True Blood: “She’s Not There”

The Five People You Meet in Faerie

True Blood
“She’s Not There”
Sundays, HBO, 10

Written by Alexander Woo

Directed by Michael Lehman

“I have a fairy godmother? Okay, if your job is to look after me, can I just say you suck.” – Sookie Stackhouse

Well, that’s one way to wrap up loose ends: ignore them. Last season ended with people simply walking away from their storylines. Tara literally left town, Sam shot his brother, Sookie stepped sideways into Faerie. The fourth season of True Blood takes off from that sideways journey, as Sookie arrives in Faerie with her friend Claudine, who reveals that she is Sookie’s godmother. And yeah, she’s done a really crappy job as a fairy godmother. Sookie is delighted to find fellow telepath Barry the Bellboy (Chris Coy, Law & Order: LA). Claudine offers Sookie a lightfruit, which looks something like a persimmon that glows with its own light. Just as she’s about to take a bite (never, apparently, have heard the story of Persephone and the pomegranate), she spots her grandfather Earl Stackhouse (Gary Cole, Family Guy), who in her world died years ago. He is astonished to see her all grown up; he thinks he’s only been away a few hours but she says he died years ago. This is Sookie’s biggest clue that all is not as it seems in Faerie; when she warns her grandfather telepathically that this is a trap, everyone hears her.

“You’re harvesting people?”– Sookie

Queen Mab (Rebecca Wisocky, 90210) confronts Sookie and tells her that it is too dangerous to allow people with faerie blood – like Sookie – wander around loose in the human realm, so she is “harvesting” them. Sookie refuses to eat the lightfruit (drink the Kool-Ade) and blows away the faerie glamour that cloaks everyone in a Maxfield Parrish glow. The faeries, their queen and their realm are revealed as dried up, ugly, ghoulish. One of them, claiming to be Claudine’s brother, helps Sookie and Earl escape. (And it’s hard to believe this guy is actually her twin, Claude, because Claude is supposed to look like a romance-cover model and this guy looks like he just crawled out of a grave.) Since Earl ate the lightfruit, he lasts only long enough in this world to give Sookie his watch (for Jason) and then die. Sookie returns to her house, only to discover she’s been gone nearly a year. So, like I said: one way to tie up loose ends is to ignore them, hit the fast-forward button, and see how our characters soldiered on while we frolicked in Faerie.

“Everyone who claims to love you gave up on you. I never did.” – Eric

Sookie’s got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do: everyone in Bon Temps (except Eric) thought she was dead. Sheriff Andy thought Bill killed her, and typically reacts with anger when she denies he had anything to do with her disappearance. Jason sold her house, and since Tara never came back to town her best friend didn’t even miss her. Bill said he felt like she’d died, and Sam snarls at her for making him mourn her for a year. While she tells Jason the truth, she wisely follows his advice and allows Bill to concoct a cover story to explain her absence. The residents of Bon Temps are not yet ready – may never be ready – to learn of the existence of Faerie. In the meantime, Sookie goes about putting her life back in order. She asks Portia Bellefleur (Courtney Ford, The Vampire Diaries), Sheriff Andy’s cousin and an attorney, to help her buy back the house from the mysterious buyer. She also learns that Portia is Bill’s new main squeeze; what she doesn’t know is that Bill is now King of Louisiana. In any event, he’s moved on, as they say, and it’s a great relief to those of us who grew tired of his ineffectual attempts to protect Sookie from his own machinations.

“We have proof; it’s scientific. People are far dumber than they realize.” – Nan Flanagan

Other matters have moved on. After the debacle left by Russell, the late King of Mississippi, the vampires are in full disaster-recovery mode. Eric is making human-friendly commercials for Fangtasia; Bill presides over a Chamber of Commerce unveiling, in best Rotarian mode. Even Pam attempts to avert disaster when Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll, Little Murder) dances provocatively at Fangtasia, tempting a fangbanger and dissing her own boyfriend, Hoyt Fortenberry. She and Hoyt are now in the second stage of true love: living together, fighting, and making up. Jessica is still trying to live as if she weren’t a vampire, an attempt Pam laughs at but may possibly envy. Other characters have made changes, and noting them all takes up most of the hour. It’s rather like being dumped into a class reunion, where you need to check the school yearbook furtively to see if you can remember who these people are, and what they were doing last time we saw them.

“Such a strange sensation when the reality matches what you’ve pictured in your mind so precisely.” — Eric

Two things are clear here at the beginning of the fourth season: there are too many characters, and Alan Ball and company have departed so far from the books that at this point we might almost call this an original series. Or fanfiction. As I noted in my review of the last episode of season three, between their own artistic inclinations and fan pressure, the writers have kept alive, expanded, or even added characters beyond their original roles. For example, the character Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis, Secretariat) owned the screen from his first moment, started a fan cult of his own, and was retained past the scene where he was killed off by creator Charlaine Harris in the books. Now the production company has to write significant scenes/stories for a character who never made it this far to begin with. Ditto with other characters, like Tara or Arlene, who are minor or invisible characters in the books but feature prominently in the weekly series.

“Lots has happened, Sookie. A lot’s changed.” – Sam Merlotte

With so many characters running around, it’s not only hard for the audience to keep track, it’s hard for the writers to find so many stories to crowd into one hour a week. I think the writers need to shed some characters or tone them way down; personally, I don’t care if Sheriff Andy has a V-habit or not, and Arlene’s marriage to Terry Bellefleur has turned both of them into yawners. Worse, the need to create space for these minor characters means we get less of the ones who play major roles in the books: Sam was barely onscreen in this episode, Alcide never showed up at all, and Eric – who looks to be taking over Bill’s role as Sookie’s lover – had a whole minute and a half to himself. (Although Alex Skaarsgard did smolder pretty nicely all over the place when he was on my TV.) And yet the writers introduced new characters – Portia, Queen Mab, Marnie the witch, and Claudine! Where will they fit in? I’m hoping we see a lot more deaths and departures from this series in the next few weeks, to pare the cast down, or I’m going to need a spreadsheet.