True Blood Recap: Harsh Daylight Shines on an Unanchored Plot

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Season 3/Episode 11: Fresh Blood

After a couple of basically strong episodes, the Fresh Blood just didn’t congeal this week.  The gestalt was off.  True Blood’s qi is out of whack, and, quite frankly, people, it didn’t leave me anxiously awaiting the finale.  Many of the scenes were good on their own but just as many felt awkward and immaterial, leaving the whole episode lacking in narrative center.  Take the opening scene: Bill’s blood bond to Sookie leads him to Fangtasia where he has a fun little run in with Pam.  Starting off with a fight scene between two distinct characters that rub each other the wrong way and don’t interact often was nice.  Particularly when Pam mocks Bill’s pretense of being in a normal, monogamous relationship with Sookie then outfoxes the stronger, older vampire by spraying silver flecked water in his eyes.

But underdog vamp Pam doesn’t maintain the upper hand for long. Wronged but feisty dancer Yvetta leads a heroic fangbanger revolt and unchains Sookie from the Fangtasia dungeon! When the two get upstairs to the bar, they manage to get the jump on Pam and chain her up in silver.  Bill’s been temporarily blinded by Pam’s innovative vampire mace but he’ll soon heal, so things are getting back on track for nobdy’s favorite unconventional couple.

Things are headed off the rails for Lafayette and Jesus though.  The next scene was there’s and it was where things also started going off the rails for the whole episode.  I’m happy Lafayette’s got a new boyfriend and that he gets to have a dysfunctional, supernaturally dangerous relationship like everyone else on this show, but this scene didn’t even feel like it was even a part of this season.  It felt like it was about what’s coming next season and I don’t really care about that at the expense of all the interesting things happening with the deposed King of Mississippi and the increasing pack of shifters.  Speaking of which, WTF happened to the Operation Werewolf Army and Alcide? I, for one, would be curious to know what they’re up to and, if we knew, it would circle back to what’s been presented as the central plot of the season.  Sure it’s intriguing to see Jesus in a super scary masquerade mask and wonder what that means about him and whether or not Lafayette can trust him or if it’s just a V “aftershock.” But is it relevant? IMHO? No.

At least Crystal and Jason are getting more relevant.  The Hot Shot denizens truly are a whole new dimension of trash.  Crystal tells Jason that in addition to being a werepanther, Felton, her fiancé, is her half brother.  This could be a dealbreaker for Jason.  In other Bon Temps couple gossip updates, Jessica and Hoyt are having hott post V feeding makeup sex.  Or they’re about to. First Jessica’s got something to tell him.  She fesses up to killing the trucker.  She drinks human blood and she’s not going to stop.  “This is what you think you love.” To this Hoyt says, “drink me,” and with that becomes a fangbanger. It’s not going to end well but it sure is sweet.

Something that looks like it won’t end well but sort of does is when Eric inexplicably meets Russell at an art museum. Russell knows he can kill Eric, Eric knows Russell can kill him.  They’re about to get to it but then Eric plays him politically again.  Russell really should just kill him but he’s intrigued by Eric’s offer to give him the power to day walk.  Russell’s skeptical but if Eric’s lyin’, he’s dyin’ so he figures why not check it out.  That could be difficult though. Pam calls to tell Eric that Sookie and Bill have escaped.  In fact, the two of them are driving away from Fangtasia, bickering away, as they speak.  About Eric, about everything, and I’m about done with their nonsense.  Their storyline is starting to wear thin and become less grounded by their characters.  From what we know of them, they shouldn’t be just bickering like a regular, solid couple –not after Bill hate-fucked Lorena and fed off and raped Sookie like a rabid animal.  It’s as if Bill’s emerged from their Mississippi travail without remorse, has put it all behind him and magically eschewed his identity crisis and became noble and good again. At least Sookie’s still not sure she can trust him.  She doesn’t know if people (or vampires, presumably) can change, even when they try.

