Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: True Blood "And When I Die"

Non Spoiler Review:
As Halloween breaks the barriers between the living and the dead, Marnie launches her final assault against the vampires. Alcide makes a decision. Sam buries Tommy. Jessica and Jason come to terms. And a whole lot of magic is cast amid vampire politics, with the final minutes bringing its fair share of drama and shocks in typical True Blood fashion.

Season four ends with a bang... lots of them. But the episode was somewhat uneven in places, as if the writers just wanted to jump ahead and gloss over details here and there. This is a trend that was quite noticable all season and really promotes style over substance. Next year had better return to basics as far as the plotting, otherwise True Blood will quickly become a satire of itself.

Next season will begin with plenty to wrap up. In particular, the Jessica/Jason pairing really works and their scenes together were a nice break from the death and angst surrounding the rest of the characters. But I want to see less wasted storylines (werepanthers...Portia Bellefleur, anyone?) and more gripping ones like the witch/vampire war, with an overdue focus on the vampire politics that always hover in the background.

Spoilers Now!
In the morning, Lafayette seems rather distant to Jesus at breakfast. Jesus kisses him good-bye as he prepares to leave for work, but gets a sense something is very wrong with him. So Marnie/Lafayette stabs his hand with a fork.

Sookie is making breakfast, too, but she has a sudden vision of her gran dead on the kitchen floor. Tara's stayed over and joins her. Sookie wonders aloud if Adele is in heaven, given Marnie channelled her and told her not to give her heart to Eric. She keeps feeling like she's here (which mean she's going to show up very soon).

Sam stands over his brother's grave and is joined by Maxine, who admits he had a good heart despite lying and stealing from her. She tells Sam to call her momma from now on given they're all the family they have left. She leaves him, and he's joined by Luna and Emma. 

Jesus is tied up and Marnie calls him a traitor. But Lafayette is struggling to regain control, so Marnie threatens to hurt his body. She wants the power that Jesus' grandfather passed down to him in his blood—his magic brujo. Jesus would gladly give it to her if he could, but he doesn't know how, and what's inside him is seriously dark. But after watching Lafayette cut himself, Jesus says he'll do it, and performs an incantation that brings out his demon. Marnie stabs him and tastes the blood, taking on the demon form. 

It's Halloween, and Sookie arrives at a costumed up Merlotte's. She's come to see Sam, but only now learns about Tommy. This is the first time he finds out that he apparently fired and kicked her out. He tells her he wasn't himself that day and she can have her job back. 

Alcide pops in for a beer and Sookie inquires about Debbie. He admits she was right about her. He's done with the drama in his life and wants her to be done with hers too, which creates an awkward moment as Sookie isn't sure what to say. He gets a phone call and has to leave, and he asks her to think about what he said.

Sookie next finds Holly, who explains Halloween is Samhain, when the veil between the living and dead is at its weakest. Holly's been having a feeling of dread, as well.

Tara comes to visit Lafayette, finding the house open and Jesus dead. She finds Sookie and Holly and tells them Marnie is back and she thinks she's inside Lafayette. The three of them head off to try to stop them, and ensure Bill doesn't find out first and kill Lafayette.

Bill and Eric are already chained on a pyre at his mansion, with his guards all dead. Sookie, Holly and Tara show up, but Lafayette/Marnie appears to confront them. Holly manages to create a magic circle around her and the pyre while she's busy yelling at Bill and Eric.

Marnie ignites the pyre, but Sookie manages to shoot off another fairy blast that only brings out demon Lafayette. Holly, Tara and Sookie (who are apparently quite powerful by now and make a nice trinity of witches) cast a protective spell around the circle, shutting Marnie out. The spell also calls upon friends and family spirits to watch over them, prompting a mob of ghosts to emerge from the cemetery.

Antonia returns (just in case you thought she went on to heaven, she's been hanging out in the graveyard. Comforting thought) and blows out the fire, and explains to Marnie all creatures, even vampires, have a purpose, and she's here to take her home. Adele appears (!) wearing the worst nightgown imaginable, and manages to reach into Lafayette and pull out Marnie. She's very powerful, too, much like Sookie, Holly, Tara, Lafayette, Jesus....

But Marnie refuses to go with them. Antonia does not want to see her be driven mad by her rage as she was, and assures her she will be at peace, while the vampires will be stuck there forever. That's good enough for Marnie. She lets go of her rage and walks off with them.

Sookie asks her gran not to go, but Adele says she doesn't need her to guide her anymore. Just follow her heart. They all vanish. Lafayette wakes up.

The little spell to resurrect the dead produces another plot device. One of Terry's friends, Patrick, shows up and he introduces him to Arlene at Merlotte's. When she's taking out the garbage, Arlene sees René and freaks out. He's here to warn her that Terry is bringing trouble of the worst kind. He's met the ghosts of his past and they won't rest forever. Run, he tells her.

