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Shot Through the Heart: Spellbound on True Blood

"She has a warrior's heart." - Eric

Upfront: I haven't read the Sookie Stackhouse novels, so I approach HBO's True Blood from a very different vantage point than I do, say, Game of Thrones, where I'm familiar with the novels, the characters, and where the story is going several seasons down the road. Not so with True Blood, which means that I'm not approaching the material with any degree of anticipation of future events, seminal moments, or the infamous shower scene, which--as promised by yours truly several weeks ago--did play out this week, albeit in a vastly different fashion than many of Charlaine Harris' fans expected.

They say that familiarity breeds contempt, but the reverse is also true: familiarity can breed passionate love, particularly where adaptation is involved. Knowledge of the source material can color one's perceptions of an adaptation, especially one which strays from the established for the new. I say this with no judgment whatsoever, as I'm as much of an avid reader as I am an obsessive television watcher, but the two media are vastly different from each other, and changes are to be expected.

Which brings us to this week's episode of True Blood ("Spellbound?"), written by Alan Ball and directed by Daniel Minahan, and the aforementioned shower scene, one of the books' most beloved Eric/Sookie moments, which was handled in an unexpected rather than literal manner here, though the underlying result was more or less the same. (And, again, I say this as someone with the most cursory knowledge of the Stackhouse novels; if I'm making a misstep, do let me know.) Given that the two have already given into their mutual passion in the woods (and the entryway of Sookie's house... and her bedroom), this moment isn't about carnal union but a spiritual one, a profound interaction that bonds their souls as much as they are already by blood.

The shared vision that they experience within the shower, as the curtain becomes a figurative gateway to a snowy paradise reminded me in some respects of the blood bond gestalt experienced by Jason and Amy way back when in Season One. Whereas they encountered a sun-drenched meadow, Eric and Sookie wander into snow-dappled woods, finding a bed with fur blankets underneath a dimly lit sky, the snowflakes melting on their skin. It's a curious juxtaposition of elements: warmth and coolness, comfort and excitement, night and day, passion and friendship. It's perhaps the moment that Sookie gives into exactly what Adele's spirit warned her against: she gives Eric her heart.

It's an impossible scene that can only exist in the fragility of dreams, a magical landscape that connects their souls and their hearts, bound by blood, by lust, by love. Sookie realizes the possibility of love here, the notion that she can fall in love after Bill, or in spite of him, that she does love this "new" Eric. But Adele's words ("it won't last") imbue the scene with a sense of dread as well: this is all perhaps fleeting, and Eric's amnesia--and therefore the couple's happiness--may be as brief as a snowflake's life. Time may not exist here, but it marches inexorably on back in the waking world.

Outside of the heart's cocoon these two form, things are not well in Bon Temps, though perhaps not as bad as they could be, considering when we last saw baby vamp Jessica, she was hurtling through the open doors of Bill's house into the daylight. There's an intentional allusion to be made of Jason Stackhouse throwing himself from the hot, white light onto Jessica's body and an angel emerging from heaven. (Though, let's be honest, Jason Stackhouse is no angel.) But Jason has saved Jessica's life, though--spellbound--she nearly rips his neck out. I loved the way that he carried her downstairs and re-silvered her before being surrounded by Bill's human guards.

Poor Jessica has found herself in quite a quandary, in fact: she still loves Hoyt, but she's drawn to Jason, perhaps not just because of their own blood bond, but because of her own (human) desires as well. She yearns for adventure, hungers for new experiences, and she's grown complacent in her relationship with Hoyt. She dreams of freedom, not in terms of solitude, but in terms of co-dependency. Her dream "Hoyt" begs her to stay, to reconsider leaving him, saying that he'll die without her, that he can't live without her. She smashes his pathetic head against the wall before climbing into Jason's truck to engage in sexual shenanigans. This is, of course, the dream of the guilty. She's determined to leave Hoyt, but not at the expense of her own broken heart, or his rejection of her. In reality, naturally, Hoyt doesn't act at all as she had imagined, instead withdrawing his invitation and casting her out of the house they shared, smashing things, and yelling at her with the hurt rage of the dejected.

