Imprisonment, both literal and figurative, seemed to be one of the underlying themes of this week's episode of True Blood ("Me and the Devil"), written by Mark Hudis and directed by Daniel Minahan, which found the various characters encountering their worst fears and darkest truths about their natures.
Tommy Mickens began the episode wrapped up in chains, ensnared by his no-good mercenary parents, but his storyline in this week's episode closed out with Tommy victorious over them, though his sense of guilt caged him anew. (In literature, there is nothing worse than a kinslayer, a grievous sin that one of the worst that anyone can perpetrate. There are cosmic consequences that come from spilling one's own blood, after all.) Tara found that she had trapped herself by the lies she's constructed about her identity; Eric by the unexpected shame he encounters (via his "bad dream") and by his amnesia (it's both freedom and slavery, in a way); Arlene and Terry by the fear they have of their son; Pam by her narcissism; and Marnie actually finds herself physically imprisoned by Bill Compton.
Cages don't always have bars; some are gilded and some are made of silver. But for those who are imprisoned, the likelihood of escape can often seem like a faded dream: Tara comes clean to Sookie but is betrayed by her best friend, who keeps a dark secret from her. Eric remembers Godric, but the memory brings with it an extraordinary amount of pain and self-loathing. Tommy squares off with his abusive parents but ends up killing them in his rage. For all of Marnie's talk of liberation and exploration, she's being taken over by a malevolent spirit.
That spirit is, of course, Antonia, burned as a witch in medieval Spain's Inquisition, a victim of the Church and of vampires, who turned the tables on her captors and forced all vampires within 20 miles to walk into the sun. A fitting act of vengeance by a woman who was imprisoned, bitten, and burned by the vampires who feared her power. In the present, she's possessing Marnie in a magical quid pro quo, granting the mousy witch a true taste of power in exchange for the ability to work further revenge against the bloodsuckers: stripping Eric of his memory, reducing Pam's face to goo.
But Marnie is a catspaw, even if she doesn't realize it. Her circle has been corrupted, her soul given over to the blackest of magic, her body a vehicle for someone else's revenge quest. Still, even she is staggered by what happens when she gives Sookie a reading at Moon Goddess Emporium, as the spirit of Adele comes through (thanks to Sookie's telepathy) and tells Sookie (A) not to give her heart to Eric Northman, and (B) that she should run and get the hell away from Marnie. (I was pleased to see that it was the actual voice of Lois Smith speaking here; it gave the scene an unexpected jolt of emotion and a true sense of frisson to hear the long-dead Adele reach out to her granddaughter.)
Marnie, of course, is betrayed by someone she thought was a member of her circle, but who was actually a spy for Bill Compton. The look of horror on her face as she's thrown to the ground and hogtied was priceless. Where is your spirit now, Marnie? But Bill also didn't bargain that Marnie was telling the truth: she has no idea how to reverse the spells she cast against Eric and Pam. Which is a bit of a problem for "beekeeper" Pam, whose face continues to fall to pieces. (Bill, meanwhile, has to glamour poor Portia in order to end their incestuous relationship, inserting himself into her mind as a figure of menace and terror.)
The only knowledge that Bill is able to glean this week comes, rather unexpectedly, from Pam herself, who lets slip--in the heat of the moment--that Marnie has stripped Eric of his memory and turned him into a shell of himself... and that he's being hidden away by Sookie. My heart ached for Pam here. It's such a slip of the tongue, such an error, that she's immediately grieved to realize the damage she's caused. (In fact, the episode ends on heartbroken Pam's plea of forgiveness to her distant maker. For more on this, read my interview with Kristin Bauer van Straten here.) Given her obsession with her appearance, Marnie/Antonia's spell niggles away at Pam's resolve, her sense of self, her very identity. Gone are the spiky denim jackets, the leather, the heels: she's the very embodiment of Death itself here.