Tara’s trying anyways.  Or maybe she’s back to feeling sorry for herself, crying over Eggs’ grave.  Arlene and Holly are going to try too. They’re making plans for an abortion ritual over at Merlotte’s when Sam shows up drunk, looking to get drunker and alienates his entire staff.  Holly and Arlene leave after he calls them bitches. Jason can’t leave Kitch, the star quarterback for the high school football team alone, even though he’s supposed to be looking for Sookie and Summer can’t leave well enough alone with Hoyt.  She shows up at Mrs. Thortonberry’s distraught after she “opened my heart to him and showed him my best underwear.”  It turns out her and Mama Thortonberry are in cahoots to get Hoyt away from Jessica, which is a side plot I can actually get behind.  Why can’t they all be like this?

Holly True Blood Recap: Harsh Daylight Shines on an Unanchored Plot

Holly: Wiccan Abortion Provider

To be fair, I also like the Sam going off the hinges subplot too.  He fires Tommy and kicks him out of the rental, acts nasty to Terry and is such a dick, he can’t even get Tara to fill in.  But she’s not there to work. She’s there to confront Andy Bellefleur in a scene we saw in previews last week that basically amounted to nothing more than Tara saying she knows the truth and Andy saying he’s sorry. It seemed like the whole purpose of that set up was to put Tara in the bar for later developments.  There was no resolution about Eggs, nothing.  Just the painful truth that sometimes things just suck and there’s no one left to blame.

Sookie and Bill are driving as far away as possible from the painful truth. As they drive, they’re fantasizing about an unattainable future where he teaches 3rd grade and she’s a real estate agent.  What a shitty make believe they live in. If they pursue their made up dream jobs, they’ll have surly text messaging addicts to supervise and depreciated mcmansions to sell. That sounds a lot worse than anything else they’ve been through.  But maybe the worst is yet to come.  Just as Bill declares, “everything will be peaceful,” they squeal to a stop when Russell and Eric head them off in the middle of the road and Russell gracefully stops the car with his super 3000+ year old super vamp strength.

Not so graceful (and highly irrelevant) is the cut to the next scene where Arlene and Holly are doing their abort ritual.  Holly’s making a decoction that’s “like herbal tea,” requires some of Arlene’s blood and might not work.  “If the spirit’s meant to be born, it’ll be born,” she says. Why even bother then?  In another irrelevant (but kinda entertaining) scene, Jason’s asking himself why he ever bothered going to football practice in the first place when a cocky upstart jerk like Kitch was just gonna come along and get all doped up on untraceable-via-pee-test  V and break his record.  Again, interesting, but totally and completely irrelevant to what else is going on. Same with Lafayette, who’s still tripping on V aftershocks or maybe he’s under the spell of a different spirit – don’t know, and, at this point, don’t care (and this is Lafayette we’re talking about here).

Finally, it’s back to Fangtasia where the real storyline that’s been building to a crescendo all season is. But that turned out to be weird and confusing, as well as lacking in attention to detail.  It was nice how Fangtasia was all graf’d up and vandalized in light of the vampire hate movement sweeping the nation, but it stuck out (to me, at least) that Russell, with his near superhero like vampire powers, was unable to hear Eric plotting with Bill to try and overtake Russell and save Sookie.  Maybe it’s because Russell was prattling on all crazy-like about how he’ll rule the world when anarchy descends. Maybe his grief over Talbot has distracted him.  Or maybe I just want too much from this show.  As we reach the end of Season Three, maybe the truth is that True Blood’s more interested in being fun then it is in being cogent and well written. It’s just that when it’s good, it’s so good; so is it wrong that I’ve come to expect more than just fun?

I guess it’s to be expected that Sam and Tara wind up drinking and commiserating, then fucking.  Say what you will about Tara getting tortured too much this season, at least she’s getting a lot of play. In other expected moves, Tommy robs the Merlotte’s safe in retaliation against Sam, and Arlene’s Wiccan DNC appears to have been pretty bloody successful.  Terry’s inconsolable, while Arlene can barely conceal her glee.

Arlene just cant get rid of that baby 300x199 True Blood Recap: Harsh Daylight Shines on an Unanchored Plot

Arlene pretends to be broken hearted over losing her serial killer fetus (Photo: HBO)

Crystal gets some glee too. Jason doesn’t want to break up after all. So what if she’s a werepanther brotherfucker? He loves her!  But, in a finale set up if there ever was one, she’s just gotta go back to Hot Shot to save the kids and her cousin Beauford who Jason saw eating raw dead game the last time he was out there.  Beauford’s “not right, but he never did nuthin.” Nuthin’ to deserve the DEA raid comin’ down anyway. Jason can come with her or not but she’s goin’.

Sookie’s staying put against her will.  Russell can’t believe she’s a fairy.  Eric says she’s a human/fairy hybrid (as if that logically explains everything).  If vampires ingest enough of her blood they can day walk without getting a sunburn. Sookie’s all, “Nothin’ in my blood is a supernatural sunscreen,” but Bill contradicts her.  At first, Russell’s not one to trust “the mendacious Mr. Compton.” While Sookie’s wondering why she ever had anything to do with any of them, even Bill, but he pleads with her that if they give them her blood, Russell may let her live.

Eric in leather jacket1 300x225 True Blood Recap: Harsh Daylight Shines on an Unanchored Plot

Eric: An Undead Man with a Plan (Photo: HBO)

Arlene’s going to live.  And so is that strong little serial killer critter she’s STILL got in there.  She finds out the baby’s still on board after Terry takes her to the hospital.  I guess Holly’s Wiccan plan and decoction didn’t work.

Back at Fangtasia, Pam’s asking Eric what will happen if their plan doesn’t work – a plan that’s reaching sitcom levels of wackiness at this point. Like, how everyone’s in on it except the two main pawns in it – Sookie and Russell.  Anyways, Bill says they should chill and not, like, totally drain and kill Sookie if they want to keep a supply of fairy plasma around for day walking.  Russell says Eric should go first – to make sure it’s not a trick. But Eric gets all emo about it and starts stroking Sookie’s face. So Russell jumps in and starts chomping away. Then Eric joins in. Then they’re done.  Sookie bleeds as Eric walks out into the Sun. Bill begs to feed Sookie.  Russell and Pam are too in awe to be concerned with his human/fairy hybrid.  Russell feels like a child and cries bloody tears at the thought of ending “thousands of years of night.”  At Pam’s urging, Russell walks into the glorious, sublime Sun. 

Russell and Pam watch Eric daywalk 300x201 True Blood Recap: Harsh Daylight Shines on an Unanchored Plot

Russell: Moved to tears by Eric's sham daywalking (Photo: HBO)

But when he gets to Eric, he sees he’s not fairing so well after all. In fact, he’s totally fried.  Then Eric handcuffs himself to Russell and says, “Be brave. We’ll die together.”  End scene.  Cut to black and I still don’t get this plan.  I guess that’s good, but I’m also not on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what’s going to happen which is not good. 

What did you people think?  Am I being too hard on True Blood?  Should I just enjoy it for what it is and not want it to be all I think it can be?  I just can’t help thinking about Alan Ball’s first TV baby, Six Feet Under, which was consistently impeccably written for the majority of its run. As I recall, it had a rough but interesting season along the way. I have a hunch True Blood’s Season Three might be remembered similarly.  It’s clear the writers are stirring up a witch’s brew of trouble for Season Four. However, they could’ve done that in the first few episodes of the next season (like they did, to the annoyance of many, me included, at the start of this season). If I can get a little irrelevant myself here (since lord knows True Blood’s done it enough to me this season), I watched Mad Men last night after True Blood wrapped and I couldn’t help wishing that the latter will take a cue from the former.  Mad Men knows how to set characters aside that aren’t intrinsic to the central story so the plot doesn’t get weighted down.  Then it brings them back later when they’re relevant and has a lot of fun revisiting or reintegrating them.  Maybe Matthew Weiner and Alan Ball should do lunch so Weiner can remind Ball how that’s done ‘cos that sure would make for a good serving of True Blood.  Be sure to sound off if you think I’m full of it.

Comments

  1. Wesley Craig Green says:

    This season has been a huge disappointment, in my opinion. So many wasted opportunities and characters (why they didn’t keep Franklin around as Russell’s sidekick is beyond me) coupled with a couple of storylines like Sam’s hillbilly family and Jason and that were-panther girl which did absolutely nothing for the show caused the show to crumble like a house of cards.

    I hope next season the people behind the show take a look at what made the first season and- to a certain extent- the second season work (less characters and a strong, cohesive storyline) and apply it to the fourth season. Plus, they need to make Eric a prick again.

