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TV Review: True Blood – “Night On the Sun”

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It was quite a night on “Night On The Sun.” Everyone’s emotional stakes were sky high, verging on out of control, as fear and desire fought the good fight for whatever the characters have been chasing all season. It was a vintage True Blood blend of tension, eroticism, and some real WTF moments. Some of those WTF moments, of course, were directed at the writers.

True Blood season three posterLet’s start with the Bill/Sookie relationship. Last week, Sookie finally tracked down Bill, only to have Bill almost kill her when she gave him blood to heal him. Bill is a young vampire and he completely lost control of his feeding instinct because he was so badly hurt. And this week, we have a scene between Sookie and Bill in which the two of them discuss her dream of a normal life and how unlikely she is to have it with Bill. Both of them feel very badly about it, and it would be touching except Bill still feels no need to volunteer why he was keeping a dossier on Sookie and Sookie apparently feels it’s irrelevant to their relationship. Really?

This is Sookie’s first relationship and it’s only been a couple of months, so she is supposed, I think, to have a very adolescent view of love, and I suppose, though it’s more of a stretch, that Bill’s relative youth may also mean he’s inexperienced in love as a vampire, though he certainly went through enough as a human to know no one gets a free pass in a relationship. A relationship is only as healthy as the people in it, and this one is long since due for a checkup. Sookie is focused only on the trauma of being almost killed by Bill, but what he is choosing not to tell her is perhaps even more worrying, given that this decision is very much in his control. Or at least, I hope this is where the writers are going with this. Because if this relationship is not supposed to be an adolescent, passion-fueled but wisdom-deficient first love, and Ball is quite serious when he says these two are soul mates, then Bill and Sookie should move to her Tinkerbell magic land, both having the same level of cheesiness.

Tara and Alcide both give their two cents to Sookie on growing up, Alcide’s being more welcome than Tara’s because he and Sookie get their flirt on while discussing how they should have fallen for each other, their actual relationships being such disasters. Joe Manganiello finally has some good scenes as Alcide tries to convince Sookie to hide from Russell, but it’s a little disconcerting to see Sookie breathily looking up into Alcide’s face, trying not to kiss him, while at the same time telling anyone who’ll listen that poor Bill was acting according to his nature and really, the two of them aren’t so different. Again, if we’re dealing with an inexperienced adolescent who’s buffeted by every storm of feeling she has, it works. I guess I should trust the “soul mate” business is supposed to sound as silly as it does and the violent sex the V-filled Sookie initiates with Bill is supposed to have echoes of hate-sex as Sookie grabs the vampire’s throat.

Bill and Jessica’s scenes are more genuinely touching to me, though again, I have to question Bill’s take on relationships as he first tries to push Jessica out of the nest without ever having nurtured her and then confirms her self-loathing as being unfit for Hoyt. Bill’s self-loathing story line is more than enough for the show; please don’t let it infect the baby vamp, because Jessica is such a breath of fresh air. It is fun to watch Bill show Jessica some vampire kung fu moves and then have both of them put those moves to work on the werewolves Debbie brings to Sookie’s house. Except—when did Jessica get invited into Sookie’s house? Did I forget a scene?  If not, the writers are playing fast and loose with the rules of the show, and the less I can trust them, the less real Bon Temps begins to seem.

Debbie has come to wreak havoc on Sookie, almost out of her mind with the need to avenge Cooter’s death. At least, I assume that’s why she never transforms into a wolf and instead lets Sookie kick her ass out of the house after cutting a new smile on her face. Apparently the wolf part of werewolf is only useful for running away. The fight was kick ass, but come on, writers. Making sense within the rules of the show in the long run is more important than quick easy thrills.

Making sense is one reason the Russell/Eric/Pam story thread is more satisfying to me—the consistently strong acting being the other. The plot has been intricately drawn as Eric has to untangle himself from Sophie Ann’s schemes while appearing to help Russell with his and actually furthering his own. It’s a delicate balance and Skarsgard shows every shift of emotion in Eric’s charged conversations with his new king. Eric knows just how to play on Russell’s desire for power and Talbot’s desire for attention and the fact that he must walk such a fine line with a vampire who is far more powerful than he showcases the mix of charm and danger Eric shares with his nemesis. As much as these two are on a collision path, Eric and Russell have a lot in common and that’s all to True Blood’s good.

Alexander Skarsgard as Eric NorthmanSkarsgard shows that he can generate chemistry with anyone as Eric charms Russell, pounces on the comely Hadley and seduces Talbot. Eric even manages to intimate he is trying to protect Sookie after all as he tries his best to convince Russell he shouldn’t bring Sookie into the possible war with the Authority and sends a warning to Sookie not to trust Bill. But his current focus is his rage at Russell and nothing will sway him from his chess game with the king, with Talbot as the pawn. Watching Eric slowly disrobe for Talbot brings goose bumps as Talbot has no idea what he’s really unwrapping. The two actors make the scene play on every level, the sexual tension thick enough to cut with a knife and transforming very believably into anger and triumph on Eric’s part as he stakes Talbot to signal Russell he’s been put into check in a game he didn’t know he was playing. I can’t wait for the next move as Russell and Eric have to include the Authority into their high stakes match.

Despite the issues I have with some of the Bill/Sookie story logic, that plot along with Eric’s and Russell’s schemes are driving the show right now. Every time the scene cuts to Jason’s or Sam’s plots, there is a palpable letdown. Sam is still a fantastic character and actually, little Tommy with his “I’m trouble” grin shows a lot of promise, too. But enough with the horrible parents story line. It never caught fire and is unsalvageable at this point. Get Tommy involved with Jessica and Sam involved with Tara, so there’s something to care about.

I still care about Jason, but he generates such mixed feelings and not, unfortunately, in a good way. When he gives his peculiarly Jason view of the world, he’s just a hoot and I enjoy him . When he gets a plot of his own, I am not sold on it. And having Jason himself voice one of the issues—his instant falling in love with a girl he’s just met—doesn’t remove the issue. It just makes me wonder why the writers are going down that path if they know it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the character.  It will take a lot in the next four episodes to make this plot worth the time we’ve spent on it, especially with so many characters fighting for story space.

Despite the issues, the True Blood writers have successfully ratcheted up the tension as the characters both position themselves for the final confrontations this season and set up next season’s arcs. I am definitely looking forward to seeing how everything plays out. I just hope the little niggles I feel in some of the story lines don’t embed themselves into season four and grow. True Blood is great fun but there’s no reason with this calibre of writers that one should stop asking it to make sense and just enjoy the ride. I’m greedy. I want both.

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About Gerry Weaver

  • Nicole

    As always, you’ve said it so well, I really only need to say-I agree. For me, the frustration has been how uneven the show has been this season. Tremendous highs-Franklin, Russell and Talbot, Tara getting her mojo back, Jessica starting to come into her own, Alcide shirtless (well, maybe that was just special for me)-and terrible lows-Jason and Sam’s stories, Nazi werewolves, lack of Pam and the absurd V selling storyline that unfortunately appears to be the gift that will keep on giving. The absolute worst is Sookie and Bill. Their relationship continues it’s bizarre death spiral, at least in terms of interest to me. Her character hasn’t evolved at all and instead grows more shrill and dependant. And annoyingly naive. And Bill? Dude, you’ve had 150 years to deal with being a vampire-either man up and accept it or do us all a favor and meet the sun. And these two are supposed to be soulmates? Seriously? Because right now they seem more like Twilight-the adult version. What are you thinking, Alan Ball?

  • http://roydupuis-online.com ANV

    You’re da bomb, Gerry! :D

    I loved Bill and Jessica scenes.
    You’re right in mirroring Bill in Jessica. That would suck! Hope they don’t go there.

    I didn’t like the ending. It didn’t make much sense. I’ve read other interpretations of Sookie’s actions, but still… I’m not convinced. She could give a feminist an instant stroke.

    As an Eric/Alex fan, I enjoy your compliments from an objetive POV. I can only say “oh, great acting!” but after I read you, I understand why LOL

    I also think Eric killing Talbot was a chess move.
    I would rather a fight, and not a stab in the back, but I guess that if he gave the chance to Talbot of a fight, Russel would have felt Talbot’s distress and the time window for Eric to escape would have been very narrow. And we all know he has no chance against Russell.
    What would you say to someone that says Eric acted cowardly?

    Well, thanks once again for another great review!!

    Alby

  • Madeleine Mitchell

    Nice review across the board. You voiced a lot of the thoughts I had after finishing the episode. The show seems to be losing some of its heart this season – I hope the trend doesn’t continue…. Thanks for saying what you said so well,
    Madeleine

  • True Bloodster

    This review is spot on!!

    I am loving the Eric/Russell storyline. This is very much a chess game with each move deciding who will win the end game. Eric reveals his true allegiance is to his Father then Pam then Sookie.
    In this episode Eric makes several attempts to convince Russell that Sookie is not valuable. When this fails, he stays up past dawn to intercept Hadley and make her give a message to Sookie. When Sookie fails to listen, Eric strikes and kills Talbot at the exact time Russell would have killed Sookie. Eric is protecting his assets and he believes Sookie is valuable to him.

    Eric’s character continues to progress where I feel the Bill/Sookie relationship has become stagnant. The storyline has not progressed to the point where they will breakup, but I hope it happens soon.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I’ve been enjoying this season greatly. I think it’s the best so far and it’s hardly as convoluted or complicated as the books. Ball and Co. have done a nice job streamlining some pretty complex storylines and giving things a nice “official” feel in the discussion of the “politics” of the vampire universe.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Nicole, shrill and naive is Sookie Stackhouse. That’s just who her character is, plain and simple, and I can appreciate what the writers and what Paquin is doing here. It’s unfolding well, running a nice line alongside the books rather than emulating them directly.

