True Blood: “The Cold Grey Light of Dawn”

Soul Power

True Blood
“The Cold Grey Light of Dawn”
Sundays, HBO, 10

Written by Alexander Woo

Directed by Michael Ruscio

“It is Antonia Gavilán de Logroño, and I have returned!” – Marnie/Antonia

It’s payback time for centuries of victimhood, and the charge will be led this year by a reincarnated witch who was burned by vampires during the Inquisition. Is this a delicious plot, or what? A 400-year old ghost named Antonia possesses the otherwise bland and uninteresting Marnie (Fiona Shaw, The Tree of Life), and the combination is dynamite. Marnie/Antonia (Martonia?) wreaks vengeance on the vampire who raped and murdered her 400 years ago, by turning him into a would-be assassin against King Bill. Bill, who is otherwise an ineffectual as wet cotton, fights off this older vampire and kills him. Oops. Does this mean he’s in trouble with the Vampire Authority? At least he’s savvy enough to realize the threat posed by a witch who can control vampires and call them into the sun. He issues orders for his minions to flee or protect themselves with silver. And though he was an abysmal boyfriend, he proves a tender and caring “father” to Jessica, in a touching scene we should have had two years ago.

“I am not a zombie!” – Pam

The deliquescence of Pam continues to be horrifying and funny at the same time. In true diva outrage, she pursues Tara not so much because she was part of the hexing of Eric but because she was there when Martonia hexed Pam’s looks. There is nothing like wounded vanity to drive some people over the edge. She is only just stopped from killing Tara by a crowd of looky-loos busy taping the show with their smartphones. Since we opened this season with a vampire being given a death sentence for allowing himself to be taped doing just that, Pam desists, but hisses threats against Tara. This is enough to get Tara to call things off with her girlfriend and give herself up to despair. And, being Tara, this means she is vulnerable to manipulation. Nature, which abhors a vacuum, gives her the perfect master: Martonia.

“Since when has any fanatic been held back by the improbability of their religious cause?” – King Bill

Tara’s storyline suddenly takes on new interest when it connects to Martonia’s. Having been victimized by vampires, Tara is filled with rage and fear. But since she perceives herself to be helpless against them, this rage and fear is quickly souring into depression. Martonia gives her the hope of fighting back, and Tara becomes an eager recruit to the cause. She rounds up a posse, er, coven to aid Martonia’s quest to wipe all vampires from the earth. I was glad to see this development, because it gives Rutina Wesley another chance to show more than one facet to Tara than anger. We finally got a glimmer of a hopeful, optimistic Tara, one whose vigor now derives from something stronger than anger. Even Bill, who has been as kind to Tara as a vampire can be, now must fear the power emanating from that chanting circle. What no one seems to question is whether Martonia can really hold out against the entire worldwide population of vampires, who are likely to come down on her like white on rice once this gets out. Martonia preaches to her coven, however, in terms that make it clear she believes her living soul is superior both in moral force and actual firepower to the powers of dead, damned vampires. If anyone ever put everything on the line for a cause, it’s Martonia.

“She was the only human ever known to exercise power over vampires.” – King Bill

We got an exquisitely tender, almost saccharine, scene between Sookie and Eric. Having been warned by Bill, Sookie chains him with silver in his cubby. This cause him agonizing pain, and she stays with him through the daylight hours to encourage and support him. Eric is still troubled by his memory loss, but now he is more worried he will regain his memories than otherwise. Will Sookie still respect him when he’s himself again? Will he respect himself? As he bleeds from the eyes and ears, he pleads with Sookie not to reject him. Sookie is clearly in love with this Eric, while unsure of how she would react if the “old” Eric ever came back. And we know he’ll come back – it’s part of soap opera canon law. What’s lost in all of this is the obvious solution to the sun problem: Sookie. Drinking her blood allows vampires to walk in daylight. If she gave Eric a taste, he would not have to worry about being bespelled into the sun. But that would be so much less histrionic than having Eric bleed from the eyes and beg for a kiss.

“I wish I could forget every @#$%^ thing about you.” – Sam

Sam may be slow but he is patient. Recoiling from Luna’s furious rejection on the phone, he confronts her. Together they figure out that she slept with Tommy, shifted to look like Sam. This sickens both of them, and Sam once again throws Tommy out. Like a yo-yo, I’m sure he’ll be back. I did like the development last week that showed Tommy shifting into people, and if Tommy was any smarter as a character I’d look forward to some very interesting stories, where he could spy on people, go undercover, ferret (heh) out all kinds of nasty secrets by becoming other people for awhile. But Tommy is as stupid as a box of rocks, and as self-absorbed as a housecat. He and the Mickens family have served their purpose – to show Sam that family is what you make it, not what makes you – and should shuffle off the show as soon as possible. Sam is being wasted in this season on trivial soap opera storylines; I would by far rather see more shapeshifting and more empathy from him.

“All these years we indulged our murderous impulses and called it ‘our nature’. How can we not expect reprisal?” – Bill

As stunning as it is to hear King Bill the Oblivious suddenly spouting philosophy, he has a point. And it’s a dangerous one: if we are presented with a group of humans fighting vampires not out of fear or prejudice or ignorance, but because they have been victimized, how will we retain our loyalty to the characters we’ve come to love onscreen? It’s going to be hard to root even for Bill, when we remember how he turned Jessica into a vampire against her will (no matter that she’s glad of it now, it was still murder). How much less support will we be willing to grant characters like Pam or Nan, or even the old Eric, who tore people limb from limb and used Lafayette as a snack? Now we get a powerful vampire victim, old and strong with hate and the lust for revenge, who cannot be taken down the way other humans can. Is Martonia right, that the human soul, even resurrected or reincarnated, can prove more powerful than the damned soul of a vampire? And where will shifters like Sam and Alcide play in that scenario – are they living souls, or damned? Will Martonia have any power over them, or will she enlist them as allies against her tormentors? This is shaping up to be a real fight, with ambiguous lines of loyalty. I’m almost on Martonia’s side in this one.