True Blood: “Release Me”

The One That Got Away

True Blood
HBO, Sundays, 9 PM
“Release Me”

Written by Raelle Tucker
Directed by Michael Ruscio

When the guy in the room making the most sense is a raving drunk, you know you’re in trouble. Near the end of this episode of True Blood, Detective Andy Bellefleur stumbles into Merlotte’s Bar, filthy, reeking of booze, covered in pig shit, and with a newly broken arm in a cast. Roaring at the entire roomful of townies, he tells them he knows about their “devil worship” and their orgies. The only person in the room who doesn’t think him crazy is the shapeshifter, Sam, who knows exactly what Andy is talking about, but knows better than to say anything. Still searching for a rogue pig, Andy stumbles out again, leaving bewildered laughter in his wake.

Bewildered laughter seemed to be a dominant feature of this story. Opening from a truly horrific cliffhanger, with Sam about to be sacrificed to (or by?) Maryann, we deflate abruptly into farce as Andy, pursuing the pig that got away, lumbers onto the scene. His arrival gives Sam a chance to escape, pursued by Maryann wearing a bull’s head. That’s right, a bull’s head. This stuff gets better every week. I don’t think I was supposed to be laughing quite that hard at the sight of a woman in an evening gown, wearing a bull’s head, chasing a guy down a country road. Daphne’s later confession to Sam that Maryann is more than just a maenad, but an outright goddess, pretty much confirmed most of what I’d guessed about her, but who knew this goddess was also a comic genius? I will confess that I cringed a bit as Daphne casually equated Dionysus with the Horned God of Wicca, and then went on to associate him with the Christian devil. Such a mishmash of pseudo-history and timelines is painful to contemplate, but I guess I should be grateful that the writers are delving into Greek mythology at all.

Chase themes underlie most of this episode’s stories, from Andy’s pursuit of a pig, to Maryann’s pursuit of Sam, to a host of backstories and current storylines. In most of these cases, the pursuit fails. Daphne makes clear that Maryann’s entire reason for being in this part of the forest is to get back the Sam who ran away from her at seventeen (who knew a goddess could be so lacking in self-esteem?). Sam, who is at last showing a little fire when actually threatened with death, offers to “give himself up” to Maryann if she’ll stop terrorizing/orgifying the town. Daphne laughs off the offer, as Maryann is having too much fun to stop now. It’s a dilemma as old as mankind—how do you force an out-of-date deity into retirement?

Then there’s Lorena, keeping Bill prisoner in his hotel room so he cannot rescue Sookie (not that he has much experience at that). Apparently as his Maker, she is superior to him in every way except faking Southern accents. However, during yet another flashback, we see their final argument and separation sometime during the Forties, with Lorena agreeing to release Bill. So why is she back? Just because Eric called her? Or because she wants Bill back? He’s the one who got away, and like all such escapees carries with him the glamour of nostalgia and sentiment. Like many people (or ex-people, in her case), Lorena is more focused on the what-might-have-been than the what-really-is, and refuses to give up that vision despite Bill’s obvious loathing for her. I think Maryann and Lorena are overdue for a sisterly chat.

Rounding out our evening of chase themes, we get Sarah Newlin pursuing Jason, now physically as well as erotically. I will confess that my estimation of the deviousness quotient for both Sarah and her husband plummeted during this episode. It turns out that Steve had no idea that the telepath he was so earnestly pursuing (and trapping) was the sister of his favorite recruit. How stupid do you have to be not to check out stories like Jason’s tale of his sister the vampire lover? One phone call to Bon Temps would have told them who Jason’s sister was, and who she was dating. Apparently all that drilling, abstinence, and pudding softens the brain. And speaking of pudding, Sarah Newlin is so far from being the conniving wench I thought her to be that I am thinking of calling her Puddinghead from now on. I had been thinking she had some deep, dark plan at work regarding Jason, but it now appears she’s just dangerously, insufferably naive. After tumbling Jason in the choir loft, her first thought is that they have to tell her husband? I didn’t think it possible that Jason could end up in a relationship where he’s the brains. Jason sensibly skedaddles, but then finds himself pursued by Sarah Newlin, armed with a paintball gun to take out the lover who’s getting away.

The writers also re-visit a theme raised in the first few episodes of this season: non-consensual sex. First it was Sookie’s molestation by her great-uncle, then it was Sam’s seduction by Maryann. Certainly it appears that the latest orgy in Sookie’s back yard was one huge gang-date-rape, since nobody there appeared to becompos mentis. Now we get Arlene tearfully worried that she might have date-raped Terry. I am not really sure if that was supposed to be a funny confession or a horrific one; perhaps both. There’s nothing funny about rape in any form, so I’m hoping that Arlene’s bout of self-doubt is really a sign of more depth in this character than we’ve seen heretofore. At any rate, the writing crew seems determined to make some kind of statement about inappropriate sex, whether conducted in a blood-soaked bed or a dirt yard.

As a side note, I am surprised there’s any makeup left in Bon Temps—apparently Lafayette and Arlene, between them, are using all of it.

The acting continues to be both frustrating and exhilarating. Bill’s awful come-and-go Southern accent is matched only by Lorena’s will-o-the-wisp drawl. If Hollywood is unable to cast American actors in these roles, can they at least hire a competent dialect coach? And I’m not sure what to think of Stephen Moyer’s acting—why is it Bill is only interesting when he’s fighting with Lorena? Or Eric? And speaking of Eric, if I was Stephen Moyer I’d be glamoring or bribing whoever is writing Alex Skarsgard’s lines, because so far Eric Northman has the best lines of the show—especially his remark to Isabel that humans do not “keep well”. That one line conjures up so much backstory, yet it takes twenty minutes of overwrought screaming to convey relatively little (and nothing new) about Lorena and Bill’s history.

I continue to be confused with the mixed messages we’re getting about vampires—they’re so powerful that a whole army is being raised to wipe them out, but if you just keep them up past their bedtimes they start to bleed and come apart? We’re overdue for a vamp smackdown, just to get some respect back for this whole breed. Fortunately, it looks like one is coming up next week. Texas vampires in cowboy hats, pissed off and ready to rumble? Bring it on, partner.