“I need a language that is fresh and pure.” —Cyrano
In a time when television budgets are larger than those of many movies and the medium enjoys the discussion and attentions of its audience more than, say, national politics, surely we need a term for the experience of being transported in time by a show you’ve watched for years, where you've formed strong enough emotional bonds to the visual and music motifs and characters that when the series refers to its own past, it basically pulls a former version of yourself around to face you. By playing on your sense memories, it mentally calls up your mindset from seasons past, maybe puts you back in the room where you first watched it, with whoever you watched it with. It returns you to the overgrown, forgotten paths of your mind with same visceral force as reading through an old diary. This week an older version of True Blood returned, and brought with it a younger version of me, and I remembered exactly why I loved it in the first place. The show was exquisitely smaller in scope, sunnier in outlook, yet more dangerous in tone; more like home and yet more full of strange possibility than it’s been in several seasons.
Suffice it to say that, as of Season 6, Episode 2, we can all say with confidence that Sookie’s favorite pick-up line is, “How ‘bout I tend those wounds?”
It was genuinely hilarious that when Sookie first saw a hunk
bleeding in the gutter, her reaction was, “Not today.” The fairy drifter in
the Aeropostale togs who she took home to clean up was painfully reminiscent
of her first moments with Bill, but her very different reactions to a dude in
distress—her wariness, and her ultimate refusal at the end to engage with him—was believably entrenched between the growth Sookie has made through her
experiences since Season 1 and her “to-a-fault” kindness. It came hard on the heels of an amazing moment
where Arlene woke Sookie up by calling her from Merlotte’s and chewing her out
for being late for work, which was a triumphant moment of the mundane. It was almost like a fan had been called into the writer’s room for twenty minutes and
brought up everything that had been bothering me for the last three seasons. (“So how is Sookie paying for food these days? Did she quit Merlotte’s? Doesn’t
she like, hear thoughts and shit? Is she losing her fairy powers for real?”)
The only thing that interrupted my hour-long smile this
episode was the unwarranted werebitch attack on Lafayette. I am not going to be
okay if Lafayette gets injured, but if him taking a few knocks this week translates to him taking up some of Sam’s screentime, then it’s a blessing in disguise for the audience—and if Lafayette could survive Eric’s corpse carousel, a little dick
breath from a tweaked-out were-hick shouldn’t shake him for long.
Otherwise this episode got so many things right, and the show nailed the overall tone by grounding the violence and madness in so much cozy everyday minutiae. What is it about Sookie sitting at a starkly lit kitchen table while Jason and Rutger Hauer pull microwaved spaghetti out of some Pyrex dish with tongs that makes me just want to walk into my TV screen? Suddenly I have those goosebumps again, like I’m sitting on a porch on a summer night hearing ghost stories. I could feel the night breezes at that table.
Eric’s dork impression was also a well-timed reminder that, while Alex Skarsgard can play the Viking warrior in his sleep, his range of comedy is a vast territory I am dying to explore. Those bangs, those glasses, that posture! His scene across from Governor Burrell was fantastic not just for its broad comedy, but for the fact that it showed our hero doing everything right.
Eric did everything in his power to solve the conflict peacefully and
quickly, he used all his supernatural resources—he snuck in, he tried to
glamour the governor, and he flew away when he was held at gunpoint. An audience will always root for a hero who anticipates what the audience would do in his situation, and so it was
impossible not to cheer Eric on. And the contrast when he went from trying to act on behalf of vampires while disguised a dork to this…
Classic sex vampire
swag. This one beautiful nutshell of a scene, which pointedly showed young Willa Burrell removing her anti-glamouring contacts, contained everything compelling and
exciting about a vampire show: the dream-like appearance of an
unbearably handsome stranger at a window, his seductive compulsion of the
vulnerable, almost gothic heroine... it was so deliciously old-school. It was the Coca-Cola Classic of vampire
scenes and babies there is NOTHING like the real thing. (Don’t drink soda, though; it’s bad for your teeth.)
Also: perfect amount of time for Andy to be in an episode. A
hard 35 seconds. Perfect.
We also got the introduction of Jurnee Smollett, who walked into Merlotte’s with some picky eaters and high expectations for Sam. Her character seems to be all about reconnecting True Blood with the social-progress metaphors of its supernatural themes, and while her character was too persistent to be endearing right away, this actress is amazing and I’m just pleased as hell she’s going to be around.
Suspended in all this sort of family atmosphere and a return to the classic, fundamental appeal of the show was a return to True Blood's habit of shocking the shit out of us as viewers. Bill, in a comatose daze after absorbing all the pain of the vampires of the world, cavorted with Lillith in the sunlight—and how nice that they finally wiped that corn syrup and red food coloring off the long-suffering Jessica Clark and gave her some lines! Not that any of those lines made sense, but she sounded wise while saying them.
But that wasn’t the shocking part. This was the shocking part.
First of all, this series has shown me a woman’s head
getting twisted 180 degrees during intercourse, a fairy going into labor, a man
turning into a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers demon, and Alex Skarsgard’s naked
hipbone; I really thought I was past the point where it could shock or upset
me. But Bill puppeting that poor blood ho from the inside out like a
thoughtless child might bounce a Tia Juana marionette, and then sucking the
blood of her squeezed internal organs and into his maw without even like, blinking ?! That got a bit of a gasp from me. Very few blinks occurred during
this encounter. It was surprising and weird and unsettling and violent in a way
this show hasn’t been in a while.
And Jessica’s blasphemous prayer to Bill afterward had me in TEARS, especially when she prayed for Jason. Deborah Ann Woll, you are gifted.
Also, we finally met the big bad! Warlo is not the adorably shaggy Rutger, but an appropriately sinister looking and silent bearded dude. He looks capable of unfathomably grim havoc with his vaguely Walker, Texas Ranger steeze. That fake-out in the premiere where Niall told Jason he was Warlo was sort of unnecessary, but it provided me with a laugh when he told Jason he’d been watching over him all along. As a guardian angel-fairy, Niall’s dropped a hell of a lot of balls, not the least of which fell when he allowed Jason to be kidnapped and raped by dozens of homely werepanthers.
I loved that Niall also helped Sookie to focus her powers. Now that she essentially has a supernatural vampire atomic bomb in play, she’s got a little more autonomy and this is going to be a hell of a plot point going forward. Though you have to wonder, if Sookie explodes her light as Niall is coaching her to do, and is “fae no more,” does that mean she’s not psychic? And was she growing her light larger by feeding it all her emotions, or it’s the same amount of light as before, she’s just balling it all up, like a dust bunny when I sweep my floor? I just sort of want Sookie to recharge to full fairy power. Is that kind of what was happening? Guys I get nervous.
So did you love the second episode as much as I did? Did it
transport you to the time when this show was fresh and exciting and new and
dangerous and sexy? Let’s discuss.
... Is Sookie growing her fairy light or just controlling it?
... When you were just starting out with True Blood, when was the moment when you realized, “This is MY show”?
… Can someone explain to me what Lillith was telling Bill in the sunlight?
… Are you glad Arlene finally called Sookie out on showing up to work?
… Fairy guy and Sookie: Did they have chemistry ? Do you (want to) see a future there?
… Is Sam almost certainly dead from that bone-crunching punch, and why didn’t he just turn into a junebug or something before it connected?
... So Bill can see the future or he feels the current pain that every vampire endures?
… How did you like this episode?