This True Blood review contains spoilers.
The final season of True Blood has now commenced, and despite a spiritually uplifting title like “Jesus Gonna Be Here,” it was probably the darkest night ever for the fictional town of Bon Temps and their special, thick gumbo ingredient. The end is nigh for both the characters and the show, which might be the shot of “V” in the arm this series has needed for years!
It is unclear whether Season 7 was the planned ending of the series or not, but the Walking (Un)Dead vampire-zombies (or vombies, as I like to say) feel like as big an existential threat as True Blood has ever imagined. By getting into the zombie game, the series finally has created a reason for the show to return to being a drama about folks in a small town dealing with local issues, Southern prejudices, and character angst on a supernatural scale with the series’ nadir—Lilith—firmly in the rearview. In short, while it is sad that True Blood’s final walk in the sun has come, for the first time in several seasons, I am genuinely excited to see where that solar jaunt is headed.
The change of pace is announced early and violently in a cold open that dramatically capitalizes on the cliffhanger of last season. For those who don’t recall all the details, the Season 6 finale enjoyed a liberating time-jump of half a year. In the intervening time, Sam improbably became mayor of Bon Temps, formed a neighborly alliance with Vampire Bill, and is basically left adrift to oversee the town’s fortifications for the coming vampire apocalypse wrought by “Hep-V,” the Season 6 vampire STD that has turned infected fangers into decaying and ravenous Un-Undead. And Maylor Merlotte surely wasn’t just whistling “Dixie” for his Louisiana backdoor barbecue since a pack of monstrous vampires showed up at the party, ready to feast on all of Bon Temps’ inhabitants.
Thus it is a grisly start where Sookie barely has time to faerie out while the bloodbath rages around her. Many extras are killed, and even important characters like Arlene and Holly are taken captive in a doggy bag. But the most dramatic revelation before the opening credits start is that Tara is dead! Again.
So, I am going to just come out and say what everyone is hopefully thinking: Tara is about as dead as Sookie Stackhouse’s love life. During the battle, we see Tara grapple with an infected vampire who wants to feed on Tara’s mother…which is honestly not the worst thing in the world, is it Tara? But when we cut back to the battle at hand, Lettie Mae has a lump of blood and puss that was once a Nosferatu, exclaiming that her little girl is no more.
Does this really fool anyone?
The likelihood that they killed Tara off-screen is even more remote than that time she might have died because she took a bullet for Sookie in a season finale. If we weren’t free of this True Blood albatross who was a (time) vampire long before she drank Pam’s blood, then we aren’t spared her victim complex now.
I am not sure what Lettie Mae’s game is but she is lying. Perhaps she still doesn’t approve of vampires and used this as an opportunity to capture Tara? That is probably giving Lettie Mae too much credit at competency for her hateful ignorance, but for whatever reason this mother is wrong. Our skepticism is underscored by how little emotion all the other characters take upon hearing of Tara’s death. Even Lafayette admits he felt relief learning that she had died, because he already grieved for her once the first time. That makes one more time than us! But in all earnestness, while I am not a fan of the character, she deserves a better death than an anti-climactic off-screen surprise. And she will get it too during an inevitable reveal later this season.
However, one character whose arc and importance has surged greatly to the benefit of the show because of this doomsday scenario is Sookie Stackhouse. Our ostensible lead and heroine has been far too long sidelined with dippy storylines and dippier actions. It was understandable in Season 5 given Ms. Paquin’s pregnancy that she took a step back from the center stage, however last season was just a waste with the terrible, terrible self-hating and stupidly destructive relationship she placed herself in with Warlow. But at this point, it appears that Season 7 is going to set Sookie in a situation that has been a long time coming: a confrontation with the “good” people of Bon Temps.
Always the outcast even before the series began due to her initially inexplicable psychic powers, Sookie used to be a good Southern gal who had her fair share of admirers and smiling enemies at the multiple booths of Merlotte’s. But just as the concept of Sookie actually showing up for work ever, the Sookie Stackhouse of Small Town, Louisiana seemed to become an abstract concept. With all her adventures in faerie land and battling Lilith, then Billith, and finally Warlow, she hasn’t even been around long enough to be ostracized for her “fang-banging” tendencies that proved so crucially dynamic during the series’ superior first three or four seasons. But just as the apparent end of the world has driven this small community together, it has also pushed Sookie into the heart of a town that no longer wants her. And it is some fascinating drama that I hope continues to play out all season.
Immediately after the attack, Sookie’s psychic abilities make her susceptible to hearing every thought and scathing remark her “friends” have about her. They wrongfully blame her for being the source of this vampire nightmare, but believably associate her love for vampires as the cause for their wounded, missing, and dying. Even Alcide has a moment of prejudice by thinking that her love for the “dead” is why they are stuck in this hellacious situation.
This is seeding an interesting conflict: is Sookie really any longer part of the Bon Temps community? The show finds what I view as a temporary détente when she convinces a church full of folks that she loves them all, but I’m not so sure. Her relationship with vampires might be complicated, but it seems less so with the humans of her hometown. Most of them, as depicted by HBO writers, are small town bigots obsessed with guns and mob lynching mentality for anything that is different. While Sookie might not have gone to Europe or lived for a thousand years like a certain Nordic bloke, she has been to the fae’s dimension and at least met Vampire Queens, Kings, and a goddess. That is downright cosmopolitan compared to Hoyt’s mama.
Alcide is partially right, Bon Temps is no longer her home. Then again where do you go in an apocalypse? The world is over and they seem rather stuck. His sour grapes just prove that despite his love, he might not be the supernatural beast for her. And did anyone notice how nice Bill has been to her, lately?
Speaking of Bill, his plan of vampire and human unity has gone up in smoke after the attack, but for a very good reason: this is kind of the worst case scenario that humans have feared ever since vampires came out of the coffin in Season 1. Granted this is truly the cause of vampire-hating humans like the Brotherhood of the Sun who engineered Hep-V to kill off the Undead, and have instead doomed the whole world. Nevertheless, the public relations image of vampires could not be much worse at the moment. It can be no help that Sam’s mayoral opponent is riling up the rednecks with rifles while realizing that Sam Merlotte is a “dog.”
Yet for now, the conflict has come to a simmer instead of a boil: Bill is forced to join forces with Sheriff Andy Bellefleur when the rednecks start arming themselves. And Andy is a character who has serious, substantial reasons to hate vampires, especially Bill. Once a randomly amusing triviality in his town—an ancient great-great-granddaddy returned from the dead—Bill kidnapped Andy’s faerie children and accidentally let baby vampire Jessica feed on three out of four of them to the very last drop. It is honestly a wonder that someone as bull-headed as Andy Bellefleur hasn’t tried to kill Bill himself, even if it would end in failure. But Andy’s hatred for both Jessica and Bill is entirely well-founded, as is his predictable “saving” of Bill when he stops a couple of rednecks from putting a silver bullet in Bill’s heart. Their uneasy alliance is telegraphed early, but it could still be a cathartic and enjoyable storyline in future episodes if played as well as it is by Stephen Moyer and Chris Bauer, tonight.
One relationship that will invariably be explored further is the best sequence of the night: Jessica protecting half-faerie Adilyn from a roving Hep-V victim who is willing to die to taste her fae blood. In a sequence that feels like real horror, he stalks her from a distance on the open grassy field under a full moon, waiting for Jessica to either leave or allow him to begin pounding on Adilyn’s door. It is a bit of a cheat on the writers’ part to not have this maddened vampire attack Jessica to get to Adilyn, but it still creates great tension and sets the seeds for what I predict will be a semi-romantic friendship.
