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The Way of All Flesh: Corruption and Decay on True Blood

"I'd never harm you." - Eric Northman

In the world of True Blood, vampires may be a part of nature, but they also exist in their own unique sphere of the natural world. After all, their status quo is vastly different than anything else on the planet: they shun the light and their bodies retain their youthful looks after centuries--or even millennia--upon this earth. There's an unnaturalness to their very naturalness, even in Charlaine Harris' and Alan Ball's vision of the world.

Which might explain why the vampires are so concerned about necromancy: it represents a real threat to the very balance of their existence. Vampires are dead, after all, and necromancers have an uncanny knack for controlling the dead. Which means that their very autonomy is at threat, and as we saw this week, necromancers like Marnie have the ability to remind the vampires that they are in fact the walking dead.

On this week's episode of True Blood ("I'm Alive and on Fire"), written by Nancy Oliver and directed by Michael Lehmann, Pam learns first hand what happens when you go up against Marnie--or, rather, the vengeful spirit that continues to possess the mousy witch at the most opportune of times--when she attempts to force Marnie to reverse the spell she cast on Eric Northman. But Pam's forceful nature backfires on her completely, when the spirit (working through Marnie's body yet again) reduces Pam to a putrefied mess, destroying her beautiful face and pushing her body through the decaying process that the blood has kept at bay these more than 100 years.

It's this, as well as the spell cast on Eric, that reveal that the spirit is gleefully malevolent, seeking to torment and torture these vampires rather than kill them outright. Which means that she very likely has a personal motivation to do so, an axe to grind, a blood debt to settle. And when there are vampires about, there are very often many blood debts that follow in their wake...

(Note: While I've already seen the next two episodes of True Blood, my comments here are limited to only this week's episode.)

While Pam draws the short straw here, as her face literally falls apart before Lafayette, Jesus, and Tara's eyes, it's Eric Northman who gets a second chance at post-death life, thanks to Marnie's spell. This Eric is vastly different than the one who stalked Sookie, who callously installed himself in her home. He's far more innocent, a blood-thirsty naif who, in a child-like fit of hunger, devours Claudine and turns her to dust... and then, fangs out, turns towards Sookie for more. His insatiable hunger--still a deep, intrinsic part of him--is presented as being far more innocent. He feeds because he's starving: starving for life, for sunlight, for warmth, for the day.

And we see that reflected in the real jubilation he presents in the water, flapping about like he's having the time of his life, swimming in the sun like there's no tomorrow. But it's an ecstasy that's short-lived: his ability to daywalk is limited only so long as Claudine's faerie blood remains in his system. There's a drunkenness to this Eric, a boozy upbeatness (witness him pinching Sookie's butt and racing around her front yard) that's at odds with the darkness that follows when it becomes clear that he's burning up in the sun. Then, there's a sullenness to Eric, a child who has been sent to his room, a kid who wants Sookie to stay by his side, to hold his hand. But Eric isn't a child and he's not human, no matter how much more in touch with his humanity he may be right now. He's able to control his impulse not to feed on Sookie despite his addled senses after killing Claudine, but he's a wild animal in her house.

And, unfortunately, when you try and domesticate a wild animal, you can often get bitten.

It's clear that Sookie cares for this new Eric in a way she didn't his former self. So much so, that she's able to casually lie to Bill about Eric's whereabouts in order to keep him secreted away in the basement of her house. I thought their showdown on the porch was perfectly played, as Sookie reminded Bill that she had never lied to him. And Bill, acting our of duty rather than conscience, nearly crossed the threshold into Sookie's house, anyway. But the fact that he doesn't, that he refrains from breaking her trust, shows that he does still care about her, even in his new position as King of Louisiana. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, after all. Pam does her best to remind Bill of this at the beginning. His responsibilities are weighing on him, his moral compass attempting to point towards north, even as he searches for Eric (sent into the Wiccan group on his orders) and breaks up with Portia (he creepily discovers--thanks to Who's the Boss' Katherine Helmont--MONA!--that he's her blood ancestor). For all of the talk of decay and corruption, Bill tries to remain pure, retain his humanity, control his anger and the power that comes with his position. He chooses to trust Sookie, to not invade her space, to not literally cross that line.

Jason, meanwhile, learns that death is often the only way out of a situation. After being raped by dozens of Hot Shot townies while in captivity, he's able to escape when he convinces Becky to let him go rather than force him to have sex with her. (Which she doesn't want to do anyway, despite the orders of her uncle-father Felton.) Feverish and exhausted, he's able to get the jump on Felton (Jason, for once, shows signs of being clever) and kills him... before threatening to end Crystal's life as well if she doesn't leave him alone. Staggering through the woods, Jason collapses at the side of the road and is very conveniently found by Hoyt and Jessica, who rips open her arm so Jason can feed off of her.

