Upfront: I haven't read the Sookie Stackhouse novels, so I approach HBO's True Blood from a very different vantage point than I do, say, Game of Thrones, where I'm familiar with the novels, the characters, and where the story is going several seasons down the road. Not so with True Blood, which means that I'm not approaching the material with any degree of anticipation of future events, seminal moments, or the infamous shower scene, which--as promised by yours truly several weeks ago--did play out this week, albeit in a vastly different fashion than many of Charlaine Harris' fans expected.
They say that familiarity breeds contempt, but the reverse is also true: familiarity can breed passionate love, particularly where adaptation is involved. Knowledge of the source material can color one's perceptions of an adaptation, especially one which strays from the established for the new. I say this with no judgment whatsoever, as I'm as much of an avid reader as I am an obsessive television watcher, but the two media are vastly different from each other, and changes are to be expected.
Which brings us to this week's episode of True Blood ("Spellbound?"), written by Alan Ball and directed by Daniel Minahan, and the aforementioned shower scene, one of the books' most beloved Eric/Sookie moments, which was handled in an unexpected rather than literal manner here, though the underlying result was more or less the same. (And, again, I say this as someone with the most cursory knowledge of the Stackhouse novels; if I'm making a misstep, do let me know.) Given that the two have already given into their mutual passion in the woods (and the entryway of Sookie's house... and her bedroom), this moment isn't about carnal union but a spiritual one, a profound interaction that bonds their souls as much as they are already by blood.
The shared vision that they experience within the shower, as the curtain becomes a figurative gateway to a snowy paradise reminded me in some respects of the blood bond gestalt experienced by Jason and Amy way back when in Season One. Whereas they encountered a sun-drenched meadow, Eric and Sookie wander into snow-dappled woods, finding a bed with fur blankets underneath a dimly lit sky, the snowflakes melting on their skin. It's a curious juxtaposition of elements: warmth and coolness, comfort and excitement, night and day, passion and friendship. It's perhaps the moment that Sookie gives into exactly what Adele's spirit warned her against: she gives Eric her heart.
It's an impossible scene that can only exist in the fragility of dreams, a magical landscape that connects their souls and their hearts, bound by blood, by lust, by love. Sookie realizes the possibility of love here, the notion that she can fall in love after Bill, or in spite of him, that she does love this "new" Eric. But Adele's words ("it won't last") imbue the scene with a sense of dread as well: this is all perhaps fleeting, and Eric's amnesia--and therefore the couple's happiness--may be as brief as a snowflake's life. Time may not exist here, but it marches inexorably on back in the waking world.
Outside of the heart's cocoon these two form, things are not well in Bon Temps, though perhaps not as bad as they could be, considering when we last saw baby vamp Jessica, she was hurtling through the open doors of Bill's house into the daylight. There's an intentional allusion to be made of Jason Stackhouse throwing himself from the hot, white light onto Jessica's body and an angel emerging from heaven. (Though, let's be honest, Jason Stackhouse is no angel.) But Jason has saved Jessica's life, though--spellbound--she nearly rips his neck out. I loved the way that he carried her downstairs and re-silvered her before being surrounded by Bill's human guards.
Poor Jessica has found herself in quite a quandary, in fact: she still loves Hoyt, but she's drawn to Jason, perhaps not just because of their own blood bond, but because of her own (human) desires as well. She yearns for adventure, hungers for new experiences, and she's grown complacent in her relationship with Hoyt. She dreams of freedom, not in terms of solitude, but in terms of co-dependency. Her dream "Hoyt" begs her to stay, to reconsider leaving him, saying that he'll die without her, that he can't live without her. She smashes his pathetic head against the wall before climbing into Jason's truck to engage in sexual shenanigans. This is, of course, the dream of the guilty. She's determined to leave Hoyt, but not at the expense of her own broken heart, or his rejection of her. In reality, naturally, Hoyt doesn't act at all as she had imagined, instead withdrawing his invitation and casting her out of the house they shared, smashing things, and yelling at her with the hurt rage of the dejected.
Likewise, Jason isn't turned on by seeing her covered in blood (as she dreamed), but instead wary of her appearance at his house and concerned about hurting his best friend further. There is no congress to be had here at this time, no sympathetic shoulder, no sexual advances. Jessica only receives further rejection, another invitation taken back, more heartache and heartbreak. Reality rarely lives up to fantasy, as she discovers to her chagrin. Which worries me, as well, where Sookie and Eric are concerned. He will remember his past, she will discover he's not who she thought he was, and her hopes will be dashed against the (figurative) rocks. Sigh.
