Every now and then, we have to dispense with the silent introspection and get down to the meat and potatoes of storytelling. Well, kind of, at least. “Bone For Tuna” still had a lot of Nucky staring off into the middle distance, but more on that in a bit. What tonight’s episode did primarily was show us the direction the story’s taking. And in that direction lies Gyp Rosetti, who’s fragile ego is going to cause all sorts of problems for Nucky going forward.
Gyp is still pissed that Nucky won’t sell him the rum he demanded in “Resolution,” so he’s decided that until he gets it, he’s going to shack up in Tabor Heights and block off any of Nucky’s other shipments that might be trying to get through. Nucky’s a man with obligations, so in the interest of business, he’s decided to sit down with the man, try and hammer something out so they can all get back to making money. And for a few minutes, it looks like it’s gonna work. Nucky agrees to sell Gyp the rum, with the stipulation that it’s the only shipment he’s going to get. And Gyp says he’ll back out of Tabor Heights. Great. Let’s all go get smashed and laid. Right? Wrong. The thing about Gyp is, he doesn’t just want Nucky’s rum, he wants a seat at the table. He wants to be treated like an equal when he’s with Nucky, Rothstein, and Torrio. So it’s not good enough that Nucky’s sell to him, Nucky also needs to be there to hand him the stuff, and to see him off. When he’s not, Gyp sees it as a horrible breech of protocol. And when Owen dares to tell him good luck – buona fortuna, or bone for tuna – in Italian no less, Gyp’s ready to raze Atlantic City, then salt the earth so that nothing grows there ever again. Ever.
So Gyp goes back to Tabor Heights, and not only is he staying, but he sets the poor fat bastard sheriff on fire, too. That’s just mean. And Nucky, who seems to be suffering from one perpetual migraine this season, will like it none too much.
Of course, even before the unfortunate incident between Gyp and Owen, we saw Gyp sweet talking Gillian, trying to learn a little more about her history with Nucky. So, he obviously has other shenanigans in the works, the whole “bone for tuna” thing just exacerbated them.
But Nucky didn’t steal the spotlight entirely this week. We also saw Van Alden narrowly avoid arrest. Then he got laid. And Meyer Lansky shot a guy.
But anyway, back to Nucky. While we got a lot of pure plot stuff tonight, we got a good look at Nucky’s lingering feelings over the Jimmy Darmody killing. A year and a half later and Nucky hasn’t shaken it completely off. That’s alright. Any excuse the show needs to get Nucky and Richard in a room together to discuss these issues of the soul is fine by me. When Nucky asks Richard if he still thinks about the people he’s killed, Richard tells him he already knows the answer to that. So you have to wonder if any of this is going to get any easier on Nucky. The show’s tagline this season is “You can’t be half a gangster.” But can you go from being a gangster to not being one? Or do we have a Tony Soprano situation where The Life is The Life, and Nucky’s just too set in his ways to ever get out of it?
It’s always been interesting to me to compare Nucky to Margaret in this way. Nucky likes the lifestyle – the money, the power – but it took him a while to really get his hands dirty. Margaret has no qualms about getting her own hands dirty, lying and stealing from those close to her – that was a nice bit of business with the priest at Nucky’s knighting – but she’s disdainful of the material possessions Nucky’s life has brought her. Anyway, think about that and what it means for their relationship (and their eventual reconciling, I’m betting), and we’ll talk more about it next week.
Until then, can we please get back to Al Capone? We can skip over Van Alden and his wife having sex. It’s cool.
I don’t know if this is what “Spaghetti and Coffee” set out to do, but I thought the episode had some interesting things to say about family relationships inside [PrisonMike]The Life[/PrisonMike].
In a perfect world, TV shows do the things they do because the storytelling demands it (it sucks, but Nucky had to kill Jimmy). But there are also more practical reasons making their own demands**. This week we saw Eli walk out of prison after the year and a half stretch Nucky told him he’d have to serve at the end of last season. And I imagine that was part of the reason season three picked up where it did. Shea Whigham’s a great actor, and the show wasn’t going to sideline him for an entire year.
**(You see this sort of thing crop up in other shows, too. Game of Thrones fans will probably have heard executive producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff say that, going forward, their goal isn’t to adapt the books exactly as they’ve been published, but to take George R.R. Martin’s story and adapt it in a way that’s best suited to television. I’m sure a not insignificant part of that is because characters like Tyrion Lannister don’t appear in A Feast for Crows (the fourth book and theoretically the show’s fifth and sixth seasons) at all. And really, if Game of Thrones had to go an entire year or two without Tyrion, what’s the effing point?)
So Eli’s back, and maybe I’m wrong (probably), but I can see what’s happened between him and Nucky playing a big role this season. Eli’s always been the man handling things behind the scenes not because he wanted to be, but because that was the roll Nucky forced on him. He’s tried breaking out of that mold. We saw him preparing his speech to the Celtic Dinner in “Nights at Ballygran,” trying maybe a little too hard to show everyone that he was smarter and more eloquent than they were all giving him credit for. That didn’t work out very well for him, and neither did his plans to go against Nucky. There, the men he was taking his orders from both ended up dead, and Eli ended up in prison. Now that he’s out, he’s got this do-it-or-don’t-do-it-I-don’t-really-care vibe about him. He knows he has to work under Mickey because he’s got a family to feed and no other prospects. The sting of that whole situation’s probably worn off somewhat in the past year and a half, at least enough so that he sees its necessity without getting too pissed off. Eli made a lot of enemies as sheriff, and he knows it’d be better to work inside Nucky’s sphere of influence than outside it. So he’s just gonna keep his head down, make some money. Not what he envisioned for himself, but he can deal with it.
