Saturday, September 22, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead 102

Non Spoiler Review:
Something to Fear Part 6 continues the fallout over Glen's death as Rick is briefed on what happened at home while he was on the road. That leads to much discussion about how to deal with Negan and plenty of soul searching for Rick as he comes to terms with his past (and future) decisions.

Things are quieting down after a couple of frenetic issues, and it looks like this storyline is preparing to wrap up and embark on what lies ahead given the choices made this month. I've been enjoying this arc for how it's changed the game for all the characters and the post-apocalyptic society as a whole. 

Spoilers Now!
Rick speaks to Andrea privately to fill her in on the huge threat Negan poses and his own errors in judgement underestimating them. He then does plenty of soul searching on how to proceed next, consulting Michonne on her thoughts of conceding to Negan's demands in the short term. She surprisingly agrees, and mentions her own culpability in angering the governor and bringing his wrath down on the prison. 

It's a tough sell for the community, as many want to fight (including Andrea and Carl), but Rick convinces everyone that backing down is the best choice, and he's not prepared to bring the wrath of Negan back down on their town.

But he does have other plans on the go—releasing the prisoner, Rick has Jesus follow him to scout out Negan's forces. Meanwhile, Eugene comes to Rick to explain what he and Abraham were up to. He wants to play a part in the eventual attack on Negan and wants the bullets he can make in their guns.

Rick takes all this under advisement. For the time being they will obey their new master, but long term plans are underway.

The Verdict:
Issue 102 wasn't too surprising in how it wrapped up. I couldn't see Rick bowing down completely without a plan. But he's matured a lot over this storyline with his god complex firmly beaten down by underestimating the enemy. That will serve everyone much better.

Kneeling to a superior military force is quite a novel approach. We don't see our heroes do that too often, so it presents plenty of great storytelling opportunities. How will Alexandria fair under Negan? I imagine it won't be pretty when they show up for their due. I'm happy to see more of Jesus, as well, as he looks to be a future major character with this group.

It's been ages since I read the governor storyline, but I can't recall Michonne being so up front about her responsibility in the governor's attack on the prison given she let him live. It was a nice bit to see her and Rick commiserate on their respective errors in judgement.

No zombies this month. Another indication that we've moved past the apocalypse into post-apocalypse territory, where the walkers are something to be managed while the main threat is the survivors themselves.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: The Divide

Non Spoiler Review:
The Divide opens with a chilling scene of apartment resident Eva watching mushroom clouds erupt across New York as missiles rain down. She's pulled away by a neighbour to flee to the basement before the building collapses. The superintendent, Mickey, has a fully stocked bomb shelter, and they make it in with no time to spare while shutting out the mass of people following.

The Divide is directed by Xavier Gens, and I'm unfamiliar with his other features. However, it stars genre great Michael Biehn (Terminator, Aliens) as Mickey in probably one of his best roles to date. Rossanna Arquette is Marilyn, Milo Vantimiglia (Heroes) as Josh, Ashton Holmes as Adrien, and Michael Eklund as Bobby. Lauren German plays Eva, the character that seems to best represent the audience as observer to all the events that unfold in the close confines of the shelter. It's not a well known cast by any means, but it really works here, allowing for acting to shine through without the distraction of big name stars.

The Divide is a character piece, using the science fiction premise to launch an examination of human nature when civilization and hope are stripped away (especially true with Eva staring at multiple nuclear explosions without batting an eyelash). The survivors struggle with endless amounts of time with nothing to do, while wondering what's happened beyond their metal door. Is it a terrorist attack, or has there been a global nuclear strike? All the while Mickey warns of radioactive dust should they dare to try to open the door while rationing the limited supply of food. They soon realize there actually are things happening just outside.

Biehn comes across as quite the paranoid crazy man, though we get a peak into his back story later on that fleshes out the reason behind his behaviour, and he actually remains consistent throughout. It's up for debate how accurately the path of other characters plays out, though for myself I found it to be pretty believable given the circumstances.

The Divide succeeds in its character study, but did offer a very meager glimpse of what actually happened. That might leave the harder science fiction fans frustrated with questions (including me), but I can see where the writers were going with it and what they wanted to say. Though I will criticize that when they chose to dabble in bringing in more science fiction elements they were very much plot devices to move key pieces into position, rather than provide any insight into what was going on beyond the walls of the shelter.