    Wesley

  2. I have to admit, that after the first couple of episodes I completely lost interest in both the Crystal/drug family plot line and the Sam/Tommy plot, so watching the show on DVR has been much quicker. Fast-Forward is good.

    And lately the Arlene thread has been putting me to sleep too (Setting up a Rosemary’s Baby plot – got it; inform me when it happens), so that’s out as well.

    With that stuff gone, the main Sookie/Bill/Erik/Russell part of the show has been much more entertaining! Also, the Jessica/Hoyt thing has been fun, though Hoyt’s mom is being played too much as a caricature (even for this show) for my tastes.

    Things there have NOT been enough of: Franklin, who was entertainingly crazy but never seemed to have an arc, other than “I’m nuts and now I’m obsessed with Tara, oops I’m dead”. Unless I missed something.

    Also, Operation Werewolf has been MIA – did the writers just get tired of it? For setting it up to be Russell’s big centuries-long conspiracy, there’s been very little payoff.

    Overall, this season has been two extremes: some almost (or completely) unwatchable threads, especially Sam’s, and what I found to be lots of fun in the main storyline. Maybe next season will bring it all together again.

  3. Shannon OLeary says:

    Dudes! THANK YOU! I’m glad to know I’m not the only viewer out there who KNOWS this show can be better than what we’re getting this season. Additionally, I think that while Emmy nominations/wins are often crap, there’s enough good serialized drama on TV right now, that the fact that True Blood didn’t win a single one says something.

    Wesley, I was thinking about mentioning how cohesive the first season was in my write up. That’s how I KNOW! That season was a dark, small-ish story that worked. It’s almost like HBO had a bunch of focus groups after which they concluded viewers wanted to see Lafayette be bitchy, Jason be shirtless, and to have more shirtless, butt baring dudes in general.

    Patrick, I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels annoyed by how Operation Werewolf was just .. dropped. I mean, they were seriously organized enough to have:

    1) A major turn out at Lou Pine’s for Debbie’s pact induction
    2) A cataloging of their brand on Jessica’s smart phone rune app
    3) Eric and Godric posing as Nazi soldiers to “sniff out” their leaders DECADES AGO

    So, what they’re doing now in the absence of Russell’s leadership (and V supply) is a legitimate question, and far more interesting than finding out what’s going on with Lafayette’s boyfriend or Arlene’s Rosemary’s Baby storyline.

    Oh, and the spaceship looking fairy shit in the previews and post mortem? I don’t know if I can even start to go there.

  4. CBrown says:

    Watching the beginning of this last episode, when Sookie and Bill were having their wistful conversation about their future, I realized that I’m really not interested in their characters anymore. Bill especially seems like he’s become a secondary character in his own series. I really enjoy watching Erik and Pam and Jessica and Hoyt, and Jason still makes me laugh, even though I’m not too interested in his trailer-trash panther girlfriend. Lafayette and Jesus’ story seems to be promising, though I agree it doesn’t seem like it can possibly amount to anything before next season. But I wouldn’t really miss Bill and Sookie, or Tara for that matter, if they went away for awhile.

  5. Shannon OLeary says:

    C Bro – Bill and Sookie need to break the fuck up. That will do wonders for this show.

  6. Yay – Hoyt and Jessica! I hope those crazy kids can make it work. I have to say I am not really into what they’re doing with Sam. I wish they could spice his character up more without making him a complete bastard. :/
    I also would like to see more werewolves and Alcide.

  7. Michelle says:

    Couldn’t agree more!!! I highly doubt anything will happen with the werewolves in the season finale-it’s like that whole storyline was dropped once the story moved away from Russell’s mansion. I was back on the Tara train with the whole Franklin fiasco, I’m right back off it with this latest episode. And Bill…I’m really over Bill and his emo crap with Sookie-he’s so passive aggressive and wishy washy-it’s become tedious. This latest episode-I think a good 35 minute chunk of the middle could have just been tossed. It was so slow.

  8. CBrown says:

    “C Bro – Bill and Sookie need to break the fuck up. That will do wonders for this show.”

