Tuesday, 12 August 2014

TRUE BLOOD, 7.8 – 'Almost Home' - the price of salvation

Tuesday, 12 August 2014
HOYT: When a good thing gets destroyed, that's the definition of unfair to me.
The end of True Blood's really sneaking up on us, as there are just two hours left! "Almost Home" was easily the best-acted episode this season, granting Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), Hoyt (Jim Parrack) and Jason (Ryan Kwanten) some of their best material in a long while. Given how the show's storylines entangle like a soap opera's, sometimes good episodes are dragged down by the weak sub-plots they rub shoulders with, but there wasn't too much to get annoyed about this week. The worst storyline was undoubtedly Lettie Mae (Adina Porter) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) convincing the Reverend Daniels (Gregg Daniel) to join them on a 'V trip' to commune with dead Tara (Rutina Wesley), but at least it was over relatively quickly.

It actually surprised me just how deflating the Tara storyline was, as the abruptness of her death and weird attempt to communicate from beyond the grave has eaten up a fair portion of season 7's run-time. And the explanation was that Tara wanted to make peace with her mother, via some flashbacks that revealed Lettie Mae ultimately did her best to protect her daughter from a violent father? I expected a lot more (WTF was the crucifixion and snake imagery about recently?!), and it was a strangely flat way to say goodbye to Tara. Why did they even bother with this? It didn't help that Tara and Lettie Mae have made amends before (many times), so this whole storyline was repeating itself. I'm glad it's over, although there's now a chance Lafayette will drift into other storylines and stink those ones up. We had him safely contained for awhile!
SOOKIE (to Bill): From the very first moment that we met, you reminded me of what it was like to have my human heart. The problem was, it was only a memory. All I had was my darkness to give you in return.
As always, the best storyline was the most dramatic one. Eric (Alexander Skarsgård), Pam (Kristen Bauer van Straten) and Mr Gus (Will Yun Lee) captured runaway Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp) and hauled her back to Fangtasia's dungeon. (That set's getting a lot of screen-time this year, isn't it!) I liked the logical development that Gus wants to manufacture an imperfect "cure" for Hepatitis V, using Sarah's blood, as that makes solid business sense. It led to a fun complication that Eric's taken an early sip of the pure form antidote, bringing him back to full health, but now Bill (Stephen Moyer) requires a drink before his infection kills him. My only issue with this story is that it never felt like enough of a problem, because Sarah's being held captive at Fangtasia (which we know has a secret entrance), and Eric's well-positioned to either sneak her out or let Bill in. Still, the fact Bill's decided not to take the cure is an interesting development. My guess is he doesn't want to keep existing as a vampire, so would rather end things, and is perhaps ready to meet the 'true death'. Can Sookie (Anna Paquin) talk him round, or will vampire Bill embracing death be the bitter-sweet ending for the show?

As mentioned in the lede, the best performances of the episode came from Woll, Kwanten and Parrack. They were each given nice scenes together, in various arrangements, and the episode reminded us why Jessica and Hoyt were a super-hot romantic couple back in the early days. It all started off rather bizarrely, with psycho-vampire Violet (Karolina Wydra) threatening to torture and kill young Wade (Noah Matthews), sweet Adilyn (Bailey Noble), Jessica, and Jason in her sex dungeon—finding an eye-watering use for a red-hot dildo—before Hoyt and a handgun saved the day, to earn himself the renewed attention of Jessica, the girlfriend he doesn't even remember being in a relationship with.

We all knew the story was headed this way the moment Hoyt arrived back in Bon Temps, but it worked fine for me. I'm happy to hand-wave a lot of this, as someone who remembers really liking the Hoyt/Jess relationship before it turned sour. It even seems that Jason's a better love-match for Hoyt's current girlfriend Bridget (Ashley Jones), so I'm sure the four of them will partner-swap and live happily ever after.
SOOKIE (to Sarah): Even as the cure, you're still the fucking problem.
Overall, "Almost Home" was an okay episode. There's been a lot worse, but also a lot better. I appreciated the episode taking time-out to allow a few actors to give half-decent performances, no matter how stupid a lot of the set-up has been. Hoyt doesn't really deserve this second-chance, if we're honest with ourselves, and it's still awkward Jason's salivating over his best-friend's girl (again), but that's True Blood for you.

I'm more worried about what the writers have planned for the last few episodes, because with so many characters now dead and storylines resolved, only Bill's terminal illness and the broader Hep-V situation is left to tackle. I assume the sporadic flashbacks to Bill Compton's pre-vampire life will reveal their relevance next week, but I just hope True Blood re-energises and doesn't go flat.

written by Kate Barnow | directed by Jesse Warn | 10 August 2014 | HBO

Oh, and did anyone else think this shot was a homage to Plants vs Zombies?