Wednesday, 21 August 2013

TRUE BLOOD, 6.10 – 'Radioactive'

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

written by Kate Barnow | directed by Scott Winant

I was in a minority hating the penultimate episode, but that's possibly because most sane people reviewing True Blood online are dyed-in-the-wool fans willing to defend the indefensible. I was expecting the finale to be just as atrocious, but to my surprise it was an acceptable way to end this season—although there were still lots of bumps along the way. I used to hate how True Blood would spent a large portion of its finales setting up the next season, but these days I'm usually glad the current storylines are over and something new and shiny is being dangled at us. If nothing else, the writers provided a mildly intriguing "reboot" of the show for season 7...

  • The season's biggest frustration has been Warlow's (Robert Kazinsky) arc, who was foreshadowed as a villain in season 5 before being re-imagined as a misunderstood vampire-fairy hybrid who's genuinely in love with Sookie (Anna Paquin), and saved her from a father attempting infanticide. This asked audiences to disregard much about Warlow that we'd been told last season, and I guess the show managed to largely get away with it. Maybe that's because thinking too deeply about True Blood, or expecting anything but hazy logic, is fighting a losing battle. But it was always on the cards that Warlow's mask would slip, so it wasn't a total surprise when he transformed into a control freak desperate to make Sookie his vampire bride after five thousand years.

  • Still, a finale needs a villain and the episode provided some fun action sequences when Jason (Ryan Kwanten), his new vampire girlfriend Violet (Karolina Wydra), Bill (Stephen Moyer), Sheriff Andy (Chris Bauer), and Fairy daughter Adilyn (Bailey Noble) stormed the Fae realm to rescue Sookie. I have no idea how Bill (minus his Lilith-blood powers) managed to last five seconds against the oldest vampire around, considering Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) would regularly kick his ass and Russell Edgington was nigh unstoppable, but the Bill/Warlow smack-down was still entertaining to see play out. If nothing else, True Blood's good at a good, economical, cleanly choreographed super-fight. It's just a shame Warlow's eventual comeuppance involved the slightly ridiculous appearance of the Sackhouse's "fairy grandfather" Niall (Rutger Hauer) from the 'prison realm' he was thrown into many weeks ago. I guess that place isn't as impregnable as we'd assumed.

  • Having been turned into day-walkers after drinking Bill's blood last week, the episode also had some fun with the freed vamps returning to Bon Temp and feeling compelled to strip naked and dance in the Sun outside Bill's mansion. A part of me wondered if True Blood would keep them that way, if only to let the core vampire cast off some night shoots next year, but the death of Warlow undid the spell. And how odd that, as a consequence, Skarsgård made a brief return to the show for a humorous scene where Eric was burned to a crisp while sunbathing in the middle of a Swedish glacier. Eric was a fan-favourite character and original element of True Blood, but his death was treated as a little joke? I can't help thinking that was a huge waste, considering having Eric killed in battle or sacrificing himself to save Pam (Kristen Bauer van Straten) would have been so much more dramatic. Instead, he quite literally went out with a fizzle. It was the finale's biggest misstep; although Skarsgård's fans got to see his genitals. On fire. Next season, will Pam be on a pointless global search for the long-dead Eric? My guess is she'll discover his deckchair and relevant book to identify him by (what was the title?) next to a pile of ash, which will be enough to assume Eric met the 'true death'. Update: it's been officially confirmed that Alexander Skarsgård is returning for season 7 as Eric, so I look forward to the ridiculous excuse for a vampire somehow surviving broad daylight in the middle of an ice flow.

  • As usual, the second half of the finale was an extended tease for season 7, with the narrative jumping forward by six months. Bill's since become a best-selling author of a book called And God Bled that exposed lots of vampire secrets, the Hepatitis-V virus has grown into a plague that's infected many vampires who've turned feral (I'm not sure why it hasn't killed them as it did Nora when she was infected...), Sam's (Sam Trammell) become the Mayor of Bon Temps (has he ever shown any political nous?), Arlene's (Carrie Preston) bought his business and renamed it Bellefleur's Bar & Grill, Sookie's found love with Alcide (Joe Manganiello) and made him cut his hair, and Jason's become a cuckold to Violet in a boudoir where he's expected to perform oral sex on her almost constantly. I feel for you, buddy.

  • But the biggest change to the show's backdrop is how this infected vampire underclass are being treated: with uninfected humans encouraged to "partner" with an uninfected vampire (offering them a blood source in exchange for protection from the tribes of diseased vamps wandering the country looking for trouble). It's an intriguing direction to take the vampire-human symbiotic relationship in, with Tara (Rutina Wesley) already reconnecting with her estranged mother as a result, and I hope the writers know where they're taking the idea. Maybe now they have a "common enemy", the vampires and humans will be able to co-exist at last, but I doubt it somehow. It probably just gives the show a way to introduce a sub-species of vamp who are more like 30 Days of Night-style bad-asses...

  • Finally, it's worth mentioning that True Blood thankfully didn't avoid the thorny issue of Jessica having killed three of Andy's daughters earlier this season. For awhile I thought they were going to brush it under the carpet, especially after the time-jump, but we had a decent scene with Jess arriving at Andy's house to offer him and Adilyn free protection from Hep-V's as a way to try and make amends. It's something at least, so that was good.
Overall, season 6 of True Blood presented a frustrating truncated season. The loss of Alan Ball as showrunner led to a few subtle changes for the better, but it was still very much business as usual. It started poorly, got surprisingly decent for awhile, then began to fall into some of its bad habits that killed a lot of my growing enthusiasm. Still, at least True Blood is always entertaining to hate-watch and, once again, finished on a fun plea for your eyeballs come next season...

18 August 2013 | HBO