True Blood: Almost Home Review

This week's True Blood has a twisty ending that leaves us guessing. Plus, Hoyt's return has welcome surprises of its own.

Almost Home? Almost Home?! More like we were almost to a happy ending for Sookie and her vampire gentleman caller of choice, ready to ride off into the moonset, when Bill rejected Sarah Newlin’s blood like it was a glass of Jesus Juice at Neverland Ranch…which incidentally should be the underground name for “New Blood” in the future.

Yep, the plot thickens as Bill’s time is about to run out, and I am genuinely befuddled about my expectations for what will happen next week. Which is a first in about…three or four years for this show? Well played, True Blood, well played.

There is so much in that twist ending—which they only telegraphed minutes beforehand when Bill had a convergence dream of his Civil War era widow and Sookie enjoying a black hole of a baby—that it somewhat overshadows the rest of this week’s storylines: both the good and the bad.

I’ll just come right out of the way and say “Almost Home” was a strong entry for latter day True Blood and its notorious inconsistency. However, as with every seeming glass from this Asian corporation, there are imperfections to be noted to. So, to get those problems out of the way…

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How is it that even after her death that Tara can haunt this show like the Ghost of Television Filler Past? Proving far harder to kill than any of the other vampires on this series, Tara returned from the Great Beyond once more to suck all of the life out of precious scenes.

Yes, True Blood obviously meant this (apparently) final closure on Rutina Wesley’s character to be revelatory, as it is learned that the reason for Lettie Mae’s drinking and all around terrible motherhood is (apparently) that she was abused by a far worse husband, and that Tara’s bottled up anger and all around misery—for both herself and the show as a whole—(apparently) began from this point too. Thus, as a celestial Tara came down to absolve Lettie Mae of her guilt, we’re supposed to (apparently) feel bittersweet sorrow and love for these two (apparently) tortured souls.

Sadly, we probably mostly felt like looking at our collective watches. Tara has always been a drain on the show and while making a good antagonist, Lettie Mae, the Martyr has proven far less welcome in her presence. If not for her pastor husband and Lafayette, this storyline would be intolerable, except Lafayette’s presence makes the entire “V” angle pointless as well since he has long been established to be able to commune with the dead. He could have rustled Tara up for Lettie Mae while keeping the family’s dignity a little higher in the community sans public bloodletting and shovel digging.

But I suspect this is the last we will see of Tara on True Blood….ever. And these are truly happy tidings, indeed.

More good news spread into the Violet story as well. Not for Violet herself, but in the revelation by how quickly she died! I thought for sure that they would drag out the Violet plot all week and possibly into the next episode with her chamber of tortures (the fire dildo was a nice touch, and so freaky that even George R.R. Martin would have cringed). Jason charging in there with no back-up save for Hoyt’s tagalong girlfriend might have been boneheaded—as was his inability to realize that between Bill and James, that at least one vampire could have joined him to come to Jessica’s age—but it is forgivable because Jason is, well, a bonehead.

Yet, just as Violet was beginning what undoubtedly was going to be only the first hour of her days-long monologuing, Hoyt came out of nowhere like a shade from True Blood’s storied golden age and tied up this narrative deadend with a BANG. He also opened a slew of new ones between Jason, Jessica, and himself.

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Indeed, all the meet-cute stuff between Jessica and Hoyt this week had me wondering if I’ve had it wrong all season: what if Jessica and Hoyt are endgame, as opposed to Jason and Jess? After all, Hoyt’s girlfriend, Bridget, has been tagging along after Jason long before she and Hoyt had their convoluted fight. And Jessica and Jason agreed to basically be friends with benefits for the foreseeable future. Not to mention that seeing Deborah Ann Woll act giddy around Jim Parrack is always a welcome dose of entertaining chemistry. It is a reminder of how they stole season two in the first place.

However, the problem with nostalgia is how much of a trap it can be. Hoyt may have forgotten what happened, but Jessica and the audience have not. If this goes back into that territory, is she not damning Hoyt to An Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind styled regression of the same doomed relationship he’s had before? Sure, it wouldn’t matter to Jess: The Immortal, but it’s not like she has changed since their break up. In fact, there relationship ended because she somewhat outgrew Hoyt’s down home folksiness. If Jessica and Jason just divided and conquered Hoyt and Bridget for themselves, they would be doubly the bad friends they were in season four. Then again, who’s to say they aren’t?

But the focus of the night is not on Jessica, but her father/Maker who is deathly ill. Kind of like Eric until the cold open.

Seeing Eric have Sarah Newlin’s life in his hand was almost as euphoric for him as hearing that Sarah believes herself to be the next messiah is for us. The only problem I had with this scene is it could have gone on for a dozen more minutes with her rambling. Hell, even Pam threatening to kill herself seemed to only pause Eric’s desire to kill Sarah, not stay his hand. That didn’t come until Noomi revealed she thought she was the New J.C. Only when Eric realized she wanted to die a martyr did he know better than to kill her. “I have seen your future, and it’s not very bright.” If she had prayed to the Lord instead of thinking she was one, my guess Eric would have more than a sip of her blood.