    In fact, I’d say the series gives both Bill and Sookie far more redeeming qualities than Harris ever really has.

  • http://sunnynala.wordpress.com/ sunnynala


    Except—when did Jessica get invited into Sookie’s house? Did I forget a scene? If not, the writers are playing fast and loose with the rules of the show, and the less I can trust them, the less real Bon Temps begins to seem.

    Yes, you forgot a scene. Before Sookie took Jessica to see her parents in season 2 she took her to her house and gave her a yellow sundress to change into.(the same one Sookie was wearing during the disgusting graveyard sex. ewwwww)Unless she made Jessica change out in the yard, she got invited inside.


    Apparently the wolf part of werewolf is only useful for running away… Making sense within the rules of the show in the long run is more important than quick easy thrills

    Debbie wasn’t allowed to kill Sookie, only ‘play’ with her a little before Russell took her. Besides, I think the subtext here is that Debbie has enough integrity left in her that she wanted it to be a fair fight.

  • shannon

    I agree with most of what you had to say… and most of the storylines are getting tired except whatever the hell weird power Tara all of the sudden has and I am still down with Sookie and Bill’s relationship. I think yes, part of it has to do with her “first love,” and part of it, as Tara suggested could be because she has Vampire Bill’s blood in her. She may be confused, but Vampire Bill is not. And Eric Northman! Put on some pants. Or not!

  • Gerry

    Thanks, all, for the comments! So nice to see you all here.

    ANV: I don’t think Eric acted as a coward–I think he’s a formidable opponent and Russell will treat him as such. Talbot was only 700. There is no question Eric would have won if he had fought him, so there was no fear of Talbot involved in Eric’s plan. I think he chose the manner of Talbot’s death from the limited number of options he had to hurt Russell in the same way Russell hurt him. He was thinking on his feet and using the opportunities that came his way. Given that Russell is much stronger than he is, trying to outright jump him would have accomplished nothing and in fact given Russell satisfaction. Eric’s a tactician the same way Russell is. He keeps his overall goal in mind. and he’s ruthless enough that he used Talbot as a means to an end. He didn’t give Talbot a chance to fight because in his mind he wasn’t fighting with Talbot, he was fighting with Russell.

    Sunnynala, thanks, you’re right–Sookie did swing by her house to get clothes for Jessica. That makes me happy! Because Jessica and Bill were wonderful in that fight. However, we’ll have to agree to disagree on Debbie, because I don’t think we’re supposed to think Debbie has any integrity left–she just burned down Alcide’s sister’s business–or that she couldn’t follow orders as a wolf. The other werewolves shifted to wolves when they fought Bill and they weren’t going to kill him, just contain him, as Debbie was supposed to do with Sookie. If Debbie had shifted to a wolf, she’d have won that fight with no problem and she very much wanted to win that fight.

    Hi Jordan! I’m glad you’re loving the season so much. I’m enjoying it, too, but I think every season has had its ups and downs and this one does, too. I’ve only read the first two books, so I only go by what’s onscreen. I’m not sure Ball is actually aiming at Sookie being shrill–I think he’s aiming at “kick ass.” I find his and Paquin’s aim is sometimes off. (-: I do think he wouldn’t quibble at “naive” and I’m really hoping that’s an accurate way of describing her relationship with Bill, rather than “soul mate.”

    I also don’t think he’s off the hook for how many story lines he’s got going this season, not all of which are firing on all cylinders, because he’s now not only adding his own but also borrowing characters and plots from different books. From what I gather, this is an increasingly loose adaptation. He’s the architect of the series more than Harris is, now.

  • Nicole

    I have to accept responsibilty for the “shrill and naive” comment. :) I guess what I meant was that in the past (and certainly in the books), Sookie’s repsonse to things seemed more measured. Not always wise, but unlike what we’ve seen in recent episodes. Instead of seeing true love, something Alan Ball seems big on believing is the base of their relationship as “soulmates”, what I see is appearing onscreen is more a classic obsessive/abusive relationship. The lengths Sookie will go to to explain away anything Bill does, even to her best friend Tara, who was basically abandoned to a crazy man by him, is frustrating.

  • Gerry

    Hopefully, we have more to learn this season about what’s important to Sookie. It does seem like we had some deliberate parallels set up this season by the writers. Bill walked away from Tara like Eric seemed to walk away from Sookie. And pretty much everyone has been ruthless in pursuit of a goal, including Sookie. We may yet have some emotional fallout where characters re-evaluate what they think they know. (-: