True Blood: “It Hurts Me Too”

Twist Ending

“It Hurts Me Too”
True Blood
HBO, Sundays, 9
Written by Alexander Woo
Directed by Michael Lehman

Warning: this review contains some spoilers. If you’d rather not know what the episode is going to include, bookmark this page and read it after viewing.

“The only way to show your love for a human is to stay away. Forever.” —Lorena

Lorena needs to take her own advice. Her protégé, Bill Compton, has done everything possible to discourage her affections: he has denied her, hit her with a television, tried to stake her, and set her afire. Apparently, Lorena sees this as so much foreplay, because at the end of this episode she begs Bill to “make love to her”. Whether she still holds a Maker’s power over him, so that he cannot refuse, or she has just pushed him too far, he engages in brutal, rough sex, almost a rape (were it not very clear that Lorena is enjoying it), to the point of nearly taking her head off. This is twisted sex in the most literal meaning possible, and many viewers will find it very disturbing. I found it hilarious. The flashbacks in this episode show us how Lorena taunted Bill when his son died, terrorized his wife, and mocked his love for his family. The last two seasons have showed us repeatedly how deeply Bill hates Lorena and all that she stands for. Yet the only thing Bill can do to vent his rage, once he has his hands actually on her, is to… give her what she’s begging for. Bill Compton may be the very first vampire clown.

It’s too bad Lorena is such poison, because the point she’s trying to make in the quote above is quite valid. Bill wants to marry Sookie, but he doesn’t want to Turn her, despite the King of Mississippi urging him to do so. The King makes a good case for it—Sookie as a mortal human is fair game for many vampires, but as a vampire she would be protected by vampire law. Bill doesn’t even consider this. So great is his self-loathing and his loathing for vampires in general that he dismisses the very idea. Yet he is unwilling to face the fact that he cannot protect Sookie, now or in the future. Surely Bill Compton qualifies as Worst Vampire Ever. He’s an embarrassment to the community—which is the only reason I still like him. Anyone can be a badass vampire, apparently, even Jessica (whose description as “adorable baby vampire” was absolutely dead on). It takes real talent to be as massively incompetent, messed up, and generally clueless after 150 years as a vampire as Bill Compton repeatedly shows us. He is, if nothing else, unique.

This season’s Sookie is returning a bit to her old Season One roots. She’s feisty, independent, determined. She still has that refreshing naïveté that we love, but the use of her telepathic powers (remember those?) seems to have come back. She uses them on the werewolf who invades her home, and later on some werewolves in a bar who might have information about Bill. In both of these situations, however, her naïveté and stubborn innocence has led her into life-threatening positions from which she must be rescued, this time by Eric or his proxy. Eric is proving to be far more effective at keeping Ms. Stackhouse safe from her own folly than Bill ever was. He defends her from a deadly werewolf by tearing its throat out, then apologizes like a gentleman and cleans up his mess. Since he cannot guard her during daylight hours, he sends werewolf Alcide Herveaux (Joe Manganiello, One Tree Hill) to do so. Alcide is a tall, handsome, intelligent young man who takes Sookie’s telepathy in stride, and treats her as an equal. He takes her to a were bar (“Lou Pine”—cute) where Sookie uses flirtation, telepathy, and sheer guts to find Gus (Don Swayze, The Young and the Restless), one of the werewolves who kidnapped Bill. Before he can tear her to shreds, Alcide steps in, and we learn a little something about were social organization and politics. I look forward to learning more of the werewolf/shifter community in upcoming episodes.

Of course our premiere shifter is Sam Merlotte, who must deal with his increasingly ambivalent feelings toward his biological family. (And may I just say right now, I do not EVER need to see Joe Lee Mickens’ saggy gray BVDs on my screen again. Ever. Not ever.) The most telling evidence of their social ignorance is their reaction on entering Sam’s bar. Joe Lee (Cooper Huckabee, CSI) and Melinda (J. Smith-Cameron, Six Feet Under), Sam’s parents, react as if they were entering Chartres Cathedral. Sam’s modest diner (“Good thing this town doesn’t have many bar options.”) is so out of their league, so challenging to their notions of “wealth”, that they fall back on their instinctive defense mechanism: get drunk and pick a fight. Sam gets to experience the unique pleasure of throwing his own father out of his bar.

If, in fact, Joe Lee Mickens is his father. Here is an example of how knowledge of the books can mess up the head of someone watching the TV version. In the books, author Charlaine Harris makes it clear that only a “pure” couple of shapeshifters can produce offspring that shift into any animal at will. The offspring of a shifter and a mortal cannot shift at will and cannot shift into any animal. Yet we’ve seen Sam shift into a collie, an owl, a fly, and a Brahma bull whenever he wants. His brother Tom has shifted into a dog and an owl at least once. Since Melinda freely admits that she’s a shifter, and claims that Joe Lee is not, then I have to start wondering if Sam and Tommy were fathered by some other creature. Certainly Joe Lee does not look like a hard man to deceive.

I regret to see that the torture of Tara Reynolds continues. From the smart, sassy, assertive young woman in Season One who had an anger management problem, she has become the most easily manipulated, dominated woman in Bon Temps. This time it is new character Franklin Mott (the fabulous James Frain, The Tudors) who uses sex and anger to control her. A vampire who seems to have a secret agenda about Bill and Sookie, he enables her, questions her, has mind-bending sex with her, and ultimately controls her. Maryann turned Tara’s eyes black; Franklin turns them white. Otherwise, it’s just another supernatural creature turning Tara into a puppet again. Ho hum.

If Tara is a hot mess, however, her character is beautifully balanced by Arlene Fowler (Carrie Preston, The Good Wife). She may be a ditz, but she speaks her mind. Her pregnancy fears confirmed (and honey, that is so nothow an ultrasound is performed!), she tells Terry Bellefleur she’s going to have a baby. Before she can explain that it’s too old (9-10 weeks) to be his, he erupts in joy. Terry’s (Todd Lowe, Gilmore Girls) jubilation is so heartfelt, she cannot bring herself to disillusion him. She’d better find a way, however, because although Terry may be a little off center, he is not too dumb to count. Arlene’s ambivalence, if it really is about Terry, makes no sense to me. Terry has made it plain how eager he is to welcome Arlene’s other children, and was even reading her a list last week of the reasons he can be a good father to them. He clearly has no problem raising other men’s children, so there is no reason for Arlene to fear his reaction. I suspect Arlene’s real problem is that she knows this baby is the child of a serial killer, and there’s a moral dilemma I would not wish on my worst enemy.

So absolutely no vampires are taking Lorena’s advice. We get a vampire/human romance unfolding between Sookie and Eric, a vampire/human romance crumbling between Bill and Sookie, and a sweetly unresolved vampire/human romance hanging fire between Hoyt and Jessica. Under the circumstances, a perfectly normal romance between humans Terry and Arlene, with all its flaws, is a welcome respite.

True Blood racked up 4.455 million viewers with a 2.5 adults 18-49 rating, a slight gain on last week’s 4.259 million viewers. For a cable network, even HBO, this qualifies as a genuine hit. It’s going to be a great summer.