True Blood: Love Is To Die Review

The penultimate episode of True Blood is as messy and uneven as the show itself has been. What does that mean for the finale?

In many ways, “Love is to Die,” the ninth and penultimate episode of True Blood’s entire, lengthy seven-year run is the series in a nutshell. After last week’s surprisingly robust and even impressive hour, it all sputters out of control for most of this episode. While nothing “Love is to Die” does is conceptually off, the execution varies from the hilarious—oh yes, we will get to THAT wonderful fang bang between Eric and Ginger—to the horrendously boneheaded…and I’m not referring to Jason’s comforting skills.

It’s a bizarre mismatch of execution that’s as schizophrenic as Sarah Newlin’s steadily deteriorating mind. In short, it’s a messy reflection of True Blood.

The problems with “Love is to Die” are too immediate to not confront first. Namely, the fallout of Bill choosing the true death. Last week, I was so taken aback by True Blood doing something (anything, really) unexpected that I couldn’t help but applaud. Yet, the follow through was horrendous, because as Pam points out, this “human drama” is nothing but that. It is a perfunctory conflict that will spin the wheels before Bill and Sookie get together for the finale (more on that at the end of this review). And it just feels hollow that Bill can neither articulate his rationale for either Sookie or Jessica.

I feel like that I have spent much of this season wishing that Bill and Jessica would be able to get more than 20 seconds of shared screen time where they are actually talking to each other, especially with Bill having one foot in the grave for the last two episodes. And I got it here when they talked for probably closing in on two minutes! But like so much of the self-inflicted Kill Bill storyline this week, it feels cheep and superfluous. Sorry, but when this is the first time Bill and his daughter speak to each other with any sort of honesty or compassion all season, falling back on the lazy “release me” Maker/Progeny (supposed) tearjerker that True Blood has already used twice in the last two years is as weak as Bill’s ultimately half-hearted justifications.

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It was great seeing Bill finally address Jess instead of Sookie, but once again that relationship is given short shrift for the Bill-Sookie soap opera when he releases her after a few kind words in what I suspect is their last shared scene of the series. When Sookie spends more time talking with Jessica during the “Bill is dying” episodes, it is a massive failing on the show’s part.

The positives from this arbitrary conflict-generator belongs not to Sookie or Bill, but to Eric and Pam. Eric has seen this death wish before in his Maker Godric’s eyes, and he accepted it after many tears that actually affected the audience. He also felt it himself earlier this season. Thus, Skarsgard’s subtle but palpable understanding and even compassion for Bill adds more layers to everyone’s favorite vampire. Also, Pam going to comfort Jessica after losing her Maker was the real character highlight of the cold open.

Similarly, I am always happy to welcome Jessica and Hoyt back together, because Jessica and Hoyt is one of the best aspects of True Blood’s early years. Perhaps the writers agree since they’re chasing those initial storylines pre-decline like it will give some much needed magic to the final season. But again, how the show is actually going about bringing Hoyt and Jessica together, like it’s some star-crossed love that is meant to be (and as articulated by Jason Stackhouse), verges well past soap opera and enters the realm of schmaltzy dime novel paperback romances that are embarrassing just to be seen staring at the covers of.

This is accomplished, the day after Hoyt almost died saving the lives of four people, and within four days of finding out his mama died, by Bridget antagonizing Hoyt and accusing him of cheating with that “redhead.” She then draws the kind of obligatory line in the sand that television probably hasn’t seen since ABC simultaneously pulled the plug on All My Children and One Life to Live several years ago. Of course, Hoyt goes into Jessica’s direction and is tasting red by the end of the night.

But don’t worry; Jason is there to pick up Bridget for his own happily ever after with a girl who is ready to call him sweet and kind after knowing him for only a few hours. Jason’s insistence that “we are not going to have sex” is probably for the best, because otherwise with the speed of this episode’s plotting, he’d be engaged right now. Jason and Bridget’s scenes are cute, but as he waxes nostalgic about how Hoyt and Jessica were always meant to be after the writers spent so many hours once upon a time convincing us that she had outgrown Hoyt and the “good girl” humanity that every vampiress must inherently discard…it bites for all the wrong reasons.

