If one thing can be said about tonight’s True Blood, it is that it clearly knows how to please at least one eager part of its fanbase. In fact, this otherwise solid and nostalgia-filled trip back to Fangtasia and beyond will certainly be eclipsed by the cold open that everyone is already talking about. So, let’s get this out of the way right now:
Forget shipping. The first four and a half minutes of True Blood threw off the anchor, smashed over the battened hatches, capsized the mast, and all around got lost in sea of fan-service so vast that I half suspect that it is the first chapter of an E.L. James True Blood fan fiction.
In a shadowy hotel where east meets western film noir, Jason Stackhouse puts his old gumshoe skills as the deputy of his hometown parish to the test when he tracks down Eric Northman, getting his man in a number of compromising positions—including on his knees with his shirt off.
And honestly, it’s a shame that this scene overshadows everything else in tonight’s episode. While amusing in its equal opportunity exploitation of the many pretty faces cast on HBO—and certainly a lesson that the Game of Thrones producers ought to consider—its complete fan fiction insertion is a bizarre choice since it has been many months since Jason tasted Eric’s blood, especially with the time jump in the Season 6 finale. Unless this is the beginning of a sudden and unexpected shift in Jason’s carnivorous tastes (and Lilith knows that Violet is boring), I suspect that this is solely here so fans can get as big a taste of Eric as Jason did in that hotel room. But with only seven episodes left of True Blood’s abbreviated final year, it feels like a poor choice that underlines that Eric should have more than a cameo cliffhanger in the first two episodes of Season 7. Why not begin the remaining six episodes with other blood dream fantasies as well and get every ship covered? Actually, I can guarantee there will be at least one more to come…
So, that about covers it. Now, onto the actual episode!
Almost blissfully “I Found You” divides an entire hour of True Blood into three, tightly written and focused subplots. It’s been so long since this show had this kind of concentration that I’m not sure what to make of it except that I hope that the remainder of Season 7 offers this kind of clarity.
The first subplot is what happens when the lead characters (i.e. the adults) leave the good, loving folks of Bon Temps to their own devices. Since this is a “daytime” episode, all the vampires have gone to ground for the dawn, and Mayor Sam Merlotte has taken Andy, Sookie, Jason, and Alcide with him on a trip to discover what has happened to the neighboring town of St. Alice (also the name of the patron saint for the paralyzed). So, with every major character out on the town, it is up to the side characters to clean up Bellefleur’s bar and keep their calm together until authority returns before sundown….obviously that all goes to crap.
These folks are not left alone for five minutes before Vince (Sam’s mayoral opponent in the previous fall election) is stirring the pot and forcing all these Southern yahoos to think long and hard about how weird their town has gotten in the last few years. First, there are the vampires that Sam is still insisting they all partner up with, but then there is the fact that Sam is consistently seen running outside in the nude after dogs. Even Hoyt’s bedeviled mama chimes in that she had suspected for a year that Sam was really a dog. Of course, she still voted for him, but his platform must have left her howling too. Only on True Blood can the words “our mayor is a dog” be uttered with complete conviction and not seem silly…okay, it seems like the mind numbingly stupid kind of silly, but that’s the point!
You throw in that the townspeople finally realize that Sheriff Andy’s daughter grew up from being a newborn to a young woman in the span of a few weeks, and it appears that commonsense is coming like an epiphany to these cheerfully oblivious folks. Actually, commonsense might be a bridge too far, but this is surely the final season, because the artifice of status quo ignorance is shattering around the background players’ heads, and they want blood.
When they go “NRA” on the town by seizing the guns at the local sheriff’s department and preparing to take the law into their own hands, it is like the diner fool of maniacs in Hitchcock’s The Birds moving to Texas. Or, it is quite reminiscent of Stephen King’s own version on that “Monsters of Maple Street” horror fiction mob scenario since they evoke a very heavy Salem’s Lot vibe. And much like the protagonists of that King vampire opus, I’m not sure they’re worth saving. Well maybe Adilyn, but Jessica can’t help her until next week. In the meantime, Sookie might want to think twice about desiring to live out in a place filled with characters like Lettie Mae, who as one of the most upstanding members of Bon Temps, Lafayette is not outside of his right to call, “A drug addict, you trifling bitch, through and through!” If she isn’t headed toward a terrible, bloody fate this season, then you might buy that Sookie will live happily ever after with Alcide too.
Yep, on the other side of things, Sookie goes to St. Alice with her current supernatural boy toy for a very harrowing sequence that provides some genuine creepy tension about the state of the world. During the Season 6 finale and last week’s premiere, we have been told repeatedly that the world has ended. But only now does it truly seem possible since the Vombies (or Zompire, if you prefer your Joss Whedon jargon) have eviscerated every living soul in the place. Even the humorous joke of Jason using his keen pizza forensic skills cannot shake the desolate feeling of utter annihilation that is usually reserved for George Romero movies. As the cataclysmic horror of a world falling apart sinks in, it is hard to believe this is the same vampire soap that bit fans early during the maiden televised voyage of 2008. However, it brings a much-needed dose of horror in a show that has relied on trashy camp for at least the past three seasons.
Still, those earlier seasons are also called back in romantic yearning—not just for the audience, but for the apparent writers and actors too. Sookie discovers a diary in the last house that fell, baby and all, to the Vombies. And while the journal entry reads like the captain’s log from Dracula with death closing in on the writer, the real takeaway from Sookie is how much like this young girl she is. The writer speaks of her first romance with a vampire named Henry who took her that one time to Fangtasia. And while the whole diary gives way to a Vombie Apocalypse, Sookie nor Alcide can shake how much common ground that Sookie shares with the doomed author. This allows the show a longing trip into the past with a flashback to Season 1 that looks like more than a few years ago (especially on the supposedly immortal face of Bill Compton). True Blood even underscores the importance of this first date, when Sookie wore her “vampire bait” dress, by filming a new scene of her getting ready for the date and bringing back the haunting strings of the “Bill and Sookie” theme.
And quite honestly, this flashback’s biggest achievement is reminding viewers just how simply superior that first season was. Indeed, it is arguable if any of the subsequent seasons of True Blood lived up to the quality of that first 12-episode batch, however, there is no denying that the series’ high-point ended either in Season 3—or at the very least Season 4. And what did the superior first three seasons have in common? It was the Sookie and Bill Show. So, too will it obviously be again as Sookie pauses on the diary’s line, “Like I said, I can’t fight it. I am his, totally and completely.”
Thus, it’s also time to admit that it is a foregone conclusion that Bill and Sookie are True Blood’s endgame. And honestly, it just feels right. Even if one ignores all the heavy promotional material hinting at it and all the Stephen Moyer/Anna Paquin focused Entertainment Weekly photo-shoots, it still feels right that the series will end with them together, if only because the show’s true golden age was when Bill and Sookie were the central focus. Yes, I am aware that Sookie had a much stronger romance with Eric Northman in the Charlaine Harris source material novels and that she wound up with neither of them by that book series’ conclusion. However, for perhaps obvious reasons, Paquin never had better chemistry with anyone other than Moyer, and the two are the heart of the show. Bill is not his literary counterpart, and even if Eric may entertain more viewers, it was never when he was with Sookie. Meanwhile Alcide is such a non-entity that it’s best if we just shake that fleabag from the conversation.
So, it is also not at all surprising that the episode ends with Sookie reaching out to Bill much the same way she did in her flashback to Season 1. She once insisted that it was not a date, and now she insists that she wants to drink Bill’s blood simply for utilitarian purposes. Sure, Sook. With any luck these two sharing the screen might return some of that old blood that seemed to run dry several seasons ago.
Luckily, and most surprisingly, tonight had one very strong subplot above the rest. Last week, I didn’t pay the shenanigans going on beneath Fangtasia much mind, but Carrie Preston as Arlene really got to shine. In a true horror show, Arlene realizes that the Vombie being sent to “reap” the livestock was once her children’s beloved fourth grade teacher, Ms. Harris. Once the instructor who mentored Arlene’s daughter through the death of René and taught Holly’s boys how to read, she has been condemned not only to the fate of the Undead, but the dying Undead at that. The anguish on her face coupled with the fact she is dragging one poor sap up to be cannibalized on at a time built genuine suspense and a feeling of unease in an otherwise whacky episode. Ms. Harris was not long for this world, but her effect on Holly and Arlene ratcheted up the suspense in a subplot that absolutely must be coming to a head next week.
As a whole, it was a cohesive and entertaining hour of television, which can be high praise for True Blood as of late. Still, it also drew attention to a few facets that are wasting precious time in this shortened season—like the lack of Eric, whose belated reveal of chilling in France during the final scene is the definition of anticlimactic. Add on that we are left with the crazies running Bon Temps while all the vampires are underground, the hour felt both streamlined and anxious as we awaited real payoffs that will not come until dusk finally falls. In the meantime, it served its purpose, but like the human cattle underneath a gothic bar in Shreveport, we’re left waiting for the real big show next week.
***Be sure to check out all our True Blood reviews and coverage right here.***