Tuesday, 29 July 2014

TRUE BLOOD, 7.6 – 'Karma' - in sickness and in health

Tuesday, 29 July 2014
JASON: Bill Compton is one tough motherfucker. He's gonna beat this thing. I mean, hell, he was like a bonafide vampire God about six months ago!
After five disheartening episodes, True Blood makes headway with the sixth, "Karma". Suddenly the thrust of the story is squarely on the shoulders of two main characters, terminally ill vampires Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgård), as they both concentrate on tying up loose ends before dying the 'true death'. Eric intends to avenge the death of his sister by murdering Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp), while Bill wants to make sensible arrangements for his coming demise. The fact Sookie (Anna Paquin) was responsible for transmitting the virus to Bill, her former lover, during a violent skirmish before he drank her blood, was also a good idea that binds those characters together as the season starts jogging towards a climax.

What also made this hour stronger was how the bad storylines didn't overwhelm matters—Lettie Mae (Adina Porter) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) taking a joint "V-trip" to communicate with dead Tara (Rutina Wesley), on a cross with a snake talking gibberish; or Sheriff Andy (Chris Bauer) catching his daughter in bed with a boy. True Blood has to fill time with stories that involve the less compelling characters, and I can stomach it when they're not allowed to intrude too much. The writers even seem to have realised absolutely nobody cares about Sam (Sam Trammell) and his relationship with non-entity Nicole (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), so it seems she's either going to leave Bon Temps with Sam's unborn child, or they'll both leave "Crazy Town" and live happily ever after.

One stand-out sequence was seeing Eric and Pam captured by the Yakuza, threatened with a daylight frying in an office facing an imminent sunrise, then forced to help them locate Sarah Newlin—a mutual enemy, it transpires, because it was her act of sabotage that destroyed the CEO's multi-billion dollar TruBlood business. It was also a fun twist that Sarah's basically a walking antidote to the Hep-V contagion, which gives lots of characters a reason to want her caught unharmed. I just wonder if the writers will go for an upbeat ending, with both Eric and Bill cured by Sarah's special blood, or if one or both will still meet the true death. My guess is one will die, one will live, but deciding which is more difficult.
NICOLE (to Sam): It wasn't until last night that I realised this town is fucking crazy. And you, you're the mayor of crazy.
Bill's trip to a vampire legal firm was also a hoot, as he was forced to sit for hours in the world's dullest waiting room, unnerved that his Hep-V appears to be worsening faster than usual (a by-product of Sookie's fairy blood, no doubt), and eventually meeting with a supremely unhelpful and slimy lawyer. After trying to extort him for $10m, she deservedly wound up stabbed in the throat and her security guard staked with a wooden pencil. True Blood always excels when it has to deliver dark, vaguely comical death sequences.

Overall, while it still has a lot of problems and sub-plots that tempt your finger into pressing fast-forward, there were definite signs of life with "Karma". The hour actually held together with a karmic theme tying many of the storylines together, and the story developed in a way that felt earned and more logical. The AIDS allegory of Hep-V is a bit hamfisted, unfortunately, but at least we now have a half-decent villain in Yakuza boss Katsurou Ryouichi (Will Yun Lee), a clear goal to capture Sarah Newlin to save the world's vampires, and the promise of rich emotional discourse between Bill, Sookie, and Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll)... a "family" confronting the idea death may soon tear them apart.

written & directed by Angela Robinson | HBO | 27 July 2014