Meanwhile, Jason has had a talk with Hoyt and confessed he slept with Jessica, so gets beat up before Hoyt storms off. At night, Jessica shows up at Jason's but sees he's been in a fight. She asks to be invited in. As they have sex, she says she doesn't want a relationship, and he wishes she'd told him that before he got beat up. But it was the right thing to do, he admits. She doesn't want to hurt him the way she hurt Hoyt, and asks if this can be enough for them for now. He seems okay with it.

Jason is bothered by something Hoyt said—that a part of him is missing. Jessica leaves because she needs to feed after having sex with him and doesn't want it to be him. When she's gone, he gets a knock at the door and answers it...naked (probably not the wisest thing to do on Halloween). It's Reverend Newlin! And he's got fangs.

At Fangtasia, an hysterical Pam can't find Eric. She can't bear that someone named Sookie took him away from her after all these years. She's consoled by Ginger. It's the sweetest moment of the episode.

Following the defeat of Marnie, Sookie is at the mansion, allowing both Eric and Bill to feed from her. They both thank her for saving their lives. But she can't stand having to choose anymore. Bill just wants for her to be happy, so gives his blessing for her to be with Eric. Sookie admits they've all lied to one another so many times. She forgives Bill and asks for his forgiveness, as well. 

She then admits she fell for vicious Eric as much as honest Eric, but even their time is over. The only way she sees it ending is for her to walk away from both. She knows it's the right decision and leaves them. 

Lafayette is disconsolate about Jesus. Tara tells him they'll get through this like everything else. Alone, he sees Jesus' spirit, who tells him not to be sorry. Everything is temporary, and he's fine with how things went. Lafayette's a medium, after all, and Jesus says he'll always be with him, then vanishes.

Andy shows up with flowers for Holly as the night ends. He admits to being a V addict and can be good to her if she lets him. She says she could use a hug, so they do.  

Sam says goodnight to Luna, but as she drives off a black wolf appears behind him.

Alcide is meeting with one of his employees who apparently has been glamoured. There's a hole dug in the parking garage, and Alcide pulls out some silver chains that were encased in the concrete. Russel is gone!

Nan shows up at Bill's with a bunch of her guards. The Marnie situation is resolved, and Eric backs up Bill's leadership, despite what she thinks of how they handled it. She says she's quit her job with the authority—fired. There's been an order issued on their heads, too. Her last instruction was to deliver the true death to them, but she knew she would be next, so Nan's mutinying against the vampire league and the authority and she says they won't be alone. She implies Eric knows of others who are resisting the authority's authority. Eric wants to know what's in it for them. Aside from surviving, Nan brings up their fairy waitress. But both men tell her to do what she likes, as she doesn't belong to them. She calls them puppy dogs.

That's when Eric suddenly kills all her men and Bill stabs Nan, killing her. "We are not fucking puppy dogs," he declares.

Sookie returns home, calling for Tara. She turns around to find Debbie with a gun. Tara leaps in the way and is shot in the head. Sookie grabs the rifle and blows Debbie's head off, then calls for help as Tara bleeds out.

The Verdict:
An enjoyable finale had its share of eye-rolling moments, most notably the cut to Eric and Bill chained on his front lawn. We just accept Marnie can do anything at this point. And forget about a happy afterlife, or Antonia going on to her just reward...because everyone is just hanging around haunting the cemetery.

Adele's return, so brief, was wasted after all these seasons, and did she have to be wearing that awful nightgown? Plus she can somehow defeat Marnie with no problem at all. Who knew a ghost could overpower a witch. After all of that, she couldn't spare a few minutes to talk to Sookie.

Jesus' death was sad and unexpected, but certainly had more impact than Tommy's. Given the focus on his family history last year, it did come as a surprise. There has been plenty of set up for the whole spiritual side of things, but it now appears to have been geared solely for Lafayette's development.

Terry and Arlene are really the only normal couple left, so RenĂ©'s dire warning was a nice addition, too. But the arrival of his old friend screamed plot device for next season. Could gentle Terry turn evil too?

Hoyt and Jason's fight was a very satisfying moment. Hoyt's character has lost some of its lustre, but he said some salient things to his (former) best friend. Jason's ultimate trajectory remains unclear, given all the throw away episodes dealing with the panthers. Newlin's reappearance I think is a red herring. It is Halloween, after all.

Russell's return wasn't a big surprise given how he's been brought up all season. How this fits with Nan's attempted mutiny and the divisiveness within the vampire community, or what Eric secretly knows, is a big mess of politics to be sorted out next year. I'll wait to see how this is handled, because I'm not sure I'm anxious to have Russell back after just one season.

Alcide's attempt to win Sookie's heart didn't get any follow up like I'd hoped. Instead another werewolf confronts Sam. Though Sookie shooting Debbie brought an immense amount of catharsis. Finally, poor Tara. To be built back up into a strong character only to be cut down. There're only two options—death, or being turned into a self-hating vampire. Who gets to be the lucky vampire to turn her?

And one final note. I found it odd that the fairy thread received no pick up this week either. It's especially notable given the season began with such a big fairy focus, but that just hammers home the point about the weak writing this season—the fairies need to be more than just plot devices to push the series ahead in time a year.

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