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TV Review: True Blood‘s “Hard Hearted Hannah”

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This week’s episode ratchets up the drama as season two’s storylines all head in the same direction at breakneck speed. From the opening sequence to the closing cliffhanger, I was on the edge of my seat, aghast at what was being threatened or revealed, as the case may be.

"Hard Hearted Hannah" helps us get to know Eric and particularly Bill a whole lot better, and as good writing should, what we learned made each character a little harder to categorise. At Comic-Con’s True Blood panel, Alexander Skarsgard (Eric Northman) said that he enjoyed bringing different layers to Eric this season, so he is more than just a bad ass vampire, though he is certainly that, and noted it would be boring to play the same note for two years.

This episode we get to see several different notes, as Eric shows his boredom with feeding off a willing working girl, but still sends her away by telling her she can report to her manager she was wonderful with him and he’d back her up. Watching Eric get huffy because his snack calls him “baby” was amusing enough, but when he requests that she only pretend to be an unwilling victim if she’s good at it, her horrible acting had me chuckling out loud. The tone changes quickly, though, as Eric reveals he was the one to invite Bill’s estranged maker Lorena to town, knowing that situation won’t go anywhere good—for Bill. He, on the other hand, will have more opportunity to get closer to Sookie, bringing his interest in her out in the open. Eric and Lorena’s conversation also allows us another look at how loyal Eric is, once he cares about someone, the someone in this case being Godric (and obviously not Bill).

Bill’s scenes illustrate different notes even more dramatically—and in the nick of time, too. Though Bill and Sookie strike sparks together, with a sexy vibe, the scenes between the two of them in bed mushily bonding have reached their "sell by" date with me. But just as I was feeling their dynamic—particularly Bill’s as the unwilling vampire so sensitively trying to be the perfect lover—was getting a bit stale, Lorena enters the picture, complete with a flashback that changes my view of Bill considerably.

Bill’s story to Sookie was that he became a vampire unwillingly and has been missing his family and love ever since. While no doubt true, he edited out a few particulars which Lorena’s memory reveals in gory but ever so stylish detail. In a scene showcasing Stephen Moyer’s musical abilities, we follow Bill and Lorena as they entice a swinging couple of the '20s into an orgy—of blood, complete with sadistically forcing the injured man to watch his girlfriend being fed upon before killing him. The truly disturbing part, though, is watching the two vampires having sex on the blood-soaked bed while the girl lies dying beside them, still bleeding. This Bill is not fighting his vampire nature or being forced into committing atrocities by his maker. He’s fully complicit. I understood even more why Bill was so uncomfortable with Sookie’s judgment of Eric as evil for his treatment of Lafayette. His argument that everyone has good and evil in them, vampire or human, resonated all through this scene. It is masterfully placed to soften our judgment of Eric’s ruthless interference in Bill’s life and to emphasize Bill’s capacity for darkness he has alluded to.

Sookie, meanwhile, is infiltrating the Fellowship of the Sun, narrowly missing seeing Jason as she arrives with Hugo, Texan vampire Isabelle’s human lover. Earlier, Hugo asked Sookie to let him do the talking with the Newlins, and she agreed, but starts babbling as soon as she’s introduced. Sheepishly, she tells Hugo she talks too much when she’s nervous, but eventually calms down enough to mind-read that Steve Newlin knows exactly who she is and Sarah is upset with his plans for her and Hugo. In a beautiful shot, the group enters a church filled with blinding light, foreshadowing the plans the sect has to expose Godric to the sun and destroy him. Steve Newlin exposes his true colours at the same time, as he instructs his henchman to drag Sookie and Hugo down to the crypt with Godric. Eric’s machinations with Lorena go somewhat awry, or at least I hope awry is the right word, as Bill wakes to Sookie’s danger but finds himself pinned to the bed by his gorgeous maker.