I'm intrigued as to where this storyline is going. While Hoyt and Jason's friendship has been well developed since the very early days of the series, we haven't really seen Jason and Jessica interact at all, and the fact that Jessica's blood is now inside his veins may present some rather interesting side effects. Very curious to see just what the writers have in store for these two, and whether Jason could actually represent a threat to the fragile relationship between Jessica and Hoyt. Hmmm...

I absolutely hated all of the scenes this week between Sam and Luna, if only because of the irritating saccharine quality of the Emma stuff. No offense to the child actor playing Luna's daughter but I find it blood-curdling when kids don't act like normal kids and dial up the cuteness unrealistically. Emma was just that, with her "Sam, stay!" line, the Barbie dolls, and the "I'm going to sit next to you bit." It felt like we were watching an entirely different show than True Blood here, one that was far more cheesy than anything we've seen to date. The scene's main focus, however, was to demonstrate why Luna is so secretive and has been keeping Sam at a distance: (1) she has a kid, and (2) her ex is a werewolf with a serious jealous streak. As for who he is, I wonder if he knows Alcide and Debbie, and if the writers are going to try to bind those two storylines together soon.

Elsewhere, poor Tommy realized that he made a Very Big Mistake going back to see Melinda, when his mother and the sadistic Joe-Lee spring their trap, lacing a chain around Tommy's neck and squeezing the life out of him so he'll be "obedient" and go back into the ring for them. (I was happy to see Jason get out of Hot Shot (finally!), hopefully ending that creepy/gross/depressing storyline for a while, but now the Mickens are in it again? Argh. I'm so tired of the low-rent elements of these storylines.) While Tommy's actions are in response to Sam's disinterest in his brother (particularly in fleecing Maxine), I think he's realized now which members of his family really don't care about him. To his parents, Tommy is a commodity, an investment, a money-making scheme. Their true corruption and mercenary nature is all the more apparent here. Just look how willingly Melinda is to betray her flesh-and-blood, to pull the wool over his eyes so that Joe-Lee can throw that chain around his neck. Like Jason discovered, the only way out of her might be to bring Death to this circle...

And speaking of Death, what do we make of little Mikey's writing efforts on the wall of Arlene and Terry's living room? "Not your baby," it reads in a child-like scrawl, but I'm not entirely convinced it's referring to their baby. After all, Arlene is his mother. But there's the matter of that creepy, creepy doll that Jessica gave them, one that's connected to Jessica and Hoyt's house and which likely wants to go back home. We've seen what happens when they tried to drown it or toss it into the dump... It has an uncanny way of making its way back to their place, which means it has some deep connection to their house, rather than to Mikey. I think his parentage is a red herring and that there's something else going on here. The automatic writing reminded me of the way that Marnie found the book containing the counter-spell for Eric, which means that a spirit is guiding Mikey's hand. But for what purpose? And why are things escalating the way that they are here? Curious...

What did you think of this week's episode? Were you bothered by the Sam/Luna/Emma stuff? Where do you think Tommy's storyline is heading? Feeling sorry for poor Pam? Head to the comments section to discuss.

Next week on True Blood ("Me and the Devil"), Sookie nurtures Eric; Bill gets involved personally in the necromancy crisis; Pam takes the veil; Sam becomes Tommyʼs accomplice; Arlene and Terry look to religion to solve their problem; Jesus and Lafayette head to Mexico to harness a shamanʼs power; Jason convalesces.


ewench said…
Yea if I was watching the show alone I would probably fast forward through the Sam and the Mikkens scenes - nothing against those actors, I just don't care about their stories. I didn't see why Sams brother couldn't just turn into a bee or a bird or something and fly away..?

Looooved Katherine Helmont as the oh so proper BelleFleur grande dame - I would love to see more of her, it'd be great if she played it in a full beeyach mode :)
Ally said…
"(Jason, for once, shows signs of being clever)" - yes! As he was covering himself in dirt and throwing Felton off the scent, I said to Q, "Wow -Jason's actually doing something smart, for once."

Mikkens, Sam...yawn. So annoyingly unnecessary and/or annoying. At least we got Jason out of Hot Shot.
rockauteur said…
I agree about the baby being a red herring. I think its the doll that is evil, possessed by a spirit. Maybe connected to the wiccan people?

Also was suprised Tommy didn't just turn into a bird and fly away... or does he next episode?

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