Likewise, Jason isn't turned on by seeing her covered in blood (as she dreamed), but instead wary of her appearance at his house and concerned about hurting his best friend further. There is no congress to be had here at this time, no sympathetic shoulder, no sexual advances. Jessica only receives further rejection, another invitation taken back, more heartache and heartbreak. Reality rarely lives up to fantasy, as she discovers to her chagrin. Which worries me, as well, where Sookie and Eric are concerned. He will remember his past, she will discover he's not who she thought he was, and her hopes will be dashed against the (figurative) rocks. Sigh.

Alcide and Debbie settled into their new pack under Marcus' authoritarian gaze. It's clear that Debbie needs order, rules, and a rigid structure in her life: she needs to feel that she belongs but that someone else is in charge. But it's hard to do so when you don't trust your partner... and she follows Alcide when he runs off to Bon Temps in search of Sookie. Alcide is also going to have to choose between Sookie and the woman right in front of him, between fantasy and reality. Or Debbie could make that decision easier by walking out on him... or by killing Sookie and getting rid of the competition.

In the meantime, however, Alcide is being pushed towards more of a leadership role within the pack, and he appears to have forgotten all about Marcus' creepy introduction (I haven't been so lucky) and seems to now like his werewolf packmaster. But Marcus himself is revealed to be an ex-con with a parole officer and a nasty temper, shown when he shows up unannounced at Luna's, looking to tuck his daughter in. (The less said about Emma the better. This child actor is driving me up the wall with her unrealistic cutesiness and any mention of Barbies and Sam makes me break out in hives at this point. I'd ask Alan Ball and the writers to please, please, please, curtail this storyline, but there's even more of it next week. Ugh.)

While Luna has forgiven Sam for the Tommy/skinwalking/sex incident, Tommy continues his downward spiral, slipping into Maxine's skin in order to cut her out of the lease-rights to her property. I loved seeing Dale Raoul as Tommy-as-Maxine-Fortenberry, ordering tallboys and shots of tequila, growling at Arlene, and trying to "sweeten the deal" in any way she could, albeit with a sailor's vocabulary and a trucker's appetite. While there are way too many subplots going on in this season of True Blood, I am curious to see whether there is any hope of redemption for Tommy, though--SPOILER!--next week's episode does offer him a potential opportunity to balance the scales, as it were. Whether this is just Tommy's guilt eating away at him or some form of recompense remains to be seen, though.

Lafayette was possessed by the spirit of the singing woman always cooing over Mikey, the one with a penchant for French lullabies and fire-starting. It creeps me out to no end that spirits enter mediums' bodies through their open mouth; there's something ominous and nightmare-inducing about the sight of the black smoke-like substance forcibly entering Lafayette's corporeal form. We learn a bit more about the spirit, including that her child was killed by its (white) father and that she too likely died in or near Jessica and Hoyt's house, after attempting to bring the doll over as a present. But rather than sit by idly, she heads over to the Bellefleur house and takes Andy's gun, Mikey, and the dirty old doll without anyone noticing. Sigh. (I was enjoying this storyline but now it's getting a little tired at this point.)

Bill tries to broker a truce with Antonia/Marnie after appearing on the local news, and both sides bring reinforcements despite their agreement that they'll arrive at the Bon Temps cemetery alone. (Does anyone ever really do that?) Sookie is surprised to see Tara on Antonia's side; Eric reacts without thinking and eviscerates one of Antonia's witches before all hell breaks loose. And by that, I mean that Eric's body is hijacked by Antonia's spell, Tara is nearly killed by Pam (but saved in time by Bill, who tells her that she knows why he's spared her life), and Sookie is shot in the gut by someone's bullet.

As she collapses onto the fog-covered ground, red blossoming all over the front of her shirt, it seems as though her faery luck as finally run out (after she even got to use her powers properly!) and her life is slipping away. But as the two vampire men in her life can't get to her, it falls to Alcide to pick up her prostrate body and carry her to safety, the fog swirling around them.

I'm curious to know what viewers thought of this week's episode. I liked it but nowhere near as much as last week's installment, but it's also a final hurrah of atmosphere and tension compared to next week's muddled mess of an episode. What did you make of the revised shower scene? Yay or nay? And what did you take away from "Spellbound?" Head to the comments section to discuss.

