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Howling at the Moon: The Price of Being Special on True Blood

"There ain't no such thing as normal."

As I said on Twitter last night, I thought that this week's episode of True Blood was the strongest installment the series has had in quite some time.

Beautiful and emotionally resonant (as well as overflowing with plot), this week's thought-provoking episode ("I Wish I Was the Moon"), written by Raelle Tucker and directed by Jeremy Podeswa, revolved around the full moon over Bon Temps and found the sleepy (and yet supes-teeming) town coming to terms with themselves and their true natures. This thematically made quite a lot of sense with the use of the full moon--planted several episodes ago--bringing out the "special" in quite a few of the supernatural denizens of Bon Temps.

But it was the sequence between Ryan Kwanten's Jason Stackhouse and Deborah Ann Woll's Jessica that stood out as the heart of the episode, as the two lay on their backs in the woods staring up at the moon. Would Jason transform into a panther as he feared (and perhaps secretly hoped)? Is he jealous of Sookie's own gifts, not seeing his own that he's been blessed with in life?

Linked by blood, Jessica comes to Jason's aid in the thick of the woods, but the two of them are joined by other, weighter issues: Jessica remembers all too well when her humanity was brutally ripped from her; they're both victims in their own way. But she also sees just what she's become, how her dark gift opened up new possibilities to her, bringing her into the larger world and out of the tiny one she had been living in. But there is a price, of course, and True Blood always reminds us that nothing comes for free in this world. Jessica is condemned to a lifetime of darkness and hunger, just as Sookie's gift means that she will stand apart from humanity, doomed to know what everyone is thinking around her.

These supernatural gifts are a double-edged sword, something Jason doesn't quite see in his panic attack-driven stupor, but they also don't define us completely either. For all of her vampiric strength, speed, and cravings, Jessica is still wholly innocent, something that writer Raelle Tucker and Woll remind us of here: she's still very young and very new at this fragile thing called life. But there is truth in innocence, and beauty: her acceptance of Jason, her support, and her understanding are unique to Jessica, who struggles deeply with her own self-identity. What is she exactly? A waitress? A vampire? Hoyt's girlfriend?

I'm glad, as well, to see that it's these two who find themselves alone in the woods. While I've loved seeing Jessica and Hoyt's relationship unfold, it's been far too long since Woll was in a scene with anyone other than Jim Parrack that's more than a few seconds in length. As Hoyt's best friend, Jason is in a unique position with Jessica, and it's clear that she perhaps has burgeoning feelings for the former football star since she saved his life. While they agree not to tell Hoyt about what happened that night (in all honestly, nothing untoward), it's clear that they both feel that they crossed an invisible line, one that might lead them to an unexpected romance down the line. It's a meeting of opposites here: Jessica in her innocence and wiseness; Jason in his debauchery and, well, lovable dumbness. By pairing these two, Tucker manages to give us fireworks against the moon, two souls reaching out to each other for comfort and support, two friends awaiting a transformation that never arrives.

Jason is special, in his own way, something that Jessica is able to get him to see, finally. (Beyond just his insistence to Sookie that he is "good at sex" and shooting.) He's handsome, irresistible, and was a high school football legend. He's also prone to a goofy joie de vivre that is infectious, something we see as he shrugs off his funk and transitions back to being plain old Jason Stackhouse once more. In a town like Bon Temps where everyone seems to have some sort of supernatural power, Jason's humanity is pretty darn special in its own right, especially to someone like Jessica, who had her future, her life, her freedom of choice brutally ripped away from her on the "scariest night" of her life.

Elsewhere, other characters teetered on the brink of self-acceptance: Bill opted to spare the life of Eric Northman in order to ensure Sookie's happiness at the cost of his own, as both Bill and the amnesiac Eric just want Sookie to be happy; Tommy's act of parental slaughter gifted him with a new ability, that of a skinwalker, and he takes a long walk in Sam's skin, sleeping with Luna and firing Sookie, and learning just what Maxine thinks of him; Debbie joins a new pack, despite the insistence of Alcide that she keep to herself; Tara admits just who and what she is (after almost getting strangled by her girlfriend) and takes Naomi on a tour of Bon Temps, including holding hands in plain view at Merlotte's; and Lafayette opens himself up to Tio Luca and unlocks his potential in order to save Jesus.