Nevertheless, seeing Eric being cured is a relief. With still two episodes to go, the thought of one of them without Sheriff Northman is a true horror. And I imagine for Alexander Skarsgard’s fan club, it would be nigh intolerable.

Instead, Eric learns that the pharmaceutical company he’s in bed with wants to do with “New Blood” what conspiracy theorists whisper their real world counterparts have done with a supposed AIDS cure. A nice bit of paranoia thrown in, the greatest thing about it is how completely chill capitalists Eric and Pam are with profiteering off a disease that took Nora away. Unfortunately for Eric, things get complicated when he discovers it threatens to take Bill away too.

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Quite honestly, it is a surprise that Eric showed such compassion for Bill’s Hep-V fate when Sookie delivered the bad news. Granted, Eric and Bill have always been more fun playing off each other than they ever have been against Sookie, but part of the irony is that they don’t know that. Whether it is being mistaken as a gay couple in season two or more or less being a buddy cop team in the post-Sookie and pre-Lilith days of the middle seasons, these two are always fun to watch. Albeit, part of that amusement comes from the knowledge that if either got the advantage, they’d let the other die in a heartbeat. But when Sookie bears the bad news, there is a look of actual panic in Eric’s eyes. Perhaps, he just knows how much Sookie is going to nag him now that Bill is sick?

Sure enough, in the non-Hoyt scene of the night, Sookie strolls into Fangtasia to get herself into trouble. Having Eric “glamour” her so that she “forgets” that she was there is a highlight, particularly as he emphasizes that she is “asking for it,” by way of Yakuza bullets in this singular scenario, whenever she walks into a dangerous place, assuming Eric or Bill will save her. Pam’s disdain for the Bon Temps waitress is so palpable that Sookie need not be a psychic to know exactly what she is thinking.

Eric tells Sookie to wait for him to come to her. So, she obviously must bring Bill to Sarah Newlin herself. Jessica too.

The beauty of the ending to “Almost Home” is that it is so unexpected. I didn’t realize that all these flashbacks for season seven had been building to Bill wishing and longing for death until the most recent dream sequence (Sookie and the Grim Reaper in his newborn years). At that point, I suspected Bill’s mindset. Still, seeing him so close to Sarah, and to then reject the Newlin Cure™ staring him the face? The disappointment that Sookie and Jessica feels is as biting for me too.

I am of two minds about this revelation. On the one hand, I applaud it because for as long as Sookie and Bill have been parted since season three, I always expected the series would end with them back together. And nothing, including amnesia Eric, wooden Alcide, and an awful Warlow subplot, has changed that expectation. But now, for a brief moment I am considering that Bill could die.

Part of me is actually quite okay with that. And not for the same reason that certain fangirls are cheering for it at this very moment. Sookie will never, ever end up with Eric. Not in this medium or any other after the “Southern Vampire Mysteries” book series conclusion. Further, Stephen Moyer’s Bill has always been a strong asset to the show, even if the writing around him has not been so steady.

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The relative simplicity of Vampire Bill, as opposed to Eric who hails from the Anne Rice School of Vampires, is bemusedly subversive and ironically fitting with his Southern Gothic air of tragedy and internal darkness. And Lilith nonsense aside, whether it is as a vampire governor or it is as slaying the last Louisiana governor (or now his potential legal retainer), Bill has maintained some of the best moments on the series, especially his fleeting ones with Jess.

All that said, Sookie and Bill ending up together is just so cute and so predictable that I feel as queasy as a Hep-V vampire myself. Bill dying would be far more subversive than how Charlaine Harris ended her novels, and it would fly in the face of every soapy and sitcomy impulse this show has unapologetically indulged for the last three seasons or so. By that token, Bill greeting the True Death in the vein of Godric would be so unexpected that it’s welcome.

Then I think about how it would leave his relationship with Sookie and Jessica in complete tatters on a show that is not one that looks for tragedy or cynicism, and I realize it is impossible to go for such a downbeat impulse. This is a show about big warm, fuzzy feelings that find God even in Godric’s death and continued beauty in what could otherwise be viewed as a stupid (and senseless) suicide on the part of Terry Bellefleur. True Blood finds the sunny side of human plasma draining. And with only two episodes left, having Sookie and Jessica’s worlds destroyed by choice, with Bill’s legal affairs not in order no less, seems equally off. Not with Bill telling Sookie in episode two of this year that he is a different vampire than the one who betrayed her, or on a similar note tonight saying that he never turned her in to Sophie Anne because he loved her from the first moment he saw her.

No, Bill and Sookie are still endgame. But this week has me wanting to hedge that bet and hesitate before I go all in on this speculative guess. Such a pause is so rare and surprising on True Blood after all these years that I can’t help but smile at how impressive this week’s episode turned out to be in the end.

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3.5 out of 5