Bon Temps, as we saw in Season One), if they don't drink or steal. Has he made an investment in his future and his family? Or will Sam's decision come back to bite him? We'll have to wait to find out.

All in all, "9 Crimes" was a sensational installment that offered up a whole slew of compelling storylines for multiple characters while keeping the action moving swiftly along. Four episodes in, Season Three of True Blood is already looking to be an extraordinarily strong season, even as the wolves continue to encircle our protagonists. I can't wait to see just happens next.

What did you think of this week's episode? Was it worth the wait? Head to the comments section to discuss, debate, and dissect "9 Crimes."

Next week on True Blood ("Trouble"), Alcide and Sookie turn to an alpha-wolf “packmaster” for advice on dealing with Russellʼs minions; Tara considers a proposal from Franklin, whoʼs completed his mission for Russell; Joe Lee breaks his promise to Sam and Tommy; Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) learns the meaning of patience from Jesus (Kevin Alejandro), his motherʼs (Alfre Woodard) orderly; Jason meets his match in the mysterious girl Crystal (Lindsay Pulsipher); an heirloom reminds Eric of his past and his ongoing thirst for vengeance.

Comments

Bella Spruce said…
GREAT episode. I also love that Sookie is getting some more humorous lines as, usually, I find her to be a bit boring.

Russell is a bad, bad boy. It will be interesting to see Bill's reaction once he realizes he's in way over his head.

Eric and Lafayette are as fun together as Jason and Andy!
JanieJones said…
Strong episode that gave me some confidence that TB is back in full form.
I'm a bit tired of pushover Tara, I would like to see the strong-willed woman of S1. Although, even though James Frain (appears more like a junkie than PI) is quite delicious and psychotic.

Give me more Alcide, please, I beg of AB.

It's interesting to see Bill grow a set and how he is coping with what is a no win situation currently.

I happen to love Sam and fear he is going to be sold down the river, again.

Eric-nice little fantasy, to rescue of Laf, loyalty to Pam.

Definitely need more Jessica-Woll was a fantastic casting choice.

There are many story lines-I hope it provides continuity as the season progresses.

Don't know how I feel about the were's in general though. I do love Bowler though.

Perfect summer show, my husband laughs but also enjoys it-he does some great imitations.
tchetcha said…
Loved your episode review, as always. Keep up the good work!

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