Tuesday True Blood Roundtable, “I Smell a Rat”

Happy Tuesday, fangbangers. With the penultimate episode of this season now under our belts, Sally and Thomas and I get together to discuss the latest from the hellmouth at Bontemps.

Season Three is almost over, but dry your bleeds, kids. You know we love you more when you’re cold and heartless.

Highlights?

LAUREN: PAM FTW. Pam calling Bill an infatuated tween. Pam spraying Bill in the face with colloidal silver. Also the Emmy-style tribute to those who met the “true death” on the show, including Gram, Franklin, Eggs, and “Vikings.”

THOMAS: Eric’s human companion refused to be summarily cut loose, and Pam probably shouldn’t have insulted her. I suspect Eric was … less than clear about the terms of their relationship. Good for her.

SALLY: Jessica and Hoyt. That is all. Oh, and Pam. Oh, and Sam and Tara.

After tricking Russell into drinking Sookie’s diluted fairy blood and going out into the sunlight, Eric’s plan to take down Russell Edgington appears to have done in Eric himself. While Eric said his goodbyes to Pam and Sookie and proceeded with his suicide mission, Sookie is left for dead — again — and Bill whines about Sookie’s well-being — again.

THOMAS: Sookie said flat-out that she would be a fool to trust either Bill or Eric again, immediately after Eric showed her that was true, and immediately before Bill did the same. She’ll end up trusting both of them again, but at some level she knows she’s playing a sucker’s game. Eric has the courage of his convictions; he’s not kind to anyone, even those he loves the most, but he is loyal to them, even willing to give his own life if that’s what it takes to fix the mess he made. He won’t die; they can’t lose the most popular character on the show immediately after the Rolling Stone cover. But he doesn’t know that.

LAUREN: I’m tired of Sookie being relegated to a passive character when she — her story, her history, her literal blood — is the center of the show. The only real power that she has is the power to reject a lover, or so you’d think after Season Three.

SALLY: Yeah, I can’t understand why they bother with the level-headed “I won’t trust again” thing if we all know that won’t be the case. It makes her character rather boring, so I don’t see how this is a good strategy at all.

LAUREN: It really is boring, and it’s a letdown for the audience to pin their good feelings on this character just to have her manipulated by forces largely outside of her control. Right now her role in the story is to be an available bag of blood while a bunch of high-powered vampires enact their revenge fantasies on one another.

Thumbs down to the Rolling Stone cover, by the way. With an ensemble cast like this, they settle for this awkward, blood-spattered menage a trois? No offense to Alexander Skarsgaard or anything, but this love triangle is the least interesting facet of the show. Boo to RS’s creative team.

THOMAS: Cheap, obvious, conventional.

SALLY: I too found it cheap and obvious, but their hotness was still kind of awesome. I didn’t find it particularly provocative though, so I thought it was surprising that people took it that way. We’ve seen much more interesting stuff than that on the show, so they’ll need to work harder to get a rise out of fans.

LAUREN: So, one might say that the RS cover lacked teeth? Har har.

Wiccan Holly performed an herbal abortion on Arlene this week, and after a false alarm, it appears the abortion didn’t “take.” Arlene is horrified that she is giving birth to a serial killer’s baby, while her boyfriend Terry is overjoyed at becoming a father. It isn’t often that we see abortions handled this way on television — or at all. What do we think about this scene?

THOMAS: Is it cynical of me to believe this whole thing was a long way around to avoid a surgical abortion, either because it remains such a taboo, or because it would be harder for the audience to buy some magical superfetus-survives story with modern medicine than a magical ritual, or both? Also, is Arlene wrong, or will Rene’s evil be reborn?

SALLY: At this point, they’ve set this up so much that the baby kind of has to be evil, no? Otherwise, Arlene’s instincts are wrong and she’s just the horrible character that tried to kill her wonderfully pure baby. I wouldn’t like that. Like, at all.

LAUREN: Maybe I’ve seen too many zombie movies, but you can’t beat the creepiness of a glowy-eyed evil baby.

SALLY: Nothing beats creepy kids or evil babies. Nothing.

