True Blood: “You Smell Like Dinner”

Witch One?

True Blood
“You Smell Like Dinner”
Sundays, HBO, 10

Written by Brian Buckner

Directed by Scott Winant

“Is someone licking my head?” – Jason

We start and end the second episode of Season Four of True Blood with so many references to eating, I wondered if the writer’s room was adequately stocked with snacks. Jason wakes up tied to a bed (surely not for the first time in his life), with one of the teenage morons of Hotshot licking his scalp. More panther than human, the inbred denizens of this hamlet make the hillbillies and boondockers of Bon Temps look like Nobel laureates. When Sheriff Andy shows up, it turns out he’s looking not for his missing deputy but for a V-blood fix. Only Felton Norris (James Harvey Ward, The Vampire Diaries) has the wit to buy him off. The rest stand around with vacant stares, unable even to wipe the drool from their chins. Turns out Felton and his sister/wife/cousin Crystal want to make a baby, with Jason. Only they have to make him into a were-panther first. Ouch. Last season I enjoyed watching Jason grow up a little, moving from horndog to responsible (more or less) man; this year it looks like he’s being reduced to a chew toy.

“Your blood tastes like freedom, Sookie, like sunshine in a pretty blonde bottle.” – Eric

I guess it would be inappropriate to refer to any vampire as silver-tongued, but in this case it’s right –in the sense that silver is poison to a vamp, that is. Hearing a line like that reminds me of Harrison Ford’s famous comment to George Lucas: “George, you can type this ****, but you sure as hell can’t say it.” Nothing can ruin a scene faster than a clunker like that. Thank goodness Alexander Skarsgard is big enough (so to speak) to rescue that scene from that line. So far this season, Eric is the only character I really like. He’s consistent with earlier versions, he’s in control, he’s smart, he has actual insight into other people. Or into Sookie, anyway. So it’s a shame when King Bill orders him into a situation that lands Eric Northman right in the middle of the oldest, biggest cliché in the soap opera toolbox: amnesia. Up until that moment, however, he gets all the good lines, snarks almost as well as Pam (those two together are gold every time), and manages to turn a bow to King Bill into an open sneer. Honestly, even with his shirt on, Eric steals every scene he’s in.

“Well, that was saucy.” – Eric

It takes a condescending sneer from Eric to bring out, however briefly, the Sookie we remember from Season One, before she knew the world was full of werewolves, shapeshifters, fairies, maenads, and witches. Back when she was passing for human, her snarky comments on her fellow humans were one of her best features. I haven’t seen that Sookie in a while, and if Eric Northman can bring her back, he gets my vote over Bill the Incompetent any day. The only other character who can raise Sookie’s hackles this well is Pam, who returns this season in her usual stilettos and matching snarl. I vote for Sookie to spend a lot more time at Fangtasia. I like Saucy Sookie. The other character to bring old Sooks back is Tara: she finally shows up, hugs Sookie, and they bond over half-melted ice cream. But this time, they’re lying. Neither of them is honest about what they’ve been up to for the last year – is this because they’re older, and have grown apart, or because they are just innately mistrustful? I’m betting on the latter now.

“Seek shelter in another human’s home.” – King Beel

I love it. I don’t know if Alan Ball is doing this on purpose, but once again Sookie appeals to Bill for help, and once again he is useless. He’s the freaking King of Louisiana at this point, but he can’t get Eric to sell Sookie’s house back to her, or to him. I doubt Sophie-Anne, or Russell Edgington, would have had any difficult ordering Eric to do whatever they wanted, but this is Beel the Helpless we’re talking about here. Almost the only moment I could stand to see him onscreen this episode was a flashback to his punker days, 1982. Stephen Moyer at least got to use his own British accent, in a scene where we saw him recruited by Nan Flanagan as a spy and infiltrator. My one question is: why? What on earth gave Nan the idea that Bill would be effective at anything? He doesn’t even kill his victims, which by vamp standards makes him sloppy and/or dangerously sentimental. Later we see Bill take over the rule of Louisiana by using humans to assassinate Sophie-Anne – in other words, he cheats, because he can’t beat her using vamp combat rules. How powerful a King is Bill going to be, dependent as he is on his human snipers? So when Sookie appeals to him for protection, I have to question her good sense. Can’t she see how ineffectual he is? I will say one thing in his favor: judging by the newly refurbished Compton mansion, Bill’s taste in modern art is exceptional. Other than that, however, he’s a wet firecracker.

“Don’t blame the magic for how it’s used.” – Jesus

I like, and don’t like, the new Lafayette storyline. Having survived thus far, he finds comfort at last in the arms of a nice guy (Kevin Alejandro, Southland), who turns out to be a witch. Or at least, witch-friendly. Jesus keeps taking him along to coven meetings presided over by one Marnie (Fiona Shaw, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1), who brought her pet parrot back to life last week. Or was that La-la’s doing? He’s distinctly uncomfortable with this whole witchcraft idea, but when Eric drops by to bust up the coven, he is forced to join in. And when he does, Marnie suddenly turns from distracted older woman into a Latin-speaking sorceress. And Eric’s mind goes poof. Next we see him, he’s wandering down a road, and no longer knows his own name.  I swear I’m going to make a Bingo card with all the major soap opera clichés and see how many of them this series has hit. I might make Bingo before Labor Day. In any event, the boundaries of this year’s Baddie are marked out, and Marnie looks like she’ll be taking up even more of my screen in coming weeks.

“I shifted into my mother.” – Luna

Last week we saw Sam Merlotte’s ‘anger management’ group – other shifters – working off their tensions by shifting into horses and going for a night gallop. Now we get a little closer look at the new mare, er, woman in his life, a shifter named Luna (Janina Gavankar, The Gates). He moves in, she moves back, he pursues, she pursues, they meet in the middle. Whatever. Since I still think Sam’s heart really belongs to Sookie, all these other women don’t interest me much. They’re placeholders. The latest placeholder is interesting only because she brings a new ethnic dimension to the shifter plot: she was raised by old-fashioned Navajos, for whom shapeshifting is evil witchcraft. Since Navajo tradition says that shapeshifters or skinwalkers get their power by killing a family member, she is suspect since birth – the birth which killed her own mother. In a weird attempt at getting to know that lost mother, Luna says she shifted into her. What that would actually entail boggles the mind—since she didn’t know her mother, how can she become her? Is it a DNA thing? The question boggles the other shifters, as well, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. If it means that we get more screen time for the shockingly underused Sam Trammell, I’ll be glad.

“If they can control the dead, then they can control us.” – Bill

Bill may not be able to do much, but sometimes he gets a flash of insight. Eric is inclined to shrug off the danger posed by witches, but Bill sees the problem inherent in necromancy (the raising of the dead). If vampires are dead, and witches can raise the dead, what mischief can they inflict? I immediately wondered if Marnie might try to resurrect Russell Edgington – if she does, I’ll be riveted. I miss that guy. So we have a couple of new characters and ideas in play – Faerie and Wicca. It will be interesting to see how they play out. I only hope these new stories aren’t shortchanged by continued emphasis on exhausted characters like Arlene, Tara, Sheriff Andy or Tommy. In this fourth season of True Blood, less will definitely be more.