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TV Review: True Blood‘s “Release Me”

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This week’s episode keeps the excitement building as the second half of season two kicks into high gear. “Release Me” has a satisfying balance of answers to questions from previous episodes, brand new questions and a philosophical discussion on what we want and what we get from relationships. On all fronts, it was a corker.

This season’s overarching theme appears to be the nature of relationships, whether familial or romantic (to date, the two haven’t coincided on the show). Eric and Isabelle have a beautifully shot scene in moonlit blues in which they mull over the level of danger the Fellowship presents, and more importantly, the nature of human/vampire couples. Voice studiously casual, Eric asks Isabelle, "Tell me, what is it you find so fulfilling about human companionship?" Isabelle answers that she is attracted to the intensity of feeling from short-lived humans, to which Eric quips, "Yes, they certainly don’t keep well."

He then asks if she isn’t repulsed at the thought of Hugo aging, and she answers that far from repulsion, she feels curiosity and views the relationship as a science project. Following this rather cold snapshot of her interest in Hugo, she pushes past Eric’s air of nonchalance and asks him what Bill Compton thinks about his interest in Sookie. Eric’s denial of an interest in Sookie as he declares he cares only about Godric elicits an arch “of course” from his companion.

Calling back Lorena to mess with Bill isn’t a particularly necessary part of a plan to rescue the sheriff—nor is it looking like a particularly smart part, though Eric isn’t yet aware of how wrong the undercover work at the Light of Day Institute has gone. Isabelle has reassured him Hugo is fine, and therefore, so is Sookie. Too bad a quick chat with Bill is out of the question, as he has a completely different impression of Sookie’s safety.

Lorena and Bill are locked in a contest of wills as they have the mother of all relationship discussions. Lorena fires the opening salvo as she calls Sookie “sweet and cheap” and then lays out the crux of the issue between Bill and herself: “You’re still so sensitive. Some might say it’s a weakness, but I always find it . . . oddly cute.” However, through flashbacks, we see the two at the point they split up. Lorena shows the difference between the ways they see the world is not and never was cute. Bill’s disgust at murder, elicits from her an angry, “You are a vampire. They are food. That is our nature!” Bill, however, defines his nature differently and tells her, “I will never again be what you want me to be.”  Back in the present, Lorena would like to sidestep their fundamental differences by focusing on Sookie as the problem. She sneers that Bill’s love for Sookie is so tragic, it’s funny. Like Eric, she thinks the physiological differences between humans and vampires preclude bonding over philosophical similarities.

However, the second flashback shows how far apart she and Bill are in what they value. To Bill, their shared biology is much less important than their different desires. Lorena’s love for Bill is so possessive it crosses into creepy as she tells him she cannot live without him. Bill threatens to end their relationship through his suicide if she won’t give him the choice to leave, and that threat of final separation leads her to release him.

Her kind of love doesn’t really move on, though. She dismisses Bill’s love for Sookie as an embarrassing joke only he is not in on and takes pleasure in telling him Eric was behind calling her back because he wants Sookie. She doesn’t seem to get that Eric must not share her feeling that Sookie is a joke, though to be fair, Eric hasn’t sorted through his feelings on that subject quite yet. Involving Lorena just complicated that task a whole lot. I rather doubt Eric is going to feel calling in Bill’s maker to cause trouble with Sookie was his smartest move, as Lorena refuses to allow Bill to go to her aid.

Sookie and Hugo are having their own discussion on human/vampire relationships. When we first pick up with them, Hugo is panicking at being imprisoned—he’s claustrophobic. He can’t wait for the vampire cavalry to arrive, but Sookie is much less certain she wants Bill to come charging in. Even in the midst of her own danger, she’s concerned for his safety.

When Sookie at long last reads Hugo’s mind and learns he is the snitch (how did he get so good at shielding his thoughts?), he bitterly tells her vampire sex is addictive but the emotional part doesn’t match up. He wants a partnership of equals with Isabelle, and in his eyes, that means they both have to be vampires. He believes Isabelle is just using him and tells Sookie, vampires really only care for other vampires. The writing in the episode is excellent as we watch three different sets of characters give their take on what elements are essential in a relationship, and note who contrasts with and who echoes the various sentiments. Bill and Sookie still appear to be on the same page, even with the added pressure of his past catching up with him.