What I think will really stick in his craw will be his standing with his family. We saw that, while he’s been away, his son’s been forced to drop out of school and take a job, which kind of puts him on funny footing as far as providing for everyone goes. He’s got some work to do to get back into that father figure role. Right now he’s more like the uncle living in the garage. All this can go one of two ways. He can quietly plot his revenge, or he can show everyone that he’s actually worth something, and play an important cog in Nucky’s machine. I’m betting on the latter. The Eli we saw tonight is quiet, wrestling with the decisions he’s made (or rather, the consequences of those decisions), but still focused on what he needs to do to get back up on his feet, as distasteful as that may be. This stands in contrast to the Eli we’ve known, full of bluster and mostly pissed at his brother.
On the other side of town, we see Nucky shacking up with Billie Kent. I was actually a little surprised with how predictable their relationship played out this week (especially after how big a surprise it was that they were together in the first place). Billie isn’t a one-man kind of girl, which is obviously what Nucky’s looking for. I think the contemplative looks he kept giving that ringing telephone were the biggest hint that this split between him and Margaret is only a temporary one.
Finally, we checked in with Chalky White, and saw that his daughter’s boyfriend wants to propose. I guess he’s into the whole self-punishment thing, because he knows what a whackadoodle family the White’s are, and all the crap he’d be opening himself up to once he became a member of the family. And apparently Chalky’s all too eager to take advantage of him, telling his daughter that having a doctor in the family’s going to help them. I don’t know what to make of the way the guy shook Chalky off to help the guy who had just cut off his face. Maybe he won’t be as easy to control as Chalky thinks. Considering how little we’re seeing some of these characters this season, I’m sure we’ll know how everything turns out five or six seasons from now.
Eli’s a family man and has always been a family man. Many of Nucky’s relationships have been superficial, but he’s realizing now that that’s just not cutting it anymore, and needs something deeper. And Chalky, while I’m sure he loves his family very much, isn’t afraid of using them for his own purposes. It’s easy to see the split between Nucky and Margaret and Eli blowing over, but I’m not sure where things with Chalky are headed. Although I can’t imagine the show spending any time on it and not intending to pay it off somewhere down the road.
I’m not sure where a show like Boardwalk Empire ends, as compared to a show like Breaking Bad. It isn’t a show that has a definitive “end,” so unlike Breaking Bad, which will probably end with Walt’s death (we’re all thinking it), Boardwalk allows us to drift in and out of these characters’ lives, months or even years down the road.
“Resolution” picks up on New Year’s Eve 1922, a year and a half after the events of season two and exactly three years after the series premiere. Nucky seems to have taken Jimmy’s admonition that “you can’t be half a gangster” to heart, and when we meet him he’s in an empty apartment building with Mickey Doyle and Manny Horvitz, questioning a thief who stole alcohol from one of their warehouses. After calming the guy down and getting him to give over the name of his wheelman, Nucky tells Manny to put a bullet in the guy’s head. So maybe Nucky hasn’t completely balls-to-the-wall with the whole gangster thing. But at least he’s dropped the whole “I’m a businessman” pretense.
But whenever we see Nucky and Margaret alone, it seems they’ve dropped one charade for another. As you might have suspected, Nucky’s still pretty pissed about all that land Margaret handed over to the church at the end of last season. And as soon as the last guest has left their New Year’s party he’s in her face, throwing the whole thing in her face again (like married couples do). At the end of the episode we see that their relationship has gotten much worse than heated arguments, with Nucky sleeping at the Ritz while Margaret stays at home. We also see that Nucky’s taken a new concubine, Billie Kent, who’s a friend of Eddie Cantor. Billie and Eddie perform at the Thompson’s New Year’s bash, but it’s not until afterwards that we discover how she probably got the gig.
So not an ideal situation for Margaret. But it’s not like she’s sitting at home all day every day, kneading her hands and furrowing her brow. She’s settled into her role as a philanthropist, touring the hospital the church used the land for. Although we do see her and half the show’s characters following the story of fictional aviatrix Carrie Duncan, the first woman to fly nonstop across the continental US. At the episode’s end we see Margaret standing on the beach, one of several who have come out to watch Duncan fly overhead. The symbolism is about as on-the-head as you can get. Duncan is a woman who’s breaking barriers in a way Margaret can’t.
Outside of Nucky and Margaret’s not-marriage, several other things have changed, and I enjoyed the way the show didn’t try and explain them all, choosing instead to let viewers catch up and figure things out on their own. We’re introduced to Gyp Rosetti, one of the new season’s main antagonists. In some of the show’s promo material I heard Rosetti referred to as someone who can’t take a joke – which is kind of funny considering that’s what he accuses everyone else of – and the writers definitely set that up in the very beginning. When Rosetti’s car gets a flat tire, a good Samaritan stops to offer some help, saying that he’s got some “three-in-one” in his car. When Rosetti asks what that is, the guy says, “Oil. What else would it be?” So Rosetti does what any reasonable person would do and beats him to death with a tire iron. It’s in these over-the-top meltdowns that Rosetti really reveals who he is. At the New Year’s party, when Nucky announces to his gathered underworld guests that from now on he’ll only be selling liquor to Arnold Rothstein, and not Rosetti, he flips, going around the room and insulting everyone who may have been sympathetic to him or maybe offered some help.
Across town, we see Gillian – now the madame of a high-class bordello – carrying on as if life were nothing but rainbows and sunshine. There’s always been something off-putting about Gillian, and that wasn’t helped last season when we discovered just how far her, ahem, relationship with Jimmy went , but this whole thing with Tommy and trying to convince him that she’s his real mother just feels dirty to me. Then there was her veiled threat to Richard after he tried reminding Tommy about who his parents really were. So, I guess we can chalk him going out and shooting Manny’s face off up to pent-up frustration. But you have to ask yourself, if Richard killed Manny because of Angela, can Nucky be far behind?
