True Blood: “I’m Alive and On Fire”

Bill Who?

True Blood
“I’m Alive and On Fire”
Sundays, HBO, 10

Written by Nancy Oliver

Directed by Michael Lehmann

“You want the Eric who doesn’t feel.” – Eric Northman

I definitely am going to need a spreadsheet this year to keep track of storylines. I counted no fewer than six different stories in this one hour episode, and most of those were broken up into more than one segment. That means at least a dozen different stories being hurled at the viewer, some of them having nothing whatsoever to do with the other stories. Where would a new viewer connect Arlene’s baby Mikey with, say, Jason’s escape from Hotshot or Bill’s discovery that the Bellefleurs are his descendants? What does any of this have to do with Sam’s budding romance with another shapeshifter? All too often, these secondary (and tertiary) stories merely draw energy and attention from the ostensible “main” story, leaving us with too little time with the main characters and too much time spent with people we no longer care about. This tree is in dire need of pruning.

“I’ll never swim in the sun again.” — Eric

The most interesting development in this season is one Sookie/Eric fans have been waiting for for a long time. Eric, having lost his memories, now becomes a different person altogether – playful, boyish, teasing, moody. The brooding, sarcastic Viking prince now plays hide-and-seek, pinches Sookie’s butt, and gleefully splashes around in an alligator-infested pond, naked as a jaybird. When it’s time for him to sleep, he resists as stubbornly as any four-year-old, begging Sookie to stay with him, pouting, and doing everything except ask for a glass of water and a bedtime story. He is not only befuddled by his loss of memory, he doesn’t like who he is. He mourns his lost humanity in a way that, in his other persona, he would have sneered at. Sookie reacts first with annoyance, then with kindness, and finally with something like fascination when he asks for a kiss. Is this love, or a deep seated need for reassurance? Clearly, this Eric attracts her, and the feeling is mutually powerful. Watching Sookie fall for this version of Eric is going to be painful, funny, and mesmerizing.

“All of your subjects are learning how ruthless you are.” — Pam

But of course, everyone is looking for the mysteriously-vanished Sheriff Eric. Bill has his minions (he has minions now) search all over the world for Eric, and finally insists on searching Sookie’s house himself. She bars him, and he tries to overrule her, once again using her for his own ends. Bill is just never, ever going to get it. Sookie, at least, pays him back in his own coin. Even as she stoutly denies that Eric is in the house (he’s in the basement, actually), she looks Bill in the eye and asks, “When have I ever lied to you?” Caught up in the memories of his own guilt, the King of Louisiana somehow doesn’t sense that she is, in fact, lying to him. Well done, Sooks. Meanwhile, Bill’s own hypocrisy is so evident that even Nan Flanagan is growing impatient with him. Ominously, she reminds him that there are no retired vampire kings. His subjects don’t trust him; indeed, Pam is doing all she can to hide Eric’s whereabouts from Bill, convinced that Bill tried to kill Eric by deliberately sending him into a nest of witches practicing necromancy.

“They don’t make necromancers the way they used to.” – Nan Flanagan

Meanwhile, Jesus, Lafayette and Tara are doing their level best to restore the hated Eric to normalcy. They appeal to the witch, Marnie, whose spell originally ensorcelled him. But Marnie really does not know what she’s doing, so she can’t reverse the spell. In a scene that not-so-gently mocks Wiccan theology, Marnie calls upon her spirit helpers and is ignored, until finally a book in her library falls open to the right spell. I got the impression that, rather than responding to her entreaties out of sympathy, the spirit(s) grew annoyed with her nagging and threw her a bone to shut her up. Marnie is not, however, totally without justification in her beliefs. During a dream sequence, she relives the burning of a witch during the Inquisition in Spain, and dreams that she has been given that witch’s powers. She demonstrates this later when Pam attempts to intimidate her; the witch’s spirit takes over Marnie and shocks the heck out of Pam and everyone else when she casually curses Pam – with appearing as the decaying corpse she is. What a deliciously apropos punishment for this witty, vain and forceful character.

“You drank the whole fairy!” — Sookie

Meanwhile, Sookie is doing her level best to protect Eric, and asks werewolf Alcide to help. When Eric wanders away (having drunk enough of Claudine’s fairy blood to walk in the daylight unharmed), Alcide helps her track him to the aforementioned pond. And there we get a scene that had me laughing aloud: naked Alcide growling at snarling, naked Eric over Sookie, who stands on the bank scolding both of them like errant schoolboys: “Eric, put away those fangs and do as I say at once!” For a moment we returned to the feisty, spunky Sookie of Season One, who was the voice of sanity in a crazy world. Two magnificently muscled men treated like boys, and Sookie channeling her Gram – what’s not to like? Sookie smart-mouthing the most powerful and deadly vampire in Louisiana? Yes! I loved it. More, please!

“You are my one and only.” – Melinda Mickens

Alas, we spend half the episode following a couple of increasingly tedious storylines: Sam Merlotte’s family troubles and Arlene’s baby. Sam’s brother Tommy, angry because Sam won’t help him swindle Hoyt’s mother, now returns to the family fold, er, trailer. Embraced by his mother, reassured that her connection with Joe Lee is finished, he relaxes and confides in her – only to find himself harnessed by Joe Lee again. At least this time we were spared any more gray, saggy undergarments, but the very idea of this trailer trash once again invading my screen is depressing. Can we just let the Mickens return to their deserved obscurity and let Sam get on with his life? Sam, unaware that his father has returned, is cozying up to Luna the shifter. He gets a surprise when he meets her daughter, but readily adapts and winds up making friends with her. And how not? Any guy willing to play Barbies with a six year old has serious chops in the sexy department. Ditto for Terry Bellefleur, who is now the only character of interest in the ongoing and increasingly dreary melodrama of Arlene’s Baby. When Terry, who wholeheartedly accepts Mikey as his son, leaves him alone for a moment in a room full of sleeping family, he returns to find that the infant has apparently written “Baby not yours” on the wall. Yeah, I don’t believe it either. And if Terry starts acting weird, instead of being the loving father he’s been to date, there really will be nothing redeeming about that storyline. Let them all move to Florida and be done with it.