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Grave Times: The Witching Hour Approaches on Season Finale of True Blood

Bon Temps has long been a place where telepathic waitresses could rub shoulders with vampires while a shifter barkeep looked on enviously, but of late this backwoods Louisiana berg feels positively overflowing with supernatural types.

From vamps and werepanthers to witches and faeries, this season of True Blood brought out just about every thing that goes bump in the night and deposited them in this once sleepy town, leaving the human-to-creature ratio dwindling even further. While I understand that the confluence of supernatural entities is part of the overarching mythology of the series, it's beginning to make Bon Temps seem like it's on top of a Hellmouth or something.

While it's been mentioned in the past that supernaturals feel drawn to the site, I'm hoping next season can shed some light on just why Bon Temps is a nexus of supernatural occurrence, particularly as now it seems that just about everyone that passes by Merlotte's has some sort of otherworldly nature that they're concealing from the world at large. And the problem with that is that when everyone becomes "special," it means that no one is truly unique anymore.

On the season finale of True Blood ("Evil is Going On"), written by Alan Ball and directed by Anthony Hemingway, this was keenly felt as the few human characters seemed to be shifted entirely to the background. That is, when they weren't leaving Bon Temps altogether. While I found the finale entertaining, there was also something slightly off about the season ender. While it paid good to certain storylines and set up some new plot threads for Season Four, it didn't quite deliver the narrative payoff that the season warranted.

If Season Two of True Blood was about frenzy, Season Three was more nuanced. It was about the darkness within each of us and how we can either embrace that dark side or hold onto our humanity, an increasingly difficult proposition for several characters, dealing with their true natures. While it seemed that the season was building to a final showdown between Sookie and her companions and Russell Edgington, the Vampire King of Mississippi, the season finale sort of thwarted those expectations, getting rid of Russell early on, while keeping him "alive" for a potential return down the road.

It was telling that Eric didn't stake Russell but instead embedded him within a block of concrete, a true torment that went against the words of the ghostly Godric, who implored Eric to allow Russell to find the peace that comes after the One True Death. Eric, still acting out of vengeance for the wholesale slaughter of his human family (over, we learned some goats), condemns Russell to a the one true torture that a vampire is powerless to withstand: a tomb in which he'll be unable to feed, trapped alone with his thoughts and his grief.

But before that, Russell attempted to make a deal with Sookie, offering her the world in exchange for his freedom, promising her riches, safety, and death. The latter was an offer to kill one of, both of, or neither of Eric and Bill. An interesting offer that cut to the heart of the dilemma raging inside Sookie: could she trust either of the vampires in her life? Both of them had betrayed her for their own ends and while she may have owed her continued existence to them, it didn't mean that she could overlook just how much they had lied to her.

Those lies further mounted within the episode as Bill hatched a plot to permanently protect Sookie by eliminating everyone who had knowledge of her true nature. Once Russell was dealt with, Bill betrayed Eric and encased him in cement as well, then posed as Eric to put an end to Pam before attempting to take out Queen Sophie-Anne herself.

But was Bill looking to protect Sookie, as he insisted, or was he looking to protect himself, as the cement-clad Eric maintained? While he claimed to love Sookie and said that his every action was an attempt to keep her safe, it did have a twofold purpose of silencing those who knew the truth about his own dark secret: that he was sent to Bon Temps to procure Sookie for Sophie-Anne and had unexpectedly fallen for her.

While we suspected this for some time (did anyone actually believe Bill's yarn about his files on Sookie?), what we didn't know was that he had actually allowed Sookie to be placed in mortal danger in order to ingratiate himself to her. It's a revelation that goes back to the first two episodes of True Blood when Sookie was attacked by the Rattrays and beaten nearly to the point of death. It's a cold-blooded individual who allows a woman to be brutally and savagely beaten in order to swoop in and rescue her at the last second, giving her your vampire blood to heal her wounds... and get inside her mind at the same time.

It's one betrayal too far. It's Eric who causes the scales to fall from Sookie's eyes, allowing her for the first time to see just what Bill really is: an opportunist. While his love might be genuine, it's far from pure. He lied to her, betrayed her, and used her for his own devices, even if he did fall in love with her. But the circumstances of their meeting--and their fast courtship--were calculatingly engineered. Considering Sookie spent the better part of this season looking to rescue Bill, to track down her missing fiance, it's an emotional stake to the heart.

No wonder she rescinds Bill's invitation to her house, casting him out permanently.

Which isn't to say that Sookie is rushing into Eric's arms either. Sookie now knows that she's essentially "vampire crack," thanks to her faerie nature, and she wants to be as far away from all of the vampires as possible. Which is why she rushes to Bon Temps cemetery, not just to have a few heartfelt words at Gran's gravesite but also because she knows it's somehow connected to Claudine, an entrypoint to that other world of liquid glass and shimmering light. Betrayed by everyone, she isn't at all surprised when Claudine appears and gives her a choice, offering her the opportunity to come with them to that other place, a place of light rather than darkness.

Something tells me, however, that that land of faeries isn't quite as innocent and charmed as it appears... But Sookie accepts the invitation, and in a burst of light, she's gone.

It was a final scene that made me question just when Season Four would take place. While the past two seasons have picked up right where the previous season left off (often just seconds later), it seems like it would be in the best interests of True Blood's writers to jump ahead in time a little bit, given Sookie's disappearance, Bill's exile, and Tara's departure... not to mention Arlene's pregnancy. It would give the writers an opportunity to skip ahead and pick up at an appropriate time several months in the future, Arlene's due date rapidly approaching and perhaps the return of several characters who have left Bon Temps for places unknown.

I have to say that while I was sad to see Tara go, I knew that it wasn't an actual goodbye for Tara Thornton (I don't think they'd have her go out that way), but it also once again undid some of the forward momentum her character was making. After embracing life, Tara once again succumbed to the darkness and weakness and then fell into bed with Sam, learned he was a shifter, caught Lettie Mae in bed with Reverend Daniels, chopped off her hair, and left town.

But what happened to that fighting spirit within Tara? The one who wouldn't give up, who cast off her humanity in order to hold onto it? Where did she go? Tara's arc has been one of the more frustrating ones this season because it consistently kept painting her as a victim, even when it finally granted her the courage and conviction to defend herself. Sam even tells Tara that she can run from her problems, but they will always catch up to her, even if she keeps moving on.

Yet that's what Tara appears to do, as she says her goodbyes and looks for a "reboot," a chance to start over and hopefully find different results. While there's something to be said for a vision quest, I'm hoping that Tara finds the inner strength that she seems to be searching for and returns to Bon Temps more in control next season. Especially as I miss the firebrand that we all know Tara to be...

Meanwhile, Sam's storyline took another unbelievable turn this week. I'm still struggling to reconcile the fact that Sam killed two people in cold-blood when he was a grifter back in the day and that he used the money from the scheme they had pulled off to purchase Merlotte's and a new life for himself. It's a reversal of a character that was one of the few good and decent folks left in Bon Temps. While it meant that Sam was often a doormat for just about everyone, it was a refreshing change of pace from the morally grey areas that most of the characters inhabit. He may not have been perfect, but Sam seemed to strive for perfection, even if it was out of his reach.

But by making Sam a killer--and by having him point that gun at his brother Tommy and seemingly fire--it undermines his entire character. I don't like bad-Sam nor do I find him all that interesting, in fact. His pursuit of Tommy, while essentially to get his money back, turned dark pretty quickly. While I can see why Tommy might not want to give him back the cash, I was surprised that Sam would be willing to resort to murder in order to stop his little brother.

So is Tommy dead? Probably not. I can't believe that the writers would have Sam kill again, especially by shooting Tommy in the back. But I'm also deeply, deeply concerned with where his storyline is headed, especially as I felt it went off the rails more than a little this season. Searching for his family? Sure. Bringing out the long-simmering rage behind his seemingly placid facade? Absolutely. But making him a killer and having him (possibly) shoot his brother? A bridge too far, really.

I am, however, intrigued to see where Jessica and Hoyt's storyline is going. After allowing her to feed on him, Hoyt makes his intentions towards the baby vamp absolutely clear: he wants to marry her and he wants them to live together. He's even found them a cute little house which he'll fix up (and create an awesome little hidey-hole for Jessica). But there's also a sense of sadness about their efforts to play house. That doll, lying forlornly in the darkness of the next room, symbolizes the vast chasm between them and "normal" couples, even as Jessica says that she doesn't know what she'd do without him. There will be no babies for these two, no growing old together. The future is hauntingly out of reach and there will always be something--everything that old doll symbolizes--achingly between them.

So too am I curious to see just what happens to Jason Stackhouse next season. While this season found him attempting to become a cop and deal with his complicity in Eggs' death, he seems all too willing to become the savior of Hotshot, his hero complex burning a path right to leadership for him. After Felton's betrayal of his kin--and his kidnapping of Crystal--it's Jason who is forced to assume care for these dirty and snaggle-toothed men, women, and children. While Jason has ricocheted from v-user to cultist to wannabe cop, it's interesting that he's so willing to take on caring for these have-nots. Does he quite understand what that will intend? Absolutely not. But here's to hoping that we see the education of Jason Stackhouse next season and just what that means for this formerly selfish and immature individual.

Likewise, I'm also intrigued to see just what happens between Lafayette and Jesus, after the latter came clean about his own true nature. Jesus, it turns out, is a witch and he went through something similar to Lafayette when he was first taught magic. But while Lafayette is calmed by the news, he's also not happy that his sensitivity has been turned on, especially as it brings with it some ominous visions: the blood on Sam's hands, Rene's ghost with his hands around Arlene's throat, that demon-head that he saw on Jesus. One can only hope that Lafayette is as powerful as Ruby Jean indicated... and that he can control his own destiny and not be sucked into the darkness.

I'm also hoping that Sookie might be able to find happiness with someone a little more down to earth next season. Like, say, Alcide, who returned last night to work off his debts to Eric Northman and offer Sookie a sensitive shoulder to cry on. It's a reminder that even the shiftiest among us--whether werewolf or other--might still have the truest heart. And, after the immense wave of betrayal that has crashed over her, it might be just the lifeline that Sookie needs.

That is, if she's able to get out of whatever faerie court she's now been ensnared by...

What did you think of the season finale? Were you satisfied by how the season came together? Thrown by the Tara and Sam storylines? Surprises that Sookie turned her back on both Bill and Eric? Head to the comments section to discuss and debate.

Season Four of True Blood will premiere in Summer 2011 on HBO.

Comments

ewench said…
Is that what the doll in Hoyt’s new house meant?? I thought that it meant the house was haunted and we’d be treated to even more supernatural creatures next season!

Totally agree, I don’t like Evil Sam at all, I liked him being a nice guy and frankly his storyline, along with Tara’s , add nothing to my enjoyment of the show - I am waiting anxiously for the next scene whenever they are on.

When they writers have detoured from the book I’ve always thought in most cases they’ve at least kept it as interesting or made it even better - but I have to say I wish they would have followed the book for the Hotshot story. The idea of Jason as responsible for the community seems ludicrous.

I love Lafayette but not sure I am into his new “visions” thing. As you say if everyone is special, then really no one is. It seems like they are trying to force interesting storylines on all the characters (Sam, Arlene, Lafayette etc) whether they need them or not!

If Bill was so anxious to truly do everything to save Sookie, why challenge the Queen when he would be sure to lose – she is much older and stronger than him and the first thing she’d do is go after Sookie after she killed Bill. Though probably something will happen to save him- I doubt the character of Bill is going away.