Sam’s apparent final exist from the show, meanwhile, was so inconsequential that it happened off-screen and via montage. Yes, Sam, one of the original lead characters of True Blood, who in the books (SPOILER) ends up with Sookie, is written out an episode early via a “goodbye letter” that explains he’s moved to Chicago. Apparently, Sam’s mayoral office took its cues from Sarah Palin’s gubernatorial legacy.

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Once a fan favorite, Sam Merlotte spent season seven talking Jack and shit, and Jack left town long before Sam did. Somehow, this character got an even worse send off than Tara. Worse still, Sam is a character that most fans actually liked.

But this being True Blood, it’s not wholly bad news. Indeed, we got some positivity coming from an unlikely corner when Arlene once again somehow sneaked her way into contention for season seven MVP. In fact, she takes on the Gran role when she consoles Sookie over Bill’s apparently imminent demise and points that she was, kind of, maybe, perhaps, just a little bit an awful, awful, soul-crushingly terrible girlfriend to Alcide. But she does it in such a motherly way while admitting she was wrong about the joys of vampire love that when they both profess to loving one another, it incalculably feels authentic and earned.

But the MVP of the night’s episode itself is undoubtedly Eric Northman, who played the most reluctant of matchmakers. It was so harrowing that he could not imagine listening to one more person whining about love, lust, or any other sort of “feelings” for another second. So, he does the unimaginable: he bangs Ginger’s brains out. Don’t worry, she has so few left that it only took a few seconds. More than any other “sex scene” in season seven, this is iconic HBO lovemaking at its finest. Seeing the euphoric ecstasy on Ginger’s face intercut with looks of first incredulous smoldering by Eric and then disgusted bafflement as she collapses on the floor is the stuff premium cable gratuitous dreams are made of.

Eric also featured prominently in the week’s other golden moment, which came when he called on Bill Compton. Bill and Eric have often been a True Blood highpoint, and this is no exception. For all their competing, these two vampires rarely play off better than one another, and they seem to understand the other’s disposition far more intimately than Sookie ever will. Eric, who has been on death’s door and has seen this logic before from his Maker, neither judges nor condemns Bill’s actions, but rather comes to see things Bill’s way. They cannot offer Ms. Stackhouse happiness, and she will only seek it out if she is not drawn to Bill’s darkness. It’s a great scene for Bill and Eric on their own that shows a profound level of respect and understanding that in a perfect world could end in a hug.

But this isn’t a perfect world, and that is all the more true when one examines what Bill is actually saying: that he will die and end his existence, simply because Sookie isn’t strong enough to move on from him without the noble True Death.

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It almost speaks poorly of Bill that he believes that, but it speaks worse of True Blood that the show believes that. While I am fine with a Bill and Sookie finale, the notion that Sookie is completely passive and cannot choose her own destiny, but must have it selected for her by Bill, Eric, Alcide, or whoever else is walking around borders on the offensive.

But that is exactly how this season is going to end.

I predict that the series finale next week will involve the Tru Blood manufacturers not only trying to kill Sookie…but succeeding. Sookie is going to be mortally wounded and faster than you can say Bella Swan of Twilight (however, simply the word “abomination” will suffice), Eric or Bill will make the choice to save Sookie by indoctrinating her into the world of vampires. Thus she and Bill can live on in eternal life guilt-free while Bill gives his complete fortune to Andy Bellefleur who will share it with Jessica Hamby in a newfound family for her and Hoyt.

If that is the actual ending of True Blood, I will meet the true death a little bit inside myself.

But for the time being, this week’s True Blood might be the hardest that I’ve ever had to rate. While the last several years have been frustrating in their unevenness, “Love is to Die” had some wonderful moments, and some truly awful ones. The result is a frustrating hour of TV and a poor omen of heading into the series finale. I am still hoping for the best though.

Seriously, if Ginger can have a satisfying happy ending, can’t True Blood also get one?

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Rating:

2.5 out of 5