True Blood: “Burning Down the House”

Blood Feud

True Blood
“Burning Down the House”
Sundays, HBO, 10

Written by Nancy Oliver

Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter

“It’s war. It happens.” – King Beel

True Blood gets points for one deliberately iconic moment in this episode: the Black Leather Vampire Strut that closed the hour. Seeing Eric, Bill, Pam and Jessica stalking side by side down a darkened street, toting weapons of mass loudness while clad in shiny patent leather: yeah, that rocked. It almost made up for the rest of the hour. The only thing that could have topped it was the naked Alcide/naked Eric scene a few weeks ago, which still echoes in my very DNA. A second, perhaps half-point, goes to the writers for finally killing off Tommy Mickens. One more episode with that whiny little cur would have sent me screeching from the room. But I have to deduct several points for the wet firecracker that is the resolution of the Eric/Sookie romance: Eric regains his memory, and nothing profound happens. Say what?

“The other Eric is still here.” – Eric Northman

Martonia, smarting after her ambush last week, sends an enchanted Eric to kill Bill. He barely escapes death when Sookie uses her Extra Speshul Fairy Power ™ to stop the bespelled Viking vamp. The unexpected (by everyone but the audience) result is to restore Eric’s memory. So suddenly, we get cool, reserved Eric Northman, bar owner and bon vivant, back in the mix. But he is pretty much indistinguishable from the sweet and cuddly Eric we have so enjoyed this season. Therefore it is difficult for me to make sense of Sookie’s angst and tears when she realizes her pet is restored to his former insouciance; he still loves her, has not forgotten everything that happened between them, and seems willing to continue to be, or try to be, a better person for loving her. No woman could ask for more, but then, this is Sookie. Unreasonable is her middle name. She has realized that she still “has feelings” for Bill (someone please shoot whoever unleashed that clumsy and infelicitous phrase upon an unsuspecting world). Despite her sexual liberation manifesto of last week, Sookie apparently can’t quite bring herself to admit she’s in love with two men. Angst ensues. Yawn follows.  What a letdown. This was the central story of the year, the one fans have been looking forward to with anticipation pretty much since the beginning of the series. Eric wakes and finds himself involved in a romance with a human, at the mercy of Bill, out of things for weeks at a time – and he does nothing but stare into Sookie’s eyes? The berserker who tore a man apart two years ago would have had more to do or say than that.

“I’m gonna go find someone to eat.” – Jessica

Thank heavens, someone remembers when this show used to be a fun romp about vampires in the modern world. Jessica continues to be one of the best original (i.e., not from the books) characters on this show. There’s more melodrama in her story this year, but it’s more believable: she was an adolescent when she was made a vampire, so it figures she still has some maturing to do. She shows more self-confidence, if not more downright cynicism this year, and is fast approaching Pam as Queen of the One-Liners. What is it about vampirism that turns the females into undead versions of Dorothy Parker? Whatever it is, please give me more. I can listen to Pam bitch elegantly all day (er, night) long. It’s a little predictable to see Jessica caught in a love triangle between Jason and Hoyt, but by this time I expect everything involved in this show, right down to the coffeepot, the refrigerator and the dishwasher, to be caught up in a love triangle. There’s more geometry in this season of True Blood than you can find in a high school math text. So it’s nice to hear a little black humor from my favorite baby vampire.

“This is not possession. This is union.” – Martonia

At the heart of the episode is the unraveling character of Marnie/Antonia. I say unraveling, because what looked like a well-put-together character is falling apart. When we met her, Marnie was a slightly dim, insecure, fragile witch wanna-be, in possession (heh) of powers she didn’t really understand or know how to use. A more powerful witch (ghost?) named Antonia came along and, at her invitation, possessed her. Now we see Antonia and Marnie arguing tactics and strategy (which I found funny) and Marnie insisting she’s running things (which I did not). When Jesus infiltrates the witch’s lair and interviews his friend Marnie, he is distraught to discover she is not the victim he expected; instead, she sees her guest as the fulfillment of her every wish. So what am I supposed to deduce from this? That power corrupts? Big news there. That playing with Otherworldly Powers can rot your soul? More big news (see Maenad). That bored and/or confused screenwriters are trying to inject some iota of self-awareness into a juvenile personality? Bingo.

“There ain’t no heaven, and hell’s a dogfight.” – Tommy

Alcide is woefully underused again this week, as once again his major function seems to be carrying people around. This time he’s burdened with the dying Tommy Mickens, who has nobly sacrificed himself by pretending to be Sam so the pack would beat him up, rather than Sam. But in true Tommy fashion, he botches the job: as he’s beaten, he reverts to his own face, thereby letting his attackers know that they missed their target. Alcide tries to take him to a hospital, but Tommy insists on going to Merlotte’s where he can bleed all over his brother’s pool table and exchange platitudes about dying that neither one of them believes. Am I really supposed to believe that Sam, who had a thousand reasons not to love or trust his brother, now in Tommy’s dying hour discovers a deep-rooted love for his wayward sibling? This is guilt, not love, and the fact that Sam can’t tell the difference is disturbing. Because of all the characters on this show, Sam has been the most laid-back, reasonable and accommodating. If any of these odd folk have their feet on the ground, it’s the bar owner/shifter. Now we’re supposed to believe he’s taken leave of all that to go on a vendetta for Tommy, whom he threw out of his house several times? Whom he shot? Yeah, I don’t buy that.

“Even a SWAT team isn’t any good against magic.” – Jason

Which brings us to our run-up to what will surely be the finale in two weeks: Bill’s war against Martonia. Increasingly, he rejects Nan Flannigan’s orders and plans to go his own way. I will confess that the scene where all the vampires, chained in silver, engaged in a prolonged bitch session in Bill’s basement was funny. Slowly, slowly the various threads that have tangled us up all season are being drawn together: Jason, Lafayette, Sookie and Jesus team up to save Tara, who is held hostage with the other wannabe witches in Martonia’s shop. Jesus magics his way through Martonia’s protection spell, but when Sookie, Lafayette, Holly and Tara attempt to escape, Martonia poofs them away, leaving an awestruck Jason staring at thin air. We can all guess where they went, right? Especially if we saw next week’s previews three minutes later. Exit Jason, confused. Enter the Vampire SWAT team as aforementioned, with a wardrobe as hot as their weapons. We’re set for a duel that will force Bill to choose between protecting his people and sacrificing Sookie. Personally, I’m ready for some fairy ex machina to step in and stop all this nonsense, and make everyone go sit in a corner.