Poor Sookie - I was happy to see her grow a set when she dumped Talbot down the drain while laughing manically. I love Eric and Pam, I hope they feature prominently again next season!
Bill Wilder said…
As someone who has watched this series from the beginning and then read the books I love how he has melded the best fo the books into enhanced storylines. The acceleration of Sookie's Fae nature was a much loved plot twist. I hereby nominate Julien Temple as her Fae Grandfather! I am quite intrigued by what they have in store for the wtches as this was a major plotline that will bring Sookie closer to Erik than she ever thought she would be!
Barbara said…
Hmmm, you think that doll lying on the floor of Hoyt and Jessica's new place is meant to be an ironic symbol of how they aren't the ordinary sort of lovebirds...I took it to be something darker, even Satanic, what with all of the witches coming out of the woodwork.
As for the finale in general, I would agree that it lacked a certain punch. I was a little shocked by Bill's trying to do away with Eric (and Pam). I like the fact that he's been revealed as an opportunist, and I like the fact that it was a cement-laden Eric who did the revealing. (Did he telepathically communicate with Pam to rescue him?) More Eric and Sookie, please.
OldDarth said…
TrueBlood finished in a big mess last night. Sookie's glee as she ground up vampire remains in garbage disposal nuked the fridge.

Terrible season.

Bloated; messy in story, characters, and gore.

Goodbye show.
rockauteur said…
Like where you are going with the metaphor of the old, creepy doll at Hoyt and Jessica's house, but I too thought there was something more there, a suggestion of something creepy and supernatural going on at the house in the past.

Hate how everyone is supernatural. Now Lafayette is! Annoying! Not sure if he was supernatural in the book, but that is annoying! Miss the characters being more grounded in reality. Wish they would have kept it based in the vampire world a bit more, with occasional supernatural creatures (like Maryanne) dropping by, rather than everyone being supernatural.

Definitely think there is something malevolent going on with the faeries, especially that look Claudine gave her at the end. Definitely could be another set of villains next season, beyond the witches. (ugh, witches).

Would have actually liked some more bloodshed in the finale too. Russell's prison felt like more of a cop-out. How can a vampire body survive without feeding? Will he die anyway? Or can he break out of the prison must like Eric did in 10 minutes? Wish they would have just killed him off, rather than continue to have such a powerful creature in the world that seemingly can do anything.

liked the reveal of bill's intentions though... it wasn't a bad episode by any means, but it could have been a lot better for a finale that is meant to tide us over until next summer.

also heard that the premiere will take place seconds after the finale...
Ria99 said…
Gee, I thought the creepy little doll was a clue that Maxine and that devious little Summer had been there, sabotaging something (but what?) and inadvertently leaving one of Summer's dolls in the house. Very ominous that Maxine bought a rifle.

I agree with everyone about Evil Sam--Sam said he picked a collie to shift into because it's not threatening, and then he turns into "Mr. Hyde"? It doesn't fit with the character we know.

Kristin BvS said in her live chat last night that "Alan Ball hinted Eric may have amnesia next season." If they follow book 4 for the major plotline, then we're going to see a whole new relationship for Eric and Sookie, more witches than just Holly and Jesus, more weres and were-other-animals.

Bill allowing the Rattrays to practically kill Sookie so he could rescue her was despicable, and his turning on Eric and Pam was a perfect example of how opportunistic he can be. But I think Eric wants him out of the picture for reasons other than "I thought you deserved to know."

Re: Russell isn't really dead...I only remember Eric getting one of his fangs. What if Nan insists he get them both? And what's Jason going to do about Kitch breaking his athletic records while on 'V"? (I bet Andy samples the V in his office!) I can't believe Jason becoming a social worker in any reality.

