True Blood: “Timebomb”

Devil in a Sunday Hat

True Blood
HBO, Sundays, 9 PM

Written by Alexander Woo
Directed by John Dahl

Sookie: Eric’s your maker, isn’t he?
Eric: Don’t use words that you don’t understand.
Sookie: You love him, don’t you?
Eric: Don’t use words I don’t understand.

One of the things I love about shows like True Blood is that they let us explore sticky real-life situations in a non-threatening manner. Take, for example, vampire law versus human law. Last year we saw the Magister ordering the death of a blameless human (Jessica) as part of vampire “justice”. This year we started out with Eric dispensing vampire justice on a dungeon full of humans. Last night we got to see Sheriff Godric (Allan Hyde, 2900 Happiness) pardoning Hugo for … what? What law, exactly, did Hugo (Christopher Gartin, Private Practice) break? None, at least no human law. Which is, I think, the slow ticking timebomb at the real heart of True Blood–who decides what the rules are?

Stan admitted in this episode that his nest killed the Rev. Newlin and his family. This is only going to make things worse. Human society may be divided in its thoughts on “vampire rights”, but it will not tolerate a community living in its midst that not only holds to its own laws, but imposes them on non-members of that community. As this conflict works out in coming weeks, we can consider its ramifications for such topics as sharia law, the Mafia or biker gangs. All of these communities have their own extra-legal “codes”; how far will we permit these private law codes to influence the larger community’s commonly accepted law? The answer up to now has been: not much.

Apparently the idea is that vampires can get away with imposing their rules on humans because they’re physically stronger. I’m not convinced that vampires, as a group, are more powerful than humans. There are more of us. We aren’t crippled or disabled by sunlight, so we can work around the clock. We have a more diverse food source. Silver doesn’t bother us; we like to make honesty rings from it. Maybe the real reason vampires have been hiding from humans for so long is that they know how fragile they actually are. Last week we discovered that you can weaken a vampire by keeping him up past his bedtime. This week we learned that bopping one on the head with a plasma (hee) TV will put her down for awhile. Right now, Maryann the Maenad is looking a lot more dangerous.

Speaking of whom, Michelle Forbes is really bringing it this season. Her portrayal of Maryann the Maenad is hypnotizing–the feral wild child who giggles at death and laughs at mayhem, who thrives on chaos and stirs the crazy just for the fun of it. She is, if anything, even more nihilistic than Lorena or the other vampires Bill condemns for their outlaw ways. As her influence over Bon Temps grows by the week, I am starting to wonder if anyone short of Godric can rein her in. Certainly I don’t have a lot of faith in solid but unimaginative Sheriff Bud. Just as I was getting bored with the orgies, along comes Maryann with her recipe for Daphne Pot Pie to ramp up the ick factor. (And I am half hoping that Sookie’s Gran rises from her grave in outrage over the desecration of her kitchen.) The scene of Tara and Eggs indulging in yet another of the seven deadly sins (gluttony) with a side order of cannibalism was just about the most disturbing thing I’ve seen on this show yet. And totally in character for Maryann, who continues to dominate every scene she’s in.

I couldn’t be happy about the aftermath of that dinner, however. We get two different scenes of domestic violence in this episode: Lorena versus her Beel, and Tara versus Eggs. One scene culminates in a conk on the head and the other in sex, but both involve considerable physical violence. The fact that the female vampire is whacking hell out of the male vampire does not obscure the fact that domestic violence is being played as sexy. I am wondering if the True Bloodproducers have the guts to actually depict the aftermath of the “sex” between Tara and Eggs–broken teeth, bloody cuts, black eyes, bruises. Or will we get pretty Tara and handsome Eggs looking perfectly normal next week, as if those slaps and blows had no effect? The show has not flinched from showing, say, a bloody dismemberment, so I hope it will show be honest with the aftermath of all this bloody foreplay.

Speaking of violence, I will admit to some disappointment in this episode, because I was hoping for a rumble in the chapel. When Stan (Ed Quinn, Eureka) showed up with his cowboy hat, his Gene Autry shirt and his posse to take down Steve Newlin, I was all stoked for a smackdown. Alas, we got Godric as Ghandi, determined to be peacemaker. I have to admit I did love his line, “I’m actually older than your Jesus. I wish I could have known him, but I missed it.” And he had some of the more profound lines of the night: “After thousands of years, we haven’t evolved. We’ve only grown more brutal, more predatory.” This is an interesting level of self-awareness for a feral creature to display, and Eric’s sober reaction to this line gives me hope that we may see some actual character development in Eric Northman this year.

