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“If she would have goddamn let her parakeet rest in peace, then Eric Northman and Bill Compton wouldn’t be marching on Moon Goddess to blow up my fu**ing cousin.”

I now write something I thought I’d never say about this season: I have few complaints about this episode.

I know, I know. I’ve been openly unhappy with the development of Season 4, with its lackluster storylines, inexplicably dropped plot devices, inconsistent treatment of supernatural powers, and its bloated character roster. But “Burning Down the House” is a good episode. There’s action, forward momentum, and reasonable plot development. Sookie remembers she has supernatural powers and uses them.  The Marnie/Antonia story took an interesting twist. Real Eric makes a return. The show trims its roster by one and I have my fingers crossed that by the time I’m typing up the episode 12 recap, that number will have at least tripled.

So let’s get on with it:

Alcide has rescued Tommy-Sam from a vicious beatdown by the Shreveport pack and is trying to get him to a hospital. Something about Tommy’s skinwalking has complicated his injuries; his body keeps trying to shift forms and can’t, which is killing him. Tommy doesn’t care so much about his life and never has and just wants it to be over. So Alcide and Sam stay with Tommy as he passes, so that Sam can have a story arc this season, and probably facilitate Alcide becoming alpha of the Shreveport pack.

I complained a few weeks back that the problem with True Blood is that there’s no threat to any of the main characters. They get shot or stabbed or attacked by thousand-year-old Vikings, and we, the viewers, have no sense of foreboding. We’re not afraid for the character’s lives because the show isn’t willing to sacrifice them.  They can plug Sookie in the gut all they want, but everyone knows she’s just going to swallow some vampire blood or get healed by a fairy or discover she has alien organs or something.  This week, the show actually sacrifices one of its hundreds of supporting characters, except that it’s Tommy, and everyone wanted him dead anyway.

I can’t say that I’m sad to see Tommy expire ““ it’s been clear for several weeks now that the guy was recklessly suicidal ““ but his death seems to underline everything the show is doing wrong this season. Tommy died to give Sam a storyline. There’s no danger to the main cast, there’s no threat, no sense that the show is willing to make hard choices for the sake of the story (just look at the horrid bastardization of the Eric-Sookie romance for proof of that). Killing Tommy Mickens is the easy way out.

The aftermath of Jessica and Jason’s pick-up truck sexcapades is predictably unhappy. They’re awkward with each other and guilt-ridden about Hoyt. Jason, because he is Jason, tries to weasel out of the situation by asking Jessica to glamour him into forgetting about it. That this is a tremendous insult to Jessica doesn’t even occur to him, nor does the unfairness of it ““ something that Jessica seems terribly surprised about, even though she’s know him for over a year. She storms off in a “men suck” fit.

Meanwhile, at the Bellefleur fort, Terry forces an intervention on Andy. Despite the obvious episode padding nature of the scenes, there’s a lot to be happy with here. We learn a lot about Terry (“I’m not judging. Plenty of men come back from war and don’t live in tree houses.”) and Andy and their family. Since its Terry and Andy, all of it is well-acted, the characters are likable even in their flaws, and we all leave loving Terry a little bit more than we did before.

Debbie continues her decent back into skank territory, smoking weed with Marcus and complaining about Alcide. See the problem is that she wants to be part of a pack and have babies, and Alcide is a lone wolf type, so he’s causing all these problems in their relationship. It certainly doesn’t have anything to do with her addictions or her bed hopping with the strongest available man in her immediate vicinity. Debbie is an opportunist. And her next opportunity is Marcus.

And so we are back to the varsity team:

Last week, Antonia/Marnie launched an assault on the “tolerance thing” with her own army of brainwashed Louisiana vampire sheriffs.  The vamps tear through the crowd, killing people, maiming them, all on camera until a forward-thinking Nan destroys them all. She also takes out one of the sheriffs with a pencil, which is just reason #400 to love Nan.  Zombie Eric tosses Bill around like a ragdoll as Sookie keeps trying to intervene by alternately leaping on Eric’s back and blocking Bill from shooting him. Then, fed up with this bull, Sookie hits them both with her lightning hands, breaking Antonia’s hold over Eric and, oops, alerting Nan to the fact that the dairy maid has super powers.

Eric remembers everything that happened between him and Sookie, which is awkward, since she’s sort of terrified of Normal Eric and still may be a bit in love with Bill. Eric doesn’t care. He offered himself to her. He loves her. She loves him too, but… There’s always a but. If Sookie is paying attention, the interaction between Eric and Pam, the real affection and emotion between them, says an awful lot about the kind of man Eric is. We all know Sookie isn’t really paying attention though.

King Bill has had enough of this malarkey. He has had enough of Nan pushing him around and declaring the True Death on him (“True death for you too!”). He is going to go burn Moon Goddess to the ground and end this thing, and if Tara is unfortunately inside, well, that’s just an unfortunate casualty he’ll live with. Bill, Eric, Pam, and Jessica descend on Moon Goddess in their special ops black van, loaded with big guns and a rocket launcher. (This episode is teaming with (likely unintentional) Buffy references.)

Inside Moon Goddess, the dissention in the ranks has extended to Marnie herself, with Antonia forcefully ripping herself out of Marnie. She wanted to kill vampires, not humans, and the suffering her attack on the diversity festival caused is horrifying. She wants to end this. Marnie has other plans. There was some question about where “Marnie” went during the possession and this episode answers it; she’s been driving this boat all along. Antonia is the power, but Marnie is the real hatred here. Marnie manages to convince Antonia that the collateral damage is acceptable and the two join forces once again.

Sookie rounds up her motley crew of non-vampire friends to try and break inside Moon Goddess before Bill burns the place to the ground. Since Jesus is known to Marnie, he gets sent inside to do some spying, with Sookie keeping a telepathic eye on him from outside. Can she do this? Why not? It’s in the script. Jesus figures out that Marnie is as dangerous as Gran warned Sookie she was a few episodes back, while at the same time Tara and Holly independently cast a spell to bring down the wards around the shop. They make a break for it. Sookie and Lala make a break for them, and Antonia brings the rescue to screeching halt when she slams down the barriers and summons all four of them inside her shop.

Lonely old Jason is left outside the barrier, presumably to warn Bill and Eric that Sookie is inside when they try to blow the shop up, leading to a difficult emotional decision that will not actually end with Sookie’s death.