Listen up, citizens of Bon Temps: "Normalcy" won't get you anywhere! At least not with us, the viewers. A recurring concept that's graced many of the hundreds of plotlines over these five seasons has been an otherwise not normal character attempting to shed what makes them special in the interest of, I don't know, growing old boringly? Take Sookie, who in "In the Beginning" decided that all her problems in life revolved around her Fae heritage and therefore attempted to empty her faerie battery permanently. Um, no offense, girl, but those powers have gotten you out of tons of jams. Plus the mind-reading thing just seems like a good life skill. Also better off abnormal: Tara, whose vampire life has made her a far better and more compelling character than ever. Keep it weird, y'all!
Now, I'm not arguing that there's no place for non-supernatural human beings in Bon Temps; Jason would not have been better off as a were-panther. I'm just saying that there's no place for normalcy. Wishing things were more boring is not a desire I can particularly relate to. Don't we ALL wish our towns were slightly stranger? We come to True Blood for wish fulfillment and escapism, not some declaration that boring = good. So this is why "In the Beginning" was one of the best episodes of True Blood in recent memory: Except for Sookie, everyone just embraced the craziness of their lives and we got a consistently batsh*t yet entertaining hour of television out of it. Yes, True Blood, yes!
Alright, let's mercilessly grade these storylines!
ORIGINAL FANGSTA (Eric, Bill, Salome, Russell, The Authority, and Lillith)
After last week left a decided question mark over whether Roman actually died, the first shot of this week's episode answered that definitively: Roman was now a puddle of guts. As you could imagine, the immediate aftermath of Russell Edgington's coup was just straight-up insane!
In one of True Blood's all-time best cold open sequences, an absolute panic broke out in the world's fanciest basement as the lights cut out, several characters hit their knees to pray, Russell attacked Eric, and Authority troops descended upon Russell with silver netting. But everything was filmed with strobe lights in a shaky-cam panic and it was hard to really get a grasp on what was happening. So good!
Although things calmed down, storywise this plotline continued to keep us on our toes. In what had to be the least shocking "twist" since Dexter Season 6, it turned out that Salome WAS INDEED the orchestrator of Roman's destruction. She was Sanguinista through and through and had been the one to free Russell. Her reasoning was dicey, but had something to do with how prophecy dictated that only Russell would have the strength/ability to kill Roman? I don't know nor care because them's just details. All I knew was pretty soon Salome was fully in charge of the Authority, she'd pardoned Russell and made Nora her right-hand woman. At which point they started doing SHOTS of Lillith's blood.
As it turned out vampires had a V of their own! That's right, Lillith's blood got them totally EFFED UP and in a truly great scene they were high out of their minds roaming around on Bourbon Street!
I loved this part, where they all stood in tableau to intimidate a cab driver who'd made the mistake of honking at a gaggle of stoned vampires:
Eventually the roaming band of ancient partiers descended upon a karaoke bar where they killed and consumed an entire family of preppie blue-bloods (even a child!). Clearly the spirit of Lillith was one that encouraged carnage, but whoops! Speak of the devil.
Oh, hey Lillith! That's right you guys, the original biblical vampire suddenly reappeared ON A KARAOKE STAGE, full-frontal nude and ready to party! This show.
As if the events of this plotline weren't insane enough, suddenly Godric (yay!) appeared to shame Eric for succumbing to peer pressure. Or something. I mean, yeah obviously this Lillith stuff is bad news, but can you be more specific, Godric? How exactly is Eric supposed to fight off his ancient supernatural progenitor?
Great plotline. The best. It made all the occasional earlier lameness of the Authority totally worth it.
GLOW BUGGIN' (Sookie)
When we last saw Sookie, she'd attempted to throw a sputtering glowball at Claude for having the audacity to imply that a vampire killed her parents, but then she got zapped by a half dozen faeries. This week she woke up on a fainting couch in the club with a couple of faeries using their faerie doctor skills on her. Once Sookie woke up, they informed her that because she was only half-Fae, she had to be careful in how she used her powers or else they'd deplete completely and she'd be merely human.
Season 5 Sookie has been particularly sassy so far (I love it), so she wasn't totally bowled over by this band of skinny dicks in felt vests. But the events of the awful nightclub did put an idea into her head: Maybe intentionally depleting her powers would make vampires less likely to hassle her all the time. Which, fair enough. And after a couple of well-written, very meaningful conversations with both Jason and Sam, Sookie decided that's just what she'd do.
At episode's end she was out in the backyard throwing faerie light into the night sky in a scene both poignant and incredibly ridiculous. Very True Blood.
