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Blood Lust: Past Lives, Past Crimes on True Blood

The One True Death comes for us all in the end, human and vampire alike, and one has to hope that when the time comes you've accomplished what you've set out to do in the decades or centuries afforded to you.

That's rarely ever the case. Certainly not for most humans, though Eric Northman confides in Sookie just what he'd regret most if he met his true end. Right before, that is, he has a monumental change of heart about just what matters most in this world. Is it a matter of love? Or a matter of saving one's own skin and their children's? What price does survival have?

On this week's episode of True Blood ("I Smell a Rat"), written by Kate Barnow and Elisabeth R. Finch and directed by Michael Lehmann, much of the episode delved into the backstories of several characters, most notably Sookie, Sam, Tara, and Jason, while setting up some major consequences and twists in the final two episodes of the season.

As such, "I Smell a Rat" wasn't the highlight of the season for me but it did contain some fantastic moments, even as it began to build towards the season's climax. For the most part, however, it was an episode that dealt with the aftermath of several occurrences: Sam's vicious attack of Felton, which left one man clinging to life while the other reflected on his dark past; Bill's revelation that Sookie is a faerie, and therefore a prize to be claimed; and Jason's murder of sociopath Franklin, which brought back the truth about what had happened to Eggs.

It was an installment that was based in advancing the plot to the place it needs to be for the season's endgame, but it also had some fantastic moments that peeled back the layers of some of the characters in some very unexpected and exciting ways.

So what did I think about this week's episode of True Blood? Grab yourself a warm Tru Blood, put down the black cohash, take a sip of some V, and let's discuss "I Smell a Rat."

As I mentioned before, this week's episode wasn't the strongest of the season but there were some intriguing developments that signaled the narrative moving into the final part of the season. I can't believe that there are only two episodes remaining before the long, insufferable wait for next season. But I have a feeling that things are going to get very dark very soon, particularly as Eric has seemingly made his alliances clear now.

I say seemingly because there's always more than meets the eye when it comes to Eric Northman. It's clear that Russell Edgington is going to be out for blood now that he knows that Eric murdered his beloved Talbot and he wants Sookie Stackhouse. While it now appears that Eric is willing to sell out Sookie in order to save himself, I'm not quite convinced that he's going to just turn over Sookie to the fallen King of Mississippi once they've shaken hands. Rather, I can't help but wonder if Eric isn't playing another long con, promising Russell one of the very last faeries left on the planet in order to get him to lower his defenses... and then stake him.

After all, the Authority--via Nan--did instruct Eric to take care of the Russell situation quietly and what better way to lure the King out into the open than with the telepathic blond waitress that they're all eager to taste? Why not offer up a glittering prize to be claimed before delivering Russell the One True Death?

Of course, Sookie--who is now chained in the basement of Fangtasia--might not see it that way. Likely, nor will Bill Compton, who promised to protect Sookie and told Eric that he could not have her. It's interesting that Bill did freely admit to Sookie that her faerie blood did affect him initially (and it's why she would appear to be irresistible to vampires), but it's not why he fell in love with her.

Bill's true motives have been called into question these past few episodes, both by Sookie herself and by trickster Eric Northman, who has now urged Sookie several times not to trust her paramour. He's been less than honest in the past and concealed her true nature from her, he claimed, to protect her. They say the truth will set you free, but that's not always the case. Just look at poor Tara, who finally learned who was really responsible for Eggs' death. That knowledge did her no good whatsoever, particularly as it came right after she tearfully admitted that she believed all of the good in the world was dead and that Jason had always protected her.

He had in so many ways that mattered. But he also killed her lover... and then actually told her after he had saved her life from the vampire who had kidnapped and raped her. Did the truth set her free? It didn't at all. Instead, it shattered her already tenuous outlook on the world and on her life. It pushed her further over the edge rather than giving her strength.

That's not the case per se with Sookie and Bill... He should have come clean to Sookie about her heritage much, much sooner, particularly given that Sophie-Anne was so interested in her. But what's interesting to me is that the knowledge that Sookie is descended from the faerie folk actually creates some interesting parallels between her and Bill. They both carry darkness in their blood; Sookie is shocked to discover that her ancestor may have forced themselves on a human and that that was a common enough occurrence for the faeries. There might be magic in their pasts but it's a dark one.

That holds true as well for Lafayette and Jesus, who learn about their own ancestry after using V together and are given visions of their ancestors, of the witches and sorcerers that made up their family trees. But not all of it was good: they both appear to have darkness within them as well, which gives me pause to wonder how lucid Ruby Jean really is. She knows that Lafayette is powerful, after all, just as Jesus did; he saw the magic within Lafayette and responded to it. But Lafayette knows that both he and Tara would and will continue to be driven towards the darker elements of their nature, just as Jesus' grandfather wanted him to be.

There is, after all, a duality to all things: a light side and a dark side. The faeries may have all been wiped out due to the vampires, who craved their light but they themselves aren't innately good either. Russell and Sophie-Ann believe that a faerie's blood will allow them to walk in the sunlight, to cast off the darkness of night, a fact that would make them nearly unstoppable. Bill seeks to disprove this: while he was in the light, he still burned. Their dark nature still holds; the sunlight is fatal, even with faerie's blood.

