I’m going to put my hands up here: having excoriated last week’s episode, Team True Blood have turned it around, and I have a theory about what is at its more successful core.
Theory: this is a show about vampires. No one gives a shit about anything that isn’t vampires.
This week’s episode, “Authority Always Wins”, not only brings us at goshdarned last into the cool, Apple-product-using basement hangout of the Vampire Presidents-for-Eternal-Life, but noticeably gives much less of a toot about non-vampire activity; werewolf chat is streamlined, as is Terry’s new, questionable thread, and fairies, witches, ghosts and panther people (neva 4get) are right out. The show feels tighter, opens and closes strongly, and suddenly I feel far more likely to stick with its overwrought nonsense.
So what’s to like? Exhibit A: Pam. Pam is The Best. During the worst excesses of season 4 Pam acted as audience stand in and a massively useful whutvalve when things slipped over into the wrong parts of Crazytowne. This year she’s already bargained her way into being Tara’s maker (ugh) in exchange for Sookie patching things up with her and Eric, plus she gets her very own period costume flashback to San Fransisco in 1905, when she was a prostitute (imaginative, TB) with an undead guardian angel. Her first meeting with Eric is stylish, slick, and efficient and I’m genuinely curious how their dynamic develops in the next few visits to fin de siècle California. PLUS this is set shortly before the quake of ’06, and it would be so delightfully True Blood of them to appropriate that to vampirey causes.
Exhibit B: Steve and Jessica. It’s week 2 in the Little Kegger on the Prairie and Jess is already looking bored fangless with helping teens get their dronk on when Steve smarms on in and does the most giffable dance moves ever performed on the show. There’s a really lovely moment when he dances out of shot and Deborah Ann Woll is very clearly struggling to hold in the lulz. Metacute! Anyway, the next scene is more Steve Is A Douche Theatre as he offers to buy Jason from her (because I guess that’s a thing vampires can do?). The upshot is they have the vampire equivalent of a slapfight and Jess kicks all the dudebros and dudebroettes out of her house, and this might be the time for Jessica to start doing something interesting that doesn’t involve Bill, Hoyt or Jason! My reservations about Steve the gay vampire have kinda been salved purely by how campy this whole thing was. The weird politics are still there – in this case a straight woman shaming his unsavory desires – but there’s little malice in it.
Exhibit C: Vampire Authority. This one’s a bit more in the balance. The actual base is in a warehouse with a cool finger-scanner hidden in a fusebox, which is cool and slightly Invader Zim-y, but the innards look noteably bland and a lot like Bill’s basement from the Acting 101: You’re a Vampire Who Wants To Die In The Sun seminar from last year, which is an unpleasant flashback. The slightly limp interrogation scenes are really just padding to introduce not just another handful of characters (evaluation: all dead before season’s end) but also the Best, Dumbest, True Bloodest Thing. There’s a Vampire Bible. I just assumed using ‘vampire’ as a prefix to household objects was a short-cut to lulz, but I guess we’re done with that gag because there is absolutely a Vampire Bible in this show and it is going to be a big part of this year’s A-plotline.
The basic tenet of the Vampire Bible (eesh), as propounded by the fundamentalist sanguinistas (oy vey) is that God was a vampire and created Lilith as a mother/father figure in his own image to feed on the first humans, Adam and Eve; thus fraternising with non-vampires and treating them as equals is heresy. This was what Alan Ball was referring to when he talked about the Rick Santorum storyline in this year’s show, about what America would be like under a theocracy, with Russell Edgington as the leader of the fundies. Expect this to be covered with TB‘s trademark delicate touch, but it’s at least an ostensibly provocative take on exclusionary religion.
Moreover, Christopher Meloni is the dude in charge of the Authority (which turn out to be a pretty standard bunch of character vampires, complete with Drew Barrymore-esque thousand-year-old child) and is a glorious ham. But it works. Eric and Bill handwave over their actions at the end of season 3 and offer themselves as live bait to recapture the escaped Edgington. It doesn’t even feel like they’re trying to hide that as a plot hole. He has returned by sheer force of fanlove and the recognition that he was the best part of that series by a country mile. Added bonus: Terrible Nora is taken away presumably to be tortured! May we never speak of her again.
Exhibit D: Wolf baby in pyjamas.
Exhibit A in the case for the prosecution: I totally called it. Tara runs around like a moron for a bit, then sure enough tells them she’ll never forgive them and scurries off into the night and hopefully to a very short and uninvolved plotline.
Exhibit B: Terry’s storyline looks crappy and POLITICAL and like it’s going to undo the stuff we learned to love about him in the past four years.
So not a whole lot of plot movement, but the Authority bits and definitely the Pamline look like they have a bit of freshness about them. And at the very least it did clear up what Russell Edgington was doing since his escape: murdering municipal employees and hoping we don’t think too hard about exactly how strong he currently is. True Blood!