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Saturday, July 21, 2012

True Blood is far from "Hopeless"

So, so much is going on in this season of HBO's True Blood! Six hours into the season, "Hopeless" is jam packed full of plots, with each of the main characters facing something big. Without further ado, let's get to it!

Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare) is back in a big way! Briefly captured by the Authority, thanks to Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), Russell quickly turns the tables on Authority leader Roman (Christopher Meloni), giving him the final death.

What will Russell do with his new found power? Will he and the vampire movement known as the Sanguinuistas attempt to conquer mankind? Will the majority of the vampires fall in line behind him, since Russell murdered their leader? Or will most of them fight back, intent on keeping Roman's policies of peaceful co-existence in place?

Bill is kind of an unknown here. Fans would like to believe he is a kind, good vampire, given his past relationship with Sookie (Anna Paquin). But the fact of the matter is, Bill acts like a total patsy to Roman, and it's not the first time he's carried a banner to save his own skin. Yes, he would likely interfere if Russell threatens Sookie, but considering that she can hold her own against him, might Bill support Russell in other ways?

Eric is more principled, even standing up to Roman with his life in the balance, wanting to stay neutral in the battle. This is not a position that he will be able to maintain. Russell has a beef with Eric. Eric might be spared if he would support Russell's mission, but that probably won't happen. And Eric isn't exactly eager to jump on the other side, either. Eric, more than Bill, is going to stand up for what he cares about. The question is, what does Eric care about?

It's a shame that Roman is staked so soon. He is a really a cool character, reaching a zenith last week when murdering the elder member of the Authority that looked like a child. He is deliciously evil, and his strong religious compass makes him someone to contend with. Meloni really seemed to be enjoying himself, and giving a fantastic performance. Then, it's all over much too soon.

Alcide (Joe Manganiello) and Sookie are gone before Russell does the deed, keeping them in the dark about the latest developments, as much as ever. They seemed only to touch on this story, each with their own paths to walk this season. But their involvement in the vampire civil strife in "Hopeless" is fantastic if for no other reason than to see Eric glamor Alcide into being disgusted by Sookie, though Sookie breaks that spell pretty quickly!

Alcide's new purpose in life is to bring order to a pack of werewolves. While not seeking leadership, he isn't going to sit by and watch the new pack master destroy the lives of others. It demonstrates a real sense of character. Alcide may want to be a lone wolf, but he is also going to be a protector when he sees injustice and tyranny. This is a good way to go with his character, even if it keeps him apart from Sookie.

Of course, if True Blood is going to follow the far-inferior book series, which it generally does in extremely broad strokes, the battle for a new pack master will introduce Quinn, Sookie's next boyfriend, a large weretiger. Is True Blood ready to add yet another suitor to her incredibly full dance card?

Quinn might have to wait awhile because Sookie has bigger fish to fry. After a hilarious scene where Sookie bashes men with Arlene (Carrie Preston) and Holly (Lauren Bowles), she runs into Jason (Ryan Kwanten), who alerts her to a fairy situation. The fairies are also fighting amongst themselves, as some of the ones more sympathetic to humans are hiding out at a night club, away from their malevolent peers. Once more, Sookie is drawn into a battle that only fleetingly concerns her. She is such a busy body and danger magnet!

Jason's involvement is a little more personal. He wants to know the truth about his parents' death. It took True Blood five seasons to get to it, but it seems time to finally delve into the Stackhouses' past, uncovering their secret connections to the supernatural world before the supes came out. It's about time! We can't be expected to believe that Sookie hasn't been around things greater than most people all her life!

All supes are in serious danger of being exposed. While only vampires have gone public thus far, someone knows about shifters and the others, as Sam (Sam Trammell) finds out the hard way when he and Luna (Janina Gavankar) are shot. This time, it's Sam and Andy (Chris Bauer) looking for justice, as a third major conflict rages on in "Hopeless."

Hoyt (Jim Parrack) somehow gets involved with Sam's attackers, who recognize him and "save" him from a vampire who is about to kill him, which is kind of what Hoyt is going for. Because Hoyt is in such a weakened state, physically and emotionally, and suffering damage at the hands of a supernatural, when Jessica dumped him, it seems a likely possibility that he might actually join this no-good gang. Or maybe he will continue to defend Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) in whatever way he can. Either possibility places him smack dab in the middle of something violent.

It is supremely awesome that characters like Hoyt and Andy are getting this kind of development! While the more central characters like Sookie, Bill, and Eric are great, True Blood has many talented supporting players. Letting them carry their own major plots, and not just small side stories, is a brilliant way to rejuvenate the series and keep it interesting as it begins aging. Moves like this could keep the show on for many more years.

Speaking of minor people getting increased roles, Terry (Todd Lowe) breaks things off with Arlene to protect her and the kids. His plight seems "Hopeless," haunted by a fire spirit who is intent on killing him for a very dark deed done in Iraq. This is depressing, as Terry and Arlene are True Blood's happiest couple til now. But hopefully Terry can defeat the creature and return home. Though, right now, it's hard to see how that can be accomplished, especially when he doesn't ask for help from the characters we've seen deal with powerful magic villains before. Macho man might get himself killed.

Then there's Tara (Rutina Wesley), whose concerns are more internal. It's funny to see Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) treat her progeny like crap. It's even better to see Jessica and Tara bond. They could really help each other out, given what they have in common. Too bad Tara plays with Hoyt in the bathroom, leading to a spectacular barroom brawl between the gals. Any chance the ladies can patch things up? I'd like to see more cooperation and less bickering! And a trio of united, bad-ass vampire chicks, Pam included, would be virtually unstoppable.

Tara isn't the only one whose story didn't stop at death. Jesus (Kevin Alejandro) is appearing to Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) and Ruby (Alfre Woodard), mouth bound shut. Or, at least, his head appears. It's hard to fathom exactly what is going on, not knowing how Jesus can even still be involved in the show. But he's such a popular character, it's little wonder the series is trying to keep him around. Will he survive past this plot, either brought back to life or in some other form, or is this an epilogue for his character?

In fact, if I were to have one complaint about True Blood, it's that the show is forgetting how to let characters go. Sure, new people are introduced and then dispatched with, but most of the original cast are still around, and the number of integral people that stays keep growing. The show might do with a little trimming, making the stakes a little higher, and events seem a little more dangerous. A couple of deaths could be a blessing.

Believe it or not, I could even go into yet more subplots and great moments from this episode, despite the already lengthy recap. It's hard to spend much time analyzing any one element when so much is happening. Then again, it keeps the show exciting, and "Hopeless" is another in a string of excellent episodes. I won't complain too much about the difficulty in reviewing True Blood if they keep the quality this high.

Watch True Blood Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.


Check out my new website, JeromeWetzel.com.  If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of my True Blood reviews. Click here to buy books and DVDs from the True Blood series. Article first published at TheTVKing

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