While watching last night's episode of "True Blood" I was struck by the following thought: "When did this show become 'Charmed'?"
Two episodes into Season 6 I'm finding myself increasingly concerned about the tone of this show. It takes itself SO seriously now. There's nothing fun, or slutty, or gritty, or subversive about it anymore. Most of the plotlines fall into two categories: dour or borderline corny.
We did get two amusing scenes last night. The first was a blink-and-you-missed-it moment in which Lafayette was playing dress-up with recently orphaned werewolf kid Emma. The second was Eric dorking it up as a faux government stooge to get access to the governor of Louisiana. Both were delightful to behold, and felt a bit like the show's glory days.
The rest of it, however, felt very far removed from the Southern Gothic camp that defined the show in its best seasons. The episode as a whole was more entertaining than the season premiere, but I'm worried about the overall energy for the season. Say what you will about previous showrunner Alan Ball, but at least his episodes almost always had a pulse (no pun intended). Let's breakdown the various plotlines:
-Drama magnet Sookie just happened upon an injured dude on the side of the road. At first she attempted to leave him there - nice, Sookie - but ultimately she offered to help. And wouldn't you know it? He's half-fairy, just like Sookie. I initially groaned, because this show has a terrible track record when it comes to fairies. But this new guy Ben is so hot that I'm willing to go with it, so long as he keeps his shirt mostly unbuttoned. Sookie continued to demonstrate how astonishingly stupid she is by bringing this injured stranger back to her house, then letting a possibly concussed man fall asleep on her couch, and then turning Ben down when he offered to take her on a date. Sookie, look at him. LOOK AT HIM! And he doesn't turn into a wolf or want to suck the blood out of you. Idiot! (That said, I don't trust Ben at all. I suspect that the vampire who attacked him was Warlow, attracted by Ben's fae blood, and that in addition to roughing him up, the ancient vamp also glamoured Ben into working for him. But that's totally a guess.)
-Speaking of Warlow, we discovered that Rutger Hauer is not playing the Big Bad. He's Sookie and Jason's fairy ancestor, he is serving up some bedraggled Colonel Sanders Realness, and he apparently loves spaghetti. Hauer's character (I think his name is Niall; it sounded like "Nuh" whenever Jason said it) came back from fairyland to help his descendants with this Warlow problem. After dressing down Jason for spilling his family secrets to any stranger that would listen (seriously, Jason...), Niall determined that Warlow has escaped from the extra-dimensional prison Claudine sent him to after Warlow killed Sookie's parents years ago. He then explained that Warlow has been tormenting Niall's bloodline for years, and that in order to stop this some Stackhouse generations ago promised Warlow the first fae-powered girl in the bloodline. That'd be Sookie. The logic of this is dubious to me: terrible bad guy is destroying your family, so the best way to handle it is to just sacrifice someone else in your family? Dick move. At the end of the episode Niall trained Sookie on how to create some fairy-light bomb that will vaporize a vampire, but also permanently extinguish her fae powers. They should have just typed "MacGuffin" in giant white letters at the bottom of the screen and been done with it. Also, Niall's exposition dump this episode was beyond hamfisted, and even Rutger Hauer had a hard time delivering all of it in a manner even approaching believability. And lest we forget, this is the man who starred in "Ladyhawke." He has some experience with the ridiculous.
-The Bill plotline got crazier. I know; you thought it couldn't get more ridiculous than the Billith thing, right? Well, now Bill can see the future, specifically vampires being tortured/killed. After being approached by the naked, blood-covered answer to the Robert Palmer Girls last episode, Bill went into a trance and had a mental conference call with original Lilith. She vaguely told him how special he is, how he will have a major part to play in the coming conflict, and said explicitly that he is not a god, and that neither was she. That's the part that actually interests me about this whole crazy-ass storyline, and it has nothing to do with Bill, and more to do with Jessica. She had a surprisingly moving scene this episode where she prayed to Bill, who she is now accepting as a kind of vampire deity, asking him to bless and watch over all the people important to her, including Bill himself. Deborah Ann Woll is terrific, and having her watch in horror as Bill goes through this bizarre transformation is the only thing making this plot work for me. It's like Shelley Duvall in "The Shining," and her reaction to that freaky scene where comatose Bill telekinetically sucked every drop out of the blood hooker sold the moment to me, despite the hinky special effects.
