By John Keegan
This episode of "True Blood" was an improvement on the previous installment, if only because we had much less of the annoying subplots that threaten to drag this season into the mud. There was less of Terry and his terribly mundane PTSD issues, hardly any of the irritating Reverend Newlin, and even Jason's sad little plot thread didn't annoy overly much.
One big plus was the continuing adventures of Mortal Pam and her first meetings with Eric. Remember when Eric was this mysterious figure with a potent mixture of decadent charisma and dangerous fire? So do I. The flashbacks brought all of that back to mind, which was a nice way to tie into Eric's original position as a man with authority and power. On the other hand, it also shows that the writers remember how to write Eric in that manner, so why can't they get that character back into form in the "present"?
Pam is trying to hold things together at Fangtasia, which is turning out to be more of a challenge than one would imagine. I found it amazing how much the tone of Fangtasia has changed over the years. That throne isn't quite so imposing, is it? Meanwhile, Pam is dealing with the problems that come with keeping Tara around for too long. Anyone want to bet against Pam rushing to save Tara at the top of the next episode?
Speaking of Tara, the writers still insist on making her the punching bag of the series, and it's still just as tedious as it was for the first four seasons. If all they're going to do is have her be angry and suicidal over her conversion, what's the point? How is this any better or different than every other plot that Tara has been involved with? The supposed turning point of the fourth season, where Tara looked to be gaining self-confidence and strength, has gone nowhere. I really just don't understand why they bothered to bring her back.
Back at the Authority, things get a lot more interesting as the notion of vampiric civil war looms in the background. I'd love to know just what Salome is trying to achieve, beyond getting her chance to frolic with Eric and Bill. It's not hard to see why they would be ready and willing! Maybe it was just as simple as using soft persuasion as an interrogation tactic, but I suspect there's more to it than that.
I would be a lot more intrigued by the civil war concept if the writers would just clarify the power structure within the vampire world. It still feels like a muddled mess. I get the idea that they are setting up the Authority and its adherents (including, ostensibly, Eric and Bill) against Russell and the Sanguinistas. All well and good, but it would be nice if they could do more than just tie it to past events with vague hand waving. This difference of opinion has always been there, among the vampires, so why is the idea of vocal anti-mainstreaming vampires so unusual now?
Jessica is certainly embracing her sexuality a bit more, which is always a plus, so it seems odd that it gets short-circuited by Jason's super-clichéd issues. It seems like the writers have turned to that tired old trope of having the eternal horndog want to demonstrate his true love by not having sex with the object of his affections. Because, of course, it wouldn't be "meaningless" like it always had been before. This has been done a thousand times before, so the brave thing would be to have Jason and Jessica accept their mutual affection and move on.
Most of the rest of the episode was all about setting up things for later down the road, or worse, filling up time. I really don't care about Sheriff Andy's love life at all, and they've given me no reason to care. Similarly, while it makes sense for Debbie's death to be investigated, I don't know that it's going to help improve the werewolf storyline. And the hint that fairies might be coming back into the story had to have prompted a collective groan from the fan base, who has every reason to be skeptical, given how poorly that was handled in the past.
Perhaps the most surprising thing this season is how sidelined Sookie has become. Sure, she's still in the episodes, since she's dealing with Tara's situation, but it's hard to claim that she's a central character at this point. Eric and Bill are far more prominent. And just how novel has it become to have action at Merlotte's? I didn't even remember that Sookie still had a job there. But if it means more reminders of Lafayette's terrible witch subplot, maybe returning to Merlotte's isn't the best scenario after all.John Keegan is Editor-in-Chief for Critical Myth, a partner site of SciFi Vision.