Yes, I used the word “romance” in reference to Adilyn and Jessica. It is almost a given that any relationship on this show will be exploited for the steamiest fashion, and I mean more than the red mist that comes from vampire feeding. It is all but guaranteed in the moment when Jessica allows Adilyn to drink from her blood “so I can know where you are,” not to mention effect your dreams. Still, it is a nice rapport as Jessica gives Adilyn dating advice and the two come to an unlikely but entertaining understanding about the whole “killed your sisters,” thing. Adilyn somewhat ridiculously puts her trust in Jessica by letting her sleep in the attic during the first rays of dawn. But again, predictability or absurdity is not necessarily bad on a show as tongue-in-fang as this, and it made for a dynamite sequence with a general gross uneasiness from the monster in the wings.
Meanwhile for Holly, Arlene, and Nicole, things are appearing far less shadowy with the monsters. It is a major cliffhanger in the sense that at this point, there appears to be no escape. The vombies who captured them took them to a broken down Fangtasia and are feeding on prisoners one at a time. That sweet deputy never stood a chance when he sat there next to the far more important characters, all waiting for his turn to die in a red gush.
The other plotline of curiosity involves the continued mystery around the missing Eric Northman. The most popular character on the show was off-screen the entire premiere while Pam searched high and low for her Viking Maker. Apparently, the vampires have likewise accepted the world is ending since they’re treating the new status quo like it’s Goodnight Saigon, and they are playing Russian Roulette with silver bullets. This seems a bit hasty, because while Hep-V is deadly, vampires seem more capable of protecting themselves than humans. There was a dropped line earlier about how the U.S. government has abandoned everyone except for the major cities, yet we still need to see a better scope of this Armageddon to believe in it. Why ever these vampires are being so dour in their immortality? At least Pam’s trip to Morocco gave us the line of the night. “My god fucking hates me… Tell you what, your god and my god can go to a motel and have a circle jerk for all I care. I’ll be in Hell having a three-way with the devil.”
But it is in the Lord and faith this show returns again and again when it ends in a church, looking for that dawn in this darkest night. Indeed, if one really considers the title of the episode, “Jesus Gonna’ Be Here,” it might not be about hope. These are end times, and the citizens of Bon Temps aren’t just looking for comfort; they need a savoir. At this rate, I wonder if True Blood has the fangs to do what nobody would expect: end the season with Jesus Christ’s Second Coming? Now, that would be a series finale like no other!
Either way, the scene is also where Sookie’s relationship with the town comes to ahead again. She is all but run out on a pike by Lettie Mae, who is halfway down her road to V-addiction in her latest hypocrisy. And as Sookie hears every hateful insult thrown at her while she leaves, she stops to let them all have it—with hope and feelings.
This is as much her town as theirs. She even wrongfully takes partial blame for a problem that was wholly the actions of the Brotherhood of the Sun. Despite her arbitrary and bizarre martyr complex of taking unneeded blame, she does tell them something they need to know about their own personal psychic: she is here to help them if they’ll let her. They may for now, but what she is really helping is the overall quality of the show.
At this point, I am much more interested in the future of True Blood’s final season than when I started this episode. Tara might not be dead, but at least she will be not cluttering the stage for a little while; the mystery about Eric’s whereabouts is really intriguing; the world is going to pot and creating interesting dynamics between Sam, Bill, and Andy with the at odds townsfolk (with perhaps Jesus really getting here down the road?); and Sookie matters.
With vampire-human relations (or the disintegration thereof) at the core of this season, Sookie’s importance to Bon Temps and the rest of the characters rises dramatically. It is a boon for Paquin’s talents and an even bigger boon for audience members who are sick of the disparate storylines drifting apart. Seeing all the characters of True Blood band together has been a long time coming, and the results will hopefully make this the show’s best season in ages. I am aware that Season 5 also began with promise before unraveling into Lilith nonsense. But call me a sucker, because this premiere has left me bitten with intrigue for our final sip of a soothing summer pint of the red stuff.