We also check in with Van Alden, living just outside Chicago and making his living as a door-to-door iron salesman. It seems that, in the past year and a half, Van Alden’s married his German au pair and the two have had another child. You’d wonder how Nelson could possibly be able to fit into the show’s story this season until you see him cross paths with Al Capone, who’s visiting a flower shop owner who earlier in the episode was making fun of Capone’s deaf son. In Boardwalk’s first episode, Nelson referred to being a Prohibition agent was “godly work,” and I imagine he’ll be drawn back into the fight, whether or not he has a badge backing him up.
I’ve read a few articles lately praising Boardwalk Empire for its acting, writing, set design, and everything else, but lamenting the fact that it doesn’t really seem to be about anything. I have to say I disagree, and partially blame that perception on the endless comparison between Boardwalk and that other HBO crime drama, The Sopranos. While The Sopranos dealt often with more existential issues (watch the show’s last scene between Tony and Uncle Junior to see what I’m talking about), Boardwalk Empire deals with the circumstances that led to creation of Tony’s world. While I see The Sopranos as an analytical drama, I see Boardwalk as more structural. Neither show fits perfectly into those definitions, there’s a lot of overlap between the two, but both are as good as the other. I admit that I haven’t sat down to watch The Sopranos since it went off the air in 2007, so I may go back and realize I’m full of crap, but right now I consider Boardwalk Empire to be one of the best shows on TV. And there are times when I enjoy it even more than I do Breaking Bad. I know. I’m sorry.
In any case, Boardwalk Empire seems to like Boardwalk Empire. The show knows what it is, and has I’d say from the very beginning. It knows what it does well and this feels like a season beginning in a place that’s very sure of itself. And if tonight’s premiere was any indication it’s going to be a great year for the show.
If Alcide Herveaux – not Joe Manganiello, but Alcide Herveaux – knows what nihilism means, I’ll drink Lilith’s blood.
The problem with smart writers on a show about dumb people is that they sometimes can’t resist proving to the audience that they’re smart.
But that’s okay. It’s all okay. Because this is a television show. About vampires. And werewolves. And fairies. And were-panthers. And shape-shifters. Remember that.
It’s ridiculous. And it’s awesome.
Detractors, say what you will about the outlandish storylines. The inclusion of outlandish storylines has been a de facto part of the series since season two… or season one, depending on just how outlandish you consider vampires. But there is no show (that I’m watching) willing to go all the way to make it exciting the way this show is. There is no dipping your toe into the water with True Blood – there is only a face-first plant into the deep end. We might’ve been able to anticipate Russell’s demise by the end of the episode… but in the cold open? No way. That is why This. Show. Kicks. Ass.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m devastated to see Russell go, but I’m a sucker for storylines that make bold moves without pretense or excess build-up, so farewell Russell, you crazy German/Southern bastard. I guess now all we have to look forward to is the reaction of Gay Vampire-American Reverend Steve Newlin, who seems to be the only non-Bill member of the Authority remaining.
Yes, this finale was a bloodbath – in more ways than one. Sam causing the Texas chancellor to explode was certainly an inventive way to kill her off… and probably one of the more disgusting things I’ve ever seen.
This was an episode of extremes, come to think of it, which, I suppose, is what a season finale should be. Aside from that particularly graphic death, the entire fairy birth scene was sublimely bizarre, and Nora and Eric flying around the Authority chamber and hacking all the guards to death was just awful.
So aside from the future of Steve Newlin, we have a few other questions to ponder during the hiatus. Like, what’s the deal with Warlo? What’s going on with Jason’s visions of his parents? How is Sheriff Bellefleur going to handle his new brood? And will he have any help from Holly? Also, how much bleach do I have to drink and/or pour into my eyes to forget that the writers are forcing a Tara/Pam relationship on us? I can’t even speak of it; it’s so horrible.
Okay, maybe I can speak of it a little. I mean, what the hell does Rutina Wesley have on Alan Ball? Or is she just THAT wonderful a person that they can’t bear to let her go? Because it seems so transparent to me that they’re desperately trying to hold on to one of the show’s most despised characters by changing her role in the show completely and pairing her up with one of the shows most beloved characters. Horrible.
Okay, on to more pleasant topics, like the Pam love interest I DO approve of – how sweet was the small moment between her and Eric as Pam got onto the elevator? I loved it. There were also some really great individual scenes that were interesting as standalones regardless of how they moved the plot, and come to think of it, they both have to do with shifters. The first was when Bill addressed the troops about the shifter breach; it gave us really cool insight into Bill’s leadership and power and threat response. And of course, when Luna shifted into Gay Vampire-American Reverend Steve Newlin, that was just freaking hilarious. I like it when a show really goes all out to acknowledge and explore all of the potential applications of a gimmick – like shape-shifting. True Blood is not always great about it (e.g. Sookie’s mind reading), but these two scenes were a good example of showing how this particular gimmick could really be exploited in this particular universe.
So, let’s address the giant blood-dripping elephant in the room. Bill, to the surprise of no one, is officially a sociopath and double-crossed Salome, leading to pretty gnarly death. He then drank Lilith’s blood, died and was “reborn” as what the interwebs has termed “Bilith.”
It appears Bill may be our big bad next season, so we have another 12 episodes or so to figure out the form his eventual redemption will take. Or maybe he isn’t redeemed. After all, we got a pretty solid reason for him embracing Lilith’s teachings – he’s always felt alienated by the inherent “evil” of his existence, and Lilith’s dogma absolves him of that evil and calls it natural and right and even holy. So, perhaps this is the writers’ way of getting rid of Bill and recasting the main love interest with fan favorite Eric. I can’t think of a show that’s set up one couple only to successfully transitioned to another. Remember when Friends tried to make Joey and Rachel happen? In the end, though, it was back to Ross and Rachel. But hey, if any show can do it, True Blood can.
This is the first in a series of quick blogs I’ll be doing about a few different shows. I say quick blogs for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve recently come to the show and don’t have the self control to wait and write 1,000-word reviews between watching episodes. Second, I have a full time job and just don’t have the time to write six or seven reviews every week. I hope you’ll all forgive me.
