True Blood: Karma Review

True Blood metes out Karma and the clot thickens. Sokol bites into David Crow’s review.

Now this is more like it. After last week’s happy horseshit had me screaming at the TV to spill some True Blood, the clot thickens. I’m not kidding about last week. If it weren’t for Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten), I swear to the unholy gods below, I would have flipped to, I don’t know, The CW or something. All that pent up rage made me cheer every time one of the Yakuza popped a cap into one of the teabag assemblage. I know now it was just because I was thirsty for action, but shit, I am a convert.

I’d always rooted for the vampires in True Blood. I rooted for the vamps over the people, the werewolves, the fairies and the shapeshifters. Last week, I changed by allegiance. I’m loving the fucking Yakuza. These are some bad ass motherfuckers who don’t give a shit for nothing. Double negative be damned. Government notables on parade? Heavy security? Cameras? Fuck it all. They are there to kick ass and they’ve never had a stick of bubble gum in their lives. Mr. Gus Junior (Will Yun Lee), the new Mr. Gus, is a modern wild west gangster running Yakinomo Corporation, makers of the newly tainted Tru Blood. Saving face, taking names and making deals. The machete was a little bit of overkill, though.

I have my concerns about the Yakuza. A small army of Yakuza stormed the GOP fundraiser with automatic weapons and x-ray ninja goggles looking for Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp). How did she get past them? Okay, they were looking for a blonde and maybe all those southern meritocracy glad-handers looked alike to them. But really, she dyed her hair brunette and was wearing a hoodie, which, if you think about it, kind of defeats the purpose. She’s not Tony Mendez, the CIA’s famous master of disguise, oops I blew his cover. You’d think the Yakuza, with every detail of the maneuver planned with split second precision, would have more than one exit covered. I’m just saying, they’re renowned for their efficiency. 

I also understand that Yakuza were more than a tad distracted by Eric (Alexander Skarsgård), who not only merges Gary Cooper with Bruce Lee, but comes with his own witty superhero style one-liner: “really?” I thought I caught a major Addams Family vibe when Eric and Pam thought they were going to face their first sunrise together. It was sweet. It made me smile into the opening song, which always brings a grin to me.

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Jace Everett’s “Bad Things” is a truly bad thing in the best sense of the word. That slide, those chord configuration leads that ring and octave jumps that swing, that twang, that ever-present menace and those drums. Where did he find that beat for those drums? It’s not offbeat, but it’s not quite on. It’s like it’s running through some bayou woods trying to get out of that song. That last drum run rides the edge of catastrophe and holds that song together. I believe the skins are whacked by Derek Mixon.

True Blood has always been equal parts soap opera and trashy romance novel. Charlaine Harris, who wrote the Sookie Stackhouse novels, is basically Tami Hoag with fangs. Hoag also tipped her pedicured toenails into thrillers. As a soap opera, though, it aspires to the Dan Curtis heights of Dark Shadows, but usually errs on the side of Peyton Place. Last week’s episode was a prime example, although I would rather have seen the wake thrown by a Maenad. Happy horseshit abounded. It wasn’t as bad as last season’s “Torn Between Two Lovers” torch song episode where Sookie was trying to have a loving threesome with Eric and Bill. That was the nadir. Groucho summed it up in one line when Captain Spaulding said “How happy I could be with either of these two if both of them just went away.”

This is HBO. The same channel that spent almost two full episodes of the final The Sopranos season locked in a sepsis fantasia where James Gandolfini almost used his real voice. Sometimes it’s wonderful giving a series the room to breathe. Sometimes it’s just tedious. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, two weeks ago, while Arlene was choosing between life and Terry Bellefleur, who was screaming at the TV: “Just die already.”

I could do without the kissing cousin, Li’l  Abner subplot. I thought we were done with fairies when they broke camp and disappeared into the Keebler Elf tree. Of course they’re going to get pregnant and Adilyn (Bailey Noble) is going to have a litter and Andy’s going to be flustered and grumpy and ill-equipped to be a grand-daddy and now that we know, let’s just skip it or better still, some vamp should just eat Rocky (Aaron Christian Howles) now and be done with it.

When Sam, the shape-shifting Mayor, gets the bad news that he’s just an inmate running the asylum called Bon Temps, he’s hearing the truth. Sam has deluded himself that Bon Temps is the place he feels safest. This puppy has been chasing his tail around the four corners of central Louisiana and thinks the only safe haven is the place where half the town was shooting at him or calling him freak just, what? Two nights ago? He’s a stranded rain dog and if he kept all his Kennel Ration in one bowl he’d know that Nicole (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) ain’t just whistling Dixie when she says the Windy City might dry him off.