LAUREN: The rule of onscreen pregnancies, though, is that there has to be a point to the pregnancy to include it in the story. A completed pregnancy means a baby story, preferably a glow-eyed evil baby story, whereas an aborted pregnancy means a show generally has to take a hard political stance on abortion, a stance that most shows don’t have the ovaries to take. What True Blood did in this episode that does make a more nuanced political point was having Arlene, the self-righteous bigot, claim outright that abortion is bad as she’s having one while appealing to God as she does it. A female god. Was it a cop-out? I would argue not because of the way Arlene was given agency to feel and act as she wished. It was less a condemnation of her hypocrisy, which would have been legitimate by itself (but preachy), and more an acknowledgment that unplanned pregnancy is politically complicated and emotionally messy. Humanizing women’s fears and desires is a good thing.

Lafayette is getting hints that things with Jesus might be heading down a dangerous road. Don’t mix V with magic?

LAUREN: Lafayette’s hallucinations are a pretty good sign that Alfre Woodard is going to get more screen time here in the near future. Either LaLa is checking into a mental hospital or we’re going to discover that his mother isn’t a madwoman, she’s a shaman too.

THOMAS: First I thought Lafayette was a danger to Jesus and he was going to have to do a lot of work to make his life safe for a good man to share. Now it looks like it’s the other way around. Jesus has brought some scary elements into the mix and he’s going to have to be careful not to bring Lafayette more pain than peace. But hey, anything that gives Ruby Jean more screen time. Can she cast out the demon that is Tara’s mom?

SALLY: This was an interesting turn in the story and kind of goes with my whole “don’t trust Jesus” thing this entire season. He gives me the creepy creeps and it seems that at this point, he’s definitely supposed to. I definitely do hope this means that Alfre Woodard will be a more prominent figure and it certainly would be interesting given how her mental illness has been treated this season.

LAUREN: And as skeptical as I was of this storyline last week, I will admit that the quick flash to Jesus’ glowing painted face made me jump out the couch.

SALLY: That was so scary! I did not expect that!

LAUREN: Jesus may be good now, but the V is going to do a number on him and on his relationship with Lafayette. I wonder, even, if they could end up as rivals, or whether Lafayette is going to have to take Jesus down.

Jessica reveals to Hoyt that she is a vampire that drinks human, not synthetic, blood and that she murdered an anonymous trucker in her recent past. Hoyt seems to be okay with this revelation, and allows Jessica to feed on him, a dark turn for what has been a lively romance to date. In the meantime, Hoyt’s mama is trying to bait Hoyt into a relationship with Summer.

THOMAS: Hoyt’s evil shit of a mother will try to kill Jessica. It will not work, but she will harm Summer or Hoyt in the process. It’s not inconceivable to me that we’ll watch Hoyt die. That would make me sad, and would drive Jessica into an amoral dark night of the soul that could last a while and have a significant body count next season. Or not, in which case it will finally cement Hoyt and Jessica, possibly with her turning him.

SALLY: Hoyt’s mother annoys the crap out of me. She deserves whatever is coming her way.

LAUREN: I dig a vampire Hoyt. He and Jessica would made a formidable team. Their first act should be an organized takedown of Hoyt’s mean, overbearing mother.

SALLY: I totally back this! It would certainly make his character a bit more interesting, he needs some oomph, no?

THOMAS: Hoyt offering himself for Jessica to feed? Hot. What was the last mainstream media portrayal of m/f sexual submission as both masculine and proud that you can think of? Yeah, I’ll get back to you on that.

After Jason sicced the DEA on Hot Shot for their drug violations, Crystal convinces Jason to go back with her to save Hot Shot from a Waco-style resistance. Jason thinks he’s a hot shot himself, but this time he’s up against a bunch of were-panthers.

THOMAS: Could they possibly have done more to make the Hot Shot population loathsome: incest, drug-dealing, domestic violence, dogfighting … some folks wondered last week why the werepanthers were white; I think it’s because if they have made the Hot Shot werepanthers people of color, all the other things they’ve done to heap execration on that community would have been racist. But then, the result is a fucked up heap of propaganda against rural Southern white poor folks. Also, Jason’s career as a cop ends in a fiasco next episode.

SALLY: If it was possible for Jason’s character to annoy me more, he certainly did it with this episode. I still have no idea why he’s so in love with Crystal, and I don’t understand why he does anything he does, really. I guess I should be happy when it’s motivated by a woman, because at least then there’s a (stupid, stereotypical) reason, but yeah no. Not digging Jason. There was hope for him after last season, but he’s quickly become my least favorite character on the show.

LAUREN: I’m annoyed that Crystal can both be doing everything within her power to get away from these people, and doing everything within her power to save these people AT THE SAME TIME. We don’t know enough about Crystal, Hot Shot, or were-panthers to give a shit. If it’s not adding to the story, it’s taking away from the more worthwhile parts of the story.

On a side note, Jason also finds out that everyone in Bontemps appears to be on V.

LAUREN: I’m amused that Jason’s moral righteousness is offended by the revelation that everyone and their mother is on V. V is like the ultimate ur-drug, you think better, throw better, and fuck better when you’re on it, and nobody can seem to say no to V once they’ve had it. Even baby-faced Hoyt and just-say-no Jesus feel like better men when they’re on it. It’s like all the “positive” effects of cocaine, Viagra, steroids and LSD are all in one.

THOMAS: You say moral righteousness, I say fast-fading football glory. Jason is a failure in every sense of the word. He’s not even funny. If the writers can’t think of something to do with his sorry ass, can they trade the character to Showtime for a recurring role in Weeds, where inept and useless characters don’t stand out so much?

LAUREN: *snort* Yeah, Jason and Uncle Andy would make a dynamic pair if Jason was bright enough to get Andy’s jokes. Which he’s not. /weedsreferences

SALLY: I agree, I think it was a lot more “my record will be ruined” than actual moral concern. File this under Jason annoyance mentioned above.

Sam’s guilty conscience catches up with him and he’s tired of pretending to be a nice, helpful, untroubled guy when he’s actually feeling angry and ashamed at his life’s lot. In turn he alienates everyone who loves him, except Tara. Tara calls out Andy Bellefleur’s plot to cover up Eggs’ murder, and cries at Eggs’ grave. Then Sam and Tara bone. What?

SALLY: Sam and Taraaaaaa! I’ve been waiting for this because all of their tension is awesome and I thought it was going to happen earlier in the season when Tara was hanging with Sam all on the verge of a breakdown. Sam and Taraaa! Tara and Saaaaam!

THOMAS: The downside of Sam being passive-aggressive is that it tends to build up pressure that explodes, often immediately upon contact with a disinhibitor, like a quart of whiskey. And that can be a lot tougher to fix that letting it out a bit at a time. The harm to his relationship with Tommy cannot be fixed, and will reverberate through the rest of the show. For all his rebelliousness, Tommy put his trust in Sam in a way he never will have the capacity to do again. Terry and Arlene are grown-ups and will put this in context and move on even if they don’t entirely forgive it, and maybe Holly will, too. Tommy won’t.

I do love the Sam/Tara relationship. They’re good for each other because they think they’re bad for each other. They expect so little that when it’s anything but a complete disaster they both feel a little more okay.

LAUREN: I enjoy the Sam and Tara relationship too. Sure, it’s not going to lead to a lasting romance, but it does satisfy their desire for belonging and camaraderie and comfort, and the chemistry between the characters is easy but deep.

My beef is primarily with the writing that has both Sam and Tara whipping around between high and low, victim and victimizer, do-gooder and drunk. Their roles change from week to week. This season has Tara trying to make out with anyone that looks at her to get through her grief, but the handling of her coping is so meat-handed that she looks heartless and horny rather than emotionally empty and desperate, or even sympathetic. Sam, who has mostly been an easy-going and level-headed character, an anti-Bill if you will, is suddenly revealed to be a slimy jewel thief? And you know he’s a bad guy because of the hair grease. Really? A lolsob if there ever was one.

At this point last season we were ramping up to a demonic orgy that, at the very least, held some narrative tension. In this season we’re still muddling around in infodumps and dream sequences and make-out scenes. This is the penultimate episode. Where is my excitement?


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14 Responses to Tuesday True Blood Roundtable, “I Smell a Rat”

  1. beth says:

    I think earlier seasons have set up how Eric will survive. Bill was able to survive considerable sun exposure during the season finale of the first season and healed because he was a relatively young vampire; when Godric committed suicide, he said that he’d go up like paper because he was so old. I predict once the effect of Sookie’s blood runs out for Russell, he’ll burn up first and there will still be time to save Eric.

    To echo y’all, I’m so sick of the manipulation Sookie experiences by Eric and Bill. She is pivotal to every plan, and every plan is made without her. I had assumed she would be a much more powerful force in the series after the first two seasons. Unless this is setting up something for future seasons… a commitment to develop her power, to throw these abusive fucks out of their lives… anything, Sookie has been my biggest disappointment this season.

