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Daywalking: Angels and Demons on True Blood

I'm back from break, which meant racing home to watch this week's episode of True Blood, the season's penultimate installment which left devotees on the edge of their seats after a gripping cliffhanger designed to keep us hungry for more over the Labor Day weekend. (Which, yes, means we'll have to wait another week for the season finale.)

This week's episode of True Blood ("Fresh Blood"), written by Nancy Oliver and directed by Daniel Minahan, pushed several characters past their breaking points--particularly Sookie, Tara, and Sam, among others--and seemed to deal heavily with themes of sight and blindness.

After all, we can see without understanding, just as we can finally open our eyes to certain uncomfortable, glaring truths. The sun might be a pleasant glowing orb in the sky and warm our skin, or it's a painful reminder of things lost, of burning and unbearable torment. In a series where so many characters want to be more than ordinary, something truly mundane--the sun on our skin--becomes something magical and transcendent.

So what did I think of this week's episode of True Blood. Pour yourself a B-negative, pick up a bottle of liquid silver at your local health food store, settle in at Fangtasia, and let's discuss "Fresh Blood."

As the penultimate episode of the season, I thought that "Fresh Blood" did a fantastic job at not only setting up the final showdowns for the season but also provoked the characters into new and starling arrangements, peeling back the facade to reveal the skull beneath the skin, the truth of several situations. One can't change their inherent natures; Sookie and Bill might wish for a "normal" life but that's not going to magically appear for them.

The dreams that they have--Sookie of being a wealthy real estate agent, Bill of being a third grade teacher and "loving" his job, are daydreams of the most dangerous kind because they're not based in any reality. Their lives are defined by what they are and what they aren't. Sookie is part-faerie, her telepathy derived from a non-human lineage that has marked her as a target for vampires and who knows what else; Bill, despite his insistence on clinging to his humanity, is a vampire whose thought-processes are vastly different to Sookie's.

Which made their fantasizing in the car all the more heartbreaking. There will never be a semblance of a normal human life for either of them. No afternoon picnics, no children, no growing old together. Bill is quantum-locked into his current appearance, the years moving on but his body retaining its youthful appearance. Not so for Sookie. But while that's unspoken, they dream up a life together that's filled with love and happiness, that's separate from the quagmire they're currently enmeshed in: on the run, fleeing once again, and their fragile reconciliation about to fall apart once more.

Writer Nancy Oliver nicely juxtaposes the couples' dreams of normalcy with another couple's issues as Hoyt and Jessica take a giant leap towards union together. While Jessica believes that Hoyt can't handle the truth about her nature, it's clear that he not only accepts her vampiric nature but embraces it, inviting her to drink from him rather than hunt strangers for sustenance. Season Two had these young lovers grappling with the sexual component of their relationship while this season has had Hoyt and Jessica attempt to come to terms with their own inner identities. Jessica can fight her urges but she doesn't want to. Hoyt doesn't want her to either.

Faced with the dull certainty of a life with Summer--a human life of baked goods, fancy bras, and stepladder kisses--Hoyt chooses the extraordinary with Jessica.

It's a brave decision that points towards the depth of his love for the baby vampire, as Hoyt allows himself to be pushed into a submissive role in their relationship, the source of sustenance for Jessica, the source of fresh blood. The perpetual virgin strips away Hoyt's virginity in a way in the scene where she pounces on him, sinking her teeth into his flesh, draining him for the first time. He's a sacrificial lamb designed to sate her urges while keeping her close to him.

(Just wait until Maxine learns about this latest twist.)

Jason, after storming off, does accept Crystal for what she is: a were-panther and the daughter of a meth dealer. While at first he's uncomfortable with her true nature, Jason manages to surprise even himself by being open to, er, alternative lifestyles. The old Jason Stackhouse wouldn't have looked back but he's drawn to Crystal's differences, to her need to warn Hotshot about the DEA raid, to protect her family, a trait that he shares with her. After all, no one in Bon Temps these days seems to innocent; everyone has a secret, carries a darkness, even his sister. Even, it seems the Bon Temps star QB Kitch Maynard, who we learned this week is set to break Jason's record thanks to the V he's on. It's not just Crystal who's got her toes in the supernatural.

But the truth can hurt, sometimes far more than blindness.

Tara attempted to goad Andy into confessing that he was a "dirty, dirty cop" who killed her boyfriend Eggs but she's shocked to discover that the truth about Eggs' death was far worse than she imagined. It wasn't just that Jason killed Eggs and Andy covered it up, it's that Andy knew that Eggs wanted to be killed, he wanted an end to his suffering. And by choosing the darkness, he chose death over Tara. It's a kick to the gut for the already reeling Tara Thornton. Her quest for vengeance, her rage, has been misplaced. It's Eggs who failed her in the end, who left her behind, who chose to walk on a path towards death rather than towards life.