In addition to trying to pinpoint the nature of attraction and love, the show answers a lot of questions as it sets up others. Back in Bon Temps, Andy determinedly chases after his pig until he crashes into the orgy at full fever and on the verge doing something no doubt nasty to Sam. Not being there long enough to turn into what he later calls a devil-worshiping zombie, he fires his gun into the air, which allows Sam to escape. Mary Ann gives chase and shows that whatever else she can do, she can’t fly as Sam turns into a bird to escape.

Tara and the rest of the black-eyed orgy feasters wake up the next day with no memory of the night before, and, at long last, that bothers Tara enough to start asking questions. When Arlene dashes into Merlotte’s with questions of her own about date-raping Terry, Tara feels like she’s a victim of way too much information—until Arlene says she can’t remember a thing about last night. That seems just a bit too coincidental to Tara, especially when Andy runs in to tell all the devil-worshiping zombies he’s on to them and he’ll stop them. Mary Ann’s power seems absolute as the bar patrons burst into laughter, but Tara and Sam are not laughing.

Poor old Sam has finally had enough. After escaping Mary Ann, he gets his gun, though he looks less than sure a bullet will slow Mary Ann down. He feels even less sure after a chat with Daphne, who brushes off Sam’s feeling of betrayal and tells him Mary Ann is immortal—a maenad, one of the handmaidens of Dionysus. Given that another name for Dionysus is the Horned God and one reading of him is Satan, being one of his handmaidens is a lot scarier than it sounds. Daphne, though, says Mary Ann simply stands for wild energy, which is neither good nor evil. It just is. Sam begs to differ on whether cutting out a woman’s heart is evil or not. Daphne counsels Sam to just give in, because “being part of something divine is worth dying a thousand times. You’ll see.” As it turns out, it’s Daphne who gets the eye-opener as Mary Ann gets a black-eyed Eggs to stab her. Apparently, Daphne confused service with love, as another relationship crashes due to different definitions.

At Merlotte’s, Lafayette does some labeling of his own. He is recovering his mojo, as he sets his V-business back on its feet and reapplies his makeup at the same time. His swagger back, he sashays out to the bar only to spy Eggs lighting up the joint with his beauty. For a moment, he seems to fall under Mary Ann’s power as he gives Eggs an incredibly cheesy but oh so well delivered pick up line. But it turns out he is not buying what Eggs is selling, as he tells Tara Eggs is “Satan in a beautiful fucking Sunday Hat.” Close enough, Lafayette.

Jason is in his own spot of trouble back at the Light of Day Institute. His happy post-sex euphoria evaporates as he realises Sarah equates good sex with love and wants him to trot into Steve’s office and confess all. Jason’s reaction is to pack up his suitcase instead. Relationships are one tough sell on this show, unless you are Jessica and Hoyt, in which case love is absolutely adorable. Jason’s runner is interrupted by Steve, and there’s a lovely bit of crosstalk as Steve tries to wring out of Jason a confession of betraying the plan to kill vampires, and Jason tries to stop himself from confessing he’s just bonked Steve’s wife.

Jason finally twigs they are having two different conversations, but he isn’t able to convince Steve or henchman Gabe of that. All looks very bad for Jason until Gabe makes the mistake of insulting Sookie. Jason may have his doubts about loving the preacher’s wife, but not about his sister. He whups Gabe’s ass and runs back to see what’s up with Sookie. Too bad Sarah catches up with him first. She's taken Jason's apparent betrayal of the Fellowship as a very personal betrayal of her, and it turns out she's a good shot.  Last season, I didn’t warm to Jason overly much, but this season, Ryan Kwanten is hitting the ball out of the park with him. I'm hoping Sarah was toting a paint gun and not something that shoots real bullets.

Gabe decides if he can’t destroy one Stackhouse, the other will do just fine. He grabs Sookie and in a brutal scene, attacks her with the intention to rape her. Fortunately, Sookie earlier sent a telepathic message to Barry the Bellhop asking him to take a plea for help to Bill. Bill, of course, cannot respond when Barry knocks on his door, but Eric overhears Barry say that Godric is at the Church and Sookie is in trouble. He’s out the door at the speed of light. Whether he’s rescuing Sookie as much as Godric is as much of an open question as exactly how Godric got captured in the first place.  It's a good bet we'll get some answers next week, though, as Godric, not looking much like he needs rescuing by anyone, saves Sookie instead.

This episode was so tightly written, the ending credits arrived way too soon. Everything is set to explode in Dallas and to unravel in Bon Temps, and I can’t wait for next week.

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