First up on the chopping block: Rome.
Rome is a show often whispered in the same breath as Deadwood, although I hardly ever hear it mentioned very often when people are bandying about other high profile shows like The Wire, The Shield, The Sopranos, etc. It’s interesting to note that before David Milch pitched Deadwood, he pitched his own show set in Rome that dealt with a lot of the same themes.
But while Deadwood focused on how communities are formed on a grittier, ground level, Rome did the same thing, just from a bird’s-eye view. Rome pays more attention to actual history than Deadwood ever did, and there’s a LOT of history the show’s trying to cram inside itself. To make all of this a little easier to swallow, we’re introduced to two men: Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson). These two are the Everymen who get caught up in the battle between Julius Caesar and Pompey Magnus at the birth of the Roman Empire.
The pilot episode does a good job weaving in and out of the macro of Caesar and Pompey’s political machinations against each other and the micro of Lucius and Pullo’s relationship. The two are thrown together against their will. Lucius, having been charged with finding Caesar’s standard after it’s stolen by BRIGANDS enlists the help of Pullo, who the day before was sentenced to death for striking Lucius during one of the Roman’s last battles with the Gauls. Lucius figures that Pullo’s dead already, and since they probably won’t find the standard and be disgraced anyway, why waste a perfectly good soldier. What strikes me most about the relationship between the two is how perfectly matched they are. There’s no big guy/little guy opposites attract business going on between the two. In a lot of ways they’re both the bad cop. But while Lucius keeps his temper in check and is ruled by his faith (in several things: the gods, the Republic), Pullo is much more boisterous. Pretty much anytime these two are on screen together is great (although, to be honest, Kevin McKidd in anything besides Grey’s Anatomy is great).
In the end, Lucius and Pullo find the standard, as well as rescue the son of an influential Roman (we’ll talk a lot about her later). We find out that the standard was stolen as part of a plot by Pompey to turn Ceasar’s men against him, and that that little bit of business is the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as their friendship was concerned. So, instead of watching some Gladiator-style drama about Rome in its heyday, the show is telling us the story of how Rome actually became Rome. I know it was canceled after its second season, but I also know the creators saw it coming, and so the whole thing ends on a better note than Deadwood. And that gives me hope.
Here’s my question – what is Lilith’s agenda, exactly? She already has the power to influence vampires, so what does the sanguinista movement do for her? Does it shore up her abilities? Bring her back to life? Is she using the Authority to secure some greater goal, like Antonia using Marnie to carry out her revenge? Or is Lilith just intent on creating chaos and destruction, a la Mary Ann? Or, is she a metaphor for religious zealotry?
I think it’s the latter, but if so, what’s the motivation behind manipulating her followers to turn against one another? In the opening scene, she comes to Bill, who, we find out throughout the episode, is not alone in his delusions of grandeur. But why doesn’t he drink the blood when instructed by Lilith? Some moral misgivings? A sense of obligation to the rest of the Authority? Or self-preservation? Does he secretly sense that something is amiss?
It certainly doesn’t seem like he’s having any doubts, if his conversation with Jessica is any indication. He called her bluff about turning Jason, and we find out exactly how deep Bill’s convictions go when, without a pause, he dismisses the idea of Sookie in danger and calls the citizens of Bon Temps “food… and nothing more.”
The writers are really testing the audience’s historical relationship with Bill. He was a total dick to Jessica. But they’ve also given him an out… we found out in this episode that the magical maguffin that’s causing such a dramatic personality transformation is “nesting.” So, presumably, once Bill is off the sauce and free from his fellow chancellors’ influence, he’ll begin his recovery and return to the southern gentleman we’ve come to know and love over five seasons.
Oh, and one more question…. if Russell has always been so feared, why was he just the King of Mississippi? Wouldn’t he have ascended to a higher political position? Was he not a member of the Authority because Roman was more powerful, and the two didn’t get along?
Anyway… I guess the writers needed to meet a sex quota for the season and were falling behind. Come to think of it, there has been a lot of nudity without any of the good stuff. So, Eric and Nora comforting each other was pretty hot, but what exactly was the purpose? Was it really necessary to let us know that Eric was faking and Nora’s finally woken up? Is sex just how, historically, these two characters have “communicated” best with one another?
I love, love, LOVED the scene with the chancellors and General Cavanaugh. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a character bring so much intensity to one scene; he really changed the dynamic of the episode and really, I thought, the entire season. It was awesome to see the US government “perspective” on the vampire Authority and to see a human in a position of power and influence over the vampires. Plus, this exchange:
“I would advise you to be… careful… about what words you choose next.”
“You psychotic bloodsuckers.”
It was a fantastic scene, and one thing that stood out in particular for me was the General’s statement that humans “own the day.” I wonder if that will wake the chancellors up to the vulnerability inherent in that truth and bring them around to Russell Edgington’s way of thinking about fairy blood.
I also really enjoyed the Jessica and Jason dream team, and I found her admission to him about spending eternity with someone to be particularly poignant. Deborah Ann Woll really is amazing, and as much as I hate to see her character dragged down by Tara, I thought it made sense for her to turn to Pam and use the only bargaining chip she had to try to secure safe harbor – the whereabouts of Eric.
But lest you think I was all hearts and flowers about this episode, there was an extraordinary amount of WTF-ery to balance out the good stuff. For example, the Tara-Pam as potential love interests storyline? I cannot get behind that. At all. No, writers. No. No. No. Just no. And did Eric and Nora… FLY!?!?!? What was that all about? And the fairy elder? Comical and cartoonish and ridiculous. Hated it… except when she told Sookie that she sluts her heart out to every cute boy with fangs. It’s funny ‘cuz it’s true.