The events of Sookie's plotline weren't heavy on twists and shocks, but rather on character moments. Her long conversation with Jason about their parents, then later with Sam about being a supe proved that this show can be just as compelling in its quieter moments as its ludicrous ones. As a viewer I definitely object to Sookie's wish to lead a "normal" life, but this episode went a long way (including lots of flashbacks!) to demonstrating why she'd be so tired of the drama. Well done.
THE SADDEST POLE DANCER IN THE SOUTH (Tara, Lettie Mae, and Pam)
A small but particularly powerful storyline involving Tara's mom ended up being one of the more emotionally complicated scenes this show's ever had. For one thing, how are we supposed to feel about seeing Tara up on that stripper pole? It just seemed weirdly wrong for the once self-assured cage fighter from last season becoming this object of lust in the vampire world. She looked good though!
Anyway, Tara and her mom have had a long, difficult history, but it became clear that Lettie Mae was still the hypocritical jerk she'd been for the past few seasons. The home-wrecking, former abusive alcoholic was now trying to keep up appearances as the preacher's wife, so when she arrived at Fangtasia in the middle of the night in her church dress, it was clear things wouldn't go well for Tara.
It turned out Tara's mom had arrived to basically disown her in person. Thanks? Anyway, we could tell by Tara's steely gaze that she was probably shattered inside, but channeling it into anger. Pretty soon Tara's fangs were out and she was basically chasing her mother away. I think we were supposed to be happy for Tara for standing up to her mother, but it definitely felt like an empty victory to me. It was just very sad! And anyway, let's be real, the only true victory in the room was Pam's hair:
Once again Pam's involvement elevated a storyline to greatness: In this case, she used her vampire hearing to eavesdrop on Tara's conversation and by the end of it looked visibly proud of her progeny. Then later in a surprisingly tender moment in Pam's office, Pam attempted to reassure Tara that in 100 years she'd forget all about her mother. That probably sounds like cold comfort to you and me, but it seemed to cheer Tara up. The scene ended with a nice moment where Tara quickly hugged Pam and for a split second Pam seemed touched and even maternal. But then of course she came to her senses and ordered Tara to get back on the pole. Oh, Pam.
I loved this plotline so, so much.
HATERS (Hoyt, Sam, and Andy)
Ugh. So, did you know that hate groups actually call themselves hate groups? I did not! I guess I always figured they misguidedly felt they were doing good work, but in the case of the newest hate group in Bon Temps, these dudes had more or less embraced their bad reputation. Yeah, this plotline went pretty much where we all expected it to. After Hoyt had been saved by these masked murderers it only took about ten minutes and a cold beer before he'd renounced all involvement with vampires (including Jessica) and seemed hellbent on joining in on the murder. Oh Hoyt, what's become of you?
One highlight of this particular thread was when Andy Bellefleur paid a visit to former Sheriff Dearborn, whose abrupt retirement remains one of my favorite True Blood moments. Andy just wanted to get some advice or encouragement from his old boss, but Bud had a jacuzzi and a floozie he needed to attend to. Not sure if we'll ever see him again, but I loved seeing a familiar face from the past (there'd be more of this to come in other storylines).
But the investigation into the hate group didn't end with Andy. Sam was putting his supersensory skills to work as well! And this was seriously the best and funniest thing Sam's done in years:
Haha WHAT? He was just flat-out rolling around on the ground in front of a Sheriff's deputy! It worked though, as he uncovered a stockpile of Obama masks in the ammo shop's back room. Later on, he also sniffed out a hate group member working a day job at the hospital. So, you know, make Sam the new Sheriff maybe? He's getting results!
Honestly, this plotline was mostly setup for some future confrontations. Now that we've met the members of the gang, I'm somewhat less interested in their story. It's almost too much of a bummer to witness, you know?
BAD TRIP (Lafayette)
Speaking of bummers, Lafayette took the worlds most ill-advised road trip to track down the brujo who'd somehow screwed Jesus out of resting in peace. Immediately upon arrival at the dude's Mexican shanty, he discovered Jesus' severed head on a hand chair (!) and a shotgun pointed at his own.
And then this happened:
Yeah, that was just awful. Where was the ghost of Marnie when you needed her! Anyway, this was only a brief scene, but just when the elderly brujo was ready to murder Lafayette (to somehow transfer his magical essence into the unborn child of his girlfriend), the pregnant girlfriend rose up and stabbed the man-witch SO MUCH. She then sort of cut through Lafayette's lip-stitches, but it's seriously unclear what was going on with her.
This was an unsettling sequence, but I appreciated how efficiently it was handled. Poor Lafayette!
TYPICAL MARRIAGE ISSUES (Arlene, Holly, Terry, and Patrick)
I'm on record as not totally loving this particular plotline, but something about this week's installment got me really invested. I think I just loved the scene where Arlene and Holly watched Arlene's wedding video. Not only did I enjoy seeing a pregnant Arlene toasting her wedding with a can of Pepsi, the video was filmed between Seasons 3 and 4 (which skipped a year on the timeline), so a lot of formerly happy faces were there: Jessica and Hoyt were still in love; Jesus and Lafayette were there too. I don't know, it was just nice to see everybody in that context again.
But the conversation between Arlene and Holly was top-notch also. After Arlene explained to Holly that Terry had left them because a smoke monster-demon was chasing him, she lamented that he had gone insane and there was no saving him. But Holly, using an undeniable bit of reasoning, reminded Arlene that they lived in Bon Temps, so what if there actually WAS a smoke monster-demon after Terry? If there was even an iota of a possibility that Terry wasn't crazy, would Arlene want to be the kind of wife that didn't have her husband's back? Seriously, that was just a good point on Holly's part, and a rare moment where a character legitimately acknowledged that skepticism doesn't really have a place in Bon Temps anymore. Quit pulling a Scully and get with the program, Arlene!
For his party, Terry nearly suicided after having yet another run-in with the Ifrit. Personally, I thought he handled the Ifrit correctly by telling it off real good and calling it a smoky "piece of sh*t". But Terry had clearly had enough and next thing we knew Patrick was trying to get him to lower the revolver he'd been pointing at his chin. The one tactic that seemed effective, though, was reminding Terry that he didn't want his kids to think Terry had given up on them. That seemed to work, and pretty soon Terry had a new resolve to handle the Ifrit like a man.
Much like the Sookie plotline, this story didn't have huge events, but the sheer emotions on display were top-notch. I can't believe how compelling I found these characters' dilemmas to be this week, and I hope the show will continue to keep me interested.
JUST SAY GRRR (Alcide, Martha, and J.D.)
While any subplot in which Alcide practice-tussles in a barn wearing a bandana gets an automatic B, this plotline was pretty much beside the point this week. Something to do with Martha attempting to get Alcide to stand down because J.D. was a good pack master and deserved the role. When Alcide reminded her that J.D. was a V addict, she denied it vehemently.
That is, until she caught J.D. offering Emma some!
Ooh, Martha was pissed! It definitely looked like Alcide had a new ally in Martha.
Here's the thing about Martha. I understand that she's not the most popular character on the show, but she's slowly becoming one of my favorites. This episode was a big turning point for her, when it became clear that she was probably not behind Luna's shooting, and that she actually did have a moral compass that precluded giving V to small children. So yeah, the more Martha proves that she's a good person, the more I dig her. I just hope this plotline will have more going on in future weeks and she'll get around to the ass-kicking I know she's capable of.
THE END IN FRIEND (Jessica and Jason)
In a thread that would parallel Sookie's, Jason had an introspective journey of his own. He still seemed pretty frazzled about the fact that his parents had allegedly been murdered by a vampire and it was clear he was still wrestling with the idea that he was supposed to peacefully coexist with creatures that had caused him so much pain. So when he showed up at Jessica's mansion (while she was in the middle of sucking on some dude's thigh), it had a measure of poignancy: He was turning to his closest friend for advice on how to deal with her kind. But when Jessica tried to reassure Jason by making out with him, Jason tasted the blood on her lips and went crazy on her. (Get some Binaca, girl!)
The scene took a turn for the truly troubling when Jessica then angrily chomped on Jason's neck, he pulled out his gun, and SHOT her in the head. I know vampires can't be killed this way, but that doesn't mean I ever need to see characters I love shooting other characters I love in the head at point-blank range. Really troubling stuff. So yeah. It looked like Jessica and Jason were no longer friends.
I can't not like a Jason-Jessica plotline, and this one had just enough shock value to make it memorable. So as much as it all bummed me out, it still qualified as "good" in my book.
Loved this episode. Want to watch it again right now. This was True Blood firing on all cylinders, amping up the crazy while also paying attention to its more emotional aspects. Sure, certain plotlines weren't nearly as interesting, but considering EIGHT of them were crammed into an hour, it's amazing how much this episode held together. If the season gives us a few more episodes with this kind of entertainment value, it's likely that Season 5 could be considered one of the great ones. Fingers-crossed!
Overall Grade: B+
... Which face from the past were you most excited to see?
... How long did it take Pam to crimp her hair like that?
... Isn't shooting a vampire in the head kind of harsh?
... Ugh, Bourbon Street, am I right?