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TV Recap: True Blood‘s “Scratches”

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With House and Lie To Me in reruns, I’ve been drifting across the channels, not very hopefully wondering if there’s a series out there capable of catching my interest. Recently, I stopped on HBO's True Blood and wondered no more. From the opening song, I was intrigued with this show which mixes humour, sex, and blood in equal quantities. That the show features vampires ought to have been a dicier proposition, except these vampires are sexy fun bloodsuckers—what’s not to like?

I caught up with season one in one week on video and jumped into season two, desperate to find out more about Sookie Stackhouse, the telepathic waitress who loves Bill Compton, the ethical vampire, who knows enigmatic and possibly evil Eric Northman, Bill’s vampire sheriff. I couldn’t wait to see more of morally ambiguous but whole lot of fun Lafayette or his wary cousin Tara, Sookie’s friend. In fact, I couldn’t wait to see more of the citizens of Bon Temps, Louisiana altogether. A spot of research told me True Blood is based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris and I must confess I haven’t read them—yet. I intend to, but having come to the series first, it stands on its own for me. My reviews will be on the HBO show and not on how it compares to the books. With that in mind, on to season two!

This season has had four main threads running through it: Jason Stackhouse’s immersion into the cult of the Church of the Fellowship of the Sun; Tara’s immersion into mysterious Maryanne’s world and Sam’s suspicion of that world; Jessica’s rebellious relationship with her Maker, Bill; and Lafayette’s capture and torture by Eric. By episode three, we finally get to see how the strands are weaving together—and in Maryanne’s case, not a moment too soon. That particular part of the story has been dragging just a tad. But as soon as we get to the vampires trying to get their humans to behave like folks should when in the presence of the supernatural, the series comes alive, because trying to herd the good citizens of Bon Temps is like trying to herd cats.

Episode three opens with Bill and Sookie having a heck of a row due to Sookie’s decision to take newly made vampire Jessica to see her family, despite Bill’s orders not to. Last week's episode showed us how well that turned out—Jessica’s violent father scared her so badly she revealed she was a vampire, very nearly resulting in a blood bath. Bill had to glamour the family almost out of their minds to contain the damage and he is not pleased. At all. With Jessica crying in the back seat about how she hates Bill because he’s so mean and Sookie trying to get Bill to understand Jessica, while Bill shouts at her that she has no right to interfere in how he treats his “daughter,” it’s clear that Jessica may have lost one family, but she’s now part of a new one.

However, no one in this family has any experience in how to be part of it. Bill knows Jessica is impulsive and undisciplined and therefore dangerous—but he has more trouble remembering she’s also a very sheltered young girl, having been homeschooled and dominated as a human by her harsh father. Last week we had a funny scene of Bill trying to buy Jessica some hip clothes, but he’s in full disciplinary mode tonight, unsympathetic to Jessica and to Sookie. Sookie knows Bill is probably right in keeping a tight rein on Jessica, but she can’t help but sympathise with the girl’s loss of her family, having just lost her own gran. And Jessica feels far more understood by human Sookie than vampire Bill. The conditions are ripe for a blowout and Sookie ends her argument with Bill by jumping out of the car and deciding to walk back to Bon Temps.

Unfortunately, she’s not alone in her walk in the woods. Within a couple of minutes, she’s been deeply mauled on her back by a weird bull-human with very large claws, which we soon find out via the adorable Dr. Ludwig were coated in poison. Bill finds Sookie about to die and to his astonishment realises his blood cannot heal her. He rushes her to Eric’s, who calls the aforementioned doctor, a feisty little old lady who encapsulates the kind of humans these vampires have to deal with. Dr. Ludwig sasses Bill and Eric with equal abandon, ordering them about as she very painfully removes the poison from Sookie.

Bill and Sookie have a very tender scene as he is finally able to give her his blood to heal her. Eric reveals he is intrigued with Sookie himself, as he first tries to give Sookie his own blood and then watches as Bill shows how much he loves her. I think we can look forward to the relationship among these three getting a lot more complicated, though at the moment Sookie would be hard pressed to admit it. Any grateful feelings she may have possessed toward Eric vanish when she mind-reads that he has Lafayette in the basement, badly injured and terrified.  Of course, she doesn't know Lafayette is there because he illegally was selling V, vampire blood, which can be addicting to humans.

Sookie takes on Eric to Bill’s dismay, but the vampire Sheriff finds her interesting. To her demand that he release Lafayette, he lets her know he will not be threatened, but he can be bargained with. Sookie then strikes what she thinks is a very hard bargain—she’ll go to Dallas and help Eric find a missing vampire if Eric gives her ten thousand dollars and lets Bill come. Eric agrees and tells her she has surprised him, which hasn’t happened often in his one thousand years. But it’s been a surprising day altogether for him, as he also has never heard of a creature like this poisonous bull-man.

The bargain struck, Lafayette is brought up from the basement. He vows not to have anything to do with vampires ever ever again, but Eric seems to have other ideas. Despite the torture, I suspect he rather likes Lafayette, as most folks do. With a caress of Lafayette’s chest and a wink, Eric promises the man he will see him around. Lafayette looks horrified.

