After last week's nadir, things improved with "Burning Down The House", but not enough to leave me psyched to see how the season resolves over the next few weeks. There were once again too many subplots getting attention that I feel indifferent about, and very little interested me about the dwindling witch's storyline. It feels like the writers aren't entirely sure what to do now, and the awkward pacing wasn't helped by spending so much time on trivial matters like the Bellefleur cousins...
This week, Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) got his memories back after being struck by an energy blast from Sookie (Anna Paquin) to prevent him killing Bill (Stephen Moyer); Marnie (Fiona Shaw) fled to her Moon Goddess refuge after attacking the vampire's tolerance festival, trying to keep her mutinying coven in order and the spirit of Antonia focused on their goal to destroy all vampires; Jason (Ryan Kwanten) continued to feel guilty about sleeping with Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) behind his friend's back, even going so far as to ask Jessica to "glamour" his memories of their affair away (which she refused to do); Jesus (Kevin Alejandro) joined the fight against Marnie with Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), by pretending to be interested in joining her coven; Tommy (Marshall Allman) died from his savage beating from Marcus's (Dan Buran) biker gang, prompting brother Sam (Sam Trammell) to go looking for vengeance with Alcide's (Joseph Manganiello) help; and Terry (Todd Lowe) took cousin Andy (Chris Bauer) to their childhood treehouse after discovering the Sheriff's addicted to V.
"What's the deal with your little dairy maid and her lightning trick?"
True Blood's the dictionary definition of a mixed bag, that's been beyond question since halfway through season 2. It's just annoying when things that should be successful just flop, like the ramifications of Eric getting his memories back. Far from being the end of the Sookie/Eric romance, which could have been a tragic piece of relationship drama for the actors to chew on, he's simply reverted back to his old persona, but Sookie can still see the "good" in him? That's a disappointing turn of events, considering what could have been.
A little better was seeing Antonia realize her desire to slaughter vampires is ultimately doomed to fail and is now causing too much innocent bloodshed, but Marnie steps up to show she's the person with a thirst for vampire genocide. It doesn't really alter what's happening with their spiritual union, but it does mean that defeating Marnie won't be simply a case of exorcising her, or casting some kind of spell. She'll assumedly have to be killed in a physical way, or at the very least be persuaded to end her campaign. Maybe a vampire will glamour her into forgetting everything she knows about magic?
"He drank eleven of my beers, passed out and started farting. Continuously."
It was also a surprise to see Tommy actually die, with no loophole for the writers to reverse that fact. True Blood's rarely killed a character of any consequence since Sookie's gran, so to write someone out of the show was much appreciated. I only wish this was standard practice, as there are about seven other characters who should have died a long time ago. Hopefully this is a sign of lasting change, because a show like True Blood benefits from there being a real chance of beloved characters dying... otherwise we just assume the mortally wounded will sip vampire blood and be restored to full health. Tommy's death scene was also good; subtly performed by Allman and touchingly handled by Trammell, ignoring that ridiculous verbal statement of "I'm so sad". Did he accidentally read a parenthetical in the script out loud?
One thing that really dragged this episode down was the amount of time devoted to Terry and Andy, who were out in the woods talking about their messed up childhoods while shooting cans with rifles. It was admittedly one of the few times Chris Bauer's been given a chance to do anything on the show beyond act belligerent and stupid, and arguably the only time Todd Lowe's had the chance to speak more than a few sentences. And, to be fair, Lowe was pretty good here, making me wish his character was more interesting and central to the show, but I still can't imagine many people really care about the Bellefleur boys. To dedicate this much time to them was either by design (because the script was running short), or the writers mistakenly think those characters are anything other than filler in the minds of their audience. If so, they're very wrong.
"If you don't see something you like, I got the bows and arrows hid over there."
When you get down to it, not much actually happened in "Burning Down The House" until the last 10-minutes. Even the title refers to an act that didn't even happen in this episode! Jesus has convinced Marnie he's a devout and powerful ally; Marnie has subsequently teleported Jesus, Lafayette and Sookie to god-knows-where, and the witch-slaying foursome of Bill, Eric, Pam (Kristin Bauer) and Jessica arrived wearing leather and carrying flamethrowers to torch the Moon Goddess shop. And they just had to walk in slow-motion, naturally.
Overall, this was a fairly weak episode with just a few good moments, bolstered by the change in power dynamic between Marnie/Antonia, and the fact the writers actually killed a main characters. Although Tommy's demise does mean his subplot trying to swindle money out of Maxine Fortenberry's property was utterly pointless this season. There are only two episodes left of season 4, so we'll see if True Blood manages to pull everything together in the finale. The show has given us underwhelming finale's for the past two years, annoyingly, so I can't say my expectations are very high... but maybe that's for the best...
written by Nancy Oliver / directed by Lesli Linka Glatter / 28 August 2011 / HBO