Visually, the film is quite striking—beginning with horrific renderings of New York's destruction and the slow decay of the stark shelter and the characters themselves as they suffer the affects of radiation poisoning over the course of their imprisonment. I also have to mention the eerie soundtrack, especially the opening and closing piano pieces that added to the sense of despair. The ending is very effective, while not providing the answers many will want.

The Divide really is a close cousin to Blindness in the way that human depravity reveals itself. Of course it owes a lot to such works as Lord of the Flies. And the dark tone also brings to mind The Mist (though with much fewer science fiction elements). If these two films are favorites, then The Divide will fit in nicely with their themes. If the darker sides of human nature are not your thing, then definitely give this one a pass.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Review: Falling Skies "A More Perfect Union"

Non Spoiler Review:
The military/civilian dispute continues, with the 2nd Mass firmly in the middle of things. But when the scitter rebellion turns up at Charleston to inform everyone of a new overlord threat that must be dealt with, they embark on a dangerous mission. 

A More Perfect Union ends a stronger Falling Skies season on an action-packed and exciting note, promising more development next year. However the events in this episode seemed to stick out oddly given the abrupt nature of many of the plot points that would have been better served had we seen hints of them develop over the last few weeks. 

Once again, coincidence and the quick glazing over of tactical issues proves the weakness of the series. It's nailed the character bits, as well as its darker post-apocalyptic and survival themes, but the writers need to take the summer to brush up on the little details that can run such a show off the rails (and annoy the hell out of its audience).

Spoilers Now!
Bressler realizes the aliens will eventually find them and wants to go on the offensive. But Tom won't follow, and doesn't want the new America to begin with a coup. So Bressler locks up the 2nd Mass, except the alarms go off as many scitters file into the mall to everyone's surprise. Tom explains they're the rebels, and Ben emerges from behind them assuring everyone they're not there to hurt anyone. Tom and Ben have a happy reunion while the 2nd Mass forms a barrier blocking the soldiers from firing. 

Red Eye is escorted into the general's office and speaks through Ben, explaining the captured overlord was a prize, as that particular one looks after all military operations in the east. They possess great intellectual capacity so have no need for storage devices (uh huh). Each one controls huge sections of their interplanetary operations (and appears to keep all that information in their head) while speaking through many harnessed species to keep their plans secret. If he had been killed alien operations in that part of the world would have been thrown into chaos. The rebels have gained access to his movements and when he'll be most vulnerable. A large weapon is under construction 500 miles away and the overlord will be there to inspect in three days. Underground caves lead to the buried section of the facility (conveniently). The scitters cannot enter undetected because of their harnesses, but Tom's people can.

While the general digests the information the scitters move to wait outside the city. Ben leaves with them, much to Tom's disappointment, reminding them time is of the essence. Weaver believes the rebellion is real, but Bressler wants the 2nd Mass returned to their cells. Weaver agrees it's insane to risk the army but suggests the 2nd Mass can do it. They'll just be a thorn in his side if they stay there anyway. Bressler can't argue with that.

After they leave Bressler tells his sergeant to attack their target of opportunity—the scitters outside the complex. Hal goes outside to find Ben with the scitters and some harnessed teens. He apologizes for his part in the way they left things and makes peace. Anne is happy to get back on the front line, but she abruptly throws up when she's talking to Lourdes. Lourdes guesses she's pregnant, but Anne won't tell Tom until they're back from the mission. Tector rejoins the berzerkers again.

With Arthur still under house arrest, Tom tells him he needs to take some responsibility for what's happened and the general is not an evil man. Just like Tom and Weaver learning to work together, the possibility remains for Arthur and Bressler.

Ben comes running in telling them their camp was attacked. The harnessed kids and scitters are dead, but Red Eye escaped. Bressler plays dumb and wants to know if he can give him any idea of who attacked, suggesting some at Charleston took matters into their own hand, but it happened and he's cancelling the mission. Ben informs them this new weapon will wipe out everything. Red Eye wouldn't trust Bressler with the details but Ben has all the intel. Weaver believes him, and advises Bressler the 2nd Mass is going on the mission without his permission if necessary. He agrees.