So then what is Russell's true goal? What does he hope to take from Sookie? The strength that he would get by ending the life of another of the Fay? The light itself? Hmmm....

Russell, meanwhile, confronted several hard truths: that the man he had loved for so many centuries was nothing more than bloody remains in a crystal urn and that Talbot had faced the One True Death without his lover by his side. In a cruel and horrific twist, Russell seeks to recreate the conditions of Talbot's death, luring a young prostitute (90210's Michael Steger, who I thought was rather weak here) to a room and then staking him in the heart, seeing not this bite-mark ridden stranger dying, but his beloved Talbot.

Heartbreaking and absolutely psychotic in equal measure.

Elsewhere, Sam faced up to his own dark passenger, remembering how--back in his grifting days--he was betrayed by a woman who conned him out of his cash and how he tracked her and her boyfriend down and then killed them in cold blood. While Sam's shooting of the woman was accidental (she was firing at him), his murder of her boyfriend was motivated by vengeance and rage, the two qualities that his vicious attack of Felton brought to the surface once more. Throughout the last the seasons, we've seen a Sam who has sought to keep his own impulses in check, as much as several of the vampiric characters who have struggled with their own grip on humanity.

But with Felton, Sam let the genie out of the bottle, and allowed his anger to take hold of him once more... an anger that would definitely seem to have been inherited from the Mickens clan. Tommy's attack of Hoyt in the parking lot (after Hoyt punched Tommy in the face) connects to this same locus of rage.

But Tommy's plan to attack Hoyt and swoop in and make Jessica love him backfires horrifically as he mauls Hoyt and Jessica flies out of Merlotte's to come to his aid, throwing Tommy (in his bulldog guise) into the woods and demanding that Hoyt drink her blood. She does love him and she can try to either keep the darker elements of her nature from him or allow him into her life fully. Her choice is made in these moments as she rips open her wrist and forces Hoyt to drink her blood. They're bonded now in ways that Hoyt could never had imagined, her true form shown to him.

Just as Crystal displays her true self to Jason, appearing to him in her panther form in his bedroom, and Arlene comes clean to Terry about the parentage of her unborn child.

But while the truth might have set them free in a way, there is always a price to pay for honesty. Whether Bon Temps' couples will come out the other side unscathed is what we'll have to wait to see. But I dare say that there is bound to be much heartbreak and pain in the days ahead, and no amount of vampire blood can ever cure a broken heart...

Next week on True Blood ("Fresh Blood"), Bill tries to earn back Sookieʼs trust, but ends up bringing her face-to-face with fresh dangers; Eric tempts Russell with the ultimate vampire dream; Jason tries to wrap his head around Crystalʼs revelation; Sam embraces his dark side, alienating everyone except Tara; Hoyt and Jessica take their romance to the next level; with Hollyʼs help, Arlene puts her future in the hands of a goddess; post V-trip, Lafayette struggles with new demons.


JackiWhitford said…
Another great recap. I think Eric is going to offer Russell the gift of being in sunlight by using Sookie as bait - a new thing for his collection. Or maybe tell Russell he can be with or see Talbot again. The writers better have an awesome send-off for Dennis O'Hare. He was THE character to watch TB S3. Sam's flashback was the best thing about this episode. That and Eric and Sookie together. There is great chemistry there and I look forward to TB S4 - if it follows book 4.
London Buddy said…
I actually thought last nights episode was one of the best this season so far. I love all the different plot points and their back stories. The V trip was great and definitely sets things up for season 4. Denis O'Hare is amazing and the minute you saw him with that urn, you knew it wasnt going to end well. I dont mind admitting i watched it through my fingers! lol Watching the trailer for next weeks episode - was that Eric walking around in daylight and looking very pleased with himself?? I can't wait!!!
Are you up for a question, Jace?

How come different people write and direct the show every week? It seems like network shows are a bit more stable in this department. Is that an HBO thing? I think this might lead to some inconsistency in the show beyond the plot's ebbs and flows.

And now my comments:

They answered a whole bunch of our questions about this season in one episode. Sookie's true nature was the first line of the show! We know that Crystal is a panther shape-shifter (with some amazing eyes) and that Lafayette and Jesus are descended from dark-arts partitioners.

I also liked the interaction between Bill and Jason. Sookie's brother has really fallen down on the job of protecting his sister now that Bill and (the sorely missed) Alicde have filled that role.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the recap Jace! So much happens in each episode, even if I watch twice your writing helps so much!

It seems they are going to make us wait, as they did last year, until the Sunday after Labor Day weekend for the season finale!

I am fairly certain that Eric will go pretty far down a road thinking he is in charge of his use of Sookie agenda before he realizes he is not in charge at all.

On the edge of my seat waiting for the next exciting episode,
Bella Spruce said…
This wasn't my favorite episode either as you could tell that everything was being set up for the the final couple of episodes, but it was still entertaining. I loved the Jessica/Hoyt scenes. Hoyt punching Tommy was brilliant. I just hope that Tommy learns to control his rage as I'd hate to see him really hurt Hoyt.
Unknown said…
Great synopsis, as always. However, a correction: It was Calvin Norris, Crystal's father, and not her fiance Felton, that Sam attacked.

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