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TV Review: True Blood – “I Smell A Rat”

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This week’s installment of True Blood is another slower paced episode which doesn’t further the “Russell Is Going to Rule The World” plot much, but does ask the question of just who is the biggest rat on the show and what exactly is unforgiveable.

“I Smell A Rat” opens with the question of what Sookie is finally answered as Sookie exclaims in not exactly delighted surprise, “I’m a fairy?” I wasn’t exactly delighted, either, as 1) this revelation has dragged on entirely too long this season, and 2) I do not want any more visits to Ball’s Fairyland, thanks very much. Fortunately, everyone stays in either Bon Temps or Fangtasia this episode, and I hope it stays that way.

The scene between Sookie and Bill is nicely layered with hints of unspoken secrets as Bill tells Sookie he got to Fairyland courtesy of almost killing her, and Claudine had a nice chat with him because he only wants to protect Sookie. Sookie is a little surprised because Claudine appeared to hate Bill last they talked and warned her he wanted to steal her light. She sternly tells Bill, “If you don’t tell me the truth, Bill Compton, I swear to God, I will know it.” Despite Bill swearing to her he loves her for herself and not for her fairy blood, she is left with misgivings at some level, which I can understand because Bill always sounds very genuine, but somehow what exactly he was doing in Bon Temps when he met her never comes up in conversation. I don’t believe he was there because he was concerned about Eric’s interest in her. Eric at that point didn’t know Sookie existed.

Eric, Bill and Sookie talk secretsEric is, of course, interested in Sookie, despite his denials, and he shows up at her house to wring some truths out of Bill. The two vampires have a marvelous scene together as they both circle around their true motivations and past misdeeds. Eric pushes Bill to reveal what his relationship with Sophie Ann is, while Bill accuses Eric of having no feelings for Sookie because he left her to die at Russell’s. The writers are going to leave us to decide who is the biggest rat, as both accusations have some weight and both leave out salient points. Bill does care for Sookie, but he also is lying to her at some fundamental level, and Eric is willing to use Sookie, but he had as little choice in not helping her at Russell’s as Bill did Tara, and Bill isn’t losing any sleep over Tara. Whether Eric wants to help Sookie is still in question.

Sookie shows up in the middle of the confrontation in time to hear Eric challenge Bill to tell her the truth. She demands to know what he should tell her, and Bill, with a rather shamefaced look, jumps in to say he already told what he had to say when he said she was a fairy. Eric asks Sookie if she really believes Bill is trustworthy, and she sums up her feelings by saying, “All I know is I sure as hell don’t trust you!” Which is fair enough at this point, but as the accusation she throws at Eric—being willing to sell her out to the Queen—appears to involve Bill in some way perhaps more than Eric. I’m not sure Sookie is quite aware of who may be the most duplicitous yet. Her subconscious is more worried about the subject than Sookie wants to admit.

She has another Eric dream, which forces her to admit to some unsettling feelings: she is more attracted to him than she likes to admit; she is less trusting of Bill than she is comfortable with and this dream does not come from her blood connection to Eric but from her own subconscious. Despite Bill’s avowal that he only wants to protect her, Sookie has her own view on lying as protection. She tells Jason, “People always find out and that hurts them ten times more.” There seems to me to be a bit of foreshadowing going on when Jason reminds her no one can lie to her and she answers, “Vampires can.”

Eric is undergoing his own dark night of the soul. After fulfilling his oath to his father, he finds vengeance is less satisfying than he’d hoped. His tunnel vision has left Russell on the rampage and everyone he cares about in danger. I don’t think Eric actually deserves Bill’s charge that he is responsible for Russell going medieval because Russell’s plan to rule the world was already underway, and the murder of the Magister was the point of no return, none of which was instigated by Eric. There’s no doubt Talbot’s murder has pushed Russell over the edge, and Eric feels responsible for the position he’s put everyone he cares about in.

Eric and Sookie kissHe’s in no mood to indulge in fake sentimentality, with either Pam or Sookie, and he calls Sookie on her fake concern for him when she enters his office asking about his last words to her. Whether her concern is entirely fake is not clear, as she responds to Eric when he decides it’s time to kiss her goodbye, but she wants to get a clearer picture of what’s actually going on with her relationships, and of course, it’s far beyond time she did. She asks Eric to tell her why she shouldn’t trust Bill, but Eric seems reluctant to be the one to tell her, and it’s a good thing because his own relationship with her is about to get very complicated. Pam chooses this time to pull Eric aside and let him know how she feels.

Eric has been trying to soothe his conscience by accepting his own death and providing for Pam after he’s gone, but Pam is having none of this. She reminds him of his love for Godric and the way he was prepared to do anything to save his Maker. Her point is that she loves him the same way and she won’t accept his giving up. The two clash over whether giving Sookie to Russell is an acceptable move, as Eric outright refuses to hand Sookie over, but he listens when Pam tells him, “If you’re not going to give him Sookie, at least figure out how to use her and fast.” Eric may be struggling with what he feels for Sookie, but he knows he loves Pam and how devastating it was to lose Godric. Add to this he knows Russell must be stopped for everyone’s sake – vampire and human – and he’s being pulled in many different directions. Sookie soon learns he’s willing to use her to try and pull off the kind of master plan he should have had to begin with. She feels completely betrayed as Eric locks her in the dungeon. Their story ends with the question of who is the biggest rat in Sookie’s life: the one she knows about or the one she doesn’t. The acting in this story thread was simply wonderful all round.