Okay, back to the love… the scene at Fangtastia. Pam throws herself on the sword to protect Tara, and for only the second time ever, we’re seeing Pam scared and unsure. I’m really interested to see her eventual reunion with Eric, especially if she’s still in this rare emotionally vulnerable state. Then the Texas chancellor gave us one of the best-delivered lines in the history of True Blood: “Your daddy’s looking for you.” Props to the actress and the director who made that five seconds because it literally made my heart race.
As predicted, Mirella is about to eff with Sheriff Bellefleur’s world… and to a degree even I didn’t foresee. Not sure what all this “light vow” baloney is about, but I don’t like it. An act of war? Hmmm…
It looks like the season finale is shaping up to be a fairy vs. human vs. vampire vs. werewolf showdown extravaganza. All of the major players are gravitating toward a few hot spots – the fairy club (Sookie, Jason, Russell, Steve, fairies, and I’m guessing Alcide and the wolves are head this way) and the Authority headquarters (Pam, Sam, Luna, the chancellors, and I’m thinking this is where Eric and Nora will end up too).
The last scene with Russell in the field was pretty epic. Not quite on par with Russell’s temper tantrum a few episodes ago or with this episode’s scene with General Cavanaugh, but it was intense. I’m excited for next week and already a little sad that it’s almost over.
Tina MajoriNOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! A Molly/Eric team-up would’ve been so freaking awesome. I feel robbed.
But I got over it almost immediately because Gay-Vampire-American Reverend Steve Newlin’s reaction shots are brilliant. His doe-eyed innocence and out-of-proportion enthusiasm are delightful, as was his double entendre-packed interview.
Overall, this episode was kind of downer… which I guess is to be expected at this point in the season. Things have to be darkest before the big climax… our characters have to be down and properly kicked before their triumph.
For Eric, that meant watching his beloved Godric ripped to pieces by Lilith and his apparent conversion to her coven of crazy.
For Hoyt, Jessica and Jason, it meant a clean wipe of their complicated personal histories in a series of scenes that I thought were particularly well-paced, well-written and well-acted, even by Ryan Kwanten, who is rarely as strong as he was in this episode.
For Pam and Tara, it meant possibly abandoning Fangtasia, which was only slightly less emotional than Jessica’s glamouring of Hoyt. And by the end of the episode, Tara has taken a page out of Pam’s book of badassery… I’m hating her less and less, especially for the awesome line “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no baby vampires!”
I was overwhelmingly underwhelmed by most everything else in this episode… with one major exception I’ll get to in a minute. In general, it was a lot of exposition and stage-setting for the big showdown. We got just a little bit of progress on several fronts, but not much to comment on with the exception of a few standout scenes.
Sam and Luna are hot on the trail to retrieve Emma from Gay-Vampire-American Reverend Steve Newlin, which wasn’t much except for the intensely twisted scene where Newlin chastises Emma for returning to her human form.
Jason and Sookie enlist the help of the fairies to uncover the mysterious language from the scroll under the bed, and I got a relatively satisfactory answer to my question about how the fairy lineage gets passed along. But more importantly, did anyone else catch that the pregnant fairy is the same one Sheriff Bellefluer got freaky with in the field last season? That fact, combined with the “happy couple” scene between him and Holly is a great big not-so-subtle hint that the Sheriff’s world is about to be rocked…. And not by Holly.
Finally, Jessica is summoned to Bill’s side at the AVL and is now in a position to evaluate and ultimately question Bill’s new affiliation, and because he brought her to the AVL, I’m further convinced that he’s not pulling some kind of long con here, and that makes me nervous. Because he’s not glamoured… he’s not under a spell… he’s just converted. And how do we get our old Bill back after that? Or our old Eric, for that matter? There has to be some magical maguffin that transforms these two back into the characters we’ve known for almost five seasons, but I honestly don’t see how that can happen.
But I think Jessica’s strategic position inside the AVL will turn out to be key in this season’s ultimate confrontation, and even more significant will be the role Russell plays in that confrontation. Because wow. This was the exception scene I referenced earlier… his full-blown, wheels-off, German-accented, violent, megalomaniacal temper tantrum condemning the Authority’s sanctimonious conservative agenda in favor of the “fun” parts of being a vampire and the ultimate goal – day walking. Incredible.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a schism developed by Authority members taking sides on the fairy blood issue turns out to be the unraveling of the Authority’s… well, authority.
I wouldn’t say I curse like a sailor, but let’s just say I know my way around a four-letter word. So as a lover of language, and especially colorful language, I appreciate it when a show uses the right balance of bad words and uses them in the right places.
Now, I don’t think it’s necessarily true to the Southern setting (especially in small town Bon Temps) to have so many c-words and f-words and t-words and r-words flowing, but I DO think that it’s true to the characters. Case in point, Tina Majorino (yay!) telling Eric “we’re totally fucking fucked. ” It’s just one of a number of scenes where the bad language really does add something – whether it’s humor or intensity or, in this example, desperation.
Next scene – Lafayette in Sookie’s bathroom. I could go on and on about how entertaining the Lafayette character is when he’s feeling flippant, something that’s been sorely lacking in the last season or so. But I think there’s a more important point to make with this scene.
There are a few themes I revisit over and over again with True Blood. One is its self-awareness and the liberties it can take because of that self-awareness (more on that in a minute). Another is the acting. Because damn. In the scene between Lafayette and Sookie, the juxtaposition of Nelsan Ellis’ acting ability and Anna Paquin’s is astonishing. Now, for the record, I do believe Anna Paquin is a good actress, but go back and watch that scene again from when she says “put it on my tab…” Tell me it doesn’t sound like dress rehearsal at a Bon Temps High School’s drama club meeting. Not convinced? Check out the very beginning of the scene with former sheriff Bud Dearborne later in the episode. I don’t know if the character of Sookie (and Arlene… and Jason…) is someone who is overly deliberate in her actions and words, which comes off bad-actressy. This could be the case, because Paquin is more or less CONSISTENT in her portrayal of Sookie, but it could also be that Paquin just doesn’t fit quite right into this role, even after all these years.