Next week on True Blood ("Let's Get Out of Here"), convalescing after her latest near-death trauma, Sookie envisions a world where thereʼs room for both Bill and Eric; Jesus tries to purge the restless spirit out of Lafayette; Marcus enlists Alcide to help him deal with the Sam situation; Bill and Nan Flanagan clash over their agendas; Hoyt asks Jason to make a delivery to Jessica; despite Tara and Hollyʼs misgivings, Marnie plots her next move against the vampires, during a “Festival of Tolerance” event at Shreveport.

Comments

I love Alcide, but he should have heeded the warning of his new pack leader. Shifters are human, an as such, they have no business being around witches and vampires.

This episode, too, seemed to play loose with the timing of the different plots. It's starting to confuse me.
I really appreciate this review, especially in regards to the Eric & Sookie scenes. There are a lot of upset fans and I was too upon my initial viewing but I appreciate the analysis of what their V-trip meant. There is a lot of symbolism connecting both Eric and Sookie's deeper natures together. I'm a devoted E&S lover and of course, wanted more physical intimacy between them as well as emotional but the scene was covertly powerful. She never tripped out with Bill... therefore, I'm hoping Alan Ball created that sequence to really show the deep connection E&S have. I'm hoping it plants a seed for future episodes and season 5 that Eric & Sookie have something very special. *Fingers Crossed* ... I think most fans are ready for Memories-Intact Eric to return and realize his connection with Sookie. Then we can hope for a hott scene between them when they realize they're totally meant to be.
Ash said…
I loved your interpretation of the Eric and Sookie snow scene, and I completely agree! This was a meeting of two people body and soul. They were connecting in a way spiritually and emotionally that was really intense. I loved the Viking bed and the snow, as it seemed a throwback to Eric's Viking days. I like that AB seems to really be emphasizing the connection these two have with each other.
Tracy said…
I totally agree with you on sex in the shower not being necessary. Besides, they already gave that type of scene to Bill. I thought there were a lot of holes in the plausibility of the whole showdown with the witches. Why didn't the guards just shoot her when she started chanting? But all in all I was not disappointed in this episode. I really love Eric and Sookie together but I can see how folks are tired of the soft side of Eric. My husband is disgusted with him. LOL
Rosanna said…
Your interpretations of various plots are why I love your recaps. I was upset with the Eric/Sookie scenes and actually liked the chain removal scene better than the v-fantasy in the woods, but you made me see it differently.
However I winced when you said next week is a muddled mess. You've been right on so far, so I'm taking you at your word.
Ally said…
That girl who plays Emma is one of the worst child actors I've ever seen. It doesn't help that she's given ridiculous dialogue, but she is not remotely able to overcome it. Nails on a chalkboard...

Glad I'm not alone.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for another great recap!

I am not enjoying the Luna's daughter character either. I wonder if it is intentional?

To me, Sookie's connection with Eric is something that, while different from the book (and I am a big book fan) is a better depiction of the same general idea. In the book, a fireside heart-to-heart chat providing someone Sookie can speak with and the tension of will she or won't she give in to the amnesiac Eric was very enjoyable reading, it wouldn't be as wonderful to watch as I found Eric and Sookie in the show. Loved the heart of a warrior comment!

The part I found actually muddled this week was Lafayette and Jesus going off for help to fend off the vampire attack, returning to Bon Temps and then where was Jesus? Why no Lafayette & Jesus with Tara and Marnie at the vampire/witches coven cemetery meeting? Lafayette goes to work? Is possessed by baby lady? Didn't any of the other witches call Jesus?

(I didn't realize how that bothered me until writing it down...)

Amie
Karen - Belgium said…
I'm now thinking that The shreveport pack leader is going to Kill Sam, and actually it'll be Tommy in Sam's skin? I don't know why but I got the feeling this is how it's gonna play out ...

I read the books and was OK with the TV version. And indeed Emma sucks :)
Anonymous said…
Ah, Jace. Who is Dale Raoul? Do you mean Marshall Allman? Also, Marcus, the Were leader, creeps me out almost more than Marnie/Antonia does!
Jace Lacob said…
Dale Raoul plays Maxine Fortenberry. And, in this case, was playing Tommy-as-Maxine as well in the scenes at Merlotte's.
Anonymous said…
I'm a big fan of the books although I do appreciate the artistic interpretations that Alan has created to bring life to the show. However, the season continues to irritate me. I don't feel any passion between Eric/Sookie on screen in their "sensitive roles". And their connection is one of the most important aspects of the storyline, you cannot move forward without that. I found the "shower scene" to be annoying just as I had in the past found the V trips Aimee and Jason took to be. Sookie had Bill's blood more often then Eric's and didn't have any of these effects. It wasn't that i was anticipating hot/dirty sex from the shower. As a fan of the book it represented that "yes" moment and unfortunately i haven't felt that yet with this season. The sex in the woods, entrance, bedroom was just "eh" to me. Very disappointed! I'm hoping season 4 is saved, unlike season 3 which fell flat in my opinion.
Anonymous said…
I was very disappointed in Sunday's episode. The "Shower
' was just bad. I read the books and yes, this sensitive Eric was there but there was a;ways a hint to the old Eric.

