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Turn of the Screw: Into the Darkness on True Blood

Having originally watched the third episode of True Blood's third season over a month ago, it's been impossible to scrub that final image from my memory.

Now that the episode has aired, it's rather likely that you too now have that same problem. The final scene of the episode ("It Hurts Me Too"), written by Alexander Woo and directed by Michael Lehmann, might just be one of the most disturbing images ever to air on television and I can promise that it will sit with you a long time after the final credits have rolled on this week's installment.

True Blood has long been an exploration of how the characters cling to or cast off their humanity and the tenuous thread that often keeps these supernatural entities bound to their mortal lives. While the final scene was graphic and, yes, twisted, it was also an absolutely necessary stepping stone for one character as he came face to face with what he despised about both his maker and himself... and the lengths he was willing to go to in order to hold onto the one thing he loves above all else.

It might just be the twist heard round the world.

So what did I think of this week's episode? Let's discuss.

As if last season weren't dark enough, Season Three of True Blood looks to push its diverse group of characters even deeper into the darkness and into some mighty uncomfortable places as they take a long, hard look at the state of their souls. Both Bill and Tara this week were pushed further into the darkness, each coming face to face with a potentially soul-killing moment that can either define them for the rest of their days... or which they can pull back from.

If anything, True Blood has shown us that there is no black and white, not even in death. Actions can be recovered from, moral lines uncrossed, and one's soul saved even after abhorrent, terrible behavior, so long as one chooses to live in the (metaphorical) light.

Bill. Throughout his vampiric life, Bill has walked a fine line between good and evil, between casting off his humanity and clinging to it tightly. Sookie reawakened in him emotions long dormant and a real possibility of happiness... but it might be one that's short-lived. Sookie's long-term survival depends on his alliance with Russell Edgington. If he doesn't pledge fealty to the King of Mississippi, his next move will be to bring Sookie to his palatial estate and make her Lorena's dinner.

Bill's alliance, therefore, is intended to ensure Sookie lives, even if it comes at the cost of his own humanity. Throughout the series, Bill has been presented as a man of his word and the decision to leave Sophie-Anne's service and pledge his loyalty to Russell isn't an easy one but it's made all the more calculated because of the risk that Sookie faces if he doesn't agree. His love for Sookie and her happiness comes above all else. Even the last vestiges of his humanity, sacrificed at the end of the episode in a brutal scene with Lorena that displays just how far Bill is willing to go in order to keep his fiancee safe.

Lorena taught him a lesson early on that true love for a human meant staying away from them, to build a barrier between their mundane world and the vampire's supernatural existence. In falling in love with Sookie, he crossed that parapet once more and opened himself up to the possibility of happiness with a human. According to Lorena, that relationship by definition must be brief. He will destroy her in the end and he can't hope to bring her anything but ruin and despair, just as he did by going back to see his mortal wife Caroline.

Arriving to discover both his children gone, Bill finds a Caroline who is nothing like he remembers, more animal than human, a haunted, grief-striven widow who said goodbye to her husband years before when the war ended and he never came home. What appears in her home that night isn't her husband but a demon wearing his skin, a thing that weeps blood and isn't stopped by a shotgun blast to the shoulder. The kindest thing he can do, according to Lorena, is make her forget. (And to bury their son.)

It's a somber scene that recalls the scene earlier this season in which Bill fed on Olivia, the elderly woman with the oxygen tank, before making her forget their encounter and granting her a happy memory instead of her errant son. Here, Caroline isn't given anything to replace their encounter but she escapes with what's left of her life, condemned to live out the rest of her days in solitude, surrounded--just like Bill--by Death.

All of which runs through Bill's mind as he gives into the darkness and plunges his teeth into Lorena, punishing them both for what she's made him and what he's become. Their sex isn't pleasant but painful, a gruesome encounter behind those doors of silver in which Bill twists her head around in a corkscrew shape, a terrible vengeance that's all the more horrific because he can't bear to look at her face as he gives himself up to his carnal, violent desires.

Is it painful to watch? Yes, it is. But it's also a provocative stepping stone for Bill Compton as he punishes himself as much as his maker there, forcing himself to plunge headfirst into the darkness of her heart, to take her, to break her, and to submit to the demon in his soul, casting off his humanity in order to save the very thing that reawakened it within him.

Tara and Franklin. Anguished over Eggs' death, Tara begins once more to put her life together again, recovering from her suicide attempt, but it's the appearance in her life of shifty vampire Franklin Mott that once again threatens to derail her progress. After beating up some rednecks in last week's episode, she falls into an uneasy sexual dalliance with Franklin but afterward wants nothing to do with him, even refusing to tell him her name.