The issues running through Eric, Bill, and Sookie’s story are echoed in Jason and Tara’s. The two have a rather lovely bonding moment in which Tara, in a call back to season one, tells Jason how much she appreciates him and ends up kissing him. Poor Jason can’t bear Tara having such warm feelings for him when he has such a terrible secret to hide, so he takes Sookie’s advice and tells her. This scene works really well and the contrast with the faltering Hotshot story line is just painful. Hopefully, next season we’ll see more of these two. I’m just hoping Tara is able to process the revelation with something other than a breakdown, because we’ve just seen too much of that with Tara, justified or not. In my view, Jason actually chose not to be a rat when he confessed. Hopefully, Tara will see it that way.

Sam also has a secret to hide, as we saw last episode when he finally snapped and almost beat Calvin to death. We already knew Sam has issues with feeling like a freak and that he’s hidden what he is all his life. What we didn’t know is that in his past, he’s felt so freakish and so betrayed, he’s killed the perpetrators—and in one case, not in self-defense. I don’t know quite what I think of cat burglar Sam’s cold-blooded execution of the guy who ripped him off. One thing this episode did was colour all the characters grey, rather than black and white, and there they’ll stay, I think. Sam shares the Merlotte disease of lack of belief in himself and he’s no stranger to the kind of damage Tommy carries.

Tommy has his own issues as he continues to pursue Jessica, who continues to pine for Hoyt, who finally dumps Summer when she nicknames him Bear. Jessica and Hoyt have a lovely scene together as Hoyt declares his love for her and says, “Don’t tell me what I want.” He refuses to accept Jessica’s belief she is unworthy of loving. He feels nothing she has done is unforgiveable. Whether Tommy will become a rat remains to be seen as he watches from the undergrowth.

Arlene and Terry also deal with revealed secrets, and Terry steps up in a big way when he tells Arlene he doesn’t care the baby is Rene’s and they’ll surround the child with love to counteract the genetics. Terry is with Hoyt on the issue of forgiveness. There’s nothing wrong with this story line, really, except we don’t have room for it in the show. There are too many stories competing for time, even at this late date in the season, and when we get all of them serviced, the episode feels unfocused. I find myself resenting Arlene time, even when her attraction to the Fellowship of the Sun is one of the few links to Russell’s revelation last episode. Mind you, I adored Steve and Sarah Newlin last season, so if Arlene pulls them back in the narrative, I’m much more willing to go with her story.

Jesus and Lafayette deal with the issue of what their inner power is and, unfortunately, they do so via a V-inspired drug trip. It goes on way too long, especially when it is not tied into the main action at all, and Ruby Jean doesn’t figure into it anywhere. The director calls upon the tried and true “shake the camera” method of suggesting otherworldliness, and I just wanted this part to end. We did end up learning both Lafayette and Jesus have shamans in their past and Jesus’s was not only recent but also pretty dark. I figure we may end up questioning Jesus’s statement to Lala that he can be trusted.

And that leaves us with Russell, whom we also saw more in a private moment than in his quest for world domination. I think Russell’s drive for vengeance will have the same issues Eric’s had—tunnel vision and lack of foresight—so it helps to see just how shattered he is at Talbot’s death, but his scenes with the young hooker also went on a bit too long in an already unfocused episode. A little trimming would have made them more effective, not less.

All in all, I’m most invested in what’s happening next among Eric, Sookie, and Bill. Now that secrets are coming to the surface, I expect we’ll see the fall out for Sookie. She now knows Eric’s willingness to use her, but she’ll need to balance that against the big picture of taking Russell down. She knows Bill cares for her, but it remains to be seen what she has to balance that against. I expect this episode’s concentration on the hurtfulness of lying will continue to resonate as the season draws to a close.


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About Gerry Weaver

  • I got to know your reviews on True Blood this season… even went back an read all the previous ones. I have enjoyed them a lot. This was another good one. Thumbs up!

  • Danyne

    I read a TON of reviews on True Blood, cause I’m half in love with Eric Northman, (who isn’t, right?) and the whole scenario with him and Sookie, which I am totally rooting for. Plus just love the show in general, but want to say, you really have one of the best insights and breakdowns I’ve read, of many, MANY reviews I read online. I’m sad I only just now found you. I’ll check out your archives, and bookmark your blog for the final two episodes. So glad I found you, thanks for the great, insightful review!

  • Gerry

    Thanks so much! I hope you enjoy past reviews and drop back in for the final two. I’m going to do a guest spot on Northman.net Dead Air Blogradio for the finale, as well. I just did one for the last episode and it was a lot of fun.

  • Steve

    I love reading all of your reviews on True Blood and believe me, I’ve read them all! I’m a big fan of True Blood and I’m glad that others feel the same way.