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True Blood's Downward Turn (Or Why I'm Not Writing a Typical Review This Week)

Confession: I couldn't bring myself to rewatch last night's episode of True Blood.

This hasn't happened to date. Typically, I watch the series via press screener a few weeks ahead of broadcast and then sit down on Sunday night to rewatch the week's latest installment in order to have it fresh in my mind so I can write my review. This was not what happened this week.

In fact, I was so turned off by Sunday's episode ("Let's Get Out of Here"), written by Brian Buckner and directed by Romeo Tirone, that I couldn't actually force myself to sit through it again. Which is saying something, I think. Perhaps it was the overabundance of Emma (shudder), the hostage standoff/Ghost Whisperer plot of Lafayette (double shudder), Sookie's intensely unerotic dream, or the irritating showdown at the Vampire Rights rally (yawn), this episode just got under my skin in the worst possible way.

I've been able to rationalize a lot with True Blood and find deeper meaning for some of the metaphors that the show employs on a weekly basis, whether it be the show-covered shower scene from last week or the beauty, majesty, and sacrifice of Godric's death in Season Two. But this week, I just couldn't find a way into the episode, nor muster any sympathy for the characters, which is extremely odd as I've stuck with them this long.

But this week's lackluster episode tested my patience in ways that True Blood hadn't before. After a jaw-dropping cliffhanger the week before--Sookie is shot and dying!--it's quickly reversed with little fallout: Alcide rescues Sookie from the graveyard, Bill gives her his blood (which means they're bonded again!), and Sookie dreams of taking him and Eric to bed, but instead indulges in a weird '50s music-tinged daydream. Sookie nearly dying should have been a much bigger moment, but the second that that possibility was eliminated without a second thought, really, sucked all of the drama out of that scenario. Bill, it seems, is always a speedy run away from saving her life, which means a gunshot--or mortality, essentially--isn't a real danger for our Sookie Stackhouse.

Which is a bit of problem for a show that revolves around life, death, and the undead. A safety net such as that eliminates much of the tension... and the lack of dealing with consequences (whether about Sookie's shot to the gut or Jason's gang rape) is problematic as well. Yes, the plot is moving at a high-octane pace, and that doesn't leave much down time for the gang in Bon Temps, but if we're to believe that Sookie and the others are real people (or, well, former people), there needs to at least be a moment or two here and there in which they take stock of their lives, or at least process things that happen to them. This is especially an issue in a show where the main characters are largely reactive, rather than proactive (stuff happens TO them, rather than them setting things in motion), but I want to see some character growth and this was a key moment where that was entirely thwarted.

(On the other hand, I was glad to see Debbie revert back to form in a way. She's a recovering addict struggling with maintaining control over her life. While she wants to broker peace with Sookie, she's also jealous of the hold her rival has over Alcide and while she's quick to offer her help, she's also quick to sell Sookie out to Marnie/Antonia when the opportunity presents itself to eliminate the competition. But Debbie's not a lost cause either: she could have driven away, leaving Sookie to suffer at Antonia's hands, but she hesitates and lets her get in the car. There's still hope for Debbie, but it's a rocky road ahead and her imperfections are all the more apparent as she tries to become, well, perfect.)

I've been upfront about my disdain for the child actor playing Emma, whose every line of dialogue makes me cringe, but this week instead threw more Emma at me: Emma, Sam, and Luna camping; Emma playing with Sam the Bunny; Emma; Emma; Emma; Emma. Sam Trammell is acting the hell out of this season (witness him channeling Marshall Allman's Tommy a few weeks back) but putting him next to this kid is sucking the life out of these familial/domestic scenes with Luna... and not making me care about this storyline at all.

Tommy tried his hand at redemption at took Sam's place at the rendezvous with Marcus, which quickly turned bloody as Marcus and his men began to pound on Sam/Tommy, before--bloodied and broken--he shifted back into Tommy, shocking everyone there. Alcide intervened and carried Tommy away. Alcide seems to be doing a lot of this lately.

And then there was the ludicrous Lafayette storyline this week, which had him possessed by Mavis, the spirit of a long-dead grieving (and vengeful) mother, who kidnapped Mikey and held him hostage at gunpoint at Jessica and Hoyt's house. The tenseness of the situation devolved into a weird Ghost Whisperer-lite plot about Mavis coming to terms with her son's death and her own, and everyone lends a hand to dig up the grave containing the corpse of Mavis and her baby, before Mavis sings yet another lullaby and dissolving into gold dust or something. While I was intrigued by this particular storyline, this week's culmination of the plot destroyed any interest I had it in, rendering the conclusion leaden and deadly dull. Sad.

Are there really only three episodes left this season? Because this week's episode seemed a poor opportunity to shoehorn in these inane plots and crush the momentum that had been building thus far. While I'm not giving up on True Blood, "Let's Get Out of Here" severely tested my patience and loyalty. It's an episode that I will never, in any circumstance, wish to revisit, and, with just a few installments remaining, a major misstep in the fourth season. Luckily, next week brings us Nancy Oliver, and--I can only hope--more of a return to form...

