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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