Kathleen is away, so Thom has bravely stepped into her shoes for this week’s True Blood review.
The sixth episode of True Blood‘s fourth season is entitled “I Wish I Was the Moon” for the Neko Case song that plays at the end of the episode and into the credits. The episode itself begins and ends with Erik Northman and Sookie Stackhouse locked in a long awaited, barely clothed embrace, and as for episode structure – that’s about it. “I Wish I Was The Moon” has some stellar moments, some moments worthy of the misspent potential of the series, but when taken as a whole, the episode struck me as listless and disorganized – as much of this season has been.
When True Blood first came on in the fall of 2008 I was an early adopter, and a big fan. I salivated at the potential of the series – an homage to Southern gothic using the device of “vampires” to dramatize themes of intolerance, kinkiness and addiction. Frankly it struck me as fresh and exciting, and also, Alan Ball was involved – so how could it not be bad-ass? Somewhere along the line, however, the show moved away from the political, and became purely fantastical and overly focussed on a cynical type of smut that didn’t seem to advance the themes or plot of the series. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge anybody their smut – and I enjoy seeing Alexander Skarsgard shirtless as much as any other straight man does (okay, maybe a bit more) – but if that’s all that True Blood is, then it’s not what I’d hoped it could be. I remember one of the first episodes of the series where Bill Compton attended Sookie’s grandmother’s church to talk about his experiences during the Civil War. The way the show portrayed the charged atmosphere of a small town coping with a new type of citizen, and how Compton carried himself – an honest man from a “dangerous” minority group campaigning in a hostile town for acceptance – it was weird and felt very American. It was quality drama. Now Bill is a “vampire king” which, may be true to the source material, but is fairy-tale stuff and hard to take seriously.
Watching “I Wish I Was The Moon” left me with much less material to breakdown and over-think. Instead of being structured like something Faulkner would’ve written after downing twenty-six ounces of Bourbon, we were treated to Sookie walking through the woods with a shotgun, and happening along her fellow characters like something out of an Elizabethan comedy. Possession and mistaken identity abound, but really the episode is about an interrupted moment of passion, and having it finally come about.
The mistaken identity/possession/wiped memory thing isn’t my cup of tea, but you’ve got to hand it to the actors here, they’re at least milking their respective devices for every ounce of drama that it’s worth. Skarsgard has been awesome all season as a new, innocent version of Eric Northman who doesn’t even “want to know” what his past self was like. His turn from a remorseless manipulator and murderer to a boyish, honorable fellow seeing the world for the first time, has been one of this seasons few highlights. I was equally impressed with Sam Trammell’s performance as Tommy in Sam’s skin. Tommy transformed into Sam in a fit of emotion in front of the mirror about mid-way through the episode, and he wreaked some havoc at Merlottes (and with Sam’s emotional life) before passing out in his own vomit at the end of the episode. The way Trammell physically acted as if he was uncomfortable in his own skin was a lot of fun to watch, and his performance was a lot like a reigned in version of what Vincent D’Onofrio did so effectively as “the bug” in the original Men in Black. Finally Fiona Shaw has been creepy and riveting all season as the Wiccan Marnie Stonebrook – her stellar performance has been a welcome addition, and this may have been her strongest episode yet.
The strong acting aside, there’s little else to really chew on in this episode. The best parts were probably the Antonia flashbacks where we saw a vampire priest molest and torture the “Necromancer” before she exacted her revenge on him, forcing him to walk into the sun and burn in public. Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) is still doing V, and he gets a date, but he’s only in one scene in the episode. Arlene suspects her “evil-baby” started a house-fire but that scene is another one-off and isn’t re-visited again. Jason Stackhouse and the flighty Jessica have a burgeoning awk-mance but it ends in mumbles, and the tension between the two of them didn’t particularly hold my attention. In fact, I thought it was kind of cheap – the writers decide to put Jessica and Jason together as a sort of “forbidden relationship the audience wants to see happen” just as Sookie and Eric finally get together? Come on.
Past that we had a standard Terra plot – her lover (who will surely die this season) sought her out in Bon Temps, they argue, they have some aggressive make-up sex and ultimately get chased by an angry Vampire (Pam, who blames Terra for Marnie’s spell that reduced Eric to a decent guy). Lafayette on the other hand has gone with Jesus to meet his Jesus’ sorcerer grand-father who is like a tubby hispanic version of Ra’s al Ghul. In a scene stolen from Meet the Parents, Mexican Ra’s has the couple hunt a rattle-snake and then he poisons his grandson and raises a spirit called “Tio Luca” (who possesses Lafayette) and takes off. Interesting side-note Tio Lucas is what they call “Uncle Fester” from the Adams Family in Spanish-speaking countries, so expect Lafayette to be played by Christopher Lloyd in a future episode this season.
True Blood has been around long enough that my hopes for something weightier than a manipulative confection designed to titillate and amuse need to be abandoned. The show may be formulaic, overly sweet and emotionally vapid – but it’s is well-acted, sexy, occasionally fun and has good music (the heavy use of Neko Case this season deserves kudos). When the series doesn’t get too bogged down with silliness (Fairies and Were-Panthers count as silliness) it can occasionally produce a banger episode like episode two of this season, which was awesome. Sadly no episode since has been anywhere close to it, and True Blood looks to be content with what it is: adult Twilight.