Lafayette and Jesus experienced something deep and dangerous last week when they did V together but while Jesus is anxious to go back into his past, to further mine his ancestry for truth, Lafayette is terrified. The experience has unlocked something within Lafayette, something dark and extraordinary. It's unlocked his latent sight, granting him the ability to see the shifting shadows that others cannot. A glance at Jesus reveals a disturbing demon visage. Is it the true nature of Jesus that Lafayette sees? His lineage, built in dark magic, etched upon his face? Or is it just the lingering after-effects of the V?

(I'm going to discount the latter, particularly given that--SPOILER!--we see Lafayette experience a vision of Rene clutching Arlene's throat in the season finale. It seems clear to me that the V has unlocked what Ruby Jean called Lafayette's power, connecting him to the magic of their ancestry.)

As for Arlene herself, she took Holly up on her offer to magically remove her unwanted pregnancy, given that she is carrying the unborn child of dead serial killer Rene. But despite the sacrifice to the goddess and the arcane ritual that they carry out, this spirit seems stronger than Holly's magic. It wants to be born and it seems far too evil to be undone by some foul-tasting tea and salt circles in the woods. A seeming miscarriage reveals just the opposite: Arlene hasn't lost the baby at all. The spell didn't take, the spirit didn't waver, and that baby still wants to emerge into the world. Arlene is far from being out of the woods...

Sam, meanwhile, continues to sink into self-hatred, drunkenness, and asshattery as he abuses his staff (including poor Terry), kicks out the customers, and attempts to destroy any last vestige of "nice guy" Sam Merlotte, throwing Tommy out and disowning him (and acting like Joel Lee Mickens in the process). I am glad, however, that Sam and Tara rekindle their romance, turning a brief kiss in the bar into something more passionate back at Sam's place.

But it's a distraction that allows Tommy to get the jump on Sam and crack open the safe at Merlotte's. Not good.

Points go to Eric and Pam as well this week for once again making their relationship even more emotionally nuanced and resonant. Pam's tears as she sees her maker trying to make the ultimate sacrifice to save them all (cough, Christ imagery, cough), to walk in the sun and burn up, said volumes about her devotion to Eric. His efforts to meet the One True Death head on in order to enact his revenge against Russell Edgington and destroy him once and for all reveal a side of Eric that we haven't seen before. It's not based on self-preservation at all; in fact, he's placed the safety of the group before his own personal survival.

In other words, he's connected with his humanity in a way that Godric did in his final moments, whispering a prayer that Russell not see the smoke emanating from his flesh as it crisps in the harsh glare of the sun. The click of the handcuffs as Eric makes his decision, sealing his fate with that of the deposed Vampire King of Mississippi, isn't so much a punishment as it is a release, an act of godhood that's at odds with the violence and suffering that Eric has caused over the centuries.

But to get to that moment, he fed off Sookie. And he allowed Russell to do so, to entrap him with stories of daywalking and faerie blood, to prey on his arrogance and hubris. So too did Bill. While he chose to go along with Eric's plan, he didn't tell Sookie of this, allowing her to remain in the dark while two vampires chowed down on her. Did he intend to have Pam free him so he could feed Sookie and save her? Hell yes. But is that enough to prevent their inevitable split once she comes to? Likely not.

Me, I just can't wait to see what happened to Eric and how the writers will manage to save the Nordic bloodsucker from the One True Death. The wait for the season finale just became that much more painful...

In two weeks on the season finale of True Blood ("Evil Is Going On"), Eric grapples with his conscience while plotting his perfect
revenge against Russell; fed up with being “vampire crack,” Sookie considers a new life without Bill – or any other vampire; Tara discovers some surprising news about Sam, whose rage resurfaces upon learning of Tommyʼs latest transgression; Jason finds a new calling after warning Crystalʼs family about an impending drug raid; plagued by visions, Lafayette turns to Jesus for help, and learns his boyfriend has more to offer than companionship; Hoyt hopes for a future with Jessica, spurning Maxineʼs pleas to wed Summer.

Comments

Linda CBS said…
I'm hoping that we're being set up for events that happen in the fourth book. My imaginings for next season, without being too spoilery: witchcraft moves front and center (hello, Lafayette, Jesus and Holly) and Sookie decides to flee the supernatural only to literally run into an Eric who has been made completely helpless. This was my favorite book in the series, so I hope they use it for True Blood.
JackiWhitford said…
Book 4 is my favorite book too. Let's see how Alan Ball does it. I love the books and the show and the difference between the two. I love never knowing how things are going to end on the show, and I love having the books as they are written.
elisabeth said…
One small thing - Eric wasn't "whispering a prayer" that Russell doesn't see him burn in the sun, he whispers it to Pam, who can hear him because they are so connected as maker and progeny. The same way Bill tried to get Jessica's attention to let him know of his whereabouts when he was kidnapped.

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