HBO, Sundays, 9 PM
“Hard Hearted Hannah”
Written by Brian Buckner
Directed by Michael Lehmann
“I don’t like drums. They only lead to cults and hippies.” —Sam
By the end of this episode of True Blood, I needed some of Terry Bellefleur’s (Todd Lowe, Gilmore Girls) post-traumatic stress counseling. I could definitely have used a big ball of warm, yellow comfort. Most episodes of this show end with someone screaming; the big difference this time was that I was screaming along with Sam Merlotte.
“Complacency” is definitely not a word in Alan Ball’s vocabulary. There’s never a moment’s peace in Bon Temps these days—or even in Dallas. Sookie’s plan to infiltrate the Fellowship of the Sun backfires when she goes undercover with Isabel’s human boyfriend. Jason gets an assignment that, for the first time, really turns his stomach. Andy, and then Pam, terrorize the formerly unflappable Lafayette, who is now back in the V-vending business, whether he likes it or not. Jason wanders into Sarah Newlin’s web the way flies wander into a spider’s, and Hoyt and Jessica take their relationship a little further. We get to see a flashback of Bill and Lorena that really alters my view of Bill Compton. And we learn a lot more about Maryann, Daphne, and Eggs Benedict than we have in the last five episodes. Heady stuff.
First off, all my speculations about Eggs being the puppet master behind Maryann are out the window. Clearly he is exactly what he seems to be—a thrall. He is a victim of some pretty high-level brainwashing, which starts to un-wash when he is driving around with Tara and starts to “recognize” a couple of locations he shouldn’t. By the time he leads Tara to a remote clearing full of discarded blood, ashes, and a bloodstained rock, he’s terrified of his own Swiss-cheese memory. Something is very, very wrong with Eggs, and he’s only now starting to realize it. Is this what glamouring is like? The only person we’ve seen onscreen after being glamoured is Ginger, and she’s an intellectual lightweight to begin with. What exactly are the powers of these supernatural creatures, that they can go around erasing memories? Can they also implant memories? And does this mean Maryann is at least part vampire, despite her ability to walk around in daylight and eat human food?
I am convinced that Maryann has at least some ability to glamour her victims, or else most of Bon Temps would be chattering about the constant orgies at her house. Whereas the last one, Tara’s birthday, had Tara asking “who are all these people”, the one she and Eggs stumble into at the end is full of too many people she knows all too well—not just Mike Spender and Jane Bodehouse grunting away as usual, but Arlene and Terry, and others. I was very unhappy to see Arlene and Terry together, much less under the black-eyed enchantment Maryann specializes in, primarily because I’m becoming such a Terry Bellefleur fan. He doesn’t need any more stress. But of course, his stress is nothing compared to Sam’s, who finds himself about to be served up as the main ingredient in Karl’s next stew. I hope that, if he survives this episode, Sam at least learns to stop dating his own employees. It never turns out well.
Second off, I am ready to vote Bill and Sookie’s love scenes off the island and replace them with Hoyt and Jessica’s. (I thought it was hysterical that, once again, Jessica can’t open a lock.) These two are so adorable, fumbling their innocent way towards a connection. Both of them deal with serious parent issues, and this time, like Romeo and Juliet, defy their parental units. Hoyt (Jim Parrack, Supernatural) doesn’t exactly climb the balcony, but he does come all the way to Dallas and rides up in an elevator. Close enough. Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll, The Mentalist) is fast becoming the most interesting vampire after Eric on this show—where is all the feral anger she showed in the beginning? Is it possible that the reason so many vampires are so vicious in their first year is that they are unloved? She has fought against despair from the outset, and Bill is trying to guide her away from violence. She resisted at first, but it looks like Hoyt may be the best influence on her yet. The call of love may be stronger than the call of the blood. We’ll see. I am keeping my fingers crossed that she leaves Hoyt enough blood to let the man function.
And whoever used to write Sookie’s lines now seems to be working for Jessica. “I’m so happy I could cry, but I don’t want to because it’s gross when I do.” Sookie, alas, is mouthing the most boring dialogue I’ve seen on this show yet. Her bar conversation with Isabel’s boyfriend Hugo (Christopher Gartin, Private Practice) is like something out of a vintage copy of Cosmo: “Fight to Keep Your Relationship Fresh!”
Third off, Lorena (Mariana Klaveno, ER) is a liar. She claims to Eric that she no longer cares about Bill, but even as she is saying it, she is wearing the necklace he gave her eighty years ago, and is distracted by someone playing “their song” at the piano bar. Despite the horrific nature of the Bill/Lorena flashback, I have to admit it was a much more interesting Bill Compton. Not a wimp, for sure. We’ve only seen him in his aw-shucks, country-gentleman mode courting Sookie and claiming he’s fine with “just cuddling”. But here he is as the suave seducer, speakeasy Lothario, and very cruel murderer/bloodsucker. Is this all Lorena’s doing? If so, he sure got into it. I’m glad we finally got a look at what is really weighing on Bill Compton’s conscience; it makes him a much more believable “reformed rake” if we know how much cruelty and violence he is really capable of. As I speculated, maybe we’re being shown what happens to a new vampire when he’s “raised” without love, only bloodlust. Is Alan Ball making a moral statement here?
Of course, Bill still can’t protect Sookie. By now, that’s pretty much a given.
The really painful realization was that Bill and Lorena are much more interesting this season than Bill and Sookie. But at this point, so is watching paint dry. I must say that watching Stephen Moyer mouth “Hard-Hearted Hannah” was fun. I would love to see the transition between the down-home Civil War veteran that Lorena turned, to the suave seducer/piano player that he became. Must have been an interesting sixty years.
Sometimes the measure of a story is how it makes me squirm. As I said, complacency doesn’t seem to be on the menu here at all, and there’s no question that the final orgy scene made me squirm. It’s not that I object to seeing all these naked people having sex, it’s that they don’t appear to be enjoying it. In fact, they looked pretty creepy and unhappy, like sinners in hell. Which may, after all, be the point.