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Never Let Me Go: The Ties That Bind on True Blood

"Someday, it won't hurt so bad." - Alcide

Whether it's love or guilt--or something in between--there's an invisible thread binding us to those in our lives. In an installment filled with reunions, reconciliations, and rather disturbing dreams, True Blood's characters had a knack for ricocheting off of one another in some intriguing and eye-opening ways, resulting in a cascade of emotions--and blood--that mark a major turning point for the season.

Last night's episode of True Blood ("Night on the Sun"), written by Raelle Tucker and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter, managed to pull off just that, turning in a crimson-soaked installment that was high on both drama and emotional resonance as an age-old quest for revenge struck home, parents sought to protect their offspring, and friends gathered together for a moment in the sun, a respite from the darkness that has been closing in all season long.

But it was also an episode that offered up questions about just what it means to be home once again and just where home truly is, whether it's on the porch of the house you grew up in, an opportunity to change your life and start over, or tangled up in the arms of a lover.

So what did I think of this week's episode of True Blood? Pour yourself a Tru Blood, place that Viking crown in its rightful place, grab a shotgun and let's discuss "Night on the Sun."

Things hit home for Sookie Stackhouse this week in more ways than one, as she realized just what Bill had done to her and perhaps that the trust between them might have been forever broken as a result. His vicious attack last week, which left Sookie hovering between life and death, became symbolic of the very differences in their nature, as well as the similarities.

Her immediate response, however, was to scream bloody murder when she came out of her coma and saw Bill standing over her in the hospital. While his blood may have saved her life--yet again--it's indicative of his true nature. He can attempt to keep the beast within at bay, to sublimate those desires to rend flesh and drink blood, but they exist within him always and when faced with the one true death, he reverted to an animalistic mentality when he was willing to do whatever it took to survive.

But it's that will to live that binds him with Sookie, in a way, two outsiders who can never truly join the pack of humanity who are willing to cross certain boundaries in order to keep on living. Whether that means draining Sookie or that old woman in the woods, or--in Sookie's case--taking on Debbie Pelt rather than running away.

It's only fitting that Sookie would hold her ground in light of everything that has happened over the last three seasons. And, it's even more fitting, that the line in the sand should be drawn right inside the Stackhouse house, where Gran died, where Maryann twisted her home into something sick and perverse, and where she wouldn't back down from whatever Russell threw at her, whether it be wolves, vampires, or Alcide's psychotic ex-girlfriend.

Their knock-out fight showed a new side to Sookie as well. Armed with a shotgun (and a pair of scissors), she took on the V-filled Debbie in a fight that seemed like it would only end with one of them six feet under. But I was happy to see that both (A) Sookie wasn't required to murder Debbie, even if it had been in self-defense, and (B) that Sookie wasn't a damsel in distress. She held her own against an enraged werewolf and, like Tara earlier this season, exhibited the same desperate need to embrace life, even if it meant traveling through the bleakest darkness to get there. (It was also ironic that Debbie should be so undone by a pair of scissors, having burnt down the hair salon belonging to Alcide's sister in Jackson.)

Likewise, I was glad to see Jessica hold her own as well. For far too long, Jessica has been relegated to the dusty rooms of the old Compton place and Bill has denied her the benefit of his wisdom, making her essentially an orphaned baby vampire. Looking to free her from any obligations, Bill discovers that she doesn't want to be "free," but wants to learn from her maker. (I loved the scene in which they swiftly battle across the room as Jessica attempts to increase her speed and win her maker's approval.)

Even after she's drained by Russell outside Sookie's house, Jessica still manages to escape and rip apart a werewolf... even as Hoyt drives right by her, wiping tears from his eyes. The juxtaposition of those two very disparate ideas--of a man consumed by emotion and a woman consumed with blood-lust--precisely depicts the chasm between them.

The Bill-Jessica story was nicely mirrored by the return of Ruby Jean to Bon Temps, appearing at Lafayette's house in a desperate bit to "protect him from the vampires." While poor Ruby Jean is not, uh, well--she pulls a kitchen knife on Lafayette and Jesus at one point--she believes that she has been sent on a mission to protect her son, whom she says is "powerful." While Bill hasn't instructed Jessica in the ways of the world, Ruby Jean has warped Lafayette from an early age (see his story about being able to breathe underwater) but appears to want to make amends in her own way. For his part, Jesus also believes that Lafayette is powerful but warns him that he could be overtaken by darkness. It's a throwaway line line that nonetheless demonstrates that there's more to Jesus that initially meets the eye and connects Lafayette's own struggles to battle the darkness within him to his cousin Tara's.

