True Blood’s second episode moves past the “let’s catch up” the first episode offered and sets the season’s plots in motion. “You Smell Like Dinner” is tightly crafted and exciting, with wonderful performances, particularly from Alexander Skarsgård and Fiona Shaw. This will be the season of the witch, indeed, as Shaw’s Marnie shifts into something quite different and very dangerous, while Eric goes in the opposite direction and becomes very vulnerable.
Unfortunately, all the plots from last season are still in motion, despite the clear need for pruning. The Hotshot narrative is the one I would miss the least, but Ryan Kwanten does his considerable best to sell it. I care for Jason and Sheriff Andy very much, but whether that will overcome my distaste for Chrystal and Felton remains to be seen. It may help if Jason decides being held at knife point and then partially eaten in order to make him into baby daddy material is not what he hopes for in a date. I know Crystal is hopped up on V, but nothing last season helped me bond with her, so I’d just like Jason to see her in his rear view mirror. At least at the moment, so does Jason.
Sam would like to see the last of Tommy, but Tommy stubbornly hangs around, trying to wriggle back into Sam’s life. Sam’s brother is not nearly as successful as school teacher Luna, who arrives in Sam’s office to seduce him, but really seems to want him to commit to joining the other shifters playing their own version of Truth or Dare. Everyone’s telling the truth, but Luna trumps them all when she admits she can shift into other people. Luna’s story of shifting into her own dead mother generates sympathy from Sam, but I have a suspicion there’s more to the tale and it won’t be pretty. Luna hints as much to Sam in his office when she says she’s done things she’s not proud of. Generally, in Bon Temps, one should suspect the worst at these kinds of confessions.
Arlene has no trouble suspecting the worst about her baby, who does indeed seem to have hints of unbabylike behaviour. Whether it ‘s actually Renelike behaviour remains to be seen, but as Sookie finds out when she coos and calls the baby an old soul, Arlene has already made up her mind her baby is not what he appears. I don’t love this plot, as to my mind, Arlene and Terry work best as supporting characters who add a lot to the main story but don’t need one of their own. But since we seem to heading down that road anyway, I hope the writers give the story a real twist in Bon Temps and make Arlene’s fears the real enemy and not the baby, who would be that rarity: an ordinary human. Normal humans are scarcer and scarcer in this small Southern town and that’s a shame. True Blood works best when ordinary humans and supernatural folks try to co-exist and that’s hard if all the humans turn out to be a secret devil babies, shifters or witches.
Tara, so far, has no supernatural secrets, but she has plenty of the human kind. I am so delighted to see Tara back in fighting form that I can almost forgive the character for the past two years. Her new persona as lesbian cage fighter in New Orleans is almost too over the top, but anything is better than Victim Tara. It will be interesting to see if Tara’s new girlfriend is more than she seems and how deeply Tara will get drawn into the coven, given that the magic helps rescue her from a very angry Eric.
Jessica and Hoyt are having their own troubles, despite Hoyt hotly standing up for his vampire girlfriend to the picketers outside Fangtasia. Hoyt is nursing a black eye which Jessica offers to heal with her blood. She is hurt to discover her boyfriend considers her gift to be a dangerous drug rather than a healing elixir. Jessica is so upset she has to leave the house and against her own better judgement, she ends up at Fangtasia, on the prowl for a nice young snack. The young vampire is torn between her desire to hunt and her desire for Hoyt, and for tonight, it’s Hunting 1, Hoyt 0.
All of these stories thread through the main narrative, which is driven by Eric, Sookie, Bill, Marnie and Lafayette. Sookie begins the episode arguing with Eric, who has the odd idea that because he bought the house, he bought Sookie. When Sookie points out that the former owners don’t convey with the title, he changes tactics and offers to protect Sookie, given that she smells like sunshine in a convenient human bottle and is therefore always going to be in danger from vampires.
When Sookie fails to see Eric as different from those dangerous vampires, the sheriff adopts a new tactic. He tries to drop his layers of sarcasm and urbane flirtatiousness and admit to Sookie that he cares for her. He reminds Sookie that he could overpower her if he wanted, saying, “But instead I am asking you to be mine.” Sookie, however, sees Eric through the same old lens, remembering very well that he can be dangerous and cunning. She refuses his offer, but Eric is far from put off. Instead, he reminds her of his new status in her life as he tells her he will look after the repairs to her house and then does so, including installing a nice little cubby for himself.