    And holy hell. I love Pam.

  2. beth says:

    And regarding Arlene’s abortion… I kinda like how they’re depicting the process. I think a lot of women say they would never consider having an abortion until they experience an unwanted pregnancy. I’m glad to see someone grappling with the decision on screen, and with support and without judgment.

  3. Dan says:

    “I predict once the effect of Sookie’s blood runs out for Russell, he’ll burn up first and there will still be time to save Eric.”

    That was my thought exactly. He’s playing a game of chicken with the sun, essentially.

  4. William says:

    or we’re going to discover that his mother isn’t a madwoman, she’s a shaman too.

    Those two things aren’t necessarily (or even historically) mutually exclusive. Mad folks and shamans overlap far more often than not, especially when you’re talking about the kinds of communities True Blood is drawing their idea of magic from. Not everyone defines the mad as sick, insignificant, and powerless. Hell, we didn’t even do that in the west until leprosy disappeared and we needed someone else to fill the excluded social space and soak up society’s projections.

    Specifically in the show, though, Jesus has already made the comment that he doesn’t see all people with psychotic disorders as crazy, that sometimes they see more than “regular” folks, and that he thinks Ruby Jean is definitely in that category. We’re going to see more of Ruby because someone is going to have to step in to teach Lala and have an early skirmish with Jesus’ grandfather.

    As for Jesus and V, I can’t see this going well. He liked it too much and Lala saw a bit of Jesus’ grandfather in him when he was begging to do it again. The show seems to be suggesting that the quick and dirty left hand leads to corruption, and V is a bit too much of a supercharge for the writers to let any good come out of that thunderbolt.

    Also, Pam is awesome and is going to have a wonderfully dismissive one-liner about Eric being stupid and reckless when she saves the day and drags his smoking ass back into the bar after Russel goes up like flash paper/is weakened to the point of being defenseless and she just stakes him and calls it a night.

  5. KatherineM says:

    Re Jessica turning Hoyt–Jessica is still a teen, human years, and an infant in vampire time. Hoyt would be her ‘progeny’ if she turned him. Is she ready to ‘raise a vampire’? Esp. since Bill has spent almost ZERO time teaching her as her maker, after also dumping her with Eric and Pam her newborn first two weeks of vamp life, and telling her she was ‘released’ from him without providing home or support for her. At least she refused to leave. Talk about an unwanted child! I guess that makes her prime to become a teen mom. I suppose if you want the ultimate dysfunctional vampire family–Lorena/Bill/Jessica/Hoyt.

    Compare that with Godric/Eric/Pam, and the many and loving years of Godric gave Eric, and Eric has given to Pam. So I guess I don’t understand how the years of family relationship/caring between these three is so significant to the show, but somehow Jessica, a human teen and an untaught vamp infant, is ‘ok’ left totally on her own, and OK to engage in adult behaviors.

  6. I too am annoyed by their treatment of Sookie. I haven’t read the books, but she has definitely changed from being a somewhat interesting character in the first season to being a kind of side note in a story about Russel being crazy and Eric being hot. Bill cheated on her and attempted to kill her; why doesn’t she break up with him already? She’s turned into a very weak character, and with so few regular female characters, that’s quite a loss. At least we still have Jessica, although I’d like to see her do something besides Hoyt.

    And Bill needs to go, asap. He’s so whiny.

  7. Re: to Dan and all- is Russel really going to fry in the sun before Eric does? I thought the reason Godric burst into flame so quickly was because he didn’t drink blood.

  8. Moretta says:

    Godric said that at his age it would take no time for him to burn in the sun.

    BradMillersHero: Re: to Dan and all- is Russel really going to fry in the sun before Eric does? I thought the reason Godric burst into flame so quickly was because he didn’t drink blood.  

  9. Moretta says:

    There was a very powerful moment in an earlier episode when Arlene admits that she doesn’t want to be pregnant and it dawns on her that she doesn’t have to stay pregnant. Even if that was only a fleeting sentiment, Carrie Preston made us see Arlene’s realization, and then the character’s profound relief.