Jumping 500 miles the weapon site the 2nd Mass makes its way through the caves. The weapon is pointed at the sky. Ben can feel the presence of the overlord. They break through the wall into the installation and begin laying out charges. Scitters attack and Dai is killed. Karen arrives to talk to Tom as they're all imprisoned with tentacle thingies. The overlord appears. It finds Tom a nuisance now but is curious how he found the facility. Karen informs them they're all going to die, but they'll be tortured first. Tom is first up. She also gives Hal a big kiss and then reveals Anne is pregnant. Tom agrees to talk. 

A scitter abruptly attacks Karen and everyone is freed. The rebels appear en masse to attack, including one against the overlord. As the installation breaks into mayhem, the overlord slays his scitter but Tom goes after him and beats him to death. Karen tells him he'll never win and flees up the wall of the installation. Ben goes to Red Eye's side as he lays dying. It tells Tom to keep the fight going. Another scitter advises they have to leave so Weaver gets the charges set and the tower is destroyed.

The 2nd Mass returns to Charleston. Bressler congratulates the 2nd Mass for accomplishing their mission. Hal is still unconscious. Tom seems okay with the pregnancy but Anne wonders about bringing a child into the world. Alone, Hal wakes up and gets out of bed, going to the mirror to find he has something crawling under his skin and eye...a bug like the one that was inside Tom. It crawls out and into his ear. 

Tom returns to visit Arthur who welcomes him back. Bressler has agreed to restore civil rule on condition that Arthur is not majority leader. He's happy to comply, offering the leadership to Tom. But Tom refuses, musing that he'll stay around until Hal recovers, but the 2nd Mass doesn't belong in Charleston. Until the aliens are gone he'll fight. 

Weaver waxes nostalgic about how far he and Tom have come, and doesn't know what waits for them out there. He's glad they're a team. Suddenly the mall begins to shake. They run outside to find some sort of storm in the sky and a deafening sound. Blue lights begin to fall, which turn out to be small craft. One lands in front of them and releases an armored creature. Its mask opens and it's another kind of alien. Enemy or ally?

The Verdict:
I have mixed feelings about the conclusion, given it did present an exciting end to the season. But it was chock full of everything weak about the series. Let's see—a plot device introduced at the last minute rather than building up over a series of episodes. Why couldn't we have heard hints of the overlords' weapon awhile back? I'm even annoyed at how easy Tom's force crossed 500 miles (and back) with little effort given the arduous journey they just made over several weeks to get to Charleston. They appeared to accomplish that in a day (with no retaliation from the aliens after blowing up their prize super-gun). The overlord's unique plot device method of planning hands the resistance a huge boon, even if it doesn't make much sense. We also lose another background character (Dai) for what seems little more reason than to add to a body count.

It's been a stronger second season than the first, and one can hope it will only improve. It is much more watchable than a lot of science fiction on television these days, but the writers need to address big questions that are apparent to the rest of us—Tom never asks Ben to explain everything he knows, but seems satisfied with the tidbits he provides at pertinent moments. The aliens obviously can find Charleston when they need to. Why aren't they destroying it? Or is this the sanctuary Karen mentioned weeks back that will allow them to herd everyone together?

As far as the ending, and the introduction of another alien race—this could be interesting, but only if the writers have a long term arc already spelled out. If it's been thrown in as a twist without much thought, then it's likely going to suck. Unfortunately, I feel the latter might be the case, given the writers have, in interviews, admitted that the resolution of Tom's abduction last season wasn't plotted out at the finale either. So we'll see.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Falling Skies "The Price of Greatness"

Non Spoiler Review:
The 2nd Mass gets introduced to the new Charleston, but finds it difficult adapting to a more civilized life. Leader Arthur Manchester (a former peer of Tom's) is attempting to create a post-invasion society suitable for their devastated world. The scitter rebellion rears its head close to home, forcing some disagreement among the leadership and Tom.