Next week on True Blood ("Burning Down the House"), as all hell breaks loose in Shreveport, Sookie summons her most potent powers yet to save Bill, in the process breaking a spell and leading Marnie/Antonia to re-evaluate her mission; Jason urges Jessica to glamour him for Hoytʼs sake; Terry drags Andy to “Fort Bellefleur” for an intervention; Alcide reconsiders his allegiances after Marcusʼ fight with Tommy; Jesus, accompanied by Sookie, Lafayette and Jason, tries to breach the Moongoddess Emporiumʼs defenses to liberate Tara and Holly, while Bill leads a brigade of vampires committed to blowing the place to kingdom come.

Comments

Anonymous said…
As I tweeted last night, you were right! Twenty minutes into the episode I actually considered turning it off. Not only was it a mess from a writing perspective (they glossed over the battle that, supposedly, left Sookie on death's door?!), I was left dumbstruck they wasted nearly on hour of time on filler.

Was the point of the unsexy fantasy sequence, filled with bad dialog and cringe-inducing moments, to reveal Sookie loves both men? I was shocked! (sarcasm)

Perhaps it will all get pulled together in the final episode or two but, right now, I don't know how the Mavis storyline fits into the other storylines. Was she simply a means to an end? Not only is Lafayette is able to take in the spirits of the dead, but he can help them move on. Does this ability help them defeat Antonia?

I am SO OVER Andy's V addiction. It ties into nothing and has become incredibly annoying. As he was lectured by Jason Stackhouse, it should have been his wake up call, but I fear we'll get more of the same next week. He was willing to go in guns blazing with a baby, his family, involved and yet he remains unwilling to admit to a problem.

Two things I did like about the episode: Nan and every scene she was in, particularly her procreation conversation with Jessica. :) And, as much as I hated Sookie's fantasy, I found it very interesting - and telling - that the Eric she fantasized about being with was the old Eric. Who cannot return fast enough now.
Rosanna said…
You said it last week, a muddled mess of an episode. This was the first time I didn't immediately rewatch the episode.
And the ground in Louisiana must be enchanted for a baby buried so long ago to retain it's dirt erncrusted blanket. Thank god that plot is over. Now kill Tommy, send Tara away again and let's move on.
Anonymous said…
I have a feeling the Mavis storyline has to do with letting us know what Jesus and Lafayette will be trying to do to separate Marnie from Antonia.

More than anything else, to me, this episode felt like it was written by someone who tried their best to make it what they were told it should be, without having a real idea of the show at all.

Marcus's bike shop seemed more real than any I have seen on Sons of Anarchy. I was confused about how Marcus would not have known by sensitive werewolf smelling that it was Tommy immediately.

Was not my favorite episode either, and there were a number of things that were good ideas not fully realized.

Amie
Carolyn said…
I know I shouldn't be comparing it to the books but this season is such a disappointing portrayal of a really great storyline. The variations from the original plot, although continuously explained as a necessity by Alan Ball for the TV show, have not been enjoyable to watch and often don’t’ make sense. I’m not at all adverse to new characters being introduced – Jessica is awesome – but the series seems to be completely over the top now. So disappointing.
Anonymous said…
To be honest I haven't enjoyed this season. I like the concept of Eric as a childish nice guy for maybe an episode or two - but its gone on way too long and its just annoying now. No one wants to see Eric the simp. Bill as Vampire king was interesting for a couple weeks but its really run its course he's no Russel Edgington. Jesus and the Bruha subplot has never interested me and neither has the Mavis dead baby drama.

The positives - Sam Trammel is doing an amazing job again. He's one hell of an actor. The Jason-Jessica storyline has been entertaining and the full moon episode in general was very, very good.

But they've reached the tipping points where there are too many characters to really have solid character development and make the audience care. And maybe its because we've seen so much death and we've Sookie almost die a dozen different ways that the cliff hanger from last week didn't mean much and the payoff treated it as mere fodder for a flubbed skin-a-max level threesome tease.

I gotta say this last episode was culmination in a disappointing season for me - from the land of the lost faerie footage till now this show is a whole hell of a lot closer to a random saturday afternoon SyFy channel movie than something Alan Ball would be involved in. This is getting a little too close to "monster of the week" for me.
taniasolis82 said…
I love TrueBlood but last nights episode was so bad I was glad I was drunk when I watched it .Aside from the Jason, Jessica and Hoyt storyline everything else is a complete mess. Memo to the writers of the show, come on already could you please stop with the ridiculous dialogue.
sunny said…
Ahh, but maybe there is an another explanation, a different perspective, for what's going on:

http://sunnynala.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/kill-the-king/
Anonymous said…
It just occurred to me to ask whether you will be watching this Sunday?
wzdavi said…
Fans expect better from this show. The writing in this series, has been Ho-hum, for a couple of seasons now. After the brilliant writing of the Minotaur episodes, maybe I've set the bar too high.
Jace Lacob said…
Ami,

I'll still be watching. (And hoping that it improves after this week's subpar episode.)
Ridolph said…
Where's this week's review? Its Thursday already...

I thought it was a poor episode as well.
Ridolph said…
Wow, from bad to worse. Except for the reveal at the end, just a tedious hour with a lot of nice effets.

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