Tuesday, 10 July 2012

TRUE BLOOD, 5.5 - "Let's Boot and Rally"

Tuesday, 10 July 2012
**½ (out of four)

This was the best episode of season 5 so far--which isn't saying much, but it's nevertheless true. What helped is this episode maintained some lucidity amidst the show's haphazard style. Sookie (Anna Paquin) being enlisted to help ex-boyfriends Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) find Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare), using her psychic fairy powers, felt like a rational use of her character and a decent way to get Sookie involved in the main storyline. Even if said investigation only really amounted to traipsing around an abandoned asylum, Scooby Doo-style, waiting for a confusingly-edited cliffhanger. Plus, after weeks of teasing us, O'Hare made his return as the former vampire King of Mississippi, so I hope this means True Blood's sense of campy fun is likewise due a revival.

However, the most memorable moment of "Let's Boot and Rally" was a quiet one--involving the contentious Tara (Rutina Wesley), no less. Now under the employ of Pam (Kristen Bauer van Straten) and rocking some knock-out cleavage, there was a surprisingly good scene with Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) trying to make friends with the South's most obstinate barmaid, as she actually managed to forge a connection with Tara over her understanding of how overwhelming becoming a vampire is. I'm still not a fan of hard-faced Tara and her thousand-yard stares, but there's certainly promise in having her mix with Jessica in this manner—especially as their new friendship's already in doubt because Jessica caught Tara feeding on her ex Hoyt (Jim Parrack) in a rest room. Childhood friends Tara and Sookie never really felt real to me; but Tara and Jessica are already a much livelier pairing.

The storyline for Terry (Todd Lowe) gets stupider and stupider, as the mystery of his tour of duty in Iraq has come to involve killing a civilian woman, who cursed his unit with certain death via a fire demon known as an Ifrit. I guess these vengeful fire spirits take their sweet time, seeing as Terry's been living peacefully for the past year or so back home in Bon Temps. Many viewers will be happy to see a brand new supernatural entity (half Balrog, half Smoke Monster), but I think it's just adding to an already cluttered universe. At least this episode made the rare decision to kill a recurring character, as Sam's (Sam Trammell) pointless girlfriend Luna (Janina Gavankar) was shot dead by a band of rednecks targeting "supes" (the new catch-all term for supernatural creatures)--who were also blame for killing Sam's 'shifter friends last week. Trammell doesn't get very many good storylines on True Blood, but if the writers are about to give Sam a narrative where he becomes the adopted father of Luna's daughter, out to to avenger her mother's death at the hand of trigger-happy racists, I can get behind that...

Unsurprisingly, the rest of this episode was layers of crud: the return of Jason's (Ryan Kwanten) clairvoyant dreams, probably because the writers are getting bored of having another human character; and Lafayette's (Nelsan Ellis) freak-out over the demonic brujo that's trying to possess him, leading to a moment when the phantom head of his dead boyfriend Jesus appeared to him and his crazy mother. Still, compared to most episodes this season, having to only sit through two bad subplots was a winning situation.

I just wish True Blood had more scenes like the Tara/Jessica one at Fangtasia's bar, where the crazy plotting was paused and the writers gave the actors better dialogue and a chance to be show some nuance. It even made me warm to the irritating Tara, which was itself an incredible feat. That's the power of good writing. I just wish True Blood put the emphasis on this kind of character-building scene more often, taking the emphasis off the show's grand guignol shocks and snarky one-liners.

written by Angela Robinson / directed by Romeo Tirone / 8 July 2012 / HBO