This storyline is just bland and only Pam and the Witch have been remotely entertaining so far.
Unknown said…
I loved what A.B. did with the spiritual connection with Sookie and Eric. I have read the books and lots of fan fiction so it was a surprise to see this play out.
Jason Stackhouse has stepped up his game and bravo bravo for choosing his friend and doing pushups.
I am still trying to figure out Mikey too. Is it Rene incarnated? Is the beautiful singing ghost mama connected to Rene? Anytime you channel you invite others in and poor L. doesn't know how to protect himself.
The scenes with Emma are showing a daddys girl and not sure where it goes. However Sam was cool under pressure and not so cool with Tommy.
A.B. has created new characters and extended the lives of characters.
Just like a fan fiction writer does.
When and if A.B. ever deletes Eric or Pam.. Then I will no longer watch T.B. HBO. I love both of these characters in the book, in the TV show and in Fan Fiction.

They are such easy reads. Maybe you can borrow them and get caught up like the rest of us.

Spellbound was one of my favorites because of the fantasy.

Christina aka Wolfeagle
Heather said…
I was pretty confused that Eric got some kind of serious affect from Sookie's blood. I know that they have been playing up to her having so and such amount of fairy blood, but Eric has even had her blood before (and so has Bill) without going into some trip. I realize that Sookie would, since Eric is over 1000 years old, and even in the books when Sookie has his blood the first time she feels invincible.

I was kind of disappointed in the shower scene. It's not that I needed sex, because they technically don't even have sex in the shower in the book. I just felt that the whole scene felt so sappy and forced. I sometimes don't feel enough chemistry between AP and AS. But I think it might be some of the forced lines they end up with. I can respect that this is a depiction of their bonding, but I felt almost uncomfortable watching those scenes.

Wish Jesus and Lafayette had been more in the storyline they were originally in. I enjoyed how they are having Tara doubt her motives, and doubt Marnie. During the phone conversation with Bill, you could see her expression change, and obviously when she was saved by Bill. I think she will come through in the end. Maybe Holly will too, like in the books.

I do not enjoy that they let Debbie have a sympathy pull with the viewers. They cleaned her up and make her seem like she's just trying to be a better person. She was never a V addict in the book, she was just a terrible person. Maybe we will get to see that in the next few episodes.

Overall, this wasn't my favorite episode, I believe last weeks was! Great review, thanks for it!
Anonymous said…
Great recap! I have enjoyed most of the Eric storyline this season, and it is easy to see that Sookie and Eric have a very deep connection. I't started long before season 4 i feel, and the dreams between them has been a strong indication of that. I have read the books but i dont care so much about the differences.

Though i dont like the way Pam is beeing written this season, unlike in the books where she kicks ass and takes charge.

Another aspect i'm not happy with is the talk of vampires and their humanity. Bill kept/keeps droning about it, and now Sookie continues. She keeps talking about how she fell in love with the human aspect of witchever vampire she comes across, but deep down i dont think it was the "humanity" that attracted her to vamps in the first place.
They were different from the humans that had shunned, coddled or belittled her most of her life because of her quirk. She felt she could relate to beeing different imo. Sookie is not always truthful to herself.

Vampires used to be humans,and from what i have gathered over the coarse of the series they still retain alot of who they were before beeing turned (Eddie).
They change when beeing turned, and from living for so long, but i dont think they loose who they are deep down. And i think Eric with amnesia is the real Eric deep down, minus the insecurity of not knowing who he is. I understand why he clung to Sookie like a liferaft.

Also we have seen from Isabelle/Eric/Gordric/Pam that vampires can indeed love, even though some vamps would rather face the true death than admit that.

Anyway, thank you for a great review. :)

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