The experience hasn't healed Tara; in fact, she feels even dirtier than before. But she wisely realizes that she doesn't want to be with Franklin and she leaves. Franklin, unfortunately, has other ideas. He's been hired--by whom is still unclear--to dig up dirt on Bill Compton. His first port of call is the old Compton place, where he coerces Jessica into spilling what she knows about Bill. After all, he took care of that pesky problem with the trucker corpse in the crawl space and his use of the dead man's head is unnerving enough that Jessica complies with his entreaties. (Ironically, it's Hoyt who finds the rest of the trucker corpse.)

Jessica's information leads Franklin to Sookie Stackhouse's house where he encounters... Tara Thornton. While she's not too willing to let him into Sookie's house, he glamours her and then forces her to invite him in. Not good, not good at all. I'm still unsure what Franklin wants and what exactly he's looking for but it seems as though he'll be using Tara as his catspaw. Not at all what Tara needs, particularly as she spent much of last season in Maryann's thrall. She needs to get as far away from supernatural creatures that can mess with your mind as possible.

However, I am glad that she and Sookie reconciled before Sookie took off for Jackson. The handling of Eggs' funeral was a little awkward (why was it that day? why was Tara not told about the funeral? what if Tara didn't take Mike's call?) but the scene between Tara and Sookie together, best friends once more, at the gravesite was a nicely played sequence that showed the depth of their feelings for one another and their shared losses.

Sookie. Sookie, meanwhile, proved that she's no push-over, nearly dispatching the werewolf intruder to the afterlife, if Eric hadn't jumped in front of her bullet trajectory. While it makes a big mess (once again ruining that front hall rug), it manages to distract the werewolf enough that he turns his attention to getting some vampire blood and allows Sookie to scan his mind, getting a name ("Jackson") but little else before Eric turns the tables and kills the wolf.

Sookie's not going to let things sit still, of course. Knowing that Bill could be in Jackson, she's determined to go after him. But Eric's not letting her go on her own and get killed in the process. He brings in a traveling companion for Sookie, a bit of werewolf protection in the form of Alcide, who is there to work off his father's debt to Eric. He knows the werewolf community and agrees to take her inside the wolves' den in search of Bill... though he has other things on his mind, namely the fact that his ex-girlfriend Debbie Pelt has taken up with the new pack leader Cooter.

In Jackson, things go from bad to worse as Alcide learns that Debbie is engaged to Cooter and Sookie nearly gets raped by werewolf Gus before Alcide comes to her rescue. (Of course, Sookie was also able to scan the fact that said werewolf was one of the F--- You Crew that kidnapped and tortured Bill.)

Here's to hoping that there's something of Bill that's worth saving when she finds him. Something tells me there's going to be a hell of a lot of trouble ahead for these two lovebirds.

Arlene. Poor, poor Arlene. No sooner does she learn that she's pregnant, she's faced with a serious moral dilemma, given that the baby is only about ten weeks old, far too old for Terry to be the father. So just who would the baby's daddy be? Well, that would be serial killer Rene, of course. Which means that she's carrying a killer's baby in her womb... and she can't bear to break the news to Terry, who is overjoyed when he believes that he's going to be a father. Sad times...

Jason. Jason, meanwhile, is so determined to become a cop and yet so unwilling to do the hard work to get there, viewing himself as far superior to Andy Bellefleur in every respect. The scene in which Jason couldn't answer a single question on the deputy sheriff's written test was hilarious ("Everyone knows if it's on the sample test it won't be on the real thing"), given his false bravado in the face of those recurring nightmares about bullet wounds and nude exam-taking and the fact that he is haunted about Eggs' death, to the point where he can't even talk to Tara to offer his support.

But with Sheriff Bud Dearborne possibly out of the picture for good, there might just be an opening on the Bon Temps PD, should Andy step up and take over for Bud.

Sam. Last week, I mentioned the dark look that passed between Melinda and Joe Lee when Sam showed up in Arkansas and this week the Mickens clan arrived in Bon Temps to check up on Sam and see what sort of life he has there. While Sam is stunned to see his biological parents (and his no-good brother) there, he quickly recovers and invites them to stay for lunch, which quickly turns into an alcohol-fueled binge. Forcing them to leave when Joe Lee won't adhere to the rules (you know, about serving minors), things get tense... and then take a turn for the weird when Sam encounters a pit bull in his office. Said dog turns into a bird and takes off through the open window, leaving Sam wondering just what Tommy was doing going through his things... right by the safe. Could the Mickens be looking for some cash? And was Tommy working alone? Hmmm...

Lafayette and Eric. Can I just say that I loved the scene between Lafayette and Eric as he showed up with a brand-new car for Lafayette, his best dealer, and attempted to use a carrot rather than a stick to entice Lafayette into doing his bidding and moving the product, forcing Lafayette to question his lack of ambition. Well played, Eric.

All in all, another great installment that will linger with me for quite some time, thanks to that gruesome and shocking final image of Bill and Lorena. Here's to heading even deeper into the darkness and to hoping that there's a way for these characters to emerge on the other side.

What did you think of this week's episode? Disturbed by the Bill/Lorena head-twisting? Wondering what's up with the Mickens? Why is Franklin ferreting out intelligence about Bill? Head to the comments section to discuss.

In two weeks on True Blood ("9 Crimes"), Sookie joins Alcide at a raucous engagement party for Debbie Pelt, his former fiancée; Eric is given a deadline to locate Bill; Andy gets a promotion and draws Jasonʼs attention; Franklin takes Tara on a road trip; Arlene is irked by Jessicaʼs arrival at Merlotteʼs; Sam brokers a deal with Tommy and his parents, Melinda and Joe Lee; Bill “procures” dinner for Russell and Lorena.


Anonymous said…
You are so correct about that scene with Bill and Lorena. I wondered if Russell would have been so anxious to have Bill as sheriff if Lorena hadn't convinced him that Bill is important to Sophie-Anne, BUT isn't Bill mainly important to Sophie Anne because of Sookie?

I thought that Bill's daughter had been old enough to be sent to relatives in Tennessee and was safe, it was just that the son was not old enough to be sent that caused him to catch small pox and die?

Could Franklin have been creepier?

Thanks for your review!
lehlsis said…
Respectfully, I'm not convinced Bill had to dive into the evil deep end less than 48 hours after proposing to Sook. I get that he was neck deep in frustration. I know he was just as rage-drenched as he was frustrated. But as a fan of both the books and the show (which may be the root of my problem), it just didn't feel like Bill. To me, the writers went for the shock rather than staying true to the character. Imho, it would have been a much more in character ending--not to mention less personally traumatizing--if he'd bit and staked her...somewhere non-fatal perhaps, as she's also a guest of the king.

Having said that, I really liked your title for this segment, 'Turn of the Screw'. Very clever.
Piper said…
Still processing the Bill/Lorena scene. I agree that it came a little quickly but also think that it's necessary for Bill to go to the dark side at this point in the story.

I was less impressed with Tara's storyline this week which finds her, again, under someone's spell. I just think they need to do something different with Tara. We've seen her be a victim and we've seen her be angry time and time again. It's time for something new!
Anonymous said…
It seems to me like TrueBlood needed to make Bill interesting again so they rushed into that crazy but pointless neck scene. It didn't work.
Mazza said…
Thanks for more great analysis Jace. This is why I come here every week. I was ready to write off the head twisting scene til I read what you wrote about it. Makes more sense now and I see why the writers are doing this to Bill. Still gross tho.
Anonymous said…
I believe that next week's episode is a repeat because of the 4th of July weekend.
Monica said…
Happy about S/E scenes, they are going in books direction building up their honest/passionate/sincere/troubled relatioship they have in the book!
His crush for her is going deep...really deep....

Talbot I Love You.....Alexander was great!!!!is my fav in S3!!!!
Lafayette and Eric burying a body btw!

B/L....shocked me. A rape is a crime. AB just showed us who Bill really is if pushed to his true nature....and that has nothing do do with Sookie pfff! He raped Lorena to help Sookie?Oh God, that's nonesense sorry....Bill already pledged his loyalty to RE before...than he abused of Lorena and that was so domenstic violence, she kept telling him i love you....she knows how he is...and in fact we saw what he is capable of do....I felt hurt,as a woman. and when i see people not able to recognize a rape i feel hurt twice, sadly.
me said…
Barrister's Girl says:

It was NOT a rape scene...she ordered him to "make love to her" He just did it his way is all.

If this were the case, the sex scene with Eric and Yvetta was a rape was pretty rough and he did her in a basement where he tortured humans...don't hear anyone saying anything about that.....

By the way, I don't think Eric was doing any such thing...just comparing scenes is all
raine said…
That last gruesome scene replayed in my head over and over after the show's end. Oddly enough, at first I watched, thinking, "wow--he's going to kill her." And, sadly enough, that didn't bother me so much. But she didn't die, & kept on talking, & he continued with his violence! I do have to wonder about their relationship. The opposite of love isn't hate, but indifference, isn't it?

And I don't feel one bit sorry for Tara or Arlene.
Seriously, Tara has been needy & dependent from the beginning--on her mom, then Sam, then Mary Ann, then Eggs...maybe if she'd stop falling back on people, she'd stop falling.
And Terry's a very decent guy, who's been traumatized enough. Geez, he knows Arlene was engaged to Rene. Why lie? He deserves better, & she should be ashamed. And why isn't this woman on birth control? Hello?
thqueenbe said…
So, I don't know why, but that scene didn't really resonate with me. I was like, "wow, Bill's so freaking mad. Angry sex, look at that. Mm, damn shame he's doing that and it'll hurt Sookie." But the part that seems to bother so many people I just barely noticed. The only part that struck me was how fake and silly it looked. So. I'm still just sad for Sookie, because of course she'll find out about it and she'll never trust Bill again. Whatever about Lorena. It doesn't count as rape because she WANTED it. geez.

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