True Blood: Fuck the Pain Away, Review
The only thing being fucked away this week is the show's promising upswing; though a few nice moments for Eric and the Newlins keep us hopeful that the pain is gone.
Oh, True Blood. True Blood, True Blood. What are we going to do with you? The last two episodes of the sixth season impressively built upon the horrid foundations that were Season 5. And like Jason Stackhouse in the presence of the fairer sex, I fell for it once more. Hook, line and sinker. “Fuck the Pain Away” is only one part in a 10-episode order, but fans should definitely be feeling the latter half of that title by tonight’s end credits. Before we get into that though, let’s start with what this episode did get ever so right. And her name is Sarah Newlin. To date, I have not really discussed the ex-wife of everyone’s favorite self-loathing super-Christian gay vamp, because it honestly felt like a nod to True Blood’s, simpler and better days. Nostalgia for gory days gone by. However, this week the vampire-hating she-bitch in high heels and a “Bless your heart” Southern Belle smile got to shine with a vengeance. Well, not at first. In her earliest moments, she rather shockingly tried to convince Governor Burrell, only minutes after locking up his own daughter, that it is a sign from God that he needs to put a ring on her finger and a baby in her belly. Good Lord woman, his daughter has only been exhumed from the ground for a day! But Louisiana Macbeth simply turned her attention from one fool to the next. It seemed it bit arbitrary for her to knock on Jason Stackhouse’s door in Bon Temps. Just how close is the fictional backwoods True Blood locale from Baton Rouge, anyhow? Apparently, it is close enough for Sarah Newlin, played by Anna Camp with the beaming toothy smile of a former beauty pageant contestant, to make the trek at night. In black lingerie, no less. She has needs, dammit! When she appears at Jason’s front door, the years have been kind enough for Jason to forget that he called her a coldhearted bitch on their last encounter and welcome her into his home. But how could he resist when she says such sweet whispers as, “I truly believe God wants me to fuck you.” Oh, poor Jason. This is a woman who could convince herself that God wanted her to shake hands with the Devil if there was some media exposure to get out of it. And she had him at “fuck.” To be fair, it is nice to see Jason out of his angst and back into the saddle. This is the Jason Stackhouse we know and love: a walking libido with a pulse. Of course, it goes bad when Jessica shows up…but let’s rewind for a second. One of the great cliffhangers from last week was that Jessica drained all four of Sheriff Andy’s daughters of their faerie blood. Originally, I assumed they would all be alive and that Billith would use some vampire mojo to bring them back. I was wrong. Only one lived, but instead of helping her, Bill is too focused on Jessica (and one other thing we’ll get to later). In a moment that demonstrates even True Blood has a level of restraint for all the frenzied shipping and sexcapades it condones, Jessica’s first reaction to jump Bill is a bridge even these writers won’t cross. They don’t want it, Bill doesn’t want it and the audience (hopefully) doesn’t want it. This is the last sweetly platonic relationship on HBO, and by Lilith, Mr. Compton is not going to allow a moment of faerie blood goodness to sully it. It is somehow a charmingly awkward scene. Bill commands Jessica to sleep off her Vampire High while he goes and deals with pressing matters. Unfortunately, this leaves Jessica alone when Andy shows up looking for his little girls. Instead of sticking around to find out if any are alive, Jessica hightails it to Jason’s where she meets…Sarah Newlin. The two have a nice skirmish as they both come to the realization that Jason has about the same level of self-control as the Navy making port in Bangkok. Between Jessica coming up with a sky-high theory that Billith is actually the Devil and Sarah Newlin saying, “My body is a fucking temple and you have defiled it with your vampire loving pecker,” it was a good time all around until Sarah started quoting the Bible. Even stoned-enough-to-be-granite Jessica recognizes scripture readings as a buzz kill. Around this time, Sarah’s back up of the governor’s Gestapo division showed up and haul Jessica off. But lest she worry, she’s in good company. At this point, just about every vampire on the show, save for Billith (still hold on) is going to camp. I hope they get to stay up late and swap ghost stories later, because right now this camp is kind of a bummer. Pam was the first (of the episode) to get the tour and be psychoanalyzed in exchange for blood with some annoying shrink. Still, it’s a good scene for Pam (her first in the season). She’s allowed to go the total diva with her dripping disdain for the doc, humanity at large and Eric in particular. Meanwhile, Tara and Eric turn themselves in to save Pam. Their plan? I suspect that Eric is making it up as he goes along, but he’d best move quickly. Jessica is spazzing out in General Population with still-Biblical fears about Bill while Tara watches her back. But the bigger problem is directly where Eric ends up. In a terrific cliffhanger and the other true silver lining of the week, Eric Northman and Governor Burrell have another meeting of the minds. The governor was as happy as Woodrow Wilson watching Birth of a Nation to learn that Eric was now a prisoner. And to Eric’s chagrin, the governor even revealed that he has arrested his own daughter and placed her on these campgrounds. We had a glimpse earlier of her being offered by a guard to her VIP single cell some extra special treatment in return for sexual favors. Eric is genuinely stunned at the level of evil emanating from this executive branch. What did you expect Eric?! Do you think, say, Michele Bachmann would welcome with open arms a member of her immediate family who turned out to be gay? I think we all know that any such person would stay DEEP in the closet before facing that irrationally prejudiced wrath. Hypothetically. So, Eric may have the fangs, but he has met an even bigger monster. Welcome to politics, sheriff. The turn gets even nastier when the governor, thanks to a little squawking pigeon named Steve Newlin, tries to earn his revenge on the man who smeared his darling Willa’s white with a splash of red. Enter Eric’s other progeny, Pam. Gov. Burrell, the Newlins and company expect Eric to kill Pam. They even give them each a sharpened wooden stake like a gang try-out session in Gotham City. Or as Sarah Newlin puts it, “Haven’t you seen Gladiator?! FUCKING