True Blood: Teasing Us, Not Pleasing Us

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True Blood S05E09 "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"


What a tease the ending of True Blood was last night. Just when it looked like Eric might get Sis out of the claustrophobic California Missions Museum basement and away from old Titsy, BAM. Ain't nobody going nowhere! That's pretty much the most important thing that happened this episode.

QUESTIONS:

- Will Eric and Bill ever leave the Authority conference room?

- Is Bill just like completely pussy-tized?

Okay, fine, we'll talk about the whole thing but I'm still pretty furious with the ending. I guess the show paid big money for that Design Within Reach table and a day's hot meals to the naked extra chained in the middle of it and they're damn certain going to get their money's worth. Bottom line: The Authority setting is getting claustrophobic, and not in a way that adds to the tension or suspense. And the opening was so PROMISING: The episode began with news footage of the Tru Blood factory burning down. The threat last week, and then the thing itself: Hemingway couldn't write better fictional vampire terrorism!

A very strong start, and credit where credit is due, the writers wrapped up almost every B-plot this episode, just hauled out the trash and set it on the curb. Yet the episode felt heavy. It was like the dubstep version of True Blood: There was a fast tempo behind the action but it was so disjointed that the cumulative effect was like putting everything in slow motion. A recurring theme was actors having to talk into the air, unassisted by special effects or musical flourishes. If anyone could pull that off, it would be Nelsan Ellis, yet even he sounded like he was monologuing in a community theater production of Steel Magnolias or something during his commune with a horde of unseen ghosts. And when Arlene started screaming at the wallpaper to leave Terry alone, it was just terribly, terribly awkward. At least throw, like, a witchy musical flourish in there. What, you want me to suddenly use my imagination during TV? What is this, Medieval Europe?

I did love Pam and Tara's tiff. Every scene with them has been an excuse for some joyously decadent costume designer to raid '70s-era exploitation movies for inspiration. Glam-bitch black leather and lethal hair chopsticks on Pam, demure little collars and legs for days on Tara, both of them sucking it in and stomping around and snarling "tits" and "suck me" at each other. It's going to end with a wildly passionate scissoring on the floor of Fangtasia and that's basically why I'm still watching. Carry on, laaaaadies.

Do you think Daley Dickey (a.k.a. Werewolf Grandma) will be sued for letting True Blood writers use the same "pigs eat the people" storyline as Winter's Bone? Granted I don't think the walking apple-head dolls in Winter's Bone wasted precious Oxycontin on their victims before feeding them to hogs the way they lavished it on Sookie and Hoyt. Guys, I was way wrong about Hoyt's mom being the hate group ringleader. I should have guessed it would be a character we've never met before, this vision:

Seriously, where has this strapping diva been all my life/these seasons? You'd think a gal with the gumption to preside over a former sheriff and a rowdy crowd of DIY terrorists would've at least done some karaoke at Merlotte's. (Bob Seger's "Turn The Page," obviously). I loved her kimono, and she seemed like a promising adversary until she was summarily tackled and thrashed by a bare-breasted Luna.

This is what I mean about fast-tempo slow-motion: In a single episode the show established that there's a Dragon of the hate group, revealed who she is, allowed her to run at the mouth with a ton of exposition, and then took her out of play. The net sum of all that effort was Sookie right back where we'd left her: noodling around her house.

Although it was interesting that on the one side, you have this hate group spewing hate in a clumsy expository speech about how the vampires are secretly trying to take over the world. Then you basically cut to the vampires discussing how to take over the world. We hate the Authority, we hate the hate groups, but they're both kind of right about each other: The humans are barbaric pigs, the vampires are ruthless predators. And so we're left to root for what, the shifters? The werewolves?

I wish I could have seen the Backstage ad put out for the teen version of Alcide. "EXCESSIVELY handsome 16-year-old needed for one-word part in major premium network series...." Alcide's glowing memories of his summer camp/cult initiation into the pack and chatty hippie counselor/dad would have made me laugh out loud if I hadn't been so quickly drawn in by that fascinating cult vibe. A Manson family of Abercrombie & Fitch models, that is a plotline I can get down with. Oh I can get DAAAAAAAYWWWOOOOON with that plotline.

And again: I totally appreciate that the show wrapped up the Ifrit this episode, with as few sets involved as possible and Scott Foley getting clipped by the combined efforts of the chopstick hair fad that is sweeping Bon Temps (okay, pencil, whatever) and the blessing of the murdered Zephira, awash in heavenly light. Must we really assign divine approval to retribution? Oh whatever, if you're getting your moral guidance from HBO then you're probably already in jail. I have to say, Terry was rather dashing and romantic this episode, even if he did end his arc with basically a cold-blooded murder. Todd Lowe is a tremendously charismatic man and he really nailed the transition between being morally torn over how to handle the curse and then in a sudden onscreen choice morphing into a heartless conduit for revenge. Todd, you're the best. May your plotlines only grow from here.

I don't know if you noticed this, but I am pretty sure Salome wasn't wearing a bra! It excited Bill so much that he had one of his patented, mid-coital homicidal freak-outs, but instead of twisting Salome's head 180 degrees, he fantasized about Sookie and tried to drain her. Then Salome morphed into Lillith, and I guess that was enough to convince Bill that all this vampire wicca is For Realz and he turned on Eric.

Do you think the Authority will KILL ERIC?!? Then you truly do not understand what makes this series commercially viable. Basically what this ending means is that Eric is not done with labored scenes where he questions this hastily mapped-out vampire theology that increasingly comes across as Queen of the Damned fan fiction written by a 14-year-old, which: claustrophobic, and not in a good way.

Here's what was sort of claustrophobic in a good way: Sookie's fairy powers are ebbing! I found myself hoping her fairy friends would cozy up around her so she could recharge the way a balloon soaks up static electricity when you rub it on your head (not that I do that constantly or something. My breath smells like helium for another, better reason) Sookie better juice up before the vampire civil war that promises to break out in the last thirty minutes of the season finale IF WE'RE LUCKY.

Claustrophobic in a great way: Luna's daughter has been given to Steve Newlin as a present by Russell! This is super promising, because for pretty much the entirety of the series the shifters and vampires have been kept carefully apart and this will bring them into direct confrontation. Bring it! Luna has the potential to be a great character if she's not relegated to yelling with Sam in front of a quilt in her living room.

So, yes: So much happened this episode! But nothing really? Were you entertained? Were you frustrated? Did you feel like you had been denied Level 1 access?


QUESTIONS:

- The reappearance of Lillith means Bill is A) crazy B) drugged by Salome's blood C) about to upgrade girlfriends again.

- Is Sookie going to find a way to recharge her fairy powers?

- Is the Ifrit done for the season or will the writers tie that shit back in?

- Is Todd Lowe both a consummate actor and a sexually charismatic dreamboat?

- Should women be shown topless doing normal, non-sexy stuff to sort of de-objectify women's bodies or would that have the opposite of the intended effect?

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