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True Blood S06E10: "Radioactive"

Think back to where this season began: Bill was an incoherent, butt-nekkid vampire god. Warlow was a  looming, Freddy Krueger-ish Big Bad. Vampires were an unthinkably powerful force intent on the destruction of all humankind. And Bon Temps was a campy blip on the map of True Blood’s ever-winding course.

Now think of where this season has ended: Bill is returned to his most tender, heroic self. Warlow is neatly swept away. Vampires are now being forced to turn to humans to make a bond that will thrust each world into the other, sustenance for protection. Bon Temps is again the cozy Southern town, so intimate and yet so vulnerable, where the characters we love are growing and maturing and having barbecues.

It’s happened in a lightning-fast ten episodes and it’s been steep, immediate change. It’s been an impossible feat this series has pulled off, turning itself around at the cusp of being a lost cause, a show I used to watch, and transforming itself back into a series at once fresh and familiar. Almost no show I’ve ever seen has done this, it’s a trajectory as deadly as the most difficult Black Diamond Ski Run. And True Blood elegantly sailed through this season because of its quick, deft, and intriguing character turns, placed with all the precision of a pro-skiier carving their way down a glacier.

(AND YES, YES I’M FREAKED OUT ABOUT ERIC. We’ll get into it. Let’s just hold onto our heads though and pretend this series is something besides the button I press to get Alexander Skarsgard in my living room.)

Ahem.


The most deft of these character turns was Warlow, who went from being a bearded Big Bad to the kind of romantic-idyll Fairy Prince who would painstakingly glue-gun rose petals to a maypole, and then was expertly transformed BACK into a one-season Big Bad. With one cracking slap to Sookie’s jaw, Warlow was again an indefensible enemy who united Bill, Andy, new fairy Adeline, Jason, Violet, and even Niall, who was drawn from another dimension to put him down. Absolutely fantastic.

Bill confessing his regret to Jessica over trading Sookie for his kind, and losing his Billith powers, was a terrific reset for a character who had truly gone off the rails in the last two seasons. Whereas somewhere around Season 4 Bill started becoming an angry nerd, his season-long journey from vampire-goddess back to softhearted vamp has grounded and restored my faith in him. I even, in my squee-est heart, believe he loves Sookie more now than ever before, simply because he experienced losing her.


It’s also amazing how likable Sookie is when she’s simply in a relationship. Something about her and Alcide relating like a long-term couple and her tiny reignited crush on Bill reminds me of what made Sookie so endearing in the first place: the fact that she wants more than anything to be happy. It’s something that True Blood's writers lost sight of when they were more concerned with putting her in the middle of drama, but at her core Sookie isn’t a shrill drama-monger (or Danger Whore), she’s a woman who loves her family, her town, and her boyfriend’s abs, and who can’t relate to that?

And Alcide got a much needed haircut!


Anyway, I’m jumping around all over the place. "Radioactive" was a dense finale, and we should at least try to address this bitch chronologically.

Seeing all the vampires frolic in their underwear after Terry’s funeral was like frosting on my eyeballs. Models basking in sunshine is nice window dressing in and of itself, but when they all decided they should go on a “Target run” to get volleyball equipment?! Oh yes, this is the marriage of supernatural creatures and big-brand chain stores that I love so much. Suddenly they were all wearing bright clothes and acting out high school drama, and it was hilarious. I loved Violet, from the way she made out with Sookie to say hello to the way she playfully spiked Jessica like a teen drama mean girl. A jealous weirdo in a lilac tank top and skimmers is something TV needs more of. I’m #teamviolet, seriously.


The real winner in terms of outfits from the Target shopping spree was definitely Tara. A floppy cowboy hat, pigtails and a sundress!!! The wardrobe department knocked this shit out of the park.


Sookie backpedalling on her deal to become Warlow’s eternal Fairy Vampire Bride, while predictable (Sookie just HAS to see what all this cool “aging” and “fine lines” stuff is about) was for once handled in a way that surprised me. Warlow’s violent return to full-blown enemy status, as I’ve said, was a very neat character shift that didn’t feel unearned or too much of a cheat. And it also gave Jason a chance to look like a real heartthrob when he rounded up Adeline and Andy to help Sookie.

Andy Bellefleur has emerged from this season as an MVP. Chris Bauer's subtle and restrained acting (I can’t believe I’m saying this about Andy!) has made his scenes a genuine highlight for me in each episode. Giving him one living daughter and three murdered ones has opened the character up and grounded him in a way I never would have believed possible. I REALLY care about him and Adeline and I want to know what happens when she starts dating or they go on a father-daughter road trip or his fairy girlfriend comes back. Before, as countless past reviews will attest, the sight of Andy on my television screen made my hand itch for a Windex wipe to get the ham off. Now I genuinely think he’s one of the strongest actors in the cast. Bravo, dude.


