Well, the finale finally arrived, after two very long, impatiently finger-tapping weeks. And … I was underwhelmed, unfortunately. There were enough good moments that the hour was not a waste of time, but it was far from the kind of spine-tingling, emotionally engaging story I was expecting. So what went right and what went wrong?
I love the show, so I’ll start with what went right for me. And that was most decidedly Sam. I’ve always liked the actor in the role — it’s not the easiest task to play the non-alpha male in a cast of sexy vampires and make him interesting through the nuances you bring to his character. Sam stepped forward and really came into his own as he trusted Bill enough to take a place on Mary Ann’s revolting sacrificial altar, knowing everything could go very wrong. The whole maenad storyline had a lot of issues this season, dragging on too long, and the finale offered a couple of logical inconsistencies to the mix: why didn’t Sookie read Sam’s mind immediately, given the danger he was in, and where did Sam get to see a white Brahmin bull on his way to Sookie’s grandmother’s house? But Sam Trammell made me brush aside these niggling doubts and embrace the end of Mary Ann, because he so clearly conveyed Sam’s quiet bravery and equally quiet heartbreak. The scene where he watches the graceful doe in the trees beautifully showed what this lonely man has lost, leading very naturally to his search for his real — and apparently not so nice — parents. I’m very interested to know where this storyline is going next season.
Michelle Forbes also came through, making a rather anti-climactic resolution — an odd choice given how slow the build up to this storyline was — work as the maenad finally grasps her god is not coming this time or any other and accepts the loss of faith and immortality. True Blood is at its most successful when the colourful characters and shenanigans offer a perceptive look at a recognisable issue, and Mary Ann’s embodiment of the search for the divine had a certain dignity at the end.
I also loved Hoyt and Jessica’s mutual loss of innocence, as both embraced their anger — Hoyt at his mama and Jessica at her own vampirism — and missed the support they’ve offered each other in the past. I think we’ve seen the last of mama’s boy Hoyt as he reassesses everything he thought he knew about himself and his life.
In addition to these highlights, there were, of course, many very funny True Blood moments — the two women at Merlotte’s who blessed Sam’s jeans made me laugh out loud and I could only nod along sagely with the sheriff when he hired Andy back because at least he was wearing pants. Vintage True Blood, good to the last drop.
So, yes, I enjoyed some of the episode. But there were also many eyebrow-raising moments for all the wrong reasons, and the end of the finale left me with more fears as to where this series is going than heated anticipation for season three. That really surprises me, because I count down the days for True Blood.
To start with, what’s up with Bill? I like the character and I like the actor portraying him. I don’t like the ever increasing blandness enveloping him as Alan Ball removes any darkness from this vampire and leaves him looking soulfully over at Sookie far too many times. I don’t see the dramatic advantage to taking away Bill’s own nature as something causing difficulties between him and Sookie, nor in making anything suggesting shading to his character as not his fault and caused by outside forces. Bill as heroic knight beleaguered by the forces of badness as he tries to rescue his damsel in distress is a whole lot less interesting than Bill the vampire trying to understand and wrestle with his own nature as he tries to reclaim a humanity he’s buried.
I also fail to see the advantage to giving Eric every conceivable troubling attribute, which the excellent Alexander Skarsgard nevertheless turns to his advantage as he finds and plays the ambiguities in his character to create a wonderfully complex vampire, only to pull his teeth in the finale in the two minutes of screen time he gets by removing him from the action so he can dance attendance on an underwhelming vampire queen. As Sophie Ann noted, he’s the oldest and strongest vampire in her area, and as we know, he’s a political animal who nevertheless goes his own way and has something of Godric’s independence of mind and spirit, albeit with way more interest in his sphere of influence. Why does he not know more about maenads than the queen? He’s over a thousand years old and his Maker was another thousand years older yet. I would think he’d come across at least maenad lore somewhere in his past. And why does the queen so disparagingly tell him to leave the events at Bon Temps alone and stick to what he does best, which apparently is lying and back room underhanded deals rather than being a stand up guy when he’s called upon. We just watched Eric stand up for Godric and at this point, I would expect him to stand up for anyone he cares about. Where does Sophie Ann’s attitude come from? She should be hoping Eric has no political ambitions of his own, not dismissing him as some kind of lightweight.
A key problem with the queen storyline is that anyone who emasculates Eric had better emanate power, whatever her apparent age and projected demeanor. I simply don’t feel that innate power or wisdom from this character. I get that the actress is attempting a gay and glam 1940’s era veneer over a ruthless and powerful inner core, but it isn’t coming across. I find the line readings to be painted washes of generalised feeling rather than specific characterisation and that is deadly in a show like True Blood, where suspension of disbelief in order to enter into this world is essential. I don’t believe in Sophie Ann, therefore I find it difficult to see why Eric does. I’m really hoping next season’s story arc does not centre on the queen’s plots. The maenad storyline this season suffered from spinning its wheels too long, but at least the character and actress were solid.
Looking back at the season, I think Alan Ball made a few wrong turns which I hope doesn’t lead to the show getting lost. The Dallas storyline was brilliant, delivering on every level, and I connected with Godric’s character immediately. He would have been a welcome addition to the cast. So far, Sophie Ann falls far short, so I feel a distinct lack of anticipation at what she’ll bring to season three. And I’ve felt that Bill and Eric have had a fascinating mirror image of a vampire’s journey, with Bill so desperately looking to suppress his baser impulses he finds lies easier than truth, while Eric is very comfortable in his vampire skin, but reluctant to admit how much of his human nature is still present.
I also love that human nature on this show has a lot of similarities to vampire nature and Godric’s realization that he no longer thought as a vampire hinted that perhaps the two natures are not diametrically opposed and all creatures are on a usually painful path to self-knowledge. Taking that sense of ambiguity away from Bill and Eric, as the season increasingly did as Dallas faded into the distance, doesn’t serve anyone’s storyline well, including Sookie’s. I need to see her struggling with how to define her relationships and having it not be easy.
I even had issues with Jason, who emerged as a delight for most of this season. Jason’s journey at the Fellowship of the Sun was both moving and funny, and I believed him as he struggled with how to define good and evil. I did not believe his little speech to Andy in the finale on what a hero really is — Jason may have painfully learned about what real strength is during the season, but we didn’t actually see him applying at the end, and his little recap of his emotional journey did not feel genuine. On top of that, I find it difficult to muster a lot of anticipation about another storyline involving Jason being suspected of murder. We’ve been there and done that, quite successfully, and inverting the set up doesn’t make it feel all shiny and new.
So there we have it. Some very good moments but I feel let down by the finale and have a surprising lack of anticipation about the set up for season three. I will still tune in, because I have loved this show from the opening episode, but I wouldn’t mind Alan Ball taking a good hard look at what worked and what didn’t this season. Because what did work, really did, and what didn’t work really fell flat.