Wherever you land, I think there are some instances where the very best of the True Blood actors (e.g. Nelsan Ellis, Deborah Ann Woll) are in scenes where either their acting ability or their characters’ natural charm clash so obviously with their scene partner (e.g. Rutina Wesley, Anna Paquin, Ryan Kwanten) on those same criteria, that it becomes distracting.
But I digress. So, Gran is happy that the fairies are looking after Sookie? That seems to be so antithetical to last season’s opener – are we ever going to fully understand what makes a good fairy and a bad fairy and what the fairy political and social agenda is?
So, remember when I said we’d get back to the self-awareness theme later. It’s later. During the scene with Lafayette and Sookie in her bedroom, I thought to myself how ridiculous it is that Sookie’s grandmother would speak in “riddles” about the answer to the supernatural hate group being under Sookie’s bed. I mean, if she can say “you’re sleeping on top of it,” why can’t she say, “Dearborne is the supernatural-hating sex puppet of a vengeful, square-dancing bitch?” Is being dead like Twitter? You only get so many characters?
Anyway, so that kind of irritated me, but I get that an outright answer doesn’t exactly lend itself to building additional dramatic tension. BUT no sooner had I written my bitchy little comment than the True Blood writers acknowledged that very issue when Lafayette asked why the dead must always speak in riddles. So, props to the writers for recognizing a plot hole and addressing it without letting themselves off the hook completely OR sacrificing good storytelling.
I’ve always been a fan of Alan Ball. American Beauty is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I think what’s kept True Blood tolerable (for the most part) despite being so over the top is that the writing staff is smart – the kind of folks who could be writing for a serious drama but choose to write for something a little more indulgent and fun.
Now, I haven’t seen Game of Thrones or Boardwalk Empire, but I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate that the writers for those shows, while no less talented, don’t get to write dialogue like this:
“Just ‘cuz we drank a bitch together does not make us Oprah and Gayle. Get the fuck back to work.” “Suck me, Vampire Barbie!”
What’s great about it is that the ridiculousness doesn’t preclude the writers from playing in the nuanced political arena either, and man can they have fun with it. I mean, truly, how ballsy is it for them to use Obama masks and (once again, directly address any rabble-rousing detractors) by saying outright, via the loveable goof Sheriff Andy Bellefleur, “No, the President of the United States is not actually in Renard Parish shooting and kidnapping people?”
I may be reading into the political imagery too much, because really, it has innumerable real-world interpretations. But there was something about this week’s categorization of the “Obamas” as backwards, hate-filled discriminators rallying against “perversion and conversion” that made me think that the political parallel being drawn is along the lines of human sexuality. I might be wrong. Like I said, there are a LOT of political undertones to this season’s storyline, which means it can be applied on either side of the aisle to any number of issues. But the “Obamas” sub-story is the one that, to me, has the most apparent and direct real-world reflection, and it was this episode that convinced me of that.
In any case, it’s how easily the True Blood writers move between the surreal and the “serious” that makes the show fun for me. Or maybe I’m just rationalizing.
Okay, two more quick notes on dialogue, then we’ll move on.
First, I thought that Eric’s statement “We’d better get back to slaughtering people in the name of God” was very, very telling because it’s only the last part that Eric really has a problem with. His recent exchanges with Bill are indicating a level of friendship and history that I’m not sure we’ve seen to date, and I think Eric feels more betrayed and bewildered by Bill’s sudden faith than by the actions manifested by that faith. I am curious to see what set of circumstances will eventually be the catalyst for the return of the old Bill and how his relationship with Eric (and Sookie, for that matter) will change at that point. There is a small part of me that wonders if Bill is pulling the long con, but I think that’s just wishful thinking.
Second, it’s not laugh-out-loud funny, and it’s not a traditional zippy one-liner, but I just loved Jason’s comment in the station that maybe the “Obamas” are wearing masks “’cuz they don’t want to get recognized.” I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but it’s so great when a show can strike a balance between pushing its characters into new situations that shape and change them and still having familiar callbacks to their original character profiles… in this case, Jason as the archetypal “dumb blonde.”
Credit where it’s due – I didn’t see the Bud Dearborne thing coming at all. It would be interesting to go back now and review his interactions with supernatural folks in the earlier episodes. I kind of doubt this twist has been planned for that long, but it would be fun to think so.
This episode actually surprised me a lot. I started writing out why I thought Scott Foley’s character (I’ve been so disengaged with this storyline I haven’t even bothered to learn his name) would be killed indirectly or accidentally by Terry in order to lift the curse because I didn’t think the writers would be willing to sacrifice Terry’s “innocence” by having him kill his former commanding officer outright. I even wrote this “…but it would be truly badass if Terry just did the balls-out thing and shot Scott Foley in the head.” And then he did! And it was awesome! And not only did I love the scene and still love Terry, but I was thrilled – THRILLED – that this dumbass storyline was finally concluded. Rest in peace, Felicity’s boyfriend.
Wrapping up… Emma is in the hands of Russell Edgington, which is somewhat terrifying, but again – just one more great indication of the lengths True Blood is willing to go to keep viewers engaged. No one is safe. Nothing is sacred. Anything. Can. Happen.
In the climactic showdown, naked pig-man Sam saves the day (did anyone else thing “Willow” or “Hannibal” during the pig scenes?). I know I’m beating this horse to death, but one last time – props to the writers for not trying to find a too-clever-by-half way to clothe Sam and Luna before they started with the day-saving. Shifters are naked when they shift, so when they shift back to humans and start kicking ass, well, they’re naked for that too. I know HBO doesn’t shy away from nudity (or bad language, for that matter), but I just really admire how both are incorporated into this show in a way that’s not overly deliberate or sensational – just as a matter-of-fact when it’s part of the natural flow of the story.
A lot of this season’s storylines were wrapped up with this episode, which I think is probably clearing the way for some pretty awesome drama in the final few episodes, most likely centered around an epic Authority showdown. Can’t wait.
Quick final thoughts
- How adorable was the scene where Sam and Luna admitted they love each other?
- Alcide aged well… Debbie apparently peaked at 14
This was my stream-of-consciousness note-taking during the cold open:
What the hell was with that opening scene? Luna is Sam? Sam is Luna? Huh? Sam isn’t a skinwalker, is he? We know Luna is, but Sam didn’t actually kill any member of his family, did he? Okaaay… so Luna turned into Sam so that she could carry out her plan for revenge.
Yeah, that about sums it up. By the end of the episode we still don’t know HOW it happened that Luna shifted into Sam (unless she did it on purpose, which is possible, I guess, but it didn’t seem like it was played that way) or at least WHY she wasn’t able to shift back, but props to Sam Trammell for doing a hell of a job channeling Luna’s character into his physical body. That was fun to watch and as un-cartoonish as is possible in the True Blood universe. Looks like Luna might be in trouble though; their scene together on the couch was touching and very well done.
Between the vision of Godric and that fact that he’s Eric, it’s not surprising that Eric is the first to come down off the Lilith(?)/vampire-blood high and back to sobering reality – he’s the one who is most obsessed with control – a concept antithetical to “drug” use.
It’s good in moments like that to see these characters in their current circumstances reflect those we came to know in the first few seasons (case in point – the return of attitude-for-days Lafayette). I thought it was a nice call back to the original Sookie/Bill relationship when Jason confronts her about dumping her powers.
But it seems we may be losing Bill to the dark side; is his “evolution” going to trigger this season’s climax when it comes into conflict with preserving Sookie’s well-being? Bombing True Blood factories? Pretty cold and calculating, Mr. Compton. Tsk tsk tsk.
We learned a lot about Bill in this episode – including insight (via flashback) into an interaction with one of his children after he become a vampire, triggered by Salome’s invitation for Bill to join her for a “snack” of a young mother. When Salome asked why he didn’t change his kids, we find out that Bill believes immortality to be a curse. Is Salome changing his mind? Does Bill have more residual humanity because he’s “younger”? Is that a consistent characteristic throughout the vampires we’ve seen?
The scene between Hoyt and Jessica was heartbreaking (and as always, Deborah Ann Woll just kills it – in a good way) and also a really honest depiction of a “normal” relationship that has fallen apart (albeit skewed for the True Blood universe). Oh! And Mrs. Fortenberry is Dragon? Oh shiiiiiiiiiit.
I was about to be so disappointed in Pam for not coming to Tara’s aid against that high school slut, but of course, my girl Pam does not disappoint. If Tara’s character’s purpose is to serve as a catalyst for Pam’s struggle to form a new bond with someone in Eric’s absence, then I’m almost on board…. almost, and only because Pam is pulling it off so awesomely.
In less awesome news, I just wasn’t feeling the werewolf storyline this week. I thought they were going to fight, not hunt – wasn’t that what the training was all about? Wasn’t JD already villain enough after he tried to give Emma V – was it really necessary to have him suggest hunting a human? It doesn’t seem that JD would be strategic enough to anticipate that Alcide would forfeit rather than hunt the kid, and JD also seems to be confident enough (especially when he’s on the V) to think he could beat Alcide in a heads up competition (hunting and tracking or otherwise). That was just strange… and stupid.
My favorite scene this week had to be the séance, which is strange considering how much I despise that storyline and most of the characters involved with it. But that scene just shifted beautifully from hilarious to intense – thanks in large part to Nelsan Ellis, who is just extraordinary.
What kind of bond do the Claud-fairies have with Sookie’s family, exactly? And why did Sookie switch to the vampire’s point of view? Is it because she has a stronger connection with Bill than she does with her mother? Is the vampire in question actually Bill? Or is “Warlo” a new character? That seems like a cop out, but maybe the writers will make it worthwhile.
I guess I was left with more questions after this episode than anything else. Who is Warlo? Who pulled the gun on Hoyt? WTF was in Sookie’s bathroom (another moment, like last week’s Lilith vision, when I got a very distinct vision of the Fonz on water-skis)? Answers to these questions… and more… on next week’s True Blood!
- “Lilith wants me to eat a baby.”
- “Now you’re a member of two minorities!”
- “My mad face and my happy face are the same.”
- “Hooker, I ain’t in the helping bidness no more. I’m in the fuck off while I smoke a blunt bidness… and bidness ‘bout to pick way the fuck up.”
Amid all the chaos of the opening scene, what stood out to me was Bill calling out Eric’s name. I get that they have a history – you might even call them frienemies (ugh), and yes, they’re each others’ only allies while in the Authority facilities, but still – I heard from Bill an awfully desperate cry for Eric’s safety. Hmmm.
I also find myself wondering why Jason doesn’t have any kind of fairy powers – the writers have never given us any indication that he and Sookie aren’t biological siblings, have they? And Lilith help us all if the fairy Claud-sister’s reference to additional fairy powers is a harbinger of more convenient super powers trotted out when they further the plot. Groan.
We got a little of the superhero storyline trope in this episode (admittedly, acknowledged by the writers) when Sookie finds out that she might be able to live a normal life again, but as Sam (Raimi?) reminds us… with great power, comes great responsibility. As usual, Sam asks the everyman questions, and gives the everyman answers. He’s the audience surrogate, and I love him for it. But the episode ends with Sookie eschewing his advice and the honorable course in favor of a life more ordinary, but something tells me Jason’s recent streak of nobility is going to have him convincing her to hold on to her powers. (Oh, and why would he and/or Sookie have thought that Jason was responsible for their parents’ death? Did I miss something there?)