At its bleeding heart, True Blood is also a gay acceptance parable. The vampires are an allegorical militant faction, daring the less sanguine to mess with their fabulous fangulosity. They’re here, some queer and some people will never get used to it. HBO just ran their adaptation of The Normal Heart. It fit in perfectly with the HEP-V epidemic sweeping the alternative universe of True Blood. Silence equals true death stickers abound. There is a war, this particular battle is set in the southern American state of Louisiana. Outside of New Orleans, it is a deeply red state that doesn’t want to give up one platelet to the vamps. Ignoring that is like letting someone bleed to death.

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Bill Compton, land owner and good credit risk since 1865, is bleeding to death all over the waiting room of the area’s top fanger mouthpiece.  Madeline Kapneck (Kathleen York) runs her law firm like a deli. But it’s all meat, there’s no sweaty milky slabs of cheese hanging from her rafters. (It’s a little over, can I keep it?) She’s not really peddling law though, this pig is feeding from the trough of the legally dispossessed. The government’s in the business of repossessing and she wants a cut.

I was upset to see my Crow disused and abused last week because he happened to notice the guest list and comment on the “assholes” that Eric and Pam were playing. If a work is in progress and under review and that work takes on a sociological divide, it is irresponsible not to comment on it. If the show in question invites debate, no matter how much it’s supposed to be light entertainment, it is remiss to refuse the invitation. The Crow wasn’t even being political. He had no intention of being the provocateur. I, however, was hired specifically for my foot-in-cheek manner. Random strangers often lunge at me with sharp objects. I know firsthand that if you dare write anything about the Koch brothers without sticking it to George Soros, commenters will be on you like white on Obama.

This week, True Blood eschewed political commentary for spiritual discourse.Though we’ll probably see if Vampires are covered under the Affordable Health Act on Jessica’s blog. There is a deep southern mysticism buried in, no not Lettie Mae’s front lawn, the series. Bon Temps faithful may have bats in their Baptist belfry, but they go to mass for comfort and community. After an average week or a HEP-V vampire slaughterfest they go for solace and not on some bullshit quest to bribe their sinning asses into Hebbin. “Karma” points that old-time southern religion East.

Christianity is the only major religion that doesn’t have a blue-print for ascendance. Be good, stay in school, pray and you’ll go to heaven when you die. Eastern mysticism gives actual steps for attaining Christ Consciousness. Lettie Mae Thornton (Adina Porter) finds her path through the V. Hallucinations are at the root of most religion and they may be the purest grade il spirito santo, the holy ghost.

Lafayette opens the theological discourse by saying he’s seen more evidence of this Tara shit being realer than god is. Lettie Mae is deep into red magick and she’s always read the bible in pure black and white. She knows evil. She’s seen evil, she’s been evil and this thing that she’s drinking is not evil. It is holy and sacramental.

There is a drug used in South American vision rituals that, allegedly, every person who takes it has the same trip, a kind of shared hallucination. Regardless of their memory, experience or genetic background, they see a vision from that part of the earth. It’s natural, not chemically made, much the same as vampire blood would be, so why shouldn’t it tease the possibilities of something truly divine? It’s not the same as what Lafayette and Lettie Mae are chasing, which reminds me of The Exorcist 2 and that strobe light biofeedback shared trance machine, but it comes from the same altered state epiphany tradition. Holy Stoner’s Clarity.

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When Sarah Newlin says she’s gone Buddhist and is no more. She’s on the right path. Buddhism has a touch of nihilism in it. Newlin has become nothing and yet contains it all. That helps a lot when you want to burn what you used to be to cinders. By the way, is it me, or does anyone else find Sarah Newlin’s crazy eyed true believer stuff a turn-on? I chipped my teeth on the TV screen trying to snatch a taste of her venomous syrum. She scared me when she was all-state in the anti-vampire league, but now I wouldn’t mind being cured. Though, I think they’ll get their scientists to extract the proper formula in a blood lab rather than just pass her around from vamp to vamp. Which would probably be a fun time for all and maybe worth its own series.

I love Violet (Karolina Wydra) best this year. She may be this season’s Russell Edgington. I miss him. Violet is unpredictable, cruel, intelligent and oh so nasty in all the nasty ways nasty should be. I’m predicting that she’s gonna munch a bunch of Adilyn and tell a fairy tale and lay the blame on Jessica. I’m kind of hoping she’ll put a hurt on Jason in other ways too. Violet is coiling up for an attack.

I thought this was a great episode. It promises medical salvation and character assassinations to come.

“Karma” was written and directed by Angela Robinson.

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4.5 out of 5