And Sookie and Eric finally gave into their passion under the watchful eye of the full moon, consummating their relationship after Eric is freed by Bill from execution (i.e., the one true death). But as Bill stands outside on the porch of his estate, I wonder whether he knew that his former soulmate and his sheriff had their bodies entangled in the moonlight at that precise moment. Despite Adele's warning not to give Eric her heart, Sookie gives into the feelings that she's been experiencing the last few days, giving herself over to her own hunger. But do people change, really? Eric's transformation is the result of Marnie's spell, a temporary amnesia that has locked away his understanding of who he really is, the crimes he's committed, the darkness in his soul. Once he remembers (and make no mistake, he will), what happens to this Eric, to the naive and gentle man-child whose pursuit of Sookie has been tender rather than forceful? Where does he go? And what will remain once this new identity is stripped from him by the spell's reversal?

Or doesn't it matter? Perhaps what only matters is right then and there, under the full moon, this moment of passion that they share. Can Sookie let go of her hopes and desires when she's confronted by the "real" Eric Northman? And will she still want him then when he hardens his soul once more?

What else did I think of these week's episode? Let's take a look in a hail of bullets:
  • There are a whole lot of disembodied spirits floating about this plotline: Marnie is possessed by the vengeful spirit of Antonia, a witch who was imprisoned, raped, and tortured by vampire priests during the Spanish Inquisition, who burned her alive, even as she ripped the vampires from their slumber and forced them to walk into the light. In a creepy twist, Antonia appears before Marnie and then enters her through her gaping mouth, possessing her body and soul, and working her magic through her conduit. Oh, Luis, you never saw that coming, did you? Marnie/Antonia is able to control Luis and she forces the vampire sheriff (who had raped her in 1610) to his knees. Badness lies ahead...
  • Then there's the woman whom Mikey sees after the fire, the one that's clearly connected with the creepy baby doll. Who is she exactly, and what does she want? For one, she wants to go home, namely to Jessica and Hoyt's house, where she keeps bringing the doll back. But why set fire to Arlene and Terry's? And why work through wee Mikey? I still maintain that "not your baby" isn't a reference to Mikey/Rene but to her own child, symbolized by that decrepit doll. Get rid of it, Arlene!
  • Tio Luca, meanwhile, inhabits Lafayette's body, drawn out by Lafayette's need to save the life of Jesus and the machinations of Jesus' grandfather, Don Bartolo. Lafayette has been resistent to the notion that he has certain abilities, but his doubts will be erased now that he too has a spirit passenger along for the ride, one with considerable magics, seeing how effortlessly he cured Jesus from his snakebite.
  • I loved Sookie with the shotgun, heading off into the woods in search of her brother. A strong image that recalled Buffy, in fact: beautiful blonde girl in the dark, armed and dangerous and not afraid of anything.
  • Eric's speech to Bill, seconds before his execution was to be carried out, was a thing of beauty and simplicity, expressing his innocence. ("I was born the night she found me," he says. "Because of her, I went to my true death knowing what it is to love.")
  • Oh, Tara, did you really think you'd be able to parade through Bon Temps with Naomi without attracting the attention of the decaying Pam? You'll be lucky if both of you make it through the night without losing your lives or your blood. (Prediction time: Naomi's a goner.)
  • Jason handcuffing himself to his bed to await the full moon? Insanely dumb. Sookie saying exactly what I thought, that the handcuffs would just slip off if he became a panther? Priceless.
Ultimately, I thought this was a fantastic installment, full of wonder and possibility, plot twists and poetry, an episode that had the characters largely in their own self-contained storylines, some of which intersected magnificently by the closing credits. And that's not just the full moon talking.

I'm curious: what did you think of this week's episode? Did you fall under its spell as much as I did? What did you like about it or dislike? Were you surprised--or elated--by the final scene? Head to the comments section to discuss, dissect, and analyze.

Next week on True Blood ("Cold Grey Light of Dawn"), with Marnie empowered by spirits of the dead, Bill issues an unpopular order to save vampires from the light; Eric embraces his amnesia; Luna discovers Sam is not the man she thought he was; Lafayette expands his consciousness; Pam gets a body peel; Andyʼs date with Holly doesnʼt go as planned; Jessica has doubts about her future with Hoyt; Alcide and Debbie join a new pack.


luvst0ned said…
i LOVED the episode. you were right, as you always are! my only problem is all the rape that keeps happening! i understand what it means for the story and the characters but i'm finding it disturbing to watch and if i rewatch an episode i can't even watch those parts. loved what you said about jason/jessica. honestly, i'm just glad he's not in hot shot anymore! & the final scene was glorious! i almost thought it wasn't going to happen in last night's episode!
Anonymous said…
I also loved this episode.

I did wonder if Bill spared Eric because he does hope to once again be with Sookie himself, and he realized that he did not want to add one more "unforgivable" thing to the list of things that is preventing him from being with Sookie.

The episode itself seemed to me as a whole to be exactly what I love about the series, beautifully filmed, beautifully acted, beautifully written. Exciting, frightening and absorbing - was it really only an hour long?!

This episode felt different to me. The warm glow of the moonlight gave the show another look too. It seemed calmer and more tender than most episodes. Very nice.
wordgirl said…
while i agree with all of your comments, i can't believe that there was no mention of sam trammell's wonderful performance last night. so impressed with his portrayal of tommy in sam's body. the voice, the body language, the line delivery... really great!
I agree wholeheartedly with Wordgirl. Sam was awesome last night! He definitely meritted a mention. When he told Andy that he was tired of his ^%$# and that he was gonna turn into a doberman and chew his face off, I nearly died laughing. Plus, he was so good with Tommy. I loved watching him assume the big brother role, finally.
Anonymous said…
Definitely the best episode so far of the season. Episode 5 was a close second for me. I love basically all the storylines this year, which is a rarity, and I especially love the Eric and Sookie storyline. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

Sam Trammell was amzing as well. He pulled off Tommy in a Sam suit perfectly.
sunny said…
"Elsewhere, other characters teetered on the brink of self-acceptance: Bill opted to spare the life of Eric Northman in order to ensure Sookie's happiness at the cost of his own, as both Bill and the amnesiac Eric just want Sookie to be happy;"

Oh my. It often astonishes me how little people really know or understand Bill's character. Since we never saw it, it is *very* doubtful that Bill ever got that death warrant. Eric still has 'friends in high places' and it beggars credulity that these 'friends' would take Bill's word that Eric is 'infected' and allow Bill to execute him when thus far they have refused to allow it. I'm sure the aborted 'execution' scene was merely Bill's bitter way of trying to humiliate Eric because the PTB won't let him kill the hated Viking Vampire God.
StalkeeBrew said…
Definitely one of the more touching episodes. Jason and Jessica's link is probably one of the most interesting things the writers have ever thought up.
I think Marnie is an absolute idiot if she thought any good would come of her summoning Antonia's spirit repeatedly, as it's clear she only wants to exact revenge on vampires. Eric's "last words" almost made me cry but we always knew Bill was a bit of a softie vampire in the first place. Eric/Sookie= inevitable, but I think we all know it can't last. This reflects so many real-life relationships that you can't help but love it even though you know it can't possibly end well on Sookie's part.
Anonymous said…
I still think the episodes are too disjointed and there's no need to have ALL the characters and ALL the storylines in every single one, but I really enjoyed it.
Sam was awesome, I liked Jason and Jessica although it seems a bit out of the blue even with the blood, but they made it work.
Finally, being a book reader I totally loved the whole Sookie/ Eric thing. Yeah of course it can't last at least in this form, as we know the amnesia is gonna end. But if the show follows even the most basic skeleton of the books this is just a step in their journey. And I won't say anything else as I don't wish to spoil lol
Anonymous said…
The only reason for this Eric/Sookie pairing was Sookie & Bill.
Ridolph said…
Great episode BUT, they seem to be using, or rather NOT using sookie's powers very conveniently...

Also don't they have tape of Marnie's cell? It seems that Bill accepted her lack of knowledge rather shallowly.

Tara's friend will become a vamp. Mark my words.
Anonymous said…
Sam was awesome
Eric and Sookie, beautiful, tender, erotic! More, more, more!
Love Jessica and Jason .

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