Sam’s certainly embracing his powers – how funny was it watching him roll around on the floor of the weapons shop? I’m wondering who this mysterious “Dragon” is – how funny would it be if it turns out to be the slack-jawed drawling deputy? He doesn’t seem hateful, but the interesting thing about hate is how easily it disguises itself.
While I’m finding the politicizing a little heavy-handed, I will say that I watched the interactions among the members of the “hate group” with interest. The rhetoric they use – while not intentionally manipulative – is pretty persuasive when you put yourself in the shoes of a character as sympathetic as Hoyt, which, of course, is the MO for any group with a similar agenda.
And speaking of agendas, I do kind of like where we’re going with the Sanguinista movement. Who woulda thunk that Bill would turn out to be the one the Sanguinistas may have successfully recruited? We’ve always known that Eric had a pretty ironclad set of principles, but Bill has always been kinder, especially to humans. But he’s got an edge to him, too. We know he had an agenda when he first pursued Sookie, and I always found his dismissal of her after she returned from fairyland a little off-putting, but I am still hoping he’s just caught up in the “enthusiasm” of the new Authority council and that he’ll snap out of it soon.
That “enthusiasm” led to one of the more memorable scenes in True Blood history – an Authority-led massacre of a wedding party in a New Orleans karaoke bar, preceded by a pretty hilarious group stroll through Bourbon street (Bill’s admonition of the taxi driver was especially fun). A few weeks ago, I said I was ready for less character and plot positioning and more action, and true to form, the re-emergence of Russell Edgington has brought forth the action.
His character is so much fun; how great was his sultry and smug delivery of “Edgington” on the karaoke stage? I have trouble buying that Salome or Nora believe that he’s truly, genuinely invested in the movement or the principles behind it. Surely they see his mocking glances and over-exaggerated gesturing for what it is? Blatant mocking of their religion. And look, I get that Russell is an awesome character, and the writers had to find some way to bring him back, but I have a hard time believing that among the entire vampire race, he was the only vampire Salome could think of who was more powerful than Roman and able to take him down.
It was interesting to see, though, how quickly the chancellors all changed their mainstreaming tune when they saw how far those now in power (Russell, Salome and Nora) are willing to go to enforce compliance with their new regime. Not that it’s surprising, necessarily, but it clearly indicates that among the vampires, there is no Authority greater than power and personal survival, which makes Eric’s conflict between commitment to his principles and his self-preservation all the more exciting to watch. Even the seemingly devout Nora is pretty flippant with her “she does” when Russell calls on Lilith’s forgiveness for murdering the dissenting chancellor.
Also, I’m sorry, but is there a budding romance between Russell and gay vampire-American Reverend Steve Newlin? Because…. Awesome.
Oh, and I guess I have to acknowledge Lilith. Well, she’s a naked chick who rose out of blood, may have been a hallucination, and seems to inspire enthusiastic blood lust in her followers. What else is to be said? I’ll admit that the phrase “jump the shark” floated across my mind when she first came on the scene, but then I remembered that I’m watching True Blood and quickly disposed of those silly “standards.” I’m wondering, though, if “seeing” her might legitimize Russell’s (or the other recently converted chancellors’) commitment to the religious principles of the movement.
I guess I have to talk about that disgusting scene with Lafayette’s mouth getting sewn closed while Jesus’ loco tio tries to take back his family’s magic. Not sure why tio’s baby mama got all murdery on him, but it sure was good timing. I wonder if she killed him before or after he transferred Jesus’ braja magic from Lafayette to the unborn loco-tio-spawn – nah, actually, I don’t really care.
Also still don’t care about Terry’s inner (and outer) demons, but I did think it was appropriate that Arlene shared her issues with Holly. As a Wicca, Holly is at least open to the idea of supernatural forces, though it’s ridiculous that after all she’s been through, Arlene is still resistant to the idea that – in the town of Bon Temps – something supernatural could be effing with her life.
I did enjoy the wedding video for the chance to revisit past happy couples and characters. I got a little sad at Hoyt and Jessica, and I loved the interaction between Lafayette and Jesus (though I remain glad Jesus is gone as a regular character). Oh, and Godric was back and so was former Sheriff Bud Dearborne was back – and he’s a dirty old man! Loved it! I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – Andy Bellefleur’s exasperated exclamations and ham-fisted attempts at police work have slowly but surely become one of my favorite parts of this ridiculous show.
Okay, final thoughts. First, Alcide’s already moved on to a new wolfskank, which I guess is fine, but it really devalues the “love” the writers made us believe he had for Sookie (/goes to edit last post where incorrectly predicted this relationship would be one-sided). Like Eric, Alcide’s character is steadfastly principled, and it seems inconsistent for his character to go from committed to Debbie to Sookie to wolfskank in a matter of days. But, you know… men.
Second, I feel like the relationship between Jason and Jessica is meandering without much of a purpose, but I enjoyed their confrontation primarily for the awesome line about Jason remembering every cow he’s ever eaten… and secondarily for how 0 to 60 this show goes in terms of cranking up the drama. These two go from having an argument to her biting him and him SHOOTING HER IN THE HEAD. Yeah, I know she’s a vampire with super-healing powers, but I still feel like going straight to SHOOTING SOMEONE IN THE HEAD is slightly drastic. Call me old fashioned.
Finally, Tara still sucks, but it was hilarious to see her “minister’s wife” mother dressed in her Sunday best and making her way through the crowd in Fangtasia just to disown her vampire-stripper-bartender-cagefighter daughter. It’s also telling that while this is the best Tara’s looked… ever, Pam still steals every single scene with just the slightest raise of the eyebrow or shifted glance. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I have a raging girl crush on Pam. Homegirl can ROCK the CRIMP.
Line of the week, from Gay-Vampire-American Reverend Steve Newlin: “I’m like a tree in the wind. I’m just so happy to be included.”
P.S. Dear True Blood writers, Tina Majorino is being underutilized. Please remedy.