Sookie’s brother Jason has troubles of his own. His conscience has been pricking him about his unexpected hand job from Sarah last episode and he’s not getting much relief from Luke’s assessment of the likelihood of forgiveness for sexual sins by the Church. Sex out of wedlock is bad, but adulterous sex is even worse. Oh oh. Fortunately, adultery is not the pinnacle of debauchery, as Luke helpfully explains, “but all of them put together ain't half as bad as if you do it to a vampire. Or to a dude. Or to a vampire dude. That's like the creme de la creme of sins. There's no repentance for that. Straight to hell, baby."

So far, Jason still has a chance at repentance, but Sarah Newlin’s twinges of conscience soon complicate Jason’s. Sarah’s efforts to be the perfect Stepford wife to Steve have hit troubled waters, as Sarah is not only horrified at her husband’s plans to start a war but also feels unappreciated and left out. When Jason finds her crying on the upper floor of the church, she takes his guilt at deceiving her husband and turns it into a message from God that she is supposed to his Stepford wife instead. As usual, Jason finds any argument that leads to sex very convincing and the two shed clothes right in the church. With the reverend on the prowl and Sookie in the basement, Jason’s time as the golden boy is clearly coming to an end.

Back in Bon Temps, Lafayette is trying to put his life back together and he almost has a heart attack when Pam shows up to tell him Eric wants him back in the V business. Lafayette can’t believe he now has to do what Eric tortured him for, and then his day turns from bad to worse as Ex-deputy Andy corners him and threatens to throw him in a cell if he won’t confess to killing the woman who ripped off Tara and her mother. Nelson Ellis shows his acting chops as his character suffers a PTSD attack, and Terry tenderly helps him visualise his way out of it. In an episode loaded with gore and lies, the scene was very touching.

In another sweet scene, Jessica wakes up to find no messages from Hoyt on her phone. Disconsolate, she pours bottles of expensive True Blood down the drain to annoy Bill, not knowing he’s already very, very annoyed by a visit from Lorena. To Jessica’s joy, Hoyt arrives at her door, having stood up to his mama about cutting off his phone service and come all the way to Dallas to apologise. Jessica drags him in the room, and it’s only slightly disquieting that we know she is hungry. I think.

It’s even more disquieting at Sookie and Tara’s place, as Mary Ann sheds her Gran persona to throw a diva-like fit when the shower breaks. Tara and Eggs gladly escape to buy the offending part, only to have Eggs get a strong sense of déjà vu about the countryside they are driving through. He follows what appear to be repressed memories to a clearing in the woods. He and Tara find the remains of a fire surrounded by bloodstained clothes and with a nearby bloodstained rock very disturbing. Heading home, they discover the house a mess and lament that people can be pigs. Yes. Yes, they can. Tara and Eggs follow the sound of drums and walk in on yet another of Mary Ann’s orgies. It’s hard to believe lots and lots of naked people in lots and lots of sexual positions can seem old hat, but Mary Ann has pulled one orgy too many for this one to have any punch. Even when Tara and Eggs get all black-eyed and join right in, I was waiting impatiently for this storyline finally to go somewhere. Fortunately, it did.

Sam and Daphne have been taking advantage of the pool table, the back step, and the forest to get to know each other a whole lot better. Sam is overjoyed at finding a woman who both knows he’s a shifter and is interested in him. But ol’ unlucky in love Merlotte hasn’t changed his luck as much as he thinks. It seems Daphne’s go to shift is a—pig. A large one. Ex-deputy Andy recognises the swine right away as Mary Ann’s disappearing pig and his shouts perturb Sam just a little. But Daphne easily brushes aside his questions as she guides him through the forest, until he hears a sound that, unlike most of the good folks of Bon Temps, does not make him immediately leap into a compromising sexual position.

At the sound of the drums, Sam realises all is not as it seems with dear Daphne. She drops the sweet Southern belle act and has Sam dragged to the orgy. She hands Mary Ann a ceremonial bull’s head and Karl enters with a very sharp looking ceremonial knife. The episode ends with the sound of Sam screaming and no doubt many fans doing the same. Sam’s been a bit of a wuss this season, but I’m still way too fond of him to want Mary Ann to use his blood in whatever ceremony she’s planning. Those vampires better clean up that mess in Dallas soon, because Mary Ann is running rampant in Bon Temps. Something tells me Sookie is not going to like that.

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