Alexander Skarsgard is another actor who is really dominating this season. Granted, he has juicier scenes than just about any other actor on the show. His delighted smile when Bill (the useless) threatens him to leave Sookie alone, his melancholy surrender to Steve Newlin to save Godric’s life, his sober consideration of his maker’s philosophical meanderings are bringing considerable depth to Eric the bar owner. It’s not just loyalty to his maker than makes him listen to Godric. Eric seems to be the only vampire old enough or wise enough to realize that Godric has seen enough history to have learned from it. And his versatility is really shining through this season: his aw-shucks imitation of a Texas good ole’ boy in the church was dead on. Eric is so much more interesting than Bill, it’s no wonder Bill is feeling threatened.

The Hoyt/Jessica storyline took a 90 degree turn into weird, as Jessica learns that for vamps, certain body parts supposedly grow back after rupturing. According to her, it was a “healing” action, but I’m not buying it. We’ve seen both Eric and Bill at times shaven and unshaven, and Eric’s hair has gone from waist length to short, so clearly some body parts do not automatically grow back. This seemed like a silly attempt at injecting crude farce into what is otherwise a sweet and lovely story, a real relief from the angst of the rest of the show. Sam Merlotte continues to be the unluckiest underdog (ahem) in Bon Temps, as Maryann (presumably) sets him up to take the fall for Daphne’s murder. I loved Sheriff Bud calling Sam on his randy behavior, dating his waitresses. Sam should be paying them all hazard pay, because apparently working the tables at Merlotte’s is one of the most dangerous jobs in the parish.

Alas, I found myself once again pounding my head on the floor wailing, “Why, Bill, why?”, as he resolutely fumbled his explanation to Sookie when she asked him where he had been during her imprisonment. Having volunteered to infiltrate the church with the understanding that she would have Bill as backup, I was surprised that Sookie wasn’t thundering and lightning at both Eric and Bill for failing her. But even her relatively meek question to Bill got sidetracked, evaded and finally flung in her face. Contrived? Yes, but worse, it was silly. Bill, if you have nothing to hid from Sookie, don’t hide it. He looked guilty as hell every time he opened his mouth. Bill is looking more incompetent with every episode.

Sookie’s telepathic powers seem to really come and go at random this year. Whereas last week she could broadcast her thoughts to Barry, she apparently could not pick up on Hugo’s traitorous thoughts until she touched him. Then at Stan’s party, which was mostly vampires whose minds she could not read, she failed to pick up on Luke walking in with evil intent. How was it that she was unable to hear Luke’s mind before he walked into the room? No matter how that scene plays out, if Eric survives it maybe he should be reconsidering just exactly how useful Sookie really is to Area 5.

Lafayette is restoring my faith in humanity. I loved discovering that he reads Tarot cards–of course he would. How completely in character! Although I could wish that producers would learn that there are more cards in Tarot decks than just the major trumps–wouldn’t the Ace of Swords (a dagger piercing a heart) have been a better choice for Tara’s future card? I also find it interesting that Lafayette has never been drawn into Maryann’s little circle of fun. Could he be immune, thanks to all that vamp blood? Certainly his insight into Eggs is spot on, so maybe he will be able to rescue his cousin after all.

Production values really stood out in this episode. I continue to love Godric’s ultra contemporary house in Dallas–it looks like the real Dallas, not the hokey stuff we used to see at Southfork on Dallas. The clothing choices for the party scene were interesting: Sookie in virginal white, Lorena in siren red, Bill in vamp black. I love the fact that Lorena’s bloody tears really show how bad their effect on mascara can be.  And I have to voice my love for the Fellowship of the Sun church–lofty, beautiful, full of light, and haven for sex and violence. The directing of the confrontation in the sanctuary was excellent, from Bill’s heroic (and useless) solo entrance to Jason’s sharpshooting. Well done all around.

So is Luke the Suicide Bomber going to take out an entire nest? My money says no–the oldest vampire in the room will also be the fastest. It would be fully in character for Godric to sacrifice himself to save his underlings–and unleash a war between Eric and Stan. Sign me up.