    Yeah, it probably would. I’ve never read the books – and I doubt I ever will (and PLEASE, if anyone HAS read the series, no spoilers!) – so I don’t know how much the show has deviated from the series, or how much the books dictate the plotline of the books. But, yeah, getting them together would kill the series a la Moonlighting, and continually ALMOST getting them together but throwing in things to prevent it is getting contrived.

    Oh yeah, the other thing I thought was a time waste was the whole thing with the football-star kid taking V and making Jason feel over-the-hill. I don’t see how that storyline’s going anywhere ever.

  9. I think I generally agree— this penultimate Season episode seemed to be throwing up subplots at the last minute to pad out(?) the Finale. Sam’s 7-years delayed drunken binge over his grifter deeds? Jason going from hero vamp-killer to High School
    Football records gatekeeper… AND would-be inbred meth/shifters hero? Lafayette and Jesus discovering the LSD properties of V-juice? Hoyt’s mother inserting herself into the Jessica-Hoyt-Summer triangle? Arlene a (bad) dyejob version of Mia Farrow with Rene’s Baby? Tara and Sam hooking up?

    ALL screentime-sucking subplots taking up valuable episode time from the primary Eric/Russell/Sookie/Bill revenge-Vamp takeover-Fairy Blood-love/hate plot thing. I was thinking that those other stories were there because of some sort of contractual actor ‘make time’ in each episodes…

    AND then I realised that— with all its snark and over-the-top gleeful twists and turns— TRUE BLOOD is basically just a “Soap Opera”. Take all the ridiculous SOAP DIGEST recaps of those afternoon shows, throw in the latest Vampire craze, show it in a Premium Cable station to allow language, nudity and violence (or better yet: mixing all three!): and you have this show. Complete with the occasional slips of dialog indicating Ball’s parodic recreation
    of Harris’ books— going even beyond a “fan fiction” version of it, imo.

    If LOST was the “Soap Opera for the Comic-Con crowd”, then TRUE BLOOD is its equivalent for the BUFFY/TWILIGHT one… since the time for an HBO maxi-series based on Anne Rice’s VAMPIRE CHRONICLES is long gone.

  10. Yup, this seasons been a bit of a mess. Sam’s got his story, Jason’s got his story, Sookie & Bill have their story, Arlene has her story, LaFayette has his story… Too many storylines, too many characters and none of them come together.

    It’s like Heroes when they lost the plot and tried to do everything and kill & resurrect everyone in the one year.

    I don’t think the shark has been jumped, but we’re getting pretty close in my opinion.

  11. Wesley Craig Green says:

    Chad- I couldn’t agree more with the Heroes comparison. Both TB and Heroes share the same problem in that they (the writers and show runners) saw how successful their respective first seasons were, then for some unknown reason decided to deviate from what made their show successful (one strong storyline with a manageable cast of characters with their own individual storylines that tied into the main one) and felt they had they add more characters with their own separate storylines fighting for screen time.

    I think that was the longest runon sentence I’ve ever wrote. But anyway, yeah, this season crumbled under its own weight. You know it’s pretty bad when the last five minutes of the show before the finale only makes you go “Eh.”

    Wesley

  12. Shannon OLeary says:

    Chad and Ed, You guys both point to the same issue, which is at the heart of Season Three’s dysfunction: Everyone’s got their OWN stories that aren’t converging into a dominant cohesive plot that begets interesting and believable subplots.

    But here’s the interesting part, the audience is still deeply invested in the characters (like Abby is in Hoyt and Jessica). And a lot of those unconnected scenes are really good on their own (like, Mama Thortonberry telling Summer she’s “Cute as Pigs” – that was awesome!) I just hope the show’s able to overcome this period of disconnected storytelling. It’s just capable of being so much more.

    CBro, Alan Ball’s True Blood diverges wildly from Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books. I think that’s one the reasons they’re flying w/out a net here. They’re using the series as a template but then they’re writing what amounts to a massive scale fan fic – sometimes to good ends and sometimes to bad.

  13. jason says:

    i liked the tara/andy scene. it made tara shut up when she realized how sorry andy actually was. and i think she can maybe move on now cause she knows eggs actually wanted to die and pushed them into action. i thought the actor who plays andy was quite good in that scene.
    i love lafayette but his scenes are really not part of this season’s story and always grind the momentum to a halt for me.

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