“Eric Northman is nothing if he is not pure fucking sex on a throne.”
Mini bowed out of the recap this week to do teenager things that don’t involve hanging out with her mom. (Hi, honey! Hope you had fun at the beach!) So, instead, we will old school discuss what happened in “Death is Not the End” with an actual recap.
The glimmers of promise we’ve seen so far this season have paid off big time this week, giving us a funny, touching, and exciting episode, jammed full of visits from old friends.
Eric and Pam:
Now that Eric is properly motivated by the promise of slaughtering Sarah Newlin, his trip back to Bon Temps is studded with a flashback tour of the last couple of decades. Following their expulsion from France, The Authority sentences them to life in Louisiana, saddling Eric with sheriff duties for Area 5, and forcing him and Pam to run a knock off Blockbuster. This might be my favorite thing True Blood has done since Russell Edgington ripped out a newscaster’s spine out on live TV.
I would pay any amount of money for a web series of Eric and Pam’s adventures in retail, especially if it meant seeing more of Jason-Priestly Eric, a sight so frigging perfect that I busted out laughing as soon as he swaggered on the screen to the strains of Garbage’s “No. 1 Crush.”
That moment also coincided with the duo’s introduction to Ginger, their flighty, coffin riding, Gal Friday. In the ’90s, she’s an alt-nation girl, with quirky glasses, overalls, and cheap plastic chokers, taking a class on vampires in society and renting my video check out list from 1996. We all knew Ginger back in the ’90s, if we weren’t actually being Ginger, right? Ginger’s first reaction to seeing Eric is one of hysterical fan girling. Frankly, I can’t blame her. I doubt my reaction if Eric Northman wandered across my path would be any more dignified.
Based on one hand kiss and 30 seconds of conversation, Ginger throws away her college life for a minimum wage job at a video store and cements her connection to the duo for the next several decades.
While hanging out in flashback land, Ginger helpfully outlines the thesis statements for True Blood. “Examining the plight of the Other in society through vampires” and “sex sells.” Thanks, Ginger. I’m sorry that you’ve been glamoured so much that all that’s left in your delightful brain is air and blingees of Eric Northman.
Over in the main plot, there’s actual fallout from the events of “Fire in the Hole,” starting with several uncomfortable phone calls. Sookie speaks to Jackson, Alcide’s father, to let him know his son has passed. Jason has to call Hoyt, who we haven’t seen his painful departure from Bon Temps, having convinced Jessica to glamour all his memories of Jason and their relationship away. It was an excruciating scene, and it’s just as awful now, seeing Jason struggle to keep it together while telling his childhood best friend, a man he loved like a brother, that his mother was killed – all while Hoyt can’t even remember Jason’s name.
There’s a point to these phone calls besides bringing two side characters back into the plot. Bon Temps is a small town. One of the reasons the cast is so bloated is the way that small towns can operate – everyone being in everyone else’s business, the way that the community connects to each other so that one person’s actions cause huge ripples throughout the whole town. The show’s really been hammering that home the past couple of weeks, showing how everyone blames Sookie and her vadge for bringing damnation down on them. But if we’re to believe that Sookie wouldn’t have taken Alcide’s suggestion to say fuck it all and run off to someplace where dying vampires weren’t trying to slaughter them and the town’s church service didn’t turn into a round of slut shaming, we need to understand why she sticks around. And that’s what we’re getting here. Sookie talking to Arlene’s kids and trying to comfort them during their mother’s disappearance. Jason calling Hoyt to let him know about his mom. Holly, who’s been a solid friend to Sookie since she showed up a couple of years back. Jessica, who Sookie acted as a substitute mother to as she made the transition to vampire-hood.
Bon Temps is just as integral to who Sookie Stackhouse is as her (disappearing/reappearing) psychic powers.
Sookie and Jason hatch a plan to rescue Jane Bodehouse, Nicole, and Arlene from Fangtasia, after recovering their whereabouts from Holly’s memories. Under ordinary circumstances, the logical plan is to waltz in there during the day while vampires need to sleep (or they get the bleeds). But Hep V vampires need to feed regularly to keep from dying, and the last couple of weeks has shown us that they’re basically awake around the clock, in a bar specifically designed to protect vampires from the sun. One might question how, exactly, Sookie and Jason were able to parse this information together, but on the hierarchy of sins True Blood has committed, this one is pretty minor.
So Sookie demands that her vampire friends help rescue the captives in Fangtasia, which results in a turn-out of exactly five extra bodies to the assault, including the drummer for James’s band. Because of course James has a band. That is literally what I said to the screen during Keith’s introduction. “Of course James has a band.”
Eric’s timely arrival – and subsequent summoning of Willa – lends a couple of extra bodies, but more importantly, it means that Sookie and Eric get to see each other for the first time in months. The chemistry between these characters has always felt more authentic than whatever was happening between Bill and Sookie, which is why it’s just such a sin that the show always prioritized that relationship. It’s devastating to see the two of them together – Eric hugging Sookie and smelling her hair while she cries over his diagnosis is as much of a gut punch as Eric telling Pam he loves her, always, in that way he has. Eric is frequently an asshole – earlier in the episode he knowingly transmits Hep-V to an uninfected woman and basically laughs it off – but he’s also often the emotional center of the show, able to convey more in the way he brushes hair off Sookie’s face than the writing can do in an entire season’s worth of ham fisted allegories.
The ragtag team of “whoever showed up” destroys the nest of Hep V vampires and the core of the human vengeance squad (who also show up to attack a vampire nest at night, with a hell of a lot less justification of doing so than Sookie’s group did), effectively doing away with what might have been this season’s Big Bads. Of course, we know there’s still plenty of Hep V vampires out there to deal with, the mysterious “whistler” who called off the BBQ attack, and Sarah Newlin still to deal with. Who wants to place bets on whether or not fairy blood is the cure for Hep V? No one? I don’t blame you. That’s just a sucker’s bet.
Shall we place our bets on the rest of the season?
• Sookie uses her nuclear fairy power – that glowing ball of light that Niall taught her to make last season – in some ultimate catastrophe showdown with Hep-V vamps that kills them all but also renders her wholly human. Eric, Bill, or Jessica will also be present and be annihilated but be a willing sacrifice.
• We get a flashforward of Sookie living a normal human life, possibly with kids, in 2014, to explain their oddly specific mention that the year is 2011 a few episodes back.
• Pam calls in her favor with Sookie – remember, Sookie owes her for turning Tara into a vampire. The favor was to “help make things right” with Eric – healing him with her magical fairy vagina blood seems about right.
• Death watch roll call: Violet, Willa, Jessica, Andy. Possibly Sam’s wife who he just developed a renewed interest in this episode, but not their unborn daughter. Probably safe – Jane Bodehouse and Arlene, since Arlene just had her close call and her storyline would be nicely wrapped up after this episode, and because they could have killed Jane Bodehouse off already, so why bother to do it later?
• End Game Couples: This is the big to-do. James/Lala. Jessica/Jason. Arlene/Drummer Vampire. Andy/Holly. I’m suddenly not 100% sure that Bill and Sookie will end up together. There’s so much romantic tension between Eric and Sookie that obviously they’re not the final pair. I’m leaning towards Sookie being alone at the end of the current time frame, and with Sam or some yet unmet person in the flashforward.
• Tara? It seems, four episodes in, that any good bye we’d have had with this character to have passed. But Lala is a medium and the episode tacitly referred to that (his reference to stabbing Jesus when he was possessed), so there’s still a chance we get to say good bye to her. Probably along with a childhood flashback to when Sookie was theoretically a better friend to her.
All images courtesy of HBO.