Saturday, September 1, 2012

"Save Yourself" some True Blood

HBO's True Blood wrapped up their fifth season this week with "Save Yourself." Showdowns and stakings dominated the episode, with many of the season's arcs wrapping up, while others are just getting started, or taken to a whole new level. Characters we thought we knew turned out to be something else. And enough hints at season four stories are dropped to keep fans pleasantly in anticipation through next summer.

This season's most prominent plot featured the Vampire Authority. As "Save Yourself" draws to a close, representative after representative of this government body bite the dust. As enjoyable as this mix of new characters have been, they have run their course, and it makes sense to kill them off now. It's expected, even. In the end, only one true believer of Lilith (Jessica Clark) is left standing, and that's Bill (Stephen Moyer).

Yes, Bill. Former lover of Sookie (Anna Paquin), and the one we all thought of as the "good" vamp when the show began. Yet, Bill's conversion did not come out of nowhere. He has been a bit meandering in the past, switching his loyalties when it suited him, or to save his neck. The real surprise comes when he manages to turn his back on Sookie, whom he loved. In Lilith, he has found someone with a stronger draw. Bill is so totally consumed with his new love of the goddess that he allows himself to be destroyed and reborn, literally and figuratively, by her blood. The Bill we knew is gone, and this Bill will be unpredictable, fresh, and exciting. As well as probably evil.

Bill's rebirth is a powerful image. True Blood has danced around religion in the past, but never quite like this. This is a total commitment to belief, which makes for a very dangerous game. Most of the bad guys on True Blood are driven by personal motivations. After "Save Yourself," Bill is set up to be the greatest villain the series has ever seen, and one with far more chance of killing off beloved characters before he can be stopped.

Speaking of characters who are killed off, it's a little disappointing that Russell (Denis O'Hare) meets his maker so easily. After an entire season of build up, following a long absence after a spectacular original run, this character deserves a huge battle and some showmanship. Instead, he is blasted with fairy light, and then Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) slits his throat. I'm not sure what I was expecting for Russell, exactly, but this was a let down.

Russell's death is enough to distract many viewers, though, from the real fairy plot. By the end of "Save Yourself," Sookie still doesn't know who killed her parents, or how her fate is intertwined with the now-dead leader of the fairies, or what has happened to Jason (Ryan Kwanten). Some True Blood loyalists don't care for the fairy bits. But after a couple of seasons of set up, it looks like the show might really go for it soon, bringing them front and center, especially as they relate to Sookie. Hopefully those fans will be won over when they do.

Sookie isn't the only one dealing with fairy matters. Andy (Chris Bauer) has sired four babies, and is left to raise them as a single father. There's no telling what challenges fairy children might represent, how quickly they will grow, or how that might tie Andy closer to Sookie's plot. But it's a great start.

The trysts Andy had with the fairy Maurella (Kristina Anapau) can be sort of forgiven because he hadn't gotten fully with Holly (Lauren Bowles) yet, and how can any man resist the allure of these magical creatures? The question is, does this mean the end of things for Holly and Andy? I hope not, because I really like the two of them together. She makes Andy a better man. Holly has to understand the reality of the situation, and see that Andy is a good guy who will treat her right at the end of the day. But it would be hard to blame her for not wanting anything more to do with him, especially if staying together means that she has four more babies to take care of. Her kids are older. She seems like that type that is ready to be done with being a full-time mother.

Tara's (Rutina Wesley) transformation by "Save Yourself" is seemingly complete. Although initially thinking her survival as a vampire cheapened an iconic moment in True Blood's mythology, and didn't make sense, I am pleased with how she has evolved this season. Tara is another character who, like Bill, has trouble finding her place. Unlike Bill, though, she isn't easily moved, her adjustments coming mostly through circumstance, rather than gullibility or political machinations. With the vampires, though, or at least the particular group she fallen in with, Tara has finally found acceptance and a place to belong.

Some might say Tara getting with Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) is going too far. While turning Tara into a vampire is one thing, making her a lesbian is a very different game. To those, I say look at what the poor girl has been through! That's enough to make anyone move from their fundamental stances. Not to mention, Pam provides Tara with a needed affection Tara has been lacking from many of her past relationships, and Pam has been missing romance, too. That they've found each other actually seems quite natural and nice to me. Not to mention, sexual attraction on True Blood has always been a fluid thing, so this is keeping with the series' themes.

The vampire I feel sorry for is Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll). She has been abandoned by her maker, not wanting to follow Bill down his crazy path, and rejected by Jason, the man she loves. She can continue to hang with Eric, Pam, Tara, and Nora (Lucy Griffiths), and they will probably treat her pretty well, being the noble clan that they are. But she isn't part of their bloodline; their family. This makes her an outsider among them. I hope, in time, this shifts a bit. But for now, Jessica is alone.

Of course, True Blood is a series with many characters and many stories, and this review does not touch on everything that happens in "Save Yourself." But I think we've covered most of the highlights, and the others can wait 'til next year.

True Blood will return to HBO in 2013 for a sixth season.

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