The Price of Greatness was pretty refreshing given two seasons of post-apocalyptic wandering. I'm excited to see where the series goes next. There were some classic cliches, though—all is not what it seems, kind of thing, which doesn't make this week's ending particularly surprising.

Spoilers Now!
Porter is proud of his 2nd Mass as they arrive at the installation below Charleston. The underground mall had been under construction when the city was hit and survived the attack. They all get a rousing reception from the citizens. Weaver gets an extra surprise finding Jeannie there. Unfortunately Diego isn't with her, and got messed up when they left Richmond. Pope and his loyal berserkers have no intention of staying, however. Tom runs into Arthur Manchester, chairman of Boston's history department back in the day. He's majority leader (president is presumptuous apparently). 

Weaver is brought to see General Bressler, commander of the army. They celebrate the 2nd Mass making it through. Weaver provides intel, but Bressler says he won't be needing their scouts, and he dismisses Porter. Bressler goes on to explain the aliens have no reason to attack Charleston again, and given that the civilian authority has decided to regroup and rebuild, they will not be picking fights. Manchester was one of the first settlers, becoming leader by default, but as numbers grew everyone had him to thank. Bressler is less than pleased with the political arrangement.

A commotion erupts when the military attempts to split the 2nd Mass up among several housing areas and disarm them. Porter appeases the situation and says he'll concede to Weaver's decision if he wishes. Weaver may not like it but tells them the colonel is making sense. They're in Charleston now. Tom reluctantly agrees too. They need to begin thinking beyond the 2nd Mass. 

In their new quarters, Tom and Anne wake up to some renewed hints of civilization, including the South Carolina Gazette and an invitation to see Manchester. Anne's assigned to the medical clinic with Lourdes. 

In Manchester's office, Arthur explains the need for a political system for a post-invasion world. A confidence vote on his leadership is scheduled for tomorrow and he needs Tom on his side. Tom would be honored, but has something to tell him, then goes into detail about the alien rebellion. However, Arthur would rather have the aliens fight among themselves than an alliance with the scitters. He orders Tom not to say another word for fear of starting a panic. 

Jeannie explains what happened with Diego—they were spotted by a scitter patrol and they scattered, but Diego and the rest never made the rendezvous, so she eventually came to Charleston. Manchester wouldn't consider sending a patrol to find them.

It's a bad first day for the 2nd Mass...Anne meets the doctor (a heart specialist) who talks down to her as a pediatrician. She doesn't take his guff given she's a field medic. Jeannie reveals not everyone rates private quarters like them and advises them to be careful to not say the wrong thing. Matt gets into a fight at school and is suspended for a few days. The city has a sense of complacency they don't understand.

Pope and his people investigate the extent of the artillery supply, but are drafted into target practice under the command of Tector. Hal doesn't like it. Maggie sneaks a weapon away. She later tracks the berserkers and Pope when they attempt to steal weapons, but Tector arrives and shoots and injures one of his former comrades. They're all taken away, including Maggie. 

Tom debates Arthur about getting back in the fight. Bressler wants to engage the enemy, but Arthur prefers to nurture the city first and can't afford to look weak to the civilians. Come the vote, Jeannie speaks to the crowd talking about her lost friends. Arthur introduces Tom, who proceeds to agree with Jeannie about losing their original mission. He reads an excerpt from Arthur's Revolutionary War book that supports driving the British from their land. They can't hide from the enemy.

Bressler is alerted a deharnessed boy has been found with a message for Tom Mason. Tom thinks it's Ben, but it isn't. The boy doesn't know Ben, but was sent by the leader of the rebellion who wants to talk about a development with the overlords. Arthur says it's too dangerous, and is angry he wasn't informed Ben was part of the rebellion. He orders the boy put into lock up. Arthur didn't expect Tom to challenge him and accuses Bressler of trying to turn him against him.

Pope is brought in to see Arthur and is grilled on what he knows about Tom in exchange for letting him out. He reveals Tom is a pompous history buff, but if anyone knocks him off his pedestal it will be Pope, not a two-bit dictator. Arthur orders him taken out.

Hal goes to see Maggie but he and Dai beat up the guard and get her and the kid out so they can go to the meeting. They rendezvous with Tom and Weaver and Porter, who have helped their escape. But all of them are stopped by Bressler, Tector and their men. Weaver orders them to stand down. Manchester has declared a state of emergency with all dissidents detained. Tom tries to appeal to the general to talk to Manchester. Tector is reluctant, and refuses to obey Bressler to take them into lockup, so is arrested as well.

All the 2nd Mass is ordered to the commissary where Manchester explains he can't trust any of them not to try to get to the rebel scitters. Arthur is aware of Tom's implant and the infection Weaver suffered—learning that tidbit from several in the 2nd Mass once they were detained. He orders them taken away, but Bressler questions what's next. Arthur intends a civilian trial.

Bressler arrives down in lock down, ordering the cells open. He's suspended the civilian government, and throws Manchester in jail. Bressler instructs Tom to make his rendezvous with the scitters, while Pope congratulates Tom for dropping them in the middle of a coup.

The Verdict:
A pretty exciting episode, which really changes the game for the series. Not only did Falling Skies need a bit of hope, but it's good to see our characters being placed in different circumstances than what we're used to seeing.

Arthur and Bressler do fall into their familiar post-apocalyptic cliches, and the series now, more than ever, is dabbling in Battlestar Galactica's military/civilian debate. Despite Arthur oozing a bit of the dictator, I can sympathize with his initial thoughts to strengthen their weak civilization in the short term before engaging the enemy. They're hopelessly outgunned. But it was unclear just how much he played favorites among the population, with just Jeannie's stories to go by. It was a surprise to see the coup happen so quickly, but is Bressler far-sighted enough to make a decent leader?

Maggie and Hal's lover's spat made no sense given she seemed to want him to yell at her. In the context of the alien invasion her child in prison is pretty unspectacular. So that was all rather weak.

Coincidence continues to play a major role in plot. Arthur is an old friend of Tom's from way back. Jeannie just stumbled her way towards Charleston, did she? And how do the scitters find the survivors? Hopefully their location is not so tenuous. But Matt already revealed their destination to a potential enemy last week. If both factions know, then their safe haven might be a very short stay.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead 101

Non Spoiler Review:
Rick deals with the fallout from Glen's death as the survivors reach the Hilltop to face facts about the size of Negan's threat. Good-byes are said and time is taken to mourn. But amid all the despair, there's a ray of hope left in Alexandria.

Spoilers Now!
Negan and his men drive off, leaving Rick to bear the rage of Maggie, until Carl pulls a gun on her (!) and Sophia bites his arm. Calmer heads prevail and they realize they have to get back on the road.

At the Hilltop, Maggie is determined to stay and Sophia and Carl make amends and say their good-byes. Rick explains what happened to Gregory and Jesus. Gregory is more alarmed at the prospect that Negan might know he sent Rick after him, so Rick punches him.

Rick makes ready to leave, and Maggie feels like she's been welcomed into the new community, so says good-bye to the group, asking Rick to promise not to let Negan get away with what he's done.

Jesus returns with them, agreeing that information is the primary resource they need at the moment. But when the van returns they find the gates of Alexandria have been the site of a battle. Nicholas greets them and informs them they held off an attack of 50 of Negan's men. Andrea arrives, and has a surprise for Rick—a prisoner.

The Verdict:
While most of the issue dealt with the emotional fall out from Glen's death, the pleasant surprise was the situation in Alexandria, offering a small amount of hope to balance out the despair inflicted on most of the characters.

There were several great little moments—particularly Carl and Sophia's emotional arc ending in their farewell. Rick's rage was a tad misplaced, in my opinion, given it wasn't necessarily Gregory's fault for lacking information on Negan, but Rick's hubris that assumed the man didn't have a lot of followers. Chances are this lesson has been learned and he'll behave more logically in the future—we can hope.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Review: True Blood "Save Yourself"

Non Spoiler Review:
True Blood delivers the finale to its fifth (and incredibly uneven) season. Did it deliver? As Russell makes his attack against the fairies, it's Bill's turn to make his play for ultimate power within the Authority. Eric, Nora and Tara mount a rescue mission to attempt to save everyone with Sookie and Jason. Sam and Luna remain trapped within the Authority headquarters. Andy must come to terms with Mirella's pregnancy. Alcide is forced to act against J.D.

Save Yourself did not lack for action, death and general game changing elements, so in that respect was another successful conclusion. Unlike past finales that tended to wrap up the plots midway and then set up the next season, this one ends on a deliberate cliffhanger, which works to heighten the tension and keep things up in the air for next year. But is it enough to save the show which has really gone off the rails with outrageous and poorly conceived ideas? 

Spoilers Now!
The fairies blast the newly empowered Russell but he just seems to enjoy it. Eric abruptly appears, snares Russell and stakes him. Russell explodes while Newlin flees (and that is that for this plotline). Sookie runs out to tend to Jason as Eric quickly stops Nora from trying to feed on Sookie. He thanks her for letting him settle an ancient debt, then forces Nora to swear not to drink from her. Jason comes to but sees his mother standing there instead of Sookie. 

Sam is brought to Bill. Recognizing him, Bill berates his guards for not knowing a shifter when they see one. Bill tells Sam he knows too much and can't trust him not to reveal their secrets. Sam shifts into a fly and escapes.

Eric and Nora return to Fangtasia to find Tara, who fills them in on Pam. They make preparations while seemingly loading up on all their money (they'll need some way to survive next season).

Back at the house, Jason is seeing both his parents sitting next to Sookie. Eric, Nora and Tara arrive, explaining the situation—Bill is behind the bombings and she might be the only way to get to him. And she owes Pam, Tara adds. Jason wants to come (given his father urges him to kill vampires).

In the human cells, Luna tries to console her puppy daughter. Sam return to tell her to escape if she has the chance and they'll come back for Emma. Sam then goes into Newlin's room, finding his clothes, and returns to tell Luna his idea.

Bill informs Salome he killed Kibwe because Lilith had appeared to Bill and told him Salome was chosen (well-played, Bill). And he will serve and protect her. 

Jessica explains the new regime to Pam while they sit in their cells. Pam muses the worst thing about being immortal is watching the same scenerio play out over and over, and now it's happening with vampires. 

Alcide and his father are visited by a frantic Martha who has brought Rikki with her. She's high on V they made her drink. J.D. has been force feeding blood to everyone in the pack. Rikki's angry Alcide just left without a word. Alcide tells Martha J.D. needs to be killed, but given he's jacked up on V the odds are not in his favor. His father suggests he needs to even the playing field, and he has some powerful vampire blood of his own...

Sookie and Jason break into the vampire vigilante store to stock up on weapons. He's still seeing his parents and she can sense he's not himself, so wants to ensure he knows Eric, Tara and Nora are on their side. Jason is firmly in the anti-vampire camp.

Andy returns to Merlotte's with Mirella to break the news to Holly. As she learns the truth she sees Mirella go into labor and realizes she's fay. Holly has to be midwife but Mirella gives birth to four girls. She tells Andy to take good care of them and leaves.

News breaks of Russell's attack on the fraternity house. Newlin (Luna) appears in the cells to retrieve Emma. He's intercepted by Rosalin informing him he's on damage control about their fratboy massacre. He has to go on television to give a statement while Rosalin takes Emma. Newlin goes into his live interview but breaks up when he reads the teleprompter, throws up and transforms back into Luna. She declares vampires are keeping humans prisoner in a bunker in New Orleans. A horrified Rosalin is about to attack but Sam (in fly form) flies into her mouth and blows her apart from the inside. Luna collapses.

Alcide and his pop find J.D.'s camp where they're feeding from captured vampires. Hyped up on V himself, Alcide attacks J.D. and procedes to beat him to a pulp and kill him. The rest of the pack concedes to his authority. He declares they're wolves and that's how it's going to be in the pack from now on. 

Eric and Nora return to Authority headquarters with a captured Sookie, Tara and Jason. Bill lets them in, but sees Sookie's face on the video. In the elevator down they get ready to attack, bringing down the cameras. Salome is in the vault about to drink the last of the blood when the alarms go off.

Jason stands guard while Sookie and Tara head to the cells. Eric and Nora are in the council chamber and dispatch the security, then on to the control room. Nora attempts to unlock the complex. Tara and Sookie rescue Jessica and Pam. Pam and Tara share a kiss. 

Bill finds Salome in her quarters. She knows he would want the blood for himself but it was she who was chosen. He asks her to consider what drinking all of it will do to her. She downs the vial anyway and collapses. Bill explains it was a competition and she was never good at predicting an adversary—he put silver in the blood and she was too impatient to smell it. He took the blood for himself, and as he stakes her she admits Lilith chose wisely.

Jessica confesses her love to Jason when she sees him but he tells her he can't ever love a vampire again. Everyone regroups in the elevator to escape, except for Sookie and Eric who remain to get Bill.

As Bill is about to drink, Eric and Sookie arrive. He pleads with him to pour it out. Lilith's a mad god. Bill confesses he authorized their entry because he wasn't sure he could be rid of Salome on his own. While Sookie attempts to reason with him he counters that he might have been manipulating her all along. Sookie doesn't believe that. He goes on to preach what he's learned in the vampire bible, then downs the vial and begins bleeding from his mouth and eyes, and explodes (!). As Eric consoles Sookie the puddle of blood releases a new Lilithfied version of Bill who bares his fangs. Eric tells her run!

The Verdict:
Save Yourself was a mix of the good and the bad we've come to expect from True Blood. After a season hyping Russell's return to the fold he's dispatched with ease in less than a minute. Yes, he likely was not the real focus of the season anyway, but his death highlights the erratic writing that increasingly characterizes the series.

Season five was a sequence of staged events and plot developments that existed purely to push characters in one direction or another without any grander story ideas in mind. In a surprisingly Sookie-lite season, the focus was on the vampires and the Authority, which did provide a lot of the interest and excitement (until the chancellor members all lost their minds and became caricatures).

As far as new characters, we got a lot, but only a few have staying power. I could care less what happens with Nora (her dog like pursuit of Sookie in this episode annoyed the hell out of me). Martha has some potential, but Luna's acting skills make it difficult to enjoy her screentime. The best have been killed off—Roman and Salome. One spark of life does remain in the new Pam and Tara super-couple. While I'm not keen on a romance between them, the whole vampire arc brought new life for Tara and pairing her with Pam was gold.

Here's just a sampling of the questions that don't (and may never) get addressed (I'm leaving out the whole Warlow plot which will certainly be dealt with next year). Whose vampire blood did Alcide get? What's happened with Jesus' grandfather and his girlfriend? What was the point of the judge getting Andy to drop his son's ticket? Was there a point to Jason running into his old high school teacher? Is Lafayette free from his demon? Did the vigilantes serve any purpose other than to help escort Hoyt off the show? I'm too tired to think of any others.

Do the writers know what to do with Jason anymore? For a very likable character it seems every bit of blood has been squeezed out of him (literally and figuratively). One season of were-panthers (which we apparently never speak of or see again) yields to seasons bouncing between vampire loving and vampire hating. He's the human toy of every supernatural creature that he crosses paths with, and we leave him with a serious head injury. He needs to be fixed so he doesn't become a mess like Hoyt and forced off the show to rest.

Alcide suffered the most, starting out the season with a lot of promise and quickly being relegated to the background with a meandering and useless story to get him in charge of a pack, that could have been resolved in a couple of episodes. Why even bring in Robert Patrick? Oh... to have some vampire blood to give him when he needed it.

Sadly, Russell's appearance offered an opportunity to cull the fairy plotline for good, but it was tossed away in the first seconds of the finale and we're stuck not just with an other-dimensional nightclub of fairies, but Andy's new brood (let's hope Warlow finds them soon). And what of Bill? What is most telling is a post-finale interview with the writers who confess they have no idea what Bill has become. It's too much to hope that they actually think longterm, but it's quite evident that they're making this show by the seat of their pants now.

The vampire mainstreaming movement appears to have suffered a heart-stopping blow, and with all the TruBlood factories destroyed where does society go from here? Hopefully Bill's character isn't completely destroyed, considering it will take a hell of a lot to redeem him. True Blood has embraced it's own reputation for over the top crazy, and now it's suffering for it. Next season needs to rein it back, focus on some key storylines and not be everything for every character. I would hate to see this once great series end its run as a tired mess.
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