  10. rae says:

    First episode we saw Sookie kicking ass and taking some brutal punishment. I mean, Bill healed her, but after that she appeared to get over it and move on to a never-ending sequence of – pardon my French – crazy shit. I think if I got my ass beat like that and lived, I’d have some psychological issues. Add in all the abuse she’s taken since then, and she could be a ticking time bomb. She’s dealt with physical, emotional, and psychological trauma, not to mention having little time to cope with the discovery of all the weird new creatures around her. The rest of the world’s not even close to being used to vampires, let alone anything else. She’s always known that some things in the world defy logic because of her own abilities, but that still doesn’t make it easy to adapt to shifters, faeries, maenads, werewolves, or even the existence of other telepaths, etc. Or even finding said shifter naked in your bed. I haven’t read the books and really don’t know how closely they intertwine with the show (though they’re on my already-too-long list) so this may be just wishful thinking on my part, but I can almost see Sookie finally losing it in a homicidal manner sometime soon. The way this season has been though, I can’t see the writers going for it :(

  11. beth says:

    Oh. And the scene during which Bill told Sookie about all the ways he was better than Eric? Made me want to stab him in the face. Then the heart. Whiny, entitled tool.

  12. William says:

    Personally, I’m going to be really disappointed if they go down the “disability as superpower” path with Lafeyette’s mother, largely because they’ve managed to give a sympathetic, reasonably accurate but not too sappy depiction of schizophrenia thus far, and that’s rare.

    I’d probably feel a lot better if they hadn’t actually used the word “schizophrenia”.

    I’m actually….really glad that it looks like they’re going in that direction. Yes, the depiction of Ruby Jean’s madness has been sympathetic and realistic, but that hardly changes the fact that the way we deal with madness in the west is pretty fucked up. Ruby might be “disabled” because of her madness, but a good deal of that “disability” stems not from the fact that she doesn’t experience the world in the same way as everyone else but from the fact that the world isn’t designed for her. A lot of other cultures deal with people who see things differently in ways that don’t automatically exclude people the way we do. Hell, there is some pretty good evidence that the effects and course of schizophrenia are significantly lessened in some parts of Africa because mad persons have a place in that culture. Madness doesn’t have to be (though it sometimes can be) a disability because of it’s mere presence, it becomes an automatic disability because society has made the decision to treat the mad as worthless, senseless, dangerous burdens who should be neither listened to nor allowed into polite society.

    So hey, if they take Ruby Jean and decide to make her a supe (like pretty much all of the central characters in the show) I’m all for it. We need more depictions of disabled folks as being something other than powerless. We need more depictions of madness as something that can give as well as take. If the writers decide to do that by drawing on a culturally appropriate mythos about the relationship between madness and magic, all the better.

    Besides, one doesn’t have to look much further than Van Gogh, Blake, or Nietzsche to see that there are times when madness comes pretty damned close to being a super power even in our hyper-rational, post-enlightenment culture.

  13. sarah says:

    Wow, I love your approach on madness that also takes into account that creativness can be a possible result of mental illness. To me great artists like Virgina Woolf, Hölderin or Bulgakow further prove this point.
    Concerning Arlene I am not sure of my feelings. I live in a country were abortion ceased to be a controversial issue even before I was born. To me the right of a woman to interrupt a pregnancy is not disputable. However I also know that an abortion can have mental and physical consequences thus I´d recommend every woman to think extensivly about it and to reflects her motivations before she makes her final decision.
    I have the feeling that Arlene tells herself a lie when her motivations are concerned. It is more than unlikely that the child of a serial killer surely will become a serial killer, too. I assume that her dreams simply represent her subconsicous voice telling her to cut off all strings to her former life with a murderer. Presumably there is also much irrational shame for not “seeing the truth” and for sleeping with a monster who killed friends and co-workers of hers.
    Why do I think that an abortion might cause mental problems for her under this circumstances?
    Arlene is portrayed as a bigot who condemns abortion. I´d argue that only the demonization of the fetus allows her to do it anyway. It is some kind of an moral loophole for her, an ideology like “do something bad to prevent something worse”.
    If she finally will come clear about her real motivation (that she simply does not want to have a child of a man like René which is btw completly understandable to a more liberal person) she might suffer a real break down because she is not the kind of person who actually can deal with personal transgressions like that. That also might be the reason for her *****SPOILER*****
    turning into a religious fundamentalist like it was shown in the books.

  14. My fave part was where Pam sprayed Bill in the face with colloidal silver.

    There’s an interesting article on vampires and colloidal silver here:

    http://meetstevebarwick.com/ezine/ColloidalSilverSecrets_August2010_Issue9.html

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