Everyone is reinventing themselves in the appropriately titled “In The Beginning’, which offers a lot of breathing room to dig deep into who, or what, our characters have become as we head into the second half of the season.
Let’s bitch it out…After wondering last week where this season is going (and – let’s be honest – calling the show out on its S5 BS), True Blood delivers one of its best episodes in a good, long while. I’m sure the haters will exclaim that this is too slow and boring and not enough action or sexy-time occurs, but for me, this is exactly what the show needs at this point in the season.
It’s nice because with so many characters and so many narratives on the go, it’s easy to lose track of who these people are, what they want and what they’re doing to get it. Instead of simply throwing people into danger or watching them take off their clothes with new partners (admittedly entertaining, but only if the audience is invested), True Blood wisely sloooows things down and allows its characters to reflect, reinvent and even rehabilitate themselves before gearing back up with a few doozy cliffhangers.
The key focal point of the episode is Arlene’s (Carrie Preston) wedding videotape. It’s important because it serves as a visual cue, reminding us how far these characters have come in a single season. The tape documents Arlene and Terry’s (Todd Lowe) wedding, which took place at the start of S4 when Sookie (Anna Paquin) lost a year in Faerie Land. What’s remarkable is how in just a few seconds, we get a great appreciation of what so many of our characters have lost: this is a time before Hoyt (Jim Parrack) and Jessica’s (Deborah Ann Woll) relationship went belly-up, Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) when he was a care-free horndog, and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) still had Jesus (Kevin Alejandro) alive and well. That so many of these characters are in different, darker places is a testament to how much their lives have changed. It’s no wonder, then, that so many are eager to reinvent themselves in ‘In The Beginning.’
Chief amongst them is Sookie, who practically lights up when she hears that she could be “normal”. With finite powers, Sookie realizes that her Faerie powers – which caused her parents’ murder-by-vamp deaths – and all of her other “differences” (highlighted in a “best of” villain reel) can be eliminated. Remember that Sookie spent the better part of the first four episodes feeling like garbage for turning her BF into a vampire and then having Lafayette tell her how she brings ruin onto everyone in town.
It’s interesting, then, that she seeks out Sam (Sam Trammell) to solicit his opinion. They’re approaching the topic from opposite points of view: she craves normalcy, while he – in full superhero mindset – revels in the need to protect those who are “different” from persecution and intolerance. The difference (pardon the pun) is that Sookie believes these causes can still be fought by the majority – she believes she would still care about the injustices of those who are different if she were a regular person, whereas Sam sounds less convinced.
We, of course, are presented with the answer in the very form of hatred Sam is raging against: Hoyt’s new Miller Lite swilling, Obama-mask wearing redneck friends. Whether Hoyt – who at this point has reinvented himself twice in a single season – really believes in the intolerance spouted by these dumba*ses is unclear, though the truth will likely come out shortly since the group is on the hunt for more victims (likely at the hospital where Janina Gavankar’s Luna is, or possibly at Jessica’s mansion).
The red-haired baby vamp has her own conflict to work through courtesy of a flip-flopping Jason Stackhouse. The rate at which their exchange dissolves from caring to incredulousness to insulting to murderous is a little overdone, but it does help to put Jason’s frame of mind in context. In many ways Jason and Hoyt are the same character: they’re simple, naive, idealistic and – most destructively – frequently resort to black-and-white explanations. Jason, as seen in the wedding video, is often used on the show for comic relief. This changed, however, in S4. Following the breeding farm last season and now his attempts to redefine himself outside of his womanizing ways, Jason has both lost and gained ground in his search for himself. It’s not surprising – although it is frustrating – to see him resort back to “fang hater” simply because he can’t handle the fact that vampires caused his parents’ death. Likewise, he shouldn’t be surprised that Jessica isn’t as clean and pure as he’d like to believe she is – or should be (welcome to the virgin/whore dichotomy). Truth be told, if I were Jessica, I would have abandoned the “name the cows you eat” metaphor for something along the lines of “how many women have you slept with that you can’t name/remember?”
