True Blood: “Soul of Fire”

Martonia’s Martyrdom

True Blood
“Soul of Fire”
Sundays, HBO, 10

Written by Mark Hudis

Directed by Michael Lehmann

“Can we blow up these Wiccan dip—s already? I got a mani-pedi at four.” – Pam

Trust Pam to keep us focused on the important stuff. As we pick up where the Vamp Strut left off last week, she and her maker, Eric, are teamed up with Jessica and her maker, Bill, to take out Marnie the witch and her coven. Of course, the vamps took time to drop by the nearest leather outlet to make sure they were all in hipster black. Oh, and they brought shoulder-fired rockets along, just in case fangs and super-strength didn’t do the trick. What they didn’t bring was anything that would work against magic. I found it hilarious that these creatures of fantasy, creatures whom Bill himself called “magical” in Season One, have so thoroughly rejected magic that they deny their own abilities. So it’s up to Jason Stackhouse to warn them against Marnie’s spell, and prove that he’s done the recon they didn’t by demonstrating its effects.

“Kill yourselves, and the girl walks free.” – Martonia

Held at bay by Martonia’s spell, the vampire king and his sheriff “negotiate” with her. No fool, she knows better than to drop her guard with two creatures who have already tried to kill her once. She offers them a “deal” no sane person would take. Surprisingly, Bill and Eric accept. I thought this was a trick, but no, they genuinely intended to commit suicide in order to free Sookie. Apart from the basic idiocy of this “solution”, I had to wonder how naïve these guys really were: they had no assurance Martonia would keep her word, and no way to enforce the “bargain”. Is this nutty plan supposed to prove that Bill and Eric love Sookie enough to sacrifice themselves? It only told me they were brain-dead. Luckily, Pam has enough smarts to see through this non-deal, and launch a missile at Martonia. It backfires, nearly killing Jason, and forever destroys her relationship to her maker, Eric. Too bad, because no one got off a smart-aleck line like Pam. (When Bill and Eric are on the point of killing a rogue vampire, she stops them long enough to appropriate the vampire’s “vintage Cartier” necklace, with the quip, “I’ll take good care of this.”) The fact remains, however, that she saved both men from a really stupid mistake, one that was completely out of character for Eric, and to some extent for Bill.

“You murdered an innocent, one of our own. Evil has blossomed in you.” – Antonia

Martonia poofed Sookie and her friends out of thin air last week; this week we discover, as I suspected, that they had been transported into the coven’s headquarters. While everyone stands around paralyzed with indecision, only Jesus and Lafayette seem able to assess the situation. Marnie is off the map, so consumed with her new powers that she has become a petty tyrant, killing her own coven members when they desire to leave. Jesus uses his brujo magic to release his inner demon, which is able to break the binding spell between Marnie and Antonia. With the protection spell down, the vampires quickly end Marnie and her covenmate. I did appreciate the return of Old Eric, the bloodthirsty Viking (I mean that literally) who kills quickly and without remorse or hesitation. If you’re going to kill someone, do it fast and clean. And how characteristic was it that Eric uses his hands, in the old school tradition, and Bill the modern vampire uses an automatic rifle?

“I don’t need to shift to kill you.” — Marcus

Despite his bluster and his threats, Sam is curiously passive in his own story. It’s Alcide, not Sam, who takes the lead in searching for Marcus. It’s Alcide, not Sam, who kills him (doesn’t this now make Alcide the Packmaster?). That  was a cop-out to keep Sam’s “image” clean, which is ludicrous given what we know of his past. Much of this story happened offscreen, notably Emma’s kidnapping. Emma rescues herself by calling her mother. There’s a gun in the room, but no one gets shot. And worst of all, two shapeshifters battled to the death as men. Neither one shifted into a more powerful form. I was very disappointed since I was looking forward to see how Sam would handle a werewolf. This season, he has only changed into non-threatening forms like a horse. I was hoping to see him become a lion or an elephant and stomp Marcus. This felt like a cheat.

“You galloped in and saved some folks tonight. Never forget that.” – Lafayette

Kevin Alejandro owned this episode. All the fireworks, the howling, the demonic manifestation of his spell-working were fine, but what really got to me was Jesus’ heart. He radiates real compassion, real love not just for Lafayette but for the other members of the coven, even for Marnie. He sees his friend under the power-mad tyrant she has become, and regrets what he has to do to save the others. His reluctance to invoke the darker powers in himself, his quick-thinking ruse to isolate the body of the murdered witch, and his straight-faced acting with Marnie all showed us a man of deep empathy, a man of soul. He is a kind soul, a man who has turned his back on power to become a nurse, to help the suffering of others. Now he finds that the only way to end suffering is to embrace the powers he does not want, and he does so without hesitation. Only later, after all is finished, does he shed tears of regret and pain as he comes to grips with what he has done. Even Lafayette’s reassurance, as real and honest as it is, cannot ease his guilt at the death of his friend. I continue to find Jesus and Lafayette perhaps the strongest characters, and by far the finest relationship, in True Blood. I was unstinting of my praise for Nelsan Ellis, and I continue to see him as one of the finest actors in this series. Now I add Kevin Alejandro to my top three.

“Where we’re going now, it’s really deep. You may hear and see things you really don’t want to.” — Jesus

True Blood dropped half a ratings point to come in at a 2.4 rating for adults 18-49. This means the audience dropped to about 4.4 million, still monster numbers for HBO. I doubt at this point you could kill this series with a  silver bullet. Next week’s episode is the series finale; we’ll see who survives it.