-Eric and (ugh) Nora returned to Fangtasia to find Tara writhing in agony after being shot by the Louisiana state troopers last episode. Seems that humans have developed new anti-vamp weaponry, including silver bullets that emit UV rays that burn vampires from the inside out. That's actually kind of smart, and one of the themes emerging this season is science vs. supernatural, which we don't tend to get a lot of in paranormal fiction. Eric decides to take the fight to The Man, bluffs his way into a meeting with the governor of Louisiana (WAY too easily, and also, it's dark at 5:30 p.m. in this show?), and tries to glamour him into calling off the state-backed war against vamps. That goes poorly, as the governor reveals that humans have developed anti-glamour contacts that render that vamp power useless. He tries to take Eric into custody - he mentions "the camp," so we're definitely heading toward a vampire Holocaust thing here - but Eric flies away...only to pay a late-night visit to the governor's nubile young daughter. (Two other points here: Eric's flying seemed to surprise the humans, so that's another trick he's alerted them to; I suspect the "spitfire" the governor was discussing on the phone was Sarah Newlin. "Don't mess with Texas"?)
-On the "new tricks" tip, Forever Suffering Sam Merlotte was approached by a group of apparently human activists encouraging him to come out of the supernatural closet. The scene took an interesting turn when the leader of the group made a deliberate comparison between shifters and other supes staying hidden and her mixed-race grandparents standing up for their rights back in the 1960's. My question is, how exactly did these people know who Sam was? How did they know he's a shifter? We know that Luna's televised shift tipped off the population to the shape changers, but how did they identify her so quickly? And even if they did, how did that lead them to Sam in less than 24 hours? The episode ended with the activists getting surreptitious video footage of Sam openly discussing shifters and weres with Alcide and his pack, which showed up to take custody of Emma - ultimately by force. This was very weird characterization for Alcide, but I guess he's still hopped up on V from his packmaster fight, and high on being Head Wolf in Charge. Can I say, I'm growing increasingly tired of Alcide? He used to be charming and kind of an underdog (pun intended), but this new mas macho Alcide is not working for me. And I'm worried we'll never get Quinn in the show.
Quick round-up of the C and D plots:
-We got one bordering-on-embarrassing scene with Andy Bellefleur taking his now 4- or 5-year-old, totally verbal kids to the field where he met his fairy baby mama and demanded that she take them back. The kids giggling as they ran around Andy as he swore and yelled was kind of pathetically adorable, but this rapid-aging kids plot has been to death in other properties, and whatever qualities we once liked about Andy are rapidly vanishing at this point. Fairies ruin everything.
-The show called back to the awful Terry Ifrit plotline from last season by having his now-dead Army buddy's wife come find him at the bar. SHOW: WE DO NOT CARE ABOUT THIS PLOT. We never did. It was terrible, stupid, and had nothing to do with anything else. Terry Bellefleur is not even a tertiary character and he does not need his own storyline. Let it go. Give us Arlene as the likably bitchy waitress and Terry as her flustered husband/line cook and leave it at that.
-And then there's Pam. I think the show jumped the shark with the vampire bible/Authority crap, or possibly with the terribly handled witch plotline. But you can actually track this show's descent in quality by Pam's storyline. Remember when Pam was awesome? When we loved her because she had great witty barbs and absolutely no shits to give? That was a long time ago, and now all we get is Pam whining about Eric not liking her anymore and then hissing at Tara and then maybe making out with Tara. She is MISERABLE and absolutely exhausting to watch. The problem is that Pam basically serves no purpose anymore. As the show has expanded its focus to more global and mythological concerns (see: that stupid vampire bible shit) Fangtasia is awfully small beans. They tried to give Pam a plot last season by examining the maker/baby vamp relationship vis-à-vis her own separation from Eric, and her role in siring Tara. That worked to break down an otherwise hard-as-nails character. But when you break down a character you have to build them back up. We're now a solid two seasons into the Pam De Beaufort Pity Party, and I'm ready to leave. I don't give a shit about Pam and Eric. I don't give a shit about Pam and Tara, because they don't seem to actually LIKE each other very much. I feel like the show is shoving together two once-interesting characters that it has no idea what to do with anymore. I feel awful for both of those actresses, because they're both great. But now all they do is sit around in an empty bar and sulk. That's not fun, sexy, or scary. At the very least give us Ginger screaming in the corner!