[SPOILERS] As penultimate episodes go, this was a snooze. The way storylines have been mixed this year has been a real problem for True Blood, always noticeable when a compelling subplot is swiftly followed by an extended period of utter dreariness. I've complained about this all season, and I don't get the feeling Alan Ball perceives this as a problem, which is a real shame. I really don't follow the logic of starting or resuming storylines that haven't been a sizeable part of season 3 -- as preparation for season 4, or otherwise.
To recap the shenanigans: Bill (Stephen Moyer) rescued Sookie (Anna Paquin) from Fangtasia, but they didn't get far before Edgington (Denis O'Hare) recaptured them on the highway -- helped by Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), who's allied himself with Edgington by promising the vampire king that half-fairy Sookie's blood will protect him from sunlight; Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) and Hoyt (Jim Parrack) resume their courtship, with Jessica admitting she killed a trucker because she couldn’t control her bloodlust; Sam (Sam Trammell) returns to work in a drunken state and causes half his staff to leave because of his rudeness; Arlene (Carrie Preston) decided to get an abortion with the help of Holly's (Lauren Bowles) witchcraft in the woods; Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) suffered nightmarish flashbacks because of his V trip with Jesus (Kevin Alejandro); Crystal (Lindsay Pulsipher) revealed to Jason (Ryan Kwanten) that she's a "were-panther", before he later realized that teen rival Kitch (Grey Damon) is going to beat his high school records because he's been taking V; and Tara (Rutina Wesley) confronted Andy (Chris Bauer) about his cover-up with Eggs' death, before apparently rekindling her romance with Sam.
It saddens me to say this, but everything unrelated to Edgington tested my patience here – with the possible exception of Jessica's storyline, because it was very brief and I'm grateful to see her reunited with Hoyt. The rest of the storylines made me angry for various reasons: who cares about Lafayette having bad hallucinations, or his entire storyline this year? Who cares that nice-guy Sam's having a public meltdown? Who even remembered that Jason had a rival in a young kid called Kitch earlier this season? Is Tara still crying over Eggs? Crystal's big secret is that she's a "were-panther" – seriously? Who thought that was a good idea? And now we're laying the groundwork for Arlene becoming a witch, I assume – but is that a good move for her? There are less and less regular human characters you can invest in, which does feel like a problem to me. And where the heck has werewolf Alcide gone? Worryingly, that character's going to become a regular next season! Is that necessary, or wanted, by anyone who can see past his rippling muscles?
Quite frankly, True Blood's on a precipice. The show is still fun because it's silly, gruesome, and crazy enough to keep you watching for the abundant violence, sex, nudity, hammy acting, and occasionally juicy dialogue -- but Alan Ball needs to get a grip on the disorderly universe he's inherited from Charlaine Harris's novels, because it feels out of control. The cast is so huge that 70% of them have been given pointless or weak storylines -- as something to justify their presence, rather than anything the audience is actually interested in seeing. And some of the story arcs this year have been terrible -- with the sole exception of most tethered to Russell Edgington, but even the way his storyline's been handled has left me cold at times. Remember that wonderful climax with Edgington declaring war on mankind during a live news broadcast? The show just hasn't capitalized on that delicious threat. Indeed, most of the characters on the show seem blissfully unaware that even took place on national TV!
I guess the secret behind True Blood's continuing success is that it punctuates every hour with at least three memorable moments, and the cliffhangers are usually stimulating enough to lure you back -- like this week's one with Eric handcuffing himself to Russell in broad daylight. But while that's an enviable skill, it can't last forever. There will come a time (if it hasn't come already) when audiences tire of the shock-tactics and begin to realize there aren't many credible or motivating characters doing logical, interesting things. It's often said that a popular show takes a few years to die, because it has so much momentum and mass perception takes awhile to change. I suppose that means Alan Ball's team need to ensure season 4 bounces back, because otherwise it'll just become a horror circus that should have left town long ago.
WRITER: Nancy Oliver
DIRECTOR: Daniel Minahan
GUEST CAST: Kevin Alejandro, Marshall Allman, Todd Lowe, Denis O'Hare, Jim Parrack, Carrie Preston, Lindsay Pulsipher, Lauren Bowles, Jessica Tuck, James Harvey Ward, Grey Damon, Melissa Rauch, Lil Mikk, Carlson Young & Natasha Alam
TRANSMISSION: 29 August 2010 – HBO, 9PM