True Blood (S01E05): “Sparks Fly Out”

Grade: A-

After bumping along unevenly, True Blood has finally found its footing and as a result delivered its best episode yet. More people become fleshed out, Bill’s history is partly revealed, and another shocking ending left me feeling devastated, but proved these characters have already gotten under my skin. It’s a wild ride, but the most balanced one thus far that effectively seals the deal for me that this show is a keeper.

After last week’s outing to Fangtasia, Sookie is feeling a little uncomfortable around Bill and lets him know it. He says he won’t call on her anymore, which sets up an episode that allows many of the other show’s relationships to breathe and to give Bill time to delve into his tragic past.

Most of the hour centers on the meeting of The Descendants of the Glorious Dead, hosted by Gran, where the main attraction is a living, breathing vampire. The setup for this meeting goes back to the pilot, but it finally comes to pass here, in a local church. The scene is setup to be tense, as all sorts of people show up for different reasons and there’s something generally unsettling crackling in the air. The mayor questions Gran as to whether they’ve made enough precautions about Bill, but she snaps back that he’s a gentleman and that they should be more worried about what the town folk might do to him. Then the meeting starts up, and its a long-winded chance for Bill to show he’s more normal than people might think by uncovering a silver cross, speaking about tolerance, recounting stories of time sin the Civil War he shared with the people’s ancestors, and even taking some pictures afterward to dispel any rumors about vampires vanishing in photographs. All throughout the meeting, though, it feels as though something bad is being setup to happen. There’s a man with war trauma who seems unstable, but ends up being Bill’s biggest fan of the evening, a group of redneck boys smashing garlic in the crowd, who end up being mostly harmless, and Jason, who’s high on V again, but minds his manners after all. All these things that could have gone wrong, but don’t lead to a surprisingly successful meeting.

So Jason is high again, which is a little surprising after what happened last week. Lafayette convinces him that if he uses V responsibly, a whole new world will open up to him. So pushing aside thoughts of the gigantic needle that was recently inserted into his manly bits to relieve the negative effects of his vampire blood overdose, he hits up again. And for the rest for the episode, Jason wonders around acting like a fool, seeing sparks flying from flowers and envisioning Tara as a beautiful Goddess surrounded by majestic waterfalls (when she’s actually just at Merlotte’s bar). Pretty much all his facial expressions were priceless, and it was a nice change to have him acting silly and sappy rather than focusing on what to bang next. He even confesses his love to Tara, after being tipped off to her long-held crush on him by her cousin, but she thinks its just the V talking. And near the end, when she finds him out back doing it doggy style with a recently divorced, drunk-off-her-ass woman, she dumps a bag of trash on the happy couple to even out the amount of crap he had been dumping on her all day. She reacts in her usual brash manner, but it’s obvious she was hoping for a different turnout and is more than a tad disappointed.

Also, Lafayette gets possibly the funniest scene of the episode, when those hicks from the meeting show up at the bar and send back their hamburger because it might have AIDS. Well, he takes off his earrings and apron and takes the “AIDS Burger” back to them himself, with a side of fist to the face. While Lafayette is a flaming stereotype in some aspects, he continues to show ways that he defies those, like proving he’s the most badass dude in the bar who just happens to accessorize with women’s jewelry. This small town is being written full of characters with various prejudices, only to be schooled on them and taught a lesson later on, and I think this definitely rings true to life. Having people coming from so many different places with different views and ideals adds that extra dash of color and spice that promises to always keep things interesting and give us great clashes like this one.

After the meeting, Bill returns home and is the sheriff and Andy. He offers the men warm Frescas and tells them that no vampire killed those girls, because a vampire could not have resisted draining them of their blood. Andy asks about a tool by the fireplace, which Bill explains was for toasting bread back in the day, which along with a picture of his long dead family given to him by the mayor leads him into a lengthy remembrance of his past life, before he was a vampire. He was a soldier, wounded and lost, who stumbled upon a creepy cottage in the woods that screams “A Vampire Lives Here!” He finds a lovely, pale woman inside who gives him food and tends to his wounds and tries to get sex from him. Yeah, that part doesn’t sit too well with Bill, a happily married man on the way home to his family. Turns out, thinking with his heart and not his penis saves his life. The woman, obviously a vampire to everyone except Bill, doesn’t allow him to leave and bites his neck instead. When he wakes up, he sees the dead bodies of other soldiers–men who didn’t resist their carnal urges and became animals, trying to sleep with her. She killed them, but for Bill, who showed how noble and honorable he was, she has decided to do something special. She’s made him a vampire. It’s all pretty sad stuff, but helps to humanize our very much non-human character.

Finally, Sookie isn’t as heavily focused on, but she still has a few developments. After news spreads that she’s not seeing Bill anymore, Sam wastes no time in asking her out on a date (Vampire speech and coffee: how romantic). The date goes okay, but you can tell Sookie can’t stop thinking about those tender vampire kisses and Sam just isn’t a good replacement. After dessert, they begin to argue and she ends up taking a taxi home. When she arrives, there’s creepy music playing and even creepier camera angles, letting everyone know something is about to happen. Sure enough, when she gets inside the house, Sookie slips on something. It’s blood. Gran’s blood, which she’s lying dead in. And now we know why Sookie and Sam had to fight: so we wouldn’t know his whereabouts and whether that sheet sniffing freak did this or not.

But holy hell at the ending. Gran is dead, and someone has got some ‘splaining to do.

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