True Blood "F*** the Pain Away" Review: Feels Like Living a Teenage Dream
What an episode. Never has True Blood veered so closely to The Vampire Diaries territory! The fairy-cavemen costumes, the subtitled pre-history language, the righteously romantic ancient hunk. Even the vampire camp had a weird Hunger Games feel. "F*** the Pain Away" felt like it pulled from every zeitgeist teen fantasy story, except for that whole infanticide thing, and that is meant entirely as a compliment.
After threatening Ben's/Warlow's life, Sookie learned there was a whole new beau in her rogue’s gallery of undead admirers. Warlos has dreamed of her for millennia, longed for her before she was born, she is his betrothed, his promised, his fae Kate Middleton. And we learned through Lafayette’s intercession that he’s not lying, we saw him in flashback arguing with Sookie’s parents that he was a prince and because of some scroll that looked vaguely RenFaire-ish she was contractually his fairy princess bride.
Instead of laughing the guy out of the house, Sookie’s dad decided the best way to protect Sookie from this so-called prince's rather premature courtship was to kill his daughter that very night, drugging her and loading her into the car to presumably throw her off a bridge. This was possibly the best twist writers could have thrown into the foundation of the series. What a dark, weird, Southern gothic reveal that both frames Warlow as this impossibly romantic, vampiric Mr. Darcy and simultaneously makes Sookie’s backstory so.much.creepier.
Unfortunately, as he’s done approximately 48 times before, Lafayette ended up possessed by a murderous ghost (that of Sookie's A-hole dad) who decided to finish the job he first attempted to carry out so many years ago and steep Sookie in the river like a bony teabag. In her panic, Sookie apparently forgot she has tasers for hands and just kind of squirmed around in his arms. Guys, you think they’ll kill her off next week? Hahaha J/K. Yawn. No one f-ck with Lafayette while he has that giant blonde target in his arms, please, or I will be furious. I blame Sookie for not seeing this coming. How many people does he have to accidentally kill while possessed with vengeful spirits before people stop asking him to do free psychic work? I mean, really. Although I did love that before a ghost hopped in his mouth he called Sookie out for not working at her workplace. I guess not eating cuts down on bills.
But let’s backtrack: Before Sookie could get to the bottom of her troubled past/endanger Lafayette’s life by mere proximity, she and Warlow got a good long look at each other in their draws before Bill ran inside the house and activated his Billith powers to their fullest potential by compelling Warlow to leave with him. While I was at first irked by Bill’s cockblockery, the series of flashbacks he was about to treat both Warlow and us to were among some of the funniest moments of television I’ve ever witnessed.
Fairy cavemen! Before fairies built their cultural aesthetic from a mishmash of JC Penney formalwear, Cirque de Soleil, and go-go dancing, they were fairy cavemen, who built straw huts and wore wigs and worked out. This whole sequence! I want it always. I want the frames printed on my sheets so I can see them when I wake up at night in between my dreams.
Then Lillith changed everything by humping Warlow’s leg and changing him. This scene was probably meant to be raw and sexy but all I could think of was how uncomfortable that day of filming must've been. Such context-free, gratuitous, crotch-on-leg humping. This is why some of the best actors in Hollywood are completely dissociative. How else could you get through something like this without giggling?
So Billith was Warlow’s maker by some sort of technicality and Bill was excited about the vampire-cum-fairy-blood he needed to save the vampire race, which is good because Jessica had just decimated the Bon Temps fairy supply.
I give Andy a lot of guff but the scenes in which he discovered his daughters, stood up to Vampire Bill, and took his lone surviving girl home were incredibly well-acted and touching. The whole premise of Andy having one surviving fairy daughter is both poignant and sad. He saved her with some vampire blood and now she’s been transformed from a sort of jokey, weird tangent to a survivor who just had the only people she’d ever relate to torn away from her during their collective first attempt to deal with the world... and brutally murdered before her eyes. Jessica felt really bad about it.
Jessica was also really high on fairy blood. And she kissed Bill, which was meta-awkward on many levels and then went over to Jason’s house all weepy and fiending for dick. Her line to Jason of "Stay back Jason I might rape you or somethin’!" was code for "Why are your pants still on?"
But Jessica’s desperate grab for genital intermingling was to be thwarted by the offest part of the episode, Sarah Newlin. Showing all the sensitivity of a rusted anvil, Sarah had started her evening by shooting Willa in front of Governor Burrell and then offering him a replacement baby. Then she threw a fit at him for not having intercourse with her despite her satiny underwear. And THEN she somehow tracked Jason down and waited for him to turn up so she could give him a speech that took all the subtlety out of the satire of her character.