I thoroughly enjoy your posts and insights, Jace. I just wish we didn't have to wait until next June!! What are the chances we could convince the director, the cast, and HBO to lengthen the series by at least a month?
Bella Spruce said…
I totally agree that Tara and Sam's storylines were the weakest this season. They both had interesting moments but I'm sick of seeing Tara cry, yell, then run away. And I don't believe for a second that Sam is the bad dude they suddenly are trying to make him be.

Loved the Russell (and Talbot!) storyline at first but yes, drowning him in cement felt very anti-climactic.
JackiWhitford said…
I thought that creepy little doll was left by Summer. I guess we will find out next season. I thought the finale was a let down because of all the hype about it from HBO over the previous two weeks, and because there were so many characters, subplots, and loose ends to deal with.

Bill is selfish in the books and in TB, but he was never evil. Trying to kill off Eric, Pam and Sophie Anne shows he is addicted to Sookie's blood - not really trying to protect her. Remember, he tried to jump Claudine and taste her in his fairy dream. Bill is a fairy blood addict. He is the one with no control and does not want to share his source of supply.

Was anyone else creeped out by Sookie cackling when she ground up Talbot's remains? Remember, fairies are not good or evil - they are just more adapt at using the energy of nature. They can swing to the dark side as quickly as any other supernatural.

I think the first part of season 4 will follow book 4, then Russell is back for the second part.

Here are my favorite quotes from the finale. For some reason, they almost all include the F bomb.

“You f**king betrayed me. AGAIN.” (Sookie to Bill)

“About f**king time. Now drag me the f**k inside.” (Russell to Sookie)

“You watch your f**king language. “ (Sookie to Russell)

“Eric do the world a favor and let that little f**k fry.” (Pam to Eric about Russell.)

“..your word is worth about as much as t*ts on a turtle.” (Sookie to Russell)

“..I now know I am basically vampire crack.” (Sookie to Bill)

“I hope you two have finished eye-f**king each other. Can we go?” (Eric to Alcide and Bill)

“Go back to hell where you came from, you f**king, dead piece of sh*t.” (Sookie to Eric)

“Oh great. On top of everything else I am out an assassin.” (Eric to Pam)
sunny said…
Sam has had Bill's 'bad blood' and "quite a lot of it". Haven't you noticed that he is mostly normal and calm during the day but at night, when Bill is awake and lately filled with rage, that Sam too is filled with rage and acting out?

Tara is doing what a lot of us do when life overwhelms us--she's seeking a change of scenery and a different perspective. A 'reboot' if you will.

Scary ass dolls are scarier than vampires.
sunny said…
Oh, and just to add, Sookie has also had Bill's bad blood and quite a lot of it. This explains her maniacal glee at destroying Talbot's remains, and indeed, it explains her metamorphosis from sweet darling in season 1 to the insensitive, hateful jerk she has become. An insensitive, hateful jerk I might add that has forgiven and forgotten several murders Bill has committed and seemed poised to accept his murder spree of anyone who knew about her or tasted her until Eric showed up and spilled the beans.

Bill is evil.
Anonymous said…
Great review Jace!

Though maybe the season finale wasn't what many people were hoping for, I found it pretty satisfying myself, and it certainly left lots of things to cover next year!

Whether they start next season immediately after the end of this episode, or a bit further on, I do like that we don't get a lot of time spent on soap opera-esque recaps of what is happening discussions between the characters.

I am glad for the possibility of Russell next season, and I am glad we saw Godric again this season.

I also vaguely recall that Hoyt's mom kept her dolls in his bedroom closet, so there is definitely something creepy with a doll in the bedroom of Hoyt and Jessica's new home.

I have such a long list of things I want to see next season so long, I can't help but think that maybe this wasn't such a bad finale at all.

Overall, I liked this season more than last.

Amie
Anonymous said…
The fact that everyone is supernatural is Alan Ball`s way of saying that normality doesn`t exist... That Sam and Sookie can be mean at times, that we are all made of duality... this is what this whole series is about: identity, acceptance and human nature...
I just love it!

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