FIGHT!” Love her. The episode may as well have ended there, since it is an amazing cliffhanger. Eric and Pam, the tag team from the happier parts of Hell, forced to kill each other? Is this it?! Is the death of this season, Pam falling on Eric’s stake?! It is so tantalizing that I wish we could have found out by spending more time on this story with a liberal cutting of the rest of the episode. Sigh. Which brings us to Sookie. Last week, I sang the show’s praises like I was at one of the faerie’s disco parties. This was largely due to my renewed interest in Sookie. She took matters into her own hands and stood up to Barlow (Ben+Warlow) and had him cornered for a superb cliffhanger which…went absolutely nowhere. At the start of this episode, Sookie gives a few empty threats to the vampire who killed her parents while he professes his undying love for her. Why his great-grand-relative (keep reading) and not just any run-of-the-mill faerie he could turn, as Lilith turned him? There is no explanation, because Billith shows up to summon Barlow away from Sookie. I do not blame Bill and it was a clever way to keep their big bad breathing for the second half of the season. In fact, Bill’s story may be the last non-camp storyline of interest this season, since he is the only vampire on the outside now and thus the only character with something interesting to do. In this case, it’s using Warlow’s blood to synthesize a vampire-approved version of Tru Blood sunscreen. Not the most dynamic plot thread this week, but at least it was important, because we learned that Warlow was turned 3500 years ago in a far less dramatic way than Bill or Eric. Also, he appeared in flashback to be anticipating the birth of little Niall, leading me to wonder if he is in fact Niall’s father (though the mother seemed to have another man around her as well, so perhaps he is just a good friend?). Similarly, it is revealed that Warlow killed Lilith via sunlight after she turned him. That is until Billith showed up to yank his chain once more. However, while all that vampire stuff is well and good, our lead Sookie is immediately once more left with a show that gives her little to do. Other than a nice quip on Lafayette’s part about her showing up at Merlotte’s for anything but work, her story is just a big wobbly ball of weird from this point on. She convinces Lafayette to help her commune with her dead parents and tries to find out the truth about Barlow. Remember a few weeks ago when I asked for them to give Lafayette something interesting to do? This is not it. In one of the dumbest retcons ever, Sookie discovers that her parents did not die from a rainstorm, a tragedy which caused Jason to painfully take on as much survivor’s guilt as his little sister did. No. Turns out her parents were in that car because they planned to KILL Sookie. A preemptive murder to thwart Warlow from having her. Yep, her parents were so scared of Warlow turning their beloved daughter into a vampire when she came of age that they went ahead and tried to slay her themselves when she was but a babe! Ergo, Warlow is a hero for saving Sookie from this pair of Agamemnons. Where was Gran in this moment to lay the smackdown on those dunderheads? I do not care if this is in the book series, but I truly hope it is not. Because if so, I have something to join book fans in railing against. Not because I am a stickler for fidelity to a book series I have never read, but because it is bad writing. A retcon of Sookie’s past this LATE into the story reeks of desperation. Oh, but it gets better (i.e. REALLY FREAKING WORSE). Papa Stackhouse randomly possesses Lafayette’s body against his will. Really, these days the Merlotte short order cook should just start charging rent to all the tenants who come in and out. Then, instead of wishing to have a conversation with his fully grown daughter about how her life has been or why he stupidly tried to slaughter her, Papa Stackhouse tries to slaughter her as an adult. Again. With a helpful jump cut that lets the writers and director skip how exactly he got the drop on Sookie. The episode ends with LaStackhouse tossing Sookie into a pond and trying to drown her. They brought back her parents as ghosts so they could kill her. Just to keep her away from Warlow. Without even assuming that she might be able to handle herself after surviving vampires well into her 20s. The rest of the episode also falls back on the same aimless plotting that the series has been accused of countless times. Andy’s story is somewhat important; he saves one of his dying daughters with a few drops of V. But rather than actually doing his job and going to confront Bill or Jessica like a real sheriff would, he lets Holly talk him into leaving well enough alone. He could have called for backup and gone during the day, but the writers apparently want to drop this thread after already introducing the whole “I killed your daughters” subplot. Elsewhere, Terry is doing something stupid about wanting to die again, and Alcide beat up dad for pointing out he’s a werewolf with a tail whipped so far between his legs, they might as well cut it off. This week was truly a mixed bag. Despite its playful title, there was not a whole lot of screwing, except to Sookie’s backstory. Otherwise, it was either interesting when the vampires—or vampire hunters—were onscreen and wholly not when anyone else appeared. Worst of all, Sookie has gone from taking the main bad guy head on to fighting the ghost of her father from pulling her under. Literally. As in that is not a metaphor. Then again, maybe it is for the show. This is the first truly bad episode of Season 6, so I do not want to get too cynical just yet. They have managed to recoup from last year’s disaster in a strong way and would obviously reshuffle the deck this week as we prepare for the Back Five episodes of the season. Despite that knowledge, the ship is starting to feel creaky like it did around the midway point of Season 5. It can still be balanced, but history has left me cautious and weary of what likely is to come. Could that include Pam’s death? Well, if we’re being honest, it certainly isn’t going to be Eric dying in that room if the show has to kill one of them off. But, I still think they may get out of it. If True Blood kills a major character, it will be as a cliffhanger, not as a cold open; unless, they really want to repeat the despised send off of the series’ best villain, Russell Edgington. Pam and Eric are too smart for the Newlins, so I remain optimistic that they will get out of this trap. As for the rest of the show? There’s always next week. Den of Geek Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars