Whether it's a spell to resurrect the dead or a new screen door (plus a microwave, to boot), there are strings attached to every bargain, no matter how slight or how severe. Whether or not that toll is immediately clear remains to be seen, but what is inexorable is that the collector will come courting eventually, whether it's for your blood or your soul.
This week's fantastic installment of True Blood ("You Smell Like Dinner"), written by Brian Buckner; directed by Scott Winant, presented the residents of Bon Temps with some new bargains thrown into their already overwrought status quo. After last week's lackluster season opener, this week's episode represented a seismic leap forward in terms of quality. No B-grade sci-fi shenanigans here, but rather a taut (and at times quite funny) installment that depicted Sookie integrating back into her old life, only to find that things--including her best friend Tara and her childhood home--had been changed.
Eric's purchase of the Stackhouse home makes him believe that he has ownership over everything inside of it, including Sookie, as he has a very different definition of landlord than, well, anyone else on the planet. He believes it makes Sookie his... and he's gone so far as to install a cozy "cubby" in Sookie's house, emblematic of the liberties he's taken during this transaction. But, hey, at least Eric didn't sink his fangs into Sookie when he had the chance, right?
I loved Sookie's reaction upon discovering that the antique wardrobe in her sitting room actually contained a ladder leading to said cubby, though I was hoping we'd actually get to see Sookie and Tara have a domestic scene together. (Instead, Sookie jilts Tara to head off to confront Eric about his moving into her house.) I'm curious about why Sookie saw the faeries rushing towards her when Tara surprised her at the house. While Sookie shrugs it off, there's something more at play here, something more sinister. Is Tara being set up to represent some obstacle or adversary to Sookie? Is she a gateway to the faerie realm? Eh, I'm okay with not knowing right now because it kept Mab and the other faeries away from Sookie this week. And that's a Very Good Thing in my book.
But while Sookie might chafe against the new status quo at home (she didn't make that deal with Eric Northman, after all), there were a slew of other bargains being made across town. Jessica struggled with the demands of being a dutiful girlfriend and those of being a vampire, ultimately opting to forgo picking up Advil for Hoyt (after he sustained injuries defending her honor outside Fangtasia) to return to the club and pick up some dinner instead.
Lest we forget, Jessica is trapped in a bit of a limbo: sexually active, she'll forever return to being a virgin once she heals; a repressed home-school teenager, she had been shut out of the world; she's moved in with a human, only to feel her vampire side pulling ever stronger. She's destined to chafe at the shackles she herself has put on, unable to give herself a full identity without crushing one sphere of her life. And she definitely doesn't need "stepmom" advice from Sookie, who catches her biting a guy in the Fangtasia bathroom. There's a likely price to pay for this "infidelity" as well.
Elsewhere, Sam's new love interest Luna realizes the price of being a skinwalker; having inadvertently killed her mother during childbirth, she has the ability to shift into other people as well as animals. Her Navajo upbringing views skinwalkers as filthy, demonic beings, which might be why she has some troubles opening up to Sam... and I can't help but wonder whether Sam will seek to join her in skinwalker-hood. He did shoot his brother, even if he didn't kill him, and Sam of late has a lot of anger... especially towards Tommy, who is lurking on the periphery of Sam's newfound shifter group. Death opens the door to new powers, it seems.
Poor Jason. That's all I'll say on that front. The licking of the head wound nearly did me in...
The coven of witches convening under Marnie's aegis also aren't aware of the cost of their own actions. Lafayette and Jesus bring Tara along to their Wicca meeting, only for the entire meeting to turn to chaos when Eric Northman shows up, under the instructions of Bill Compton. (Bill, as we learned this week, was recruited in the 1980s by Nan Flannigan to infiltrate the vampire monarchies and spy for the AVL. As someone who believes in integration, he represents the future of the vampires... and he's been rewarded for spying on Sophie-Anne by receiving her crown after he orders his human staffers to kill her.) Eric throws his weight around, biting Marnie and attempting to cow Lafayette and the others with threats. (It's only Tara who reacts, grabbing a stake and attempting to *kill* Eric.)
But he too doesn't see the consequences of barging into a room containing a necromancer, even if Bill warned him ahead of time. Marnie goes into chanting mode, channeling something dark and ancient, and the coven manages to not only drive Eric from the room, but also erases his memory in the process. But what sort of magic is Marnie playing with her, just what ancient evil has been unleashed from whatever mystical prison it has been contained within. Power doesn't come without a price, and Marnie has just tapped into something strong and vengeful. Her hubris is immediately apparent. No sooner does the coven raise her dead familiar, than Marnie announces her intentions to raise a human from the dead. There are lines that are not to be crossed, and bargains that are not to be made. In choosing to step over that threshold, Marnie may be in a position to pay with her soul, but she doesn't see the eternal results of her actions.
This mousy housewife, all faded print dresses and croaking little voice, might just represent the greatest threat that the vampires have ever known... and out of the innocence of Wicca might come a darkness strong enough to swallow Bon Temps in the process.
All in all, a thrilling episode that brought the tension, pacing, and cliffhanger ending that the season opener seemed to be lacking. Seeing Eric wander aimlessly down the road, with no direction and no identity, sets up an array of intriguing story possibilities, and makes me wonder just what's to come. I'll say that Alexander Skarsgard is absolutely amazing in next week's episode, playing Eric as a blank slate in search of answers. Or at least a shirt.
What did you think of this week's episode? Did it make up for last week? What do you make of Fiona Shaw's Marnie? Do you miss Tara and Sookie's old relationship? What did you make of Arlene's eye bleeding? Head to the comments section to discuss.
Next week on True Blood ("If You Love Me, Why Am I Dyinʼ?"), Sookie makes a deal with Eric, and reconnects with Alcide; Bill punishes an errant vampire and counsels a guilt-ridden Jessica; Jason is cast as a reluctant savior; Tommy eyes a scam and alienates Sam; Marnie flexes her newfound powers; Pam delivers an ultimatum to Lafayette, Tara and Jesus; Eric spoils Sookieʼs faerie reunion.