Tuesday, 16 July 2013

TRUE BLOOD, 6.5 – 'Fuck the Pain Away'

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

written by Angela Robinson | directed by Michael Ruscio

This show is so inconsistent it makes my soul ache. After last week's surprising upswing with "At Last", I once let myself fall into the trap of believing True Blood may have turned a corner and rediscovered its mojo, but "Fuck the Pain Away" was a return to 'situation normal': a few good storylines propped up by bad or pointless filler. Let's examine the wreckage:

  • Sheriff Andy (Chris Bauer) found his four kidnapped fairy children, slain in Bill's (Stephen Moyer) mansion by Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll). One survived, whom I assume is the best actress of this short-lived sisterhood. I'm surprised the show's taken this direction, and while Andy's immediate reaction to the fairy carnage didn't carry much weight (considering it was a father discovering his own kids in a bloodbath), a later scene with Andy considering one-man vengeance on Bill worked much better. Although I'm once again confused by the world of True Blood in terms of law and order, because surely this alternate universe has a means to punish a cut-and-dry instance of a vampire murdering innocent teenagers?

  • Bill didn't do much this episode, beyond exert his power and influence over Warlow (Robert Kazinsky) after arriving at Sookie's (Anna Paquin) house to catch them in a tense stand-off. The idea that Bill's the mighty Warlow's 'maker', by proxy, as a prophet of Lillith was a fun wrinkle to add... although it seems to nix my theory of the season building to a 'Warlow vs Bill' showdown if their power dynamic is thus. I'm not sure we really needed the Warlow flashbacks to 3,500 years ago, either—which only served to show what we already know, or had assumed. Sometimes it's better if things are left to your imagination, even on a visceral show like True Blood, but now we have the indelible image of 'Neanderthal Kazinsky' in a loincloth taking the edge off whatever sense of danger Warlow still possesses. In fact, let's be honest: Warlow's a ridiculous joke now. A misunderstood hero with special blood, rather than the exciting bad-ass True Blood had spent much of season 5 hyping.

  • I enjoyed Sookie's attitude and behaviour last week, but that all came crashing down again by hooking up with tedious Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) and using his brujo powers to contact her dead parents and demand answers about Warlow. And it turns out Warlow is telling the truth: he's entitled to Sookie because of an ancient agreement with a Stackhouse ancestor, and intends for her to become his fairy bride. He's Labyrinth's Jareth, sort of. Only with less singing.
  • Even stranger, the night Sookie's parents were killed by Warlow was twisted to be seen as a heroic act on Warlow's part, because Sookie's father was intending to drown his daughter in the trunk of their car rather than let Warlow take her. I mean -– wow. That's how you utterly destroy two characters with a re-jigged back-story intended to shock. And after Lafayette was possessed by the spirit of Sookie's dad, he immediately set about trying to do the same thing again down the local bayou. Seriously. Sometimes the writers' desire to do something unpredictable is so damaging you wish they hadn't bothered.

  • The best sub-plot this week belonged to Jessica, Tara (Rutina Wesley), Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten), and Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) coping with life at Vamp Camp (the vampire prison that feels similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Initiative HQ). The idea of vampires as penal inmates, forced to undergo various tests and getting psychoanalysed, is a lot of fun—although I didn't buy Pam being so willing to tell a shrink (Pruitt Taylor Vince) about vampire lore in exchange for fresh human blood. I think we needed a few more weeks of her blood starvation before I could accept she'd be that dumb to give up valuable vamp knowledge. (However, I loved the scene where Pam explained that vampires deal with pain differently to humans, because they might live forever and need to swiftly offload negative emotions.)
  • The moment when visiting Governor Burrell (Arliss Howard) got revenge on Eric by putting him in a duel-to-the-death situation with Pam (his progeny) was a pretty good hook to lure you back next week, too. Although it's obvious Pam could never win in that situation, and both would probably rather die than hurt each other.

  • As for the rest? It was the usual mess. Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp) has been reacquainted with Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and claims God wants her to fuck him, purely because she was knocked back sexually by the Governor! A nonsensical development, perhaps only intended to get those actors in bed together. Jessica has also slipped down a potential disastrous storyline of believing Bill's the Devil incarnate. Oh, and Terry (Todd Lowe) met with another of his shadowy ex-army buddies, and wants this one to kill him. (Sookie isn't the only one who can read minds, it seems, because Terry's read mine. I hope he succeeds!)
  • I can't even summon the strength to waste time on whatever Alcide (Joe Manganiello) and Sam (Sam Trammell) are up to in their boring sub-plots, because nobody cares and the writers should do us all a favour and write those characters out.
So there you have it: another frustrating week in sunny Bon Temps. True Blood takes one step forward, two steps back. Things will never change. You just have to learn to accept its shortcomings and savour the good stuff, but it's desperately sad this show isn't better written. It could have grown into a genre classic, but is now a smorgasbord of silly.

14 July 2013 | HBO