True Blood: Life Matters, Review
The penultimate episode brought finale sized shocks: Billith meets the sun! Jason confronts Sarah Newlin! We all say the final goodbye to Terry! And just where is Eric going?
It feels more and more that so many HBO and premium cable shows are spending their climaxes in the penultimate episodes these days. Thanks to Game of Thrones, it seems that everyone wants their highest point of interest to be in the second to last episode. Hell, this one even had a man graphically castrated, and if that’s not a nod to George R.R. Martin, I don’t know what is. But I’m getting ahead of myself. “Life Matters” marked a strange occurrence in True Blood history: it was a wholly coherent and focused episode for its full 50-odd minute running time. Indeed, the show could even be said to have evenly divided its plotting between two major storylines, as opposed to the usual fractured strands of grass floating away in the Louisiana evening breeze. The first, and far less showy, was the final, long goodbye that Terry Bellefleur deserved. I am sure that there are many viewers who felt this subplot was a time sink of filler to get us away from the bloody mayhem going on at Sarah Newlin’s unruly camp, but I am inclined to disagree. So much of the emotion and plotting is rushed on a show that will throw everything, including characters’ deaths, against a wall like they’re infected packets of Tru Blood. So, after getting such a pathetically arbitrary send-off earlier in the season, it was nice for the writers to at least acknowledge what they did when they murdered Bon Temps’ singularly best man. Last week, I had assumed Sookie would miss the much talked-about funeral due to her dealings with Warlow, Billith and all those shenanigans that vampires can get up to. But thanks to a lazy and poorly written cold open, the only bad moment of the episode, she was free to canter off to Terry’s funeral. In a somber and earned bow for the character, the entire original Bon Temps cast, save for Jason, was present to give their final words to the troubled marine. And these quieter moments, scattered throughout the episode, allowed for some of that long-missed off-kilter Southern ribbing from the early days—such as the aged Bellefleur matriarch reacting to Lafayette and Big John by stating, “There’s a lot more negroes here than I’d thought there would be”—as well as the oh, so bitter pill that comes with even the most fictional of burials. The nicest touch was seeing every member of Bon Temps’ hottest locale, Merlotte’s, recall their meetings with Terry. Andy begins the cascade of flashbacks by recollecting the troubled bushman Terry mutated into after returning from Iraq. He slowly earns Terry’s acquiescence to go fishing with Sam Merlotte about a job. Given the kooky nature of recent seasons, it is easy to forget how nice the rapport was between actors Todd Lowe, Chris Bauer and Sam Trammell. Watching them ease back into their old energies properly nursed flashbacks that some will accuse of padding the hour out. I would counter that by saying Terry’s inability to let a catfish drown is one of the best moments of the season. Of course, the sweetest flashback is saved close to last. When Arlene is unable to gather her words quite yet to lay Terry down for his everlasting peace, Sookie reads her mind and uses those oft-hated psychic abilities to help a grateful friend. She isn’t even ashamed of admitting her mind-reading abilities to the whole town, half of whom, such as Hoyt’s judging mother, probably just rolled their eyes. But not Arlene. Sookie reminisces about the first day Terry started working at Merlotte’s. Beyond the jaw-dropping shock of AT LAST seeing Sookie back at work, even if it is from the distant past, the moment was incredibly bittersweet because Sookie revealed how smitten Terry was from the moment he laid eyes on Arlene. It is a heart-breaking moment that brings to bear what has been lost on the show. Coupled with Arlene’s own flashback of how caring and concerned he was for her after the birth of their youngest son (and René’s spawn), it makes Terry’s assisted suicide feel all the more forced and obtuse because he was simply too good and well-rounded to stay on the show. Alas. It was a real send-off that gave Terry, and his marines, the proper respect deserved all the way up to the folding of the flag and 21-gun salute. Sookie’s service to Arlene during this moment of crisis also is almost enough to make up for the fact that she literally had nothing to do with the main storyline this season, other than to act as a buffer between Bill and Warlow. Seriously though, she has ZERO to do with the main conflict, which plays out on the other side of the episode…. Starting to feel like an institution that was named more after Sarah Newlin’s level of cray-cray than some half-hearted Nazi allusion, the camp has reached a fever pitch. Freshly armed with Warlow’s blood, Eric cuts a bloody trail of conquest through the piles of faceless underlings unready to meet their Nordic reaper. However, he saves his harshest judgment for the man who engineered Hep-V into a single injection. The doc seemed to consider it his legacy in the past, which is hopefully enough, since Eric’s punishment for the sister-killer is the swiftest of genital mutilations in HBO’s illustrious history. Eric would leave him to bleed out, but Billith is right behind Northman in hopes of using his Warlow-blood to save a progeny. In another season highlight, the newly minted eunuch begs for Bill to end his suffering. Bill asks if he had hurt a vampire named Jessica Hamby. When the scientist answers in the affirmative, Bill growls, “Then I will be happy to kill you, you fucking cockroach,” before stomping on the degenerate’s skull in a way that Tony Montana could only dream of. The hits kept on coming as Bill stayed one step behind Eric, the vampire of action. I’d even venture to guess that Bill’s muttering of the word “Eric” has become a meme on Tumblr already, as he crosses from one grisly scene of vampire carnage to the other. However, Eric did not kill every human he came across. He even spares Jason from being the general