Bad mothers seem to be quite the thing in Bon Temps as Melinda made one final ploy to explain herself to Sam and Tommy, before Sam handed her a wad of cash and sent her on her way. That she chose to appear to him first as a puppy with a hangdog expression underpins just how emotionally manipulative this woman is... and how she'll never change. The only way to end the cycle of abuse is to remove Tommy from the situation, though his tearful reaction to Melinda's departure shows just how deep her and Joe Lee's claws are in Tommy. Can Tommy ever recover from what he's been through? True Blood would seem to say that there is hope for everyone; that each of us can find a shred of humanity within us if we look deep enough. In the meantime, he's clearly feeling something for Jessica, leading to a bit of a showdown between Tommy and "crybaby" Hoyt. Hmmm....

(Aside: I'm still wondering just what to make of Holly, the new waitress at Merlotte's, who instantly knew that Arlene is pregnant. There's a touch of the supernatural about her and if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say she's a witch. So there.)

I thought there was a nice sense of symmetry between Sookie and her estranged cousin Hadley, who stumbled home to deliver a message to Sookie from Eric and learned not only that Gran has died but that Sookie has no idea of her own betrayal. For it was Hadley who has enmeshed Sookie in this entire mess, first telling her vampire lover Sophie-Anne of Sookie's true nature and then telling Eric Northman. That she would still opt to keep Sookie in the dark rather than come clean right then and there reveals both Hadley's fear and her guilt. Plus, Hadley's life is a cautionary tale for those looking to run away from their problems. Fleeing the rehab facility that Gran had paid for, Hadley ends up in the clutches of the vampires and is only too willing to sell out her own family. Sad, really. I'm hoping that this isn't the last time Sookie and Hadley's paths cross because someone needs to fill our favorite telepath in on just what she really is...

Tara, meanwhile, was haunted by the memory of Franklin, who invaded her dreams this week (as did Rene for guilt-ridden Arlene), while Tara finds herself unable to tell either Lafayette or Sookie just what happened to her in Jackson. Poor Tara seems gripped by post-traumatic stress disorder--the horror on her face as she spies a bottle of Tru Blood says it all--but she's going to have to tell someone what happened if she has any chance of recovery. However, I thought it a major step forward for the frequently victimized Tara that she told Lafayette that she felt for the first time the powerful need to survive at all costs, to do terrible things to free herself and to avoid dying.

I loved the scene between Tara and Sookie out in the sun, as Sookie sunned herself for perhaps the first time since the pilot episode of True Blood. It worked not only as a callback to the early days--when Sookie's main concerns were not getting sunburned and not overhearing things in people's heads--but also pushed the two friends together again. What separated them this time wasn't Sookie per se, but Tara's own difficulties admitting what had happened to her. It says quite a lot about their relationship that Sookie didn't just pry the details out of Tara's mind but instead is allowing her best friend to keep her secrets.

Jason meanwhile doesn't seem to realize that he is playing with fire and that Crystal is far more dangerous than she seems. I'm hoping that she does have feelings for Jason--especially after they consummate their weird relationship--and isn't just playing him. Unfortunately for him,. Jason doesn't realize that he's started a war with Felton and Calvin... and that they aren't human. Their knowledge that Sam was a shifter was a surprise but I wasn't at all taken aback to learn that they too carry scents on the wind. What's going on in Hotshot isn't limited to cooking meth and includes rending tasty animals limb from limb. If Jason's not careful, he'll be their next meal.

But the real kicker of a scene this week was that between doomed Talbot and Eric Northman as Eric finally made good on his efforts to have his vengeance against Russell Edgington for the slaughter of his human family over 1000 years ago. Seducing Talbot proved only too easy and Eric used Russell's thirst for Sookie to his advantage, clearing the palace of the king and his werewolf minions while he had his way with Talbot... and then staked him in the heart. The look of profound loss and gut-wrenching emotion that cascaded over Russell's face (as well as the expression of satisfaction on Eric's) said more than any lines of dialogue. Eric has chosen a path of Biblical vengeance, hitting Russell exactly where it would hurt the most: in his heart.

As for Sookie and Bill, both came perilously close to dying this week, but ended the episode after their beside break-up by coming back together again, professing their love for one another in the face of true death. Despite all that has passed between them, I'm glad that these two aren't just being split apart for the sake of driving them away. It's clear that Sookie has some sort of attraction towards Alcide (she admits as much) but that the one true love in her life is Bill. While he may have lied to her (and brutally attacked her), he hasn't glamoured her and the depth of feeling they had for each other is real.

Amid the chaos of Debbie and Russell's attack and its bloody aftermath, the two finally acknowledge just what they feel for each other and, on the floor of Sookie's old room (now thoroughly trashed and smashed up), the two reconnect in a carnal manner. It's an effort to keep the specter of death at bay, an attempt to reclaim the house--and that bedroom--for life. And it's a reminder that life itself is far stranger than we could ever imagine, as is love.