Anyway—led by Bill, Andy, and Adeline, Jason, the surprisingly likable Violet, and Tara were able to remove Sookie from Warlow’s flowery clutches and move the show down to Sookie’s house, where Rutger Hauer put in the last 30 minutes of his contractually agreed-upon shooting time (he was probably on set a grand total of 6 hours) by saving the day and bracing Warlow while Jason stabbed him. 


As Warlow faded from this mortal plane, so too did the protection his blood had given the vamps.


Now we have the problematic scene: Eric bursting into flames at the top of a glacier. There had been rumbles at the start of this season that it would be Skarsgard’s last. His movie career is, after all, blossoming. I was dreading a finale where Eric sacrificed himself to save the vampires from meeting the sun, as Bill ended up doing. This weirdly ambiguous ending, though, I believe still gives us a loophole to expect him in Season 7: Pam theoretically could have shown up and pulled him into the shadows. It’s hard for me to believe a showrunner who seems so concerned with meting out emotional justice and closure for, say, TERRY, would give Eric such a summary dismissal. But yes, I will panic about it until I receive confirmation that he’s on set in Shreveport, filming Season 7. But to survive, let’s compartmentalize all those troubling thoughts in that same mental dungeon where I keep my worries about nuclear war and student loan interest.

From there, we cut to “six months later,” dropping into this excellent and very real and grounded scene in the church, with Bon Temps uniting under Mayor Merlotte’s suggestion that the town have  a mixer and find a way for vampires and humans to work out a symbiotic, feeding/protection relationship. 



Yes, the pacing was… unique. Elements of the blood-testing and Bill’s crazy appearance plugging his book seemed to really drag (especially when all I wanted to know was, "Is Eric okay and did I really see that part of him I thought I saw?").

And yes, there was a lot of clunky exposition, but still: The ensuing mixer reminded me of the first party Tara went to with Lafayette in Season 1 and that has haunted my dreams ever since. The open air, the lights, the sense of abundance and summer heat and the real feeling that these people know each other—all those good vibes resonated so strongly with my positive associations from the earlier seasons that it felt like a sort of homecoming. 

There were hilarious visual jokes of vampires and their willing prey tentatively reaching out to each other and seeing Arlene glowing and hosting and Violet looking possessively at Jason and Alcide and Sookie bickering like a little flirty married couple… it must have been a great day of filming and it was simply fun to watch.


Tara had her nutbag mom apologize for neglecting her as a child and offering to make amends by feeding her now. Aside from the rather sexual implications of the feeding relationship, I’m very worried that Lettie Mae, like, spiked herself with Hep V or something. There has to be a catch. People don’t just change like that!

Jessica, in turn, offered to protect Andy and Adeline no matter what. Andy’s hurt was palpable, another A+ scene by two seriously amazing people.

Sookie, leaving with Alcide and looking fantastic back in one of her signature sundresses, got propositioned by Bill with Alcide by her side, just as a bunch of essentially zombie vampires stalked toward the party.

Bon Temps under siege! Roving vampire zombies! Eric coming back soon? These are dynamics that could make next season a gripping, exhilarating soap opera, with plenty of human/vampire entanglements and that winning contrast of supernatural factors in mundane, real-world settings that is the heart of this show. I left last season wondering how True Blood would survive. I am leaving this season wondering how I will survive for the next several months without the show. That is the ultimate test of a good finale and good season: It makes me want to watch again next week and feel so sad and incomplete without being able to return to that world until next year. And True Blood, U Make Me Wanna...


QUESTIONS:

– ERIC!?!

– Is Tara’s mom tricking her into infecting herself?

– Were you surprised at Warlow’s turn or did you see it coming way way off?

– Are you #TeamViolet or is she cock-blocking Jessica?

– Are you going to Photoshop up a cover like Bill’s book and wrap it around a dictionary and leave it on your coffee table because that shit is hilarious?

– Do you love Target more, less, or equal to getting high while naked in the sunshine?

– How did you feel about the “six months later” interlude—tacked on, or a brilliant cliffhanger?

– What is that little girl in the church's deal? Any guesses?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 7/20/2014

Season 7 : Episode 5

Next Episode

AIRS ON 7/27/2014

Season 7 : Episode 6

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