True Blood: “Night on the Sun”

A Dish Served Cold

True Blood
“Night on the Sun”
HBO, Sundays, 6
Written by Raelle Tucker
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter

“I can’t protect you. I’m no good to you.” —Bill Compton

At last, Vampire Beel admits to his limitations, admits to his basic incompetence as White Knight, admits to his uselessness as a protector. I’m glad to see he can finally honestly look himself in the, er, mirror and assess himself honestly. Unfortunately, he’s not making this little speech to Sookie, the woman he has failed countless times to protect. He’s talking to Jessica, his unwanted progeny, who now has appealed to him for help. He still thinks he can protect Sookie. I swear Alan Ball is now writing this character as comic relief. At least this time, Bill shows some real balls by standing up to, and calling out, the much more powerful King of Mississippi. And, naturally, gets his ass kicked.

“I know you’re tougher than a one-eared alley cat.” —Alcide

Having damn near killed his beloved Sookie last week, then restored her by means of a blood transfusion, Bill now tries to bow out of her life. Acknowledging that he can never give her the peace, sunshine, and children she wants and deserves, he bravely says farewell, tears of blood on his cheeks. Tara is more than happy to see the back of him, and we finally get the kind of sisterly comrades-in-man-hating conversation between Tara and Sookie we used to get in Season One. We even got a return to Sookie’s favorite pastime, sun tanning. That was a cute callback to the books, where her persistent need for sunlight is a very humanizing sidelight on her essentially perky persona. Tara got to snark at Sookie, Sookie gave as good as she got, the respect between these friends was re-established. We’ve been needing this, as these two primal female characters have been separated by the plot for a long time. It’s past time for a little sisterly re-bonding.

This episode was all about payback. Russell is trying to kill Bill for betraying him. Debbie wants to skin Sookie alive. Jason wants blood for Crystal’s injuries. And Eric wants vengeance for Russell’s ancient massacre of his family. The vendetta and the blood feud seem to be the reigning cultural expressions among the supernaturals of Bon Temps. The vampire politics plot was drying up like blood in the sun until Russell Edgington came along and kick-started it. I long to see the confrontation between Russell and whatever the vampire Authority may be. I do like the smackdowns between werewolves and vampires. I like the rivalry between the fanged and the clawed, although I have to wonder why the lupine clan hasn’t figured out that they can rid themselves of their nightwalking masters by opening their coffins in daylight. I also wonder where Sam Merlotte would come down in all this, seeing as how he can turn into, oh, a rhinoceros if so inclined.

Tommy: You smell that?
Sam: Yeah.

The least human of the supes in town seem to be the ones with all the smarts this time: the shapeshifters are putting the normals in the shade. Sam Merlotte is housebreaking his rough-and-tumble brother Tommy, while Alcide shows more maturity and good judgment than the entire vampire population of Louisiana and Mississippi combined. I have to give Sam Trammell full credit for carrying a subplot virtually by himself. While Marshall Allman and J. Smith-Cameron are interesting as the Mickens son and mother, Trammell takes center stage every scene he is in. If the Mickens storyline sags like Joe Lee’s underwear here and there, it’s not Trammell’s fault. Rather, it may lie in the numbing predictability of the whole story. Yes, we figured out long ago that Ma and Pa Mickens were into dog fighting. Yes, we figured out that Tommy is messed up as a result. Yes, we figured out Sam was going to break his heart trying to fix his brother. Can we get on with it, now? Because this is one of the slowest-developing subplots I’ve seen in this series to date. I was happy with the confrontation in Sam’s bar between the Merlotte brothers and the Hotshot gang, but I can predict that storyline, too. Love it that Sam seems to be using his nose as well as his head these days, though. I hope to see more of the badass side of Sam this season.

Talbot: “You can’t buy your way out of everything.”
Russell: “Of course I can—this is America.”

As always, King Russell steals every single scene he’s in. I love his insouciant tolerance of Talbot’s hissy fits, his casual cruelty towards the humans in his landscape, the offhand insults he drips all over his tame werewolves. At no time does this feel like a self-indulgent act—it’s just the way he is. He is the perfect autocrat, the perfect dictator, supremely sure of himself. Julius Caesar would have had nothing on this man. And just when his haughty demeanor threatens to make him completely unlikeable, he has a domestic spat with Talbot, the Royal Consort, that has almost a Bogart/Bacall feel about it. Talbot’s trophy-smashing scene, with Russell shrugging as his souvenirs are destroyed, was classic farce. His use of silver spurs to injure Bill during their fight was sheer genius—nothing could have more beautifully evoked the essentially feudal nature of Russell Edgington’s dominance. And of course, Russell’s endless tolerance of Talbot’s tantrums proves to be the key to Eric’s revenge.

“I’m bored. Take off your clothes.” —Talbot

Ah, Talbot. I will miss you. I always wanted to see you go shopping with Pam. Your pouting, your nagging, your sulking, your passive-aggressive sniping, were all the perfect counterpoint to the always-in-control Russell. You were his perfect foil, but apparently only Eric realized that you were also his Achilles heel. I love Eric serving up this particular dish of revenge icy cold; he is determined not just on vengeance but on payback. As Russell destroyed his family, so will Eric destroy Russell’s. I look forward to a titanic battle, but I’m afraid Eric may have to take a back seat to Nan Flannigan and the Vampire Authority (is that a band name, or what?). I fear that His Majesty has, er, bitten off more than he can chew. I also suspect that Eric’s plan is to slowly undermine Russell both politically and psychologically. If Eric does not cast the blame for Talbot’s demise on Sophie Ann, I will be much surprised. Which will mean that Hadley is not long for this world.

“Are you brain damaged?” —Jason

Takes one to know one, bro. I must admit, however, that Ryan Kwantzen is impressing me very much with Jason this season. Yes, Jason is written as a brainless bimbob, but now and then we get flashes of honest compassion in him. He’s as loyal as any dog to the people he truly loves (Sookie, Hoyt, and now Crystal), and though he may be clumsy when expressing his feelings, he means every word of it. Maybe he is just too dumb to hide his feelings, but his honesty makes up for it. His simple confession to his soulmate Crystal that she makes him feel “at home” said more about the depth of his love than any of Bill Compton’s more tortured confessions. Jason may engage his heart before the brain is in motion, but he’s a very simple and honest soul, one whose nature is as clear and open as the sky. Compared to the rest of Bon Temps, where everyone is hiding secrets, he’s a breath of fresh air.

If at any time this show begins to take itself too seriously, however, we can always count on a bit of whimsy. I adored Ruby Ann’s intrusion into Lafayette’s life, Terry singing lullabies to Arlene’s stomach, and Bill and Jessica’s high-speed “training session”. When she and Bill came to Sookie’s rescue, I cheered. I loved Jessica waving “Hi” to a werewolf, then luring him away. I loved seeing Rene again, if only to hear that lovely fake Cajun accent. Alfre Woodard brought whole new levels of funny/crazy to Ruby Jean. The Debbie/Sookie smackdown was all kinds of funny, edgy, and awesome. I have to say, Gram’s house has withstood a lot of abuse, but that scene may have been the last straw. At this point, the house is such a wreck Sookie would be better off burning it down and rebuilding it, rather than try to get the dirt off the walls, the gouges out of the floors and the blood out of the rugs. Just fire it up and start over, honey.