Sookie and Bill drive him home, and then talk through their argument, as all good couples must. Sookie tells Bill she’s been shaken in her support for vampires because Eric is just evil. To her astonishment, she realises Bill doesn’t think so. He tells her everyone, human and vampire, can do good and evil things. Sookie is willing to concede the point in regard to Bill, whom she knows has darkness in him but nevertheless she thinks of as kind. But she’s absolutely sure Eric is just bad, bad, bad. Perhaps a touch too sure—these two have electricity when they meet, with a different kind of chemistry than the one she has with Bill, but there nonetheless. And I think she’d be a lot more open to Bill’s suggestion that no one is purely good or evil if she knew what Eric knows about Lafayette. Not only did he get Jason hooked on V, he then gave up Jason’s name to Eric as the one involved in vampire Eddie’s death. I’m not sure Sookie won’t stick Lafayette back in that basement herself when she inevitably finds out.

Jason, meanwhile, is at a retreat for the Fellowship of the Sun and having a hard time of it. Not, as one might expect, with the clean living and lack of sex, but instead with the notion that vampires are not “persons” and therefore evil by definition. I love the way the show (and I gather this is a prominent theme in the books by Harris) plays with the notion of racism and bigotry through the vampires coming out into society. The way cult leaders Sarah and Steve persuade Jason to abandon his reservations about hurting vampires by calling on his grief about losing his grandmother and his girlfriend is chillingly realistic. I’m ready for him to leave the retreat to see where the writers are going with him, but they have successfully established Sarah and Steve as the creepiest characters in the show for me. I’m also pretty sure we’ve had hints that Jason and Sarah will get to know each other much better, whether Steve wants them to or not.

And speaking of storylines that need to move along, Maryanne’s is moving way too slowly. I know Tara is supposed to be seduced by getting the attention and love she’s always desired, but she’s also supposed to be a wary survivor. It’s past time she took Sam’s advice and looked long and hard at the people she’s surrounded by. Tara should know that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. I think we’ve finally seen the scales drop from Tara’s eyes with the orgy, though it’s too bad she missed the pig. Then she’d really know something was up, unlike poor old Deputy Andy, who is ripe for Maryanne’s manipulations.

Shapeshifter Sam, however, is not, and he’s decided to cut and run. He’s rather wonderfully called on it by Terry, the ostensibly insane war vet. Asked to run Merlotte’s while Sam is away, Terry bitterly tells Sam to remind him never to get caught in a fox hole with Sam, as he’s a coward. His charge rocks Sam, but despite fond glances at photos of all the people he cares about in Bon Temps, he still decides to leave. However, he wants one last run as a dog with his dog, and the two end up at the lake. Sam jumps in and reverts to human form, but his dog is nervous and won’t join him. Sam decides that was a bit of luck when Daphne the waitress shows up and joins him instead. But the claw scars on her back, so similar to the ones Sookie received, tell us she’s connected somehow to the Bull-man. And since Sam is convinced Maryanne is his enemy, one can’t help but be suspicious Maryanne is connected to this mysterious creature. That makes his dalliance with Daphne seem more a trap than happenstance. The strands are weaving together—now if they’d just get a move on.

Speaking of dalliances, Jessica has been doing something about her own lonely existence. Waking up alone in Bill’s house, she gets all dressed up and finds a place to go—Merlotte’s, of course. Sauntering in all cool and dressed to kill, she attracts Hoyt’s attention. Sweet Hoyt soon disarms her and she nervously reveals she’s a vampire. Hoyt is a clear contrast to the members of the Fellowship of the Sun. Rather than judge her on her differences, he is delighted to know more about her, because he loves her smile. Jessica is a goner and the two soon end up back at Bill’s, where Hoyt is surprised to find out how sheltered Jessica has been. For the first time in his life feeling like the worldly man, Hoyt shows Jessica the Wii—and she shows him how ready she is to start tasting life.

Of course, just then Bill and Sookie roll in, locked in each other’s arms. Finding Jessica and Hoyt in the same position, Bill leaps to the conclusion Jessica is killing Hoyt and throws her across the room. Sookie once again intervenes between the two as the tensions flare in this family. Despite Sookie’s skepticism about Eric’s finer qualities, I think we saw one such quality when he told Bill that to be a good Maker is very rewarding. Bill has some growing to do. I’ll be tuning in next week to see just how.

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About Gerry Weaver

  • http://mongo.not.me Mongo

    I agree with your observations about Eric. Eric has been around a long time and while not the boy scout relative to Bill, he exhibits a kind of lawful wisdom.

    Great write up, hope you do more of these!

  • Gerry

    Thank you, now that I’ve found the show, I do intend to keep writing about it. I’m hooked!

    Yep, I think Eric will turn out to have a mix of good and evil, because I think the show is undercutting the notion the Newlins have of the choice between light and dark being easy to see and easy to make. I expect we’ll see more of their dark side as we see more of Eric’s light.

    Thanks for stopping by and hope to hear from you again!