The vast majority of the remaining scenes involve the Authority. After dragging the show down for SIX.WHOLE.EPISODES in which we barely left the decorative rooms of the Authority mansion, things finally begin to develop. ‘In The Beginning’ finds the Authority essentially swapping ideals and becoming Sanguinista, although its hardly a deep-in-thought reflective choice so much as a desperate bid for survival. After a showy start featuring the night vision capture of Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare), Chancellor Salome (Valentina Cervi) reveals she orchestrated the escape from his concrete prison (gee, no one saw that coming!).
From there its a quick hop, skip and a jump to cracking open the Lilith-blood and getting high with the remainder of the Authority Chancellors, as well as newly freed Nora (Lucy Griffiths) and reluctant bystanders, Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) and Bill (Stephen Moyer). The scenes that follow are amongst the most humourous and disturbing in the entire episode as everyone gets rowdy on Bourbon Street before crashing what appears to be a private wedding/karaoke party. Comedy bits include Eric’s hilarious oral declaration that the blood will not affect them as vampires followed by the visual cue of the group wandering with fangs bared in the streets, as well as Eric giving Bill a piggyback ride and, finally, the confused face of the karaoke singer when Edgington crashes the stage before the entire party is laid to waste.
The sight of the guests slung dead across the tables and floor, including a young boy, is among the more gruesome images in the episode. As some predicted, Lilith herself also appears, though it is only as a group hallucination brought about by her blood. The cliffhanger sees Eric’s maker, Godric (Allan Hyde) – in full golden halo mode – demand that Nora be saved. Meanwhile, back at Chez Sookie, our finite Faerie lights the night skies up with her powers, which A) she shouldn’t do since we’ll clearly need her powers before the end of the season and B) may be calling down a swarm of hungry vamps like a come-to-dinner bell.
What a silly girl…
- The other gruesome image? Lafayette’s discovery of Jesus’ missing body in the cabin of his lover’s family leaves our favourite line cook with sown up lips and knife scarring on his forehead. I’ll admit that I legitimately wondered for a moment or two whether they might kill Lafayette here (but only for a moment). Then the child-bride comes to his rescue. A little bit of knife-happy action and Lafayette survives the encounter with his brujo powers intact. Side Note: Did the girl have to use the knife to cut open his mouth stitches? Because that looked hella painful!
- Tara (Rutina Wesley) and Pam (Kristin Bauer) solidify their surrogate “mother-daughter” relationship after Tara’s birthmom, religious nutter Lettie Mae (Adina Porter), more-or-less disowns her. Unfortunately these shots are quite brief in an episode that otherwise takes its time developing its emotional storylines. Negative a million points for Tara’s striperella pleather pole-dancing outfit, as well as Pam’s 80s-style crimped hair. File these costumes under “kill it with fire”/”cannot unsee” and let us never speak of them again
- The Terry and Patrick (Scott Foley) scenes remain the only ones that don’t work, even in this revised format. I’m at a point that I don’t care to see anything pertaining to this storyline anymore. On the flip side, however, Arlene watching the wedding video with Holly (Lauren Bowles) manages to humanize the story into a more True Blood relevant context: a woman struggling to deal with a supernatural challenge in her marriage. I’d much rather see this emotional side instead of more poor-CGI smoke monster chases, even though I know we’re likely to get more of the latter than the former.
- Eric (after being asked by Nora and Salome to join the Sanguinista movement): “Never. You Bible banging c*nts”
- Alcide: “Respectfully Martha, your son doesn’t have a grave because your pack ate him”
- Russell (apologizing to the Authority council after staking Roman): “I want everyone to know how sorry I am. Not so much about Roman – he had that coming”
- Steve Newlin (at Lilith’s blood ritual): “I’m like a tree in the wind. I’m just so happy to be included”
- Pam (to Tara): “So your mom’s a real bitch”
- Pam (after Tara impulsively hugs her): “Okay, break’s over. Time to…get back on that pole”
What did you think True Blood-ers: did you like the slower, more character-centric pace or were you bored? Did the introduction of Edgington revive (or even rescue) the Authority storyline? Do you care about Sam and his war on the Obama-mask rednecks, or Alcide’s (Joe Manganiello) desire to be pack master? Hit up the comments like a karaoke wedding massacre and dig in!
True Blood airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO