By John Keegan
After appearing to bring some sense of cohesion to the season arc in the previous episode, the writers slip back into the quagmire of scattershot plotting for this installment. I struggled to find even the semblance of a direction in this episode, despite the fact that all of the various plot threads do advance to some degree. That lack of direction made it very hard to internalize the events that took place, because the importance of them was often too ephemeral.
Part of the problem is the focus on plot threads that are simply non-starters this season. Basically, many of the plot threads that were barely touched upon in the previous episode (to great benefit) are the main focus this time around. For example, there is a lot of new information about Terry's experience in wartime and what went down in Iraq, but it has yet to progress into anything interesting. If anything, it feels like the plot of a really bad Syfy Saturday movie.
Similarly, there's all the business with Sam and the shifters, which seems to come out of nowhere. One might assume that this is somehow related to the fallout from the werewolf business, but I was hard-pressed to remember what was going on with the shifters and why I should care. (To be honest, I don't.) Add to that Alcide's scene with Debbie's parents, and it feels like the positive step of killing off Debbie has yet to yield any tangible progress.
Setting aside the lamentable Lafayette-as-witch subplot, something that should have been discarded a long time ago, it's gotten to the point where Sookie is one of the least interesting characters on the show. The writers have stated it bluntly in this episode: Sookie is practically the kiss of death for everyone she loves. Even she recognizes it. Yet, the writers can't seem to grasp that this makes her so unsympathetic to the audience that the show might be better off without her!
Granted, that’s pretty much impossible, given that she's technically the main character, and so the far more interesting Bill and Eric Show is going to have to include her. I like the idea that Bill is willing to use her as bait (or so I assume), but can they stop pretending that there is a realistic threat to their overall survival? Bill and Eric aren't going anywhere, especially since Russell isn't the type to play coy with the Authority, once he rears his psychotic head.
Speaking of Authority, as intriguing as a vampiric civil war might be, they are trying very hard to make it somewhat less than exciting. We don't know the characters within the Authority well enough to care if they live or die, so how does this matter in the long run? I feel like the writers should be figuring out a way to personalize the conflict a bit more, or at least lay out the consequences for someone other than Bill and Eric. The scenes with Eric and Pam were a good step in the right direction, but even then, it was never really placed in the context of the Authority vs. Sanguinista war.
There is the possibility that Pam is pushing Tara in a direction that will place her on the side of the Sanguinistas, since Pam's instructions and Tara's feelings of personal betrayal could mix to result in a lack of overall humanity. That would be an interesting way to go, and it might even point to a final end for Tara (which is sorely needed).
The part that made me groan the most, however, was the return of the Faerie plot thread. Sure, this was in the cards as soon as Jessica was smelling something delicious a couple episodes ago, but Sookie's adventures in Faerie were just plain terrible, and it's hard to imagine how they are going to make it work better this time around. Will this factor into the whole vampiric civil war in some way, or is it just another independent plot thread that takes up time better spent on making existing plot threads more substantial and cohesive?
It all continues to feed into my general impression that Alan Ball just doesn't know how to sustain a series. "Six Feet Under" floundered after a couple strong seasons, once he didn't know how to keep the relationships fresh and quirky. The same is happening with "True Blood". It just feels like the show has little sense of direction, and at this point, it's not even using the source material as a roadmap to stay on course. Unfortunately, that means that a lot of the criticisms are becoming as repetitive as the show itself.John Keegan is Editor-in-Chief for Critical Myth, a partner site of SciFi Vision.