If there's a theme running through season 4, it's the fragility and flexibility of personal identity. Tara (Rutina Wesley) had run away to become a New Orleans cage-fighter; Marnie (Fiona Shaw) has invited the spirit of an executed witch to possess her; similar is now happening to Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) with his boyfriend's creepy uncle, and Arlene's (Carrie Preston) baby with a mysterious ghost; Jason (Ryan Kwanten) spent this hour terrified he'll become a were-panther during the Full Moon; Tommy (Marshall Allman) accidentally triggered his newfound "skin-walking" ability, to shape-shift into his brother Sam (Sam Trammell) for a day; and Eric's (Alexander Skarsgård) been transformed from imperious vampire to an amnesiac sweetheart.
Maybe I've just started to accept that True Blood's more of a hodgepodge soap than streamlined drama, but "I Wish I Was The Moon" was another hour that passed by pleasantly for me. There's no great secret behind why this is so: most of the stories are entertaining right now, the weaker ones slip by quickly, and there's been a noticeable move to emphasize characters over gore, violence and sex. A scene where Jason had a panic attack in the wilderness, finding unexpected support from Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), probably ranks as the show's best moment of simple humanity in a long time. It was just two people talking in the moonlight, finding a mutual connection when discussing their past, and being afraid of taking things further because of their friendship. Woll's been a highlight of the series for years, and I must admit I never expected her to really bounce off Kwanten so joyfully. Maybe the character of Jessica works best when she's trying to find love, as opposed to struggling through a relationship that's lost its spark. Whatever the reason, I hope the show explores this potential romance some more. Sorry Hoyt fans.
"It's like a werewolf, except a big-ass cat."
There was also a great performance from Trammell this week, who had to mimic his screen brother's mannerisms in scenes where Tommy had transformed into Sam and spent the day as his elder brother—firing Sookie (Anna Paquin) from her job, flirting with customers, and having sex with Luna (Janina Gavankar)—making it easy to see "Tam" as a hybrid of both brothers. This storyline may have been typical mistaken identity fare, done countless times in SF/fantasy circles, but it was performed well and opens the door for Tommy getting up to more mischief.
Eric continues to be a source of delight, and this episode marked a big turning point for his relationship with Sookie and Bill (Stephen Moyer). The latter having accidentally stumbled on Eric having sex with his ex-girlfriend, enraging him enough to incarcerate Eric at his mansion, using the excuse he's under the influence of witchcraft. Authority was even granted for King Bill to sentence Eric to a "one true death" staking, but Eric's change of personality and sweetness managed to work its charm on Bill and the execution was avoided. This meant Eric could return to Sookie for some rather stilted outdoor sex.
This is undoubtedly one of season 4's better storylines, if only because it's been given room to breathe and develop naturally over multiple episodes. I suspect Eric's going to be restored to normality before the season's done, though—ending a beautiful relationship when his memories return and denigrate the innocence that lies within him. Maybe it's inevitable, but the wrench should still work because of how well Skarsgård and Paquin are selling their moments together. I hope Eric's mental restoration is handled well, when it comes.
I'm also enjoying Fiona Shaw's performance as Marnie, especially now we have insight into why she's being possessed. The spirit of dead witch Antonia (Paola Turbay), burnt at the stake by vampires, some of which she compelled out into the daylight as a final act of vengeance, has returned to finish what she started by killing survivors—including the vampire who raped her in prison. Shaw's great at flipping from bumbling fool to confident sorceress, and there's definitely a thrill to be had when she's turning the tables on vampires so effortlessly, mainly because True Blood's vampires are so supercilious it's satisfying to see them taken down a peg or two.
The situation with Jesus (Kevin Alejendro) seeking help from his mystical uncle isn't something I'm connecting with, as it feels a little extraneous and unnecessary right now. Lafayette being the conduit for a dead uncle, who assumedly has powers similar to Antonia, is perhaps setting up a finale where two possessed people fight each other for domination of vampirekind—but given how Jesus's family are being written as dodgy weirdos, it's hard to know if we're supposed to be glad Jesus and Lafayette are making progress.
"The ghost of my serial-killin' ex-fiance just tried to murder us in our sleep. We're just peachy."
Overall, "I Wish I Was The Moon" was another sign this season's settled into a groove, with enough good outweighing the bad. I can even stomach Arlene's fretting over her baby son, who burned down their home this week, as there are signs it's nothing to do with her ex-fiance, but rather the creepy doll Jessica gifted them and the ghost of a young black woman. It's still filler for the sake of providing minor characters with something to do, but at least the show isn't dwelling on it. Plus there were more down-to-earth moments I enjoyed this week—like Jason and Sookie spending some time together as brother and sister, amusingly referring to the fact there are so few "normal people" in town these days. True Blood's made its name with ostentatious sequences and a compulsive verve, but it's with quiet moments of simple interactions that the show feels like something worth watching again.
- I didn't see Andy (Chris Bauer) and Holly (Lauren Bowles) as a potential love-match, but that seems to be where we're headed. A good move, I feel. If you have two limp characters you don't know what to do with, make them a couple. It's a TV rule.
- Am I right in thinking Tommy can only change into family members as a "skin-walker", not anyone he pleases?
- If Jason isn't in any danger of becoming a were-panther, just what was the point of all those scenes at Hot Shot? He must surely transform at some point, or it's been a waste of time. But if he does, I hate how the show's so determined to turn all of its human characters into supernatural creatures.