Tuesday, 13 August 2013

TRUE BLOOD, 6.9 – 'Life Matters'

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

written by Brian Buckner | directed by Romeo Tirone

This was one of the worst hours of television I've seen this year, and quite possibly the stupidest True Blood episode ever made. A travesty on so many levels, it left me embarrassed for everyone involved, while offering irrefutable evidence the writers don't have the vaguest idea what they're doing now. Admittedly the mid-season change of showrunner may not have helped things this season, but that's probably letting them off the hook too much. How else do you explain the insertion of flashbacks that tried to develop the back-story of a character who's dead, that took up almost half the runtime?

  • I'm not sure what the writers of True Blood were thinking when they decided to dedicate half a penultimate episode on the funeral of a character audiences have either hated, tried to ignore, or tolerated by fast-forwarding the episode over the past six years. If they had to include a funeral scene for Terry (Todd Lowe), I can accept it makes sense to have one because so many people in Bon Temps had an association with that useless character, but to actually use the opportunity to give us flashbacks to Terry's past? Why even bother? He'd dead now. The writers had their chance to make us care about him as a three-dimensional human being over six entire seasons, and they blew it.
  • And what did we learn that we didn't know or had assumed in these flashbacks? That he was a half-crazy army veteran not so long ago, who liked to hide in the woods from cousin Andy (Chris Bauer) and Sam (Sam Trammell)? That he once met a pretty red-haired waitress called Arlene (Carrie Preston) at Merlotte's Bar & Grill? Um, we sort of guessed that happened. That he knows a good breastfeeding tip? Yeah, thanks for that insight. They even threw in some characters giving eulogies at the funeral whom we've never met before, including a black guy called Big John who got up and sang! And that horrible moment when Sookie (Anna Paquin) eavesdropped on Arlene's thoughts that the 21-gun salute wasn't such a bad idea after all? Excruciating. Honestly, this was beyond awful and I have almost no idea what anyone was thinking in the writers' room. Even the inclusion of a cynical granny (there to be as intolerant as the audience, so it felt like we had an on-screen ally) didn't work to ameliorate the pain.

  • Outside of the unremitting Bellefleur funeral, the rest of the episode was given over to Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) day-walking over to the Vamp Camp and releasing his fellow vampires, pursued by Bill (Stephen Moyer) who ultimately wanted exactly the same thing. I have no idea why such an escape wouldn't have been equally possibly during the night. How could a mass breakout of vampires from prison be actively boring to watch? Somehow this episode found a way, with so many unconvincing moments and stupid touches it quickly became ludicrous and dull. Even the climax of Bill being bled dry by a room of vampires, so they could day-walk and survive the infamous White Room's blazing sun (being revealed overhead by Sarah Newlin working a manual rooftop crank) fell completely flat. And as for Jason (Ryan Kwanten) later threatening to kill Sarah with a gun to the head... well, let's just say the drama of that moment was completely destroyed by Kwanten and Anna Camp's OTT performances. Awful.
That's all I can really say about this miserable excuse for an episode, which was consistently terrible every step of the way. The last shot strongly suggests Alexander Skarsgård has fulfilled his HBO contract and has now literally flown away, to star in films and whatnot. Or maybe he'll be back next week, but I hope not. I can't say I blame him if he's bailed on this show now, and rather hope Anna Paquin and Deborah Ann Woll join him. Fat chance, of course, because HBO have renewed True Blood for a seventh season and there are plenty more books for them to plunder for malformed ideas. Not so long ago I was giving True Blood the benefit of the doubt and starting to enjoy this sixth season (which was actually becoming my third favourite of an admittedly tawdry half-dozen), but now it's possibly joint-worst with season 3. Oh well, I was open-minded...

And there's still one more to go? Stake me now.

11 August 2013 | HBO