Sookie is both incensed and unnerved and she falls into her old pattern of running to Bill for help. But Bill is not the same old Bill. Even the Compton place is no longer the same old place. Instead, the grounds are patrolled by guards and the inside is now a lovely mansion. Sookie learns Bill is now the King of Louisiana and he’s not waiting around pining for her. She has to interrupt him having sex with his coven spy and she obviously doesn’t quite know how she feels about that. She can hardly be angry with him, as she broke up with him, but at the same time, she does find it odd how at ease Bill is with his new position and power.
Sookie still asks Bill if he can make Eric sell her back her house, but Bill tells her Eric has friends in high places, so the sheriff can’t be pushed. He does offer to try and do something behind the scenes, and Sookie, perhaps unwisely, responds, “Anything that you can do, I’d appreciate.” Anything covers a lot of ground and I suspect Sookie will come to regret her request, because there is still lots she doesn’t know about Bill Compton.
For starters, as we find out in a flashback to 1982, Bill was recruited by none other than Nan Flanagan to be a spy for the American Vampire League in Queen Sophie Ann’s court. Bill was balancing layers of deception while courting Sookie and his clear delight in being king makes it hard to dismiss that political power was as much his end goal as keeping Sookie. Obviously, he would like both, enough to lie to Nan about Sookie’s faerie heritage after she helps him kill the queen and installs him as king.
Bill commands Eric to come see him, with the token reason being to ask him to sell his house to either Sookie or himself. When Eric unsurprisingly refuses, Bill reveals his real agenda: he wants Eric to shut down the coven in town because Marnie is a necromancer and can control the dead. Eric has little regard for Bill, king or no king (and we don’t know yet how much Eric knows about how exactly Bill got the position), but he understands Bill’s concern with the witches. Despite taking his leave with a theatrical bow, Eric heads right over to take care of the coven.
The coven, including Tara as a rather sceptical guest, is indeed meeting and Marnie has a surprise for everyone: she wants to raise a person from the dead. Tara wants nothing to do with this kind of magic and Lafayette is turned off as well, but there’s enough interest from the other witches to show Marnie may get her way. It’s hard to tell what Jesus’s position is, for example. I have some suspicions still about how much Lafayette’s partner wants him to get involved with magic and the way he dismisses the perils of black magic. However, it all appears moot when Eric makes a grand entrance, asking “Y’all looking for a dead body?”
Lafayette knows exactly how dangerous Eric can be, but Marnie doesn’t seem to realise the risks as she tries to bargain with Eric. The vampire attacks her instead, which is enough to get the other members of the coven to start the necromancy spell, though exactly how this is supposed to help Marnie, I’m not sure. I don’t think any of the witches or wannabes knows how to control the dead yet. Lafayette is still not sure about joining in the spell, until Tara attracts Eric’s attention by trying to stake him. Whether Eric would actually kill Tara is not clear, but understandably, Lafayette is taking no chances and he joins the spell, adding his special power.
The outcome of the spell showcases both Skarsgård’s and Shaw’s talent, as Marnie is possessed by a young witch’s spirit who can cast a spell to take away Eric’s memory. Fiona Shaw makes us believe that Marnie has been taken over by a more powerful spirit, while Skarsgård’shows every nuance of Eric’s growing apprehension that something is going awry, followed by the slow draining away of the fierce alpha vampire, leaving a confused and vulnerable Eric in his place. Skarsgård’ actually shows the moment Eric loses his memory. The shifts in power and identity between the two characters not only nail the scene but also beautifully underline the season’s theme of the construction and deconstruction of identity.
All that’s left is for Sookie to have another encounter with Eric, this time with his protective layers truly stripped away. The episode ends full circle as Sookie calls to Eric, only to find he is far from the bossy but protective vampire she expects to find. Yet he still is attracted to Sookie. I can’t wait to see how the two forge a new relationship, while discovering what has and has not changed in Eric.