female population’s ever-depleting blood bank by freeing all the prisoners and granting an act of mercy on the Stackhouse brother. When he offers his blood to Jason with the strings attached of Jason helping him around the camp, he stops to ask, “Have I ever given you my blood before?” Jason hesitantly says no. It is in that exact moment that Eric gives the slyest of smirks that launched a thousand fan fictions. Just tonight. “You are in for a treat.” Welcome to the Eric ship of dreams, Jason Stackhouse. Eventually, Eric and Jason stumble upon the psychiatrist who has been a little too hands-on in his dealings with Pam. When Eric learns of the doctor’s lechery, he politely refuses to kill the windbag….he’ll save that pleasure for Pam. Unfortunately, Eric is having such a good time unleashing his bloody vengeance that he is doing a terrible job of freeing his two progeny. In fact, at that very moment Sarah Newlin is praying to Jesus as she is opening up the sun upon the fabled white room we have all heard so much about this season. Sensing the end is near, Bill takes it upon himself, with his limited Warlow blood, to reach Jessica and offer himself as a sacrifice against the true death. Bill may not consider himself a god, but the show’s director surely could not resist the Christ pose from above, as all the vampires feed upon Bill’s Warlow goodness. It is enough to stop the sun, save for the hilariously rejected Steve Newlin. In one of the sadder, but deliriously satisfying villain send-offs, Steve is denied by the group the ability to drink Bill’s blood. Eric shows up just in time to see Bill save his daughters of darkness, as well as long enough to make sure that Steve Newlin meets the sun. Steve begs and pleads, but Eric has none of it as he raises the most confused primetime heavy in TV history to the sun. Rev. Newlin’s last words? “I love you…JASON STACKHOUSE!” Bravo, True Blood. Bravo. As Steve turns to dust, both Jason and Sarah curiously scream in horror at the same time. For a man neither loved, it is a bizarrely hilarious reaction to share. Then like competing lovers, they clash outside where Jason removes Sarah’s gun and holds it to her head. He could kill her. Let’s be honest, he SHOULD kill her, but he cannot do it. Thank goodness. There is just too much camp evil left to mine in another season with Ms. Newlin, now a fresh widow. I hope she wears a green bonnet and kicks a puppy in celebration of her mourning next week. Meanwhile, all the saved vampires enter a form of ecstasy from the faerie blood. Pam even dances with the drained corpse of the therapist she slaughtered. I always knew that she was the sentimental type. It is here that the show drops it’s two most intriguing hooks as we head into the real finale. The first is that Lilith seems to think Bill Compton’s trials and tribulations are over; it is time for him to rest. Her bloody children come to collect the dying vampire for his trip across the bar; Bill gives his typical glower, “I’m. Not. Going. Anywhere.” Fortunately for him, it is Jessica and her seeming new beau, James, who guarantee that by returning some of the faerie blood to his limp body. The other mystifying tease is that after the bloody revenge has been tallied and the tainted Tru Blood destroyed, only Pam notices Eric off on the sidelines. He looks at her smiling. “Don’t—“ she begins from afar, but it is too late. He has already flown off to…somewhere. It has been more weeks than I can recall that a True Blood episode has left me this satisfied. For all critics who would call this padded between two set pieces, I say sit back and enjoy the bloodbath. The constant juxtaposition between Terry’s funeral and the bloody wake of Northman and Compton may have somewhat desensitized the suspense and momentum that was occurring in the latter’s adventures, however I doubt anyone thought these two would fail. Indeed, at this point, they are our sole heroes, as they did all the work this season. Bill found out about the room where all the vampire characters were to die, and Eric discovered where the camp was and the master plan of spreading infected Tru Blood; Eric turned Willa Burrell, Bill killed Governor Burrell. Eric frees the camp, and Bill saves all the baby vampires. If these two didn’t hate each other so much, they could sit down for O-Positive and laugh at the idea that Sookie is somehow the heroine of their lives, as her greatest claim to fame this year has been schtooping her parents’ killer. Looking ahead to the finale next week, it’s become apparent that Sookie will deal with Warlow’s wedding proposals. Yawn. More tantalizing is the apparent anger bubbling in Andy Bellefleur, which can only make sense after his last faerie daughter was preyed upon by another vampire. The governor’s misbegotten war may be over, but it seems that all the vampires who are going over to Jessica’s for the after-party may, ironically, find themselves again in yet another pair of crosshairs. Further still ahead though, I have to wonder about the cliffhangers teased for Eric and Billith. It seems that Lilith had ordained that Bill would save her species and then die. Why does she not want him to keep going with her powers indefinitely? I am starting to suspect that the vampire tyrant Eric and Nora feared in the Season 6 premiere has just been delayed until Season 7. Power corrupts absolutely and Bill has not exactly shown himself to have the strongest or noblest of constitutions in the past. On the other hand, Eric chose to not share in any of the credit for the liberation or even in an embrace from Pam. What business does he have that is so vital? I partially think it is a matter of laying to rest Nora and Godric in some fashion, yet I know there is something more complex and violent than that at play. I would even guess he will only appear briefly in the finale with the last real tease of what major threat will be coming down the track next year. Overall, it was completely satisfying episode. I didn’t even complain about how terribly contrived that scene with Sookie and Warlow was. That obviously means this is a keeper. Den of Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars