Tuesday, 5 August 2014

TRUE BLOOD, 7.7 – 'May Be the Last Time' – familiar faces

Tuesday, 5 August 2014
SOOKIE: How can you not believe in miracles and magic when they're happening all around us every single day? There's a miracle out there, just waiting for Bill. I just have to go out there and find it.
After last week's rise in quality, "May Be the Last Time" was a flatter hour. The season's best sub-plots didn't advance very far, the weaker ones limped onwards, and a few others developed in ways that only killed time. There isn't enough zest and drama to this seventh season yet, which often feels like it exists purely to find ways to stoke memories and bring back old characters.

The situation with Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) and Pam (Kristen Bauer van Straten) teaming up with TruBlood bigwig Mr Gus (Will Yun Lee) to find runaway Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp) is probably the most exciting storyline right now, but it stalled a great deal in this hour. An outraged Eric staked Sarah's vampire sister (ending an interrogation into her sibling's whereabouts), so he spent the rest of the episode waiting for Mr Gus and the Japanese government to locate Sarah using satellite surveillance instead. Meanwhile, Sarah's gone crazy because the script demands scenes where she hallucinates a topless Jason (Ryan Kwanten) playing football at the abandoned Fellowship of the Sun church, ex-husband Steve (Michael McMillian), and her decapitated yoga instructor. At least thing promise to reach a turning point next week, as it seems likely Sarah's about to be captured and turned into a one-woman blood bank for a lucrative 'NuBlood' drink that cures Hep-V.

Adding to the familiar face count this week, Hoyt Fortenberry (Jim Parack) returned to Bon Temps with a hot new girlfriend on his arm, to attend the funeral of his murdered mother. There's certainly unfinished business between Hoyt and Jason (who erased his best friend's memory to bring him peace after stealing his girlfriend), and now Jason seems to be itching to sleep with Hoyt's newest squeeze Bridget. This is either comical (poor Jason's a horny leopard that can't change his spots), or just a pretty despicable insight into his one-track mind. Of all the characters on True Blood, Jason Stackhouse has definitely evolved the least over seven seasons, although I guess in real-time the entirety of its run only takes up maybe three years? I don't even buy Jason becoming a cop, as it happened between season because it was too implausible o watch happen naturally.

Sookie's (Anna Paquin) great-grandfather Niall (Rutger Hauer) also returned in this episode, which I was pleased about because he was a fine addition to the show last year, before ultimately fading into nothingness. Sadly, the characters' reprise was almost completely pointless, because all Niall did was eat a meal, reveal he let Sookie condemn Bill (Stephen Moyer) to death by infecting him, and then gave her a patronising speech about "miracles" and allowing people to die when it's their time, before vanishing back to Fairyland. Was it really worth bringing Niall back for all that? And what was the earlier sequence with Bill being examined by "munchkin" Dr Ludwig about? Just another vaguely familiar face (from season 4) the writers have on their list of actors to bring back for one last farewell?
VIOLET: Okay, so there's a fully stocked fridge with snacks. Sling is over there. Nipple clamps on the bedside table, with some erotic oils and handcuffs. Dildos and toys are on the wall.
The writers also seems to be committed to the storyline about teen lovers Adilyn (Bailey Noble) and Wade (Noah Matthews) eloping together, causing their respective parents to go out of their minds with worry. It seems that Sheriff Andy's (Chris Bauer) storylines this year basically involve various members of his family going missing. I thought it was interesting that Jason's vampire ex Violet (Karolina Wydra) had taken them under her wing, and quite amusing that her hospitality extended to letting them sleep in a boudoir adorned with outrageous sex toys, but it doesn't really help that both Adilyn and Wade are new characters soaking up valuable screen time. I don't really care about either of them, and it seems like this plot is designed to keep Sheriff Andy and Holly (Lauren Bowles) busy on the periphery of bigger events. Still, the episode ended with psycho Violet attacking the two love birds, so maybe there's stronger drama to come. Adilyn's half-Fae, so presumably her powers will protect them both.

The worst storyline, and not for the first time on this show, belonged to waitress Arlene (Carrie Preston), which is a terrible shame because Preston's actually one of the better actors on the show. (If you haven't seen her in The Good Wife, get on that... and join me in signing the petition for her character to get a rumoured spin-off.) Here, Arlene was having erotic dreams about making love to vampire Keith (Riley Smith) on a pool table, which was another of those "fake-reality" moments the show leans on too much.

Mind you, I must admit to liking the pay-off when the real Keith arrived at Bellefleur's and, despite Arlene reminding him they can't have sex because she's Hep-V+, seemed content to just dance with her. That was quite touching and a more down-to-earth moment for once. Maybe Arlene's going to be given a happy ending this year, but there's a sick part of me that's just waiting for Keith's mask to slip. Is he too good to be true? The show has conditioned me to think this way!

Overall, this wasn't an episode that caused me to gnash my teeth in resentment, and I've acclimated to the show's hit-and-miss nature again... but it was resolutely average, at best, and a wheel-spinning instalment for mid-season. The only worthwhile surprise was seeing Sookie and Bill get back together a few episodes earlier than anticipated, complete with a first season-y moment of Sookie rushing to Bill's house in a white nightie through bayou mist. Although it seems Stephen Moyer's put on a few pounds since the show began, as their obligatory sex scene looked carefully angled and lit to avoid us realising Bill's developing a slight paunch.

written by Craig Chester | directed by Simon Jayes | 27 July 2014 | HBO