Personally I think smarmy right-wing nuts are hilarious enough on their own and don’t need spicing up, so this felt like a ridiculously heavy-handed portrayal: Like, True Blood didn’t just gild the lily on this one, they dunked that flower in gold, rolled it in fake pearls and wrapped that shit in a string of Christmas lights. Sarah Newlin's character, I’m saying, felt kind of overdone. Her line about the Lord telling her to fuck Jason felt less like an eloquent crystallization of how fundamentalists use religion to justify their own desires, and more like a broad parody of True Blood. But she got what she came for (diiiiiick), then walked in on Jessica and Jason, got sort of diddled by Jessica, and then rescinded Jessica’s invitation? What? Don’t you have to own a house to rescind an invitation? I was confused, but I’m not a traffic cop for story logic, not with True Blood anyway, I got things to do, so let’s keep moving.
Alcide made it rain on his dad and Nicole did a face right after getting out of bed with Sam that SAID IT ALL.
The explicit subtext here is that Sam Merlotte has all the sexual prowess of a wet Birkenstock sandal—which, quelle suprise. The werewolf and shifter plot is chasing its own tail in a circle of pure irrelevancy. Nicole’s face, seriously, is all I can say about Alcide and his pack, Sam and his titties.
Terry, in a surprise move at getting a plotline going, has engaged an army friend/assassin to kill him a couple days from now, without warning. He basically said, "I’m going to be in that sort of high-concept '80s-movie plot where you’ve hired someone to kill you then decide you want to live and run around figuring out the meaning of your life and then realize you can’t die and it's a huge mistake and then you’re trying to escape your own self-arranged assassination. So that’ll be neat." I hope no one kills Terry but this just feels like a waste of everyone’s time. Also, your bro just lost three of his daughters. Kind of rude to put him through more tragedy.
Eric and Tara surrendered themselves to the vampire camp to save Pam. We talked last week about how quickly True Blood's main characters were getting centralized at the camp, and now they’ve got practically every vampire on the show in there. Initially I was really worried the vampire camp would be a big, soul-sucking, story-stalling plot warmer. But while there’s a visual resemblance in the very underground/fluorescent-light-heavy setting, (no doubt a big relief for True Blood’s filming schedule but hell on their makeup department) the concept for the camp is way, way, way more exciting than that of the Vampire Authority.
In this devious little laboratory, humans play vampires against each other, make them run in giant gerbil wheels and basically just dick around with them. Eric was pitted against some other vampires in a mini Hunger Games challenge that he'd handily won before I could even figure out how it worked. When Jessica showed up later, she and Tara were suddenly in a delightful exploitation film about sexy inmate vixens right out of the '60s, with a bad girl runnin’ the joint and everything. It was neat.
But maybe my favorite part of vampire camp (which is arguably the most intriguing part of the show now) was that Pam was forced to do some introspection, and treated us to a trip inside her head that didn’t disappoint. When she said valued the life of the tuna her psychiatrist ate more than his own, I believed her. It was some great and nuanced work by Kristin Bauer van Straten, hilarious at first and then deeply grounded and real, especially when she spoke of Eric with this amazing mix of guarded casualness and real hurt. Her expression when they later met face to face, stakes in hand, in the best cliffhanger so far this season—maybe this series—was absolutely perfect.
Eric had, on his own, been subjected to fighting for survival against other vampires, and this man-on-man, gladiator-style match between Pam and Eric was an intense final scene. Will they rush the mirror and stake humans? Will one of them stake themselves? Will they tussle? Will they throw down their stakes? I honestly have no idea and I care, I actually really and completely care about how it goes down. My fanbrain is engaged by this on every level and it practically glows with electricity every time I think about next week's episode, even though it's such a preposterously sci-fi, adolescently melodramatic set-up . Going back to our teen fantasies theme, this cliffhanger almost exactly mirrors the standoff between Peeta and Katniss in the first Hunger Games, and dammit—that dynamic just works. It's some penultimate conflict between love and self, otherness and safety. Someone smarter than me should write a thesis about why our teens' (and our) fantasies these days traffic so much in the concepts of being deeply desired by the undead or being forced to kill people you’re sexually attracted to. Creepy! Smash cut to relevant song: "Creep On Creepin' On"
... Is Terry basically dead?!
... Vampire camp: love it or hate it so far?
... How is Sookie going to get out of this one?
... Is Warlow True Blood's Mr. Darcy?
... What are Eric and Pam going to do?
... What'd you think of "F*** the Pain Away"?
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