True Blood (S01E06): “Cold Ground”

Grade: A

The sixth episode of True Blood brings us the saddest scene of a cute girl eating pie to ever air on TV and swims in all sorts of emotionally murky waters in a similarly daring and unrestrained fashion. This show about vampires is always walking hand-in-hand with death, but the fallout from Gran’s murder is the blackest moment yet, and like Sookie may leave you feeling uncomfortably numb.

The south is a place where manners and smiles are plastered on with duct tape and Elmer’s glue, which is to say they’re very obviously fake. While some people will tell you like it is to your face, Southerners prefer to gossip and slander behind your back, or, in Sookie’s case, in their thoughts. Usually so composed, Sookie is finding it hard to deal with her Gran’s death and even harder to block out all the thoughts firing at her from every supposedly supportive member of the community. They’re baking casseroles and feigning sympathy, but she can hear their thoughts, about how they wished it was her dead and not her Gran or, worse, that she had something to do with the death. It’s enough to make her snap when the very nosy Maxine takes out a pie from the Frigidaire that Sookie’s Gran had baked shortly before passing. It’s not the pie, of course, that sends her over the edge, but the idea settling in that it’s the last pie ever to be baked by the woman she describes as her grandmother, her parent and her best friend.

She’s pushed even further at the funeral when she again can’t ward off the nasty thoughts of all the people, and she ends what could have been a very touching speech by telling each and every one in attendance that they can F*** off. It’s not only the people who have been saying one thing and thinking another, but our heroine has been trying to maintain a smile all this time as well. Sure, she’s had outbursts of emotion, but for the most Part Sookie has retained a certain level of optimism and cheer. Right after she finds Gran dead, she doesn’t show any emotion. The next day, she admits to feeling numb–not knowing what to feel. She tries to put on a show for the town and to hide her grief. As she finally unwraps the last fourth of Gran’s pecan pie, she lets herself grieve a little bit more with every bite, until the tin is empty and she’s filling it back up with tears. It’s good to see her really let go of all the grief stuck inside and hopefully try and figure out how to live in a world where she and her brother are the only two Stackhouses (with exception to the creepy Uncle introduced this hour, who has some unexplained bad blood with the family).

This all leads to the end, where Anna Paquin gives America a glimpse of her naked body while Sookie gives Bill a lot more than just a peek. She lets him taste her, quite literally, by allowing him to feast on her neck. And girl must have a pretty high threshold for pain or kinky enough to turn that pain into pleasure because day-um, if that doesn’t look like it hurt something terrible.

Sookie’s not the only one toting around a big pile of emotional baggage though, and her BFF Tara gets a chance to be both the strong, supportive friend as well as deal with inner demons of her own. Or I should say, the inner demons of her mother, because that’s exactly what she’s trying to exorcise. At the funeral, Tara’s mom shows up surprisingly sober and gives a speech that’s touching to everyone except her daughter, whom it just pisses off. She talks about how she didn’t know Ms. Stackhouse well, but knew when Tara was over at her house that she was taken care of. Tara claims Gran was more of a mother to her than her real one, but mommy dearest still wants to try and be that mother figure for her. The only problem standing in the way is that she’s possessed by a demon. Tara laughs, we laugh, and everyone except mama laughs, who is dead serious about it. Well to deal with this, Tara goes to be with Sookie again–to help her with her pain so as to bury hers–but she finds Sam instead, and they find themselves in bed together.

But all this fakeness going around has gotten to Sam and he demands of Tara that if they hook up again it has to be real. It can’t be something to forget about or deny happened, but something substantial and, well, real. She agrees, but in the post-coital sweaty kissing stage, her lost baggage is delivered and she has the sudden urge to leave and see her mother. Sam seems so dejected in this moment it’s almost easy to forget he was rolling around in a dead girl’s sheets a few weeks ago like a world class pervert. Meanwhile, Tara cuddles with drunken mama on the couch, all thoughts of bottles to the head forgotten for the moment. Tara has played the wise-cracking, tough as nails best friend of the series thus far, but she finally cracked, no doubt brought upon by the loss of her friend’s mother figure. She reveals to Sam before they have the not so real sex again that she’s always being sarcastic to hide her true feelings. She says afterward it’s a joke, but it seems the “jk” is only a rushed addendum so as not to seem vulnerable or weak. No matter how horrible alcohol (or demons) have made her mother, she realizes that with the passing of Gran anyone can be taken from this life at any time.

Family is very important in True Blood and the loss of family members is possibly the hardest thing to cope with. This is a town obsessed with their Civil War Ancestors, still somewhat mourning and probing at the lives of long-dead members of family they might never have even known in the flesh. So when close, living family dies, it hits hard. It hits Jason so hard that he smacks Sookie right across the face, and you almost hate him for it until you realize just how torn up he is inside, too. Sure, hitting his sister isn’t anywhere near the right way to handle the situation, but its clearly a way of passing from palm to face the guilt he’s feeling over not being there for Gran: Instead out hooking up with a girl whose number and name he can’t even recall. When he’s questioned yet again over the murder, he hits his breaking point as well. He can’t remember who he was with exactly because it was another one night stand, and the fact that such a meaningless experience caused him to be one of the last people in town to find out about Gran’s death really leaves him in a messed up state (on top of still getting high on V). Later, after Gran’s funeral and being told by Sookie she wants nothing to do with him, he finds another tramp to get it on with. She’s into it while he is clearly trying his hardest not to cry during sex. It’s almost as sad as Sookie and her piece of pie, but not quite.

True Blood didn’t hold back any emotional gut punches in “Cold Ground” and is a truly raw and heartbreaking episode because of it. It’s still proving that it’s unlike any other show in its genre and that when it comes to stories about death, Alan Ball is still King (Well, maybe he shares a throne with Bryan Fuller, now that I think about it…)

R.I.P. Gran.

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