Alcide and Debbie settled into their new pack under Marcus' authoritarian gaze. It's clear that Debbie needs order, rules, and a rigid structure in her life: she needs to feel that she belongs but that someone else is in charge. But it's hard to do so when you don't trust your partner... and she follows Alcide when he runs off to Bon Temps in search of Sookie. Alcide is also going to have to choose between Sookie and the woman right in front of him, between fantasy and reality. Or Debbie could make that decision easier by walking out on him... or by killing Sookie and getting rid of the competition.
In the meantime, however, Alcide is being pushed towards more of a leadership role within the pack, and he appears to have forgotten all about Marcus' creepy introduction (I haven't been so lucky) and seems to now like his werewolf packmaster. But Marcus himself is revealed to be an ex-con with a parole officer and a nasty temper, shown when he shows up unannounced at Luna's, looking to tuck his daughter in. (The less said about Emma the better. This child actor is driving me up the wall with her unrealistic cutesiness and any mention of Barbies and Sam makes me break out in hives at this point. I'd ask Alan Ball and the writers to please, please, please, curtail this storyline, but there's even more of it next week. Ugh.)
While Luna has forgiven Sam for the Tommy/skinwalking/sex incident, Tommy continues his downward spiral, slipping into Maxine's skin in order to cut her out of the lease-rights to her property. I loved seeing Dale Raoul as Tommy-as-Maxine-Fortenberry, ordering tallboys and shots of tequila, growling at Arlene, and trying to "sweeten the deal" in any way she could, albeit with a sailor's vocabulary and a trucker's appetite. While there are way too many subplots going on in this season of True Blood, I am curious to see whether there is any hope of redemption for Tommy, though--SPOILER!--next week's episode does offer him a potential opportunity to balance the scales, as it were. Whether this is just Tommy's guilt eating away at him or some form of recompense remains to be seen, though.
Lafayette was possessed by the spirit of the singing woman always cooing over Mikey, the one with a penchant for French lullabies and fire-starting. It creeps me out to no end that spirits enter mediums' bodies through their open mouth; there's something ominous and nightmare-inducing about the sight of the black smoke-like substance forcibly entering Lafayette's corporeal form. We learn a bit more about the spirit, including that her child was killed by its (white) father and that she too likely died in or near Jessica and Hoyt's house, after attempting to bring the doll over as a present. But rather than sit by idly, she heads over to the Bellefleur house and takes Andy's gun, Mikey, and the dirty old doll without anyone noticing. Sigh. (I was enjoying this storyline but now it's getting a little tired at this point.)
Bill tries to broker a truce with Antonia/Marnie after appearing on the local news, and both sides bring reinforcements despite their agreement that they'll arrive at the Bon Temps cemetery alone. (Does anyone ever really do that?) Sookie is surprised to see Tara on Antonia's side; Eric reacts without thinking and eviscerates one of Antonia's witches before all hell breaks loose. And by that, I mean that Eric's body is hijacked by Antonia's spell, Tara is nearly killed by Pam (but saved in time by Bill, who tells her that she knows why he's spared her life), and Sookie is shot in the gut by someone's bullet.
As she collapses onto the fog-covered ground, red blossoming all over the front of her shirt, it seems as though her faery luck as finally run out (after she even got to use her powers properly!) and her life is slipping away. But as the two vampire men in her life can't get to her, it falls to Alcide to pick up her prostrate body and carry her to safety, the fog swirling around them.
I'm curious to know what viewers thought of this week's episode. I liked it but nowhere near as much as last week's installment, but it's also a final hurrah of atmosphere and tension compared to next week's muddled mess of an episode. What did you make of the revised shower scene? Yay or nay? And what did you take away from "Spellbound?" Head to the comments section to discuss.
Next week on True Blood ("Let's Get Out of Here"), convalescing after her latest near-death trauma, Sookie envisions a world where thereʼs room for both Bill and Eric; Jesus tries to purge the restless spirit out of Lafayette; Marcus enlists Alcide to help him deal with the Sam situation; Bill and Nan Flanagan clash over their agendas; Hoyt asks Jason to make a delivery to Jessica; despite Tara and Hollyʼs misgivings, Marnie plots her next move against the vampires, during a “Festival of Tolerance” event at Shreveport.