The countdown is finally over as True Blood opens its fourth season with a mostly cracking “She’s Not There.” Last season I was very unimpressed with the tissue commercial fairyland, so I wasn’t thrilled this season opened with an extensive scene of Sookie arriving in fairyland. Thankfully, Alan Ball has some tricks up his sleeve as Sookie finds all is not as it appears, as cheesy fairyland morphs into a scene from the original Star Trek.
Alien fairyland comes complete with an imperious Queen Mab, two faced fae and rebel forces determined to keep the portals to earth open. Sadly, Scotty is not available, so Sookie and her grandfather, who’s been lost in fairyland for twenty years instead of the hours he thinks he’s been there, have to jump out of this civil war back to normal life. The jump costs Granddaddy his life, but it’s a price he’s willing to pay, as he reconnects to the family he loves. He gives to Sookie a tangible example of that connection as he asks her to give his watch to Jason.
His strange vanishing kept the family from taking part in these kinds of generational rituals. Of course, Sookie herself has vanished just as surely from her own family and friends and to her surprise, they’ve all moved on without her. Despite my misgivings about fairyland, which is now a lot more interesting than it was but is still not where I want to be as a viewer, the writers have nicely established the season’s theme about identity.
Bill is now King, I suppose of Louisiana, though perhaps it is of Mississippi. And though he comes running the moment Sookie gets back, somewhat to her surprise, he is willing to acquiesce to her wish that he give her space, lots of space. Of course, he has lots on his plate as the vampire leaders try to repair the damage Russell Edgington did to vampire/human relations.
Eric, too, is involved in selling a kinder, gentler image to the masses, much to Nan Flanagan’s relief, Pam not having quite the right touch of reassurance. Eric has been waiting for Sookie to come back and despite having to leave when Bill orders it (which makes me think Bill must have defeated Sophie Ann and now be King of Louisiana), Eric tells Sookie that everyone else gave up on her, but he never did. Skarsgard is in fine form as Eric lets Sookie know that he never moved on from her, the way even Jason did. Of course, Sookie doesn’t yet know how exactly Eric means to show that.
Poor Jason has been trying to help Andy with his V problem and Hotshot with so many problems it’s impossible to count, and he coped with Sookie’s disappearance by eventually accepting it and selling her house. Sookie’s upset but can’t help but notice her brother has grown up a whole lot in the year she’s been gone. He’s got some rather unattractive new facial hair to go with the new him and even more unattractive responsibilities—Crystal’s rather horrible Hotshot family and friends. Despite his new found maturity, Jason can’t get a break. His good deeds are repaid by being pushed into a freezer. I’m hoping when Jason emerges from that freezer, he’s not stuck in a hopeless Hotshot storyline. I love Jason so much with Andy, not so much with the were-village.
Speaking of weres, Sam and Tommy seem to be in some kind of standoff. Tommy has been taken in by Maxine, who needs a son since Hoyt no longer speaks to her. Sam is paying for Tommy’s rehab and taking anger management classes. When Tommy snidely asks him how those classes are going, Sam snaps, “I need to go more often”—and indeed, Sookie notices her former boss is also a changed man, or at least a pricklier one. Sam is now hanging out with other shifters and running wild in the wind, happy to be with others of his kind. Tommy, though, doesn’t appear to be Sam’s kind, at least in Sam’s eyes.
As for Hoyt, he and Jessica are living in not so cosy domesticity. The honeymoon phase is over and Hoyt is tired of Jessica’s lack of cooking skills, while Jessica is tired of—well, she’s not quite sure of what, but she is tired of something and random young men are starting to look good.
Tara is another character moving on and trying on a new identity for size. She’s now a roving cage fighter, currently in New Orleans and seeing a girl named Naomi. I am so happy to see a (literally!) kick ass Tara again. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about the other characters’ identity shifts, but I’m sure I will enjoy Tara as something other than a victim.
Arlene and Terry have their own issues, as Arlene struggles to accept that her baby is normal. I have my own struggles with this story line, as I think Arlene and Terry, fun as they are, should be supporting characters in the main character’s stories. I’m not sure how the devil child will fit into the identity theme and I’m pretty sure I won’t want to spend a lot time finding out. But in this episode, Arlene and Terry are only briefly in it and Terry is adorable, so I’ll wait and see how everything unfolds.
And that brings us to Lafayette and Jesus, who have been charged with jumpstarting this season’s main plot. Jesus wants his partner to embrace his inner witch, while Lafayette would like to keep the magic mumbo jumbo far in the background. However, he’s intrigued enough to allow Jesus to take him to a coven of witches led by a rather harmless and not especially authentic looking witch named Marnie. Poor Marnie has an ex-parrot, which she would like to be a breathing parrot again. Lafayette is very sceptical of the whole séance business and indeed everyone in the circle is startled that Marnie is heading into such dark magic. Marnie insists Lafayette join the circle so she can make her spell work—and to everyone’s surprise, Lafayette is the missing ingredient. The parrot flies—briefly—but Marnie now has Lafayette and his witch power in her sights.
I loved this part of the episode. Lafayette is always a favourite, but last season he and Jesus were too often off in their storyline. This time they are part of the main plot and as usual Lafayette adds a lot of welcome sass with a pinch of pathos. Something wild and unexpected is about to descend on Bon Temps and I can’t wait to find out more.
The ending of the episode was also gripping, as Sookie finds out who bought her house. Eric is her new landlord and he can now enter the Stackhouse property whenever he wants. And he wants. With perhaps not the best timing in the world but with typical Eric confidence, he walks up to naked Sookie, telling her, “You are mine.” Somehow, I doubt the identity issues this season are going to escape Eric and it was a nice touch to end with him broadcasting vampiric Alpha male. We’ll see what lies beneath the surface of the sheriff of Area Five.