Elsewhere, I loved Eric's dream sequence and how it contrasted with the reality of his domestic situation, as he dreams of coming upon Sookie asleep in her lingerie in her bedroom, before he and Godric feed on her. (As Godric tells him that he is unworthy of love, unworthy of anything good or pure. He is, after all, Death made flesh.) In reality, Sookie is sleeping in a grungy old t-shirt and Eric doesn't feed on her, but is reduced to a crying, mewling kitten who curls up beside Sookie in bed. His bad boy persona stripped away to reveal a purity inside that she had never encountered. (It's no wonder that she's falling for him, really.) And there's a juxtaposition between his childlike tears and his man's body. Alexander Skarsgard plays this scene with pitch-perfection, never removing the dangerous element to Eric's nature but reveling in the sudden innocence of his amnesiac state, the childlike way he wants to lay beside Sookie, to have her hold him, to comfort him after his "bad dreams." But she's in bed with a tiger and doesn't realize it...
And, sure enough, by the episode's end, the two are kissing outside Sookie's house, despite Gran's warnings not to give Eric her heart ("it's only temporary," Adele says, referring to Eric's amnesia), Sookie's own misgivings, and Tara's fury at discovering that Sookie is harboring the vampire who tortured Lafayette, sold her to Russell Edgington, and tricked her into drinking his blood. There's a sense of excitement and danger here, but also of dread, because one day Eric *will* remember, will regain his sense of self. And then it will be Sookie who's trapped, and not Eric Northman.
What else did I think of this week's episode? Let's take a look in a hail of bullets..
- Tommy: Given that he's now killed Melinda and Joe-Lee, Tommy is poised to become a skinwalker, per Luna's story that a shifter can become one after they've spilled the blood of a family member. What this means for Tommy and Sam's relationship remains to be seen, though I did think it was smart on Tommy's part (never thought I'd write that) to shift into an alligator in order to thwart Andy.
- Who knew that alligators liked marshmallows?
- Loved that Lettie Mae ended up marrying Reverend Daniels, and embraced religion like it was her true calling. It seems that she's kept her "demon" at bay all this time, though still she's more than a little off her rocker. I loved her line about "what do you mean 'you people'?" to Arlene and her insistence that the sage would work just as well for a ghost as for a demon.
- Except, of course, that the sage and the singing seem to have had no effect on the ghost plaguing Terry and Arlene whatsoever, as seen from the matches that flicker to life of their own accord. Uh-oh... I still maintain that they have got to get that doll back to Hoyt and Jessica's house ASAP.
- Jason's dream managed to be sexy, creepy, and hysterical all at the same time, with Hoyt popping up to ruin his sexual encounter with Jessica and then as Jessica, moaning and astride Jason, actually disturbingly morphed into Hoyt. Given that her blood is now in his veins, anticipate some development of the Jason-Jessica dynamic (Semi-SPOILER: there are some great scenes between the two in next week's episode) as they come to terms with the shift in their relationship. It's good to see these two get some screen time together. Meanwhile, I was surprised at how much Jason's gang-rape was played down, as he seems to have suffered no discernable psychological/emotional damage as a result. He sort of shrugs it off when talking about it with Hoyt, as though it was a punishment for enjoying sex his whole life, and balks only when Hoyt tries to compare his ordeal with the troubles he's having with Jessica.
- Lafayette and Jesus: Jesus' grandfather is very, very, very bad news. We learned that he made a young Jesus sacrifice a goat in exchange for power, and I have a feeling that before their reunion is through, something else will be sacrificed as well. It takes death to awaken power, after all. I'm more than a little worried about these two in Mexico.
- Alcide receives a visit from the Shreveport pack leader, Marcus Bozeman, who threatens Alcide unless he joins the local pack, despite Alcide's insistence that he has "free agency" at the moment, given what happened in Mississippi. Hmmm, a raging werewolf who is based locally and has some serious anger management issues? I think we just met the father of Luna's daughter.