HBO’s True Blood returns with “She’s Not There,” the season four premiere. Sookie (Anna Paquin) encounters her long-missing granddaddy (Gary Cole, The Good Wife, Entourage) living in the fairy realm. Seeing the creatures who inhabit the space for what they are, unlike the other humans present, Sookie tries to escape, and her grandfather helps, dying in the process. But when Sookie returns to the “real” world, she realizes that while she only spent a few minutes living on the other side, twelve and a half months have passed in Bon Temps.
Such a time jump is a huge deal for True Blood, because the first three seasons take place within in a couple of months. Other series routinely go through a year or so in a season, but not True Blood, so making such a time jump a fresh, startling reset. The book series does not have a time jump its fourth book. Nor does it feature the fairy world, at least not at this point.
Sookie finds that much has changed, and most people had given up looking for her long ago, including her brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), who has sold her house. Sookie must now not only readjust, but convince everyone she has a good reason for disappearing without a word for over a year; telling them the outlandish truth will not do her any favors.
Poor Sookie. She has already been through so much, and on top of it all, she has to deal with a completely different reality than the one she’s left behind. Not only that, but surely the fairies are not finished with her. They are in the midst of a civil war, and cannot seem to seal off the two worlds until all beings with fairy blood are on their side. Thus, Sookie provides a thorn in the side for a whole other group of supernaturals, and if they succeed in taking her over again, even if only for a few minutes, it will really screw up her life.
The good news is, “She’s Not There” makes it seem like Sookie’s journey to the alternate world is her choice, not something forced upon her. So, she has power over her decisions, and can choose not to return. Unless there is some compelling, yet unknown reason for her to, and then True Blood could be looking at another big lapse later this year, or next. If there is, it will most likely involve her family, whose past is mentioned in snippets, but rarely dwelt upon.
It is a shame that Sookie’s grandpa is introduced, and then done away with so quickly. Cole is a fine actor, who has lent his considerable skill to many a great series for a limited time. For him to only appear in the opening ten minutes or so of “She’s Not There” is regrettable. Unless, somehow, he will be returning, and then his casting is wonderful, wonderful news.
In the time since Sookie departs the plane, the most drastic change occurs in her best friend, Tara (Rutina Wesley). Living under the name Toni, Tara seems to be some sort of competitive fighter. Tara has a rough time of her first encounters with the supernatural in True Blood, and so it is expected she needs to blow off some steam. As tough as she is, and as stubborn, this is an appropriate, if unexpected, career move for her. Less predictable, is that the previously-straight Tara is shacking up with a woman. But after the last couple of men she falls for, and the way things end with them, it makes sense she would want to try something new.
Jason is now a full-fledged cop, also making time to take care of Crystal’s (Lindsay Pulsipher) kin, as he promises her that he will. Crystal has been missing for over a year, and the residents of her compound look healthier, no doubt owing to Jason chasing the bullies away, and also providing some sustenance. Which makes it confusing when a couple of them lock him in a freezer. The only ready explanation is that perhaps the man who has Crystal is returning, and these guys are still loyal to him. Otherwise, what possible benefit is there in messing with your benefactor?
Arlene (Carrie Preston) has given birth to her son. Despite Terry’s (Todd Lowe) assurances to the contrary, she isn’t convinced the baby doesn’t have a little of his serial-killer biological father in him. Only time will tell which one of them is right, but the way the tyke pulls heads off dolls does not bode well for the couple.
Sam (Sam Trammell) seems to be much more at peace than when last seen in True Blood‘s third season finale. Ever since being outed as a shape shifter to a few friends, Sam has trouble adjusting. He didn’t know there are others like him, and more just keep popping up. In particular, relations with his younger brother, Tommy (Marshall Allman), are rocky, but relatively stable. Luckily, Sam finally seems to find others that share his sensibilities, and whom he can be himself around. This is good news, as a happy Sam will make a happy Merlotte’s, the setting of many a scene of True Blood.
Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), on the other hand, resists getting to know others like himself. Jesus (Kevin Alejandro) tries to convince his partner to join a coven led by Marnie (Fiona Shaw, Harry Potter), but after seeing that Marnie has some real talents, Lafeyette resists. Why, though? The character doesn’t like new things, but he has had time to adjust to the idea that he may possess some magic. Besides, he is clearly still in love with Jesus, who feels comfortable with Marnie. Perhaps Lafayette has some sixth sense that things in the group are about to go horribly wrong, as they are.
Bill (Stephen Moyer) is now King of Louisiana. Does this mean the last has been seen of Sophie-Anne (Evan Rachel Wood), his predecessor, or does he have her locked up somewhere, just biding her time until she can escape? Hopefully, it’s the latter, as Wood brings a charm and presence welcome in any vampire series, especially this one. With all of the new duties Bill faces, he probably won’t have much time for Sookie, which is fine, because she has no desire to be with him. Perhaps she should consider other options…
…such as Eric (Alexander Skarsgård). Fans of the book series on which True Blood is based know that the fourth installment is the one where Sookie and Eric get it on in an infamous shower scene. That’s not a spoiler for the series, because the talent has been tight lipped as to whether this will happen or not on screen, and True Blood frequently breaks from the books. If they did not, not a single supporting character would get practically any development, and they’d get through several books per season, instead of one. However, Sookie and Eric’s pairing would be most welcome for most fans, so maybe they won’t deviate in this case.
Both Bill and Eric are engaged in the vampire campaign to clear their “good” name. Led by Nan Flanagan (Jessica Tuck, now a series regular), the vampires have much to make up for after Russell Edgington’s (Denis O’Hare) exploits of last season. They seem determined to make it work, but with the vampire struggle echoing other minority cases, and their species being significantly more threatening, it remains to be seen if they have any real chance of making a go of it in the human-dominated world.
Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) doesn’t seem all that happy to be settled down with Hoyt (Jim Parrack). It’s not because she doesn’t love him, but because her vampire nature makes her yearn to be less tame. Monogamy is extremely rare in the vamp world, though not completely unheard of, Russell springing to mind. Still, Jessica’s domestic situation is unusual, and it will be very interesting to see if she can resist urges and lead a relatively normal life. Or perhaps she should invite Hoyt to join her on the wild side?
And that’s “She’s Not There,” a fully packed first hour to begin the fourth season of True Blood. Tune in Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on HBO for more new episodes.