Next week on True Blood ("Everything is Broken"), following the ratification of the Vampire Rights Amendment at hand, Nan Flanagan (Jessica Tuck) heads to Fangtasia to confront Eric about the Magisterʼs disappearance; a grief-stricken Russell vows revenge against his foes, vampire and human; Bill uncovers the truth about Sookieʼs true identity; Jason gets unexpected help as he goes up against Felton and Calvin; Sam is distressed by Tommyʼs attitude; Tara encounters a new ally and an old tormentor; Hadley introduces Sookie to a new family member; Arlene despairs about her future; Hoyt confronts his true feelings.

Comments

I loved this sun-drenched episode. And everyone had a chance to change out of those dirty clothes.

Anyway, I really love the course that Lafayette has taken. Ever since Eric held him hostage, he's matured into a wise protector (actually much like Alcide). He played that role well in the hospital. And it was quite a revelation that Lafayette's illegal activities were used to fun his mama's care.

I think the werewolves would be wise to avoid casa Stackhouse. They don't well there.
Anonymous said…
Bill didn't glamour Sookie because no vampire can glamour her. And he's not her true love.
Other than that, love your review.
Anonymous said…
Bill and Sookie were digusting ! it wasn't question of LOVE ! he almost killed her !! in the book he almost raped her at the same scene! it's just sick relationship, I don't get why people enjoy it, she all ILY/i'm sorry for what ? beeing able to see she's better off him !
Sookie better finds a man she will love without to risk to be killed by him !
Anonymous said…
Bill hasn't glamoured Sookie because he can't. No vampire can. And Bill and Sookie are one of the most dysfunctional, co-dependent relationships I've ever seen. It floors me that anyone can look at these two and see them as some sort of great, tragic love. Tara is the only one with any sense because she knows exactly how stupid Sookie is being. During the attck scene I kept hoping against hope that Bill would actually drain Sookie dry. She represents every woman who stays in a bad relationship because she keeps making excuses for her man. "Well, he didn't mean it because..." Putrid.
Jace Lacob said…
Yes, I know that Bill hasn't glamoured Sookie (and that she can't be glamoured by any vampire). I specifically said that in response to Tara's accusation in this episode that Bill had perhaps glamoured Sookie when they first met. No other implications should be inferred.
ewench said…
Thank you for your excellent review as always!

Bill and Sookie *are* a great love. If you were tortured and starved nearly to death so you were out of your mind and then woke up in the back of a van locked in with a bunch of cheeseburgers, would you devour them? Of course! And that is what Bill did - it could have been anyone there with him, he just needed food. He has never hit or been emotionally abusive to Sookie, on the contrary he is willing to give her up so she can have a "normal" life, though it hurts him terribly to do so since he does love her, he has saved her life twice with his blood now as well.

Bill did do one very bad thing though, at the behest of the queen and before he met Sookie - I don't think he ever meant to fall in love with her - and if they are following the book for that part I think we will hear about it very soon.

Every week I am blown away by this magnificant show! I have to say I was sad to see Talbot go, he was a great character (but what an ending he had!). I can't even imagine how intense the Kings wrath will be!! Is it Sunday yet??
Unknown said…
I laughed at the part when Layfayette opened the door and Ruby Jean screamed "Ahhh, JESUS"

Great episode and great review. I can't wait to find out what Crystal exactly is (originally I though she was a shifter). I am also looking forward to see what Holly is and if she has a big role in Bon Temps.
Unknown said…
The homosexuality is way over the to at this point. No one wants to see every single male character engage in full on gay sex scenes.

Showrunner Alan Ball is really pushing the limits of what a largely heterosexual audience will tolerate. The scene with Eric and Tallboy was excessive and gratuitous.
ewench said…
@David - I disagree - my heterosexual husband and I love the show and he thinks Lafayette is the most intriguing characters of all.

Besides, finding something appealing sexually is not just about ones orientation. I thought the scene between Eric and Talbot was hot, hot, hot!

And frankly I will take all the gratuitous naked Eric that Alan Ball wants to throw out there!
susie que said…
@David - This is a show where EVERYONE gets it on. It is ALL about excessive and gratuitous sex. (Eric banging a chained up stripper? Bill twisting Lorena's head around during sex?)

The only "full on gay sex scene" was the one between Eric and Talbot and it was just a means to an end for Eric. Lafayette and Jesus have only made out. And the dream sequence between Sam and Bill was done for humor.

You obviously have issues with homosexuality and it's a shame that you can't get over that and just enjoy this fantastic show.

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