Week three of True Blood sorts itself out as the narratives begin to gel and most everyone gets something useful to do.
Let’s bitch it out…If weeks one and two of the fifth season have felt jam packed and slightly disjointed, ‘Whatever I Am, You Made Me’ does a much better job of balancing things out. Unlike the jumping busily between storylines in the first two episodes, this third episode allows everyone a few beats of breathing space, even though it keeps the fire lit under the majority of the storylines (and even revisits several that were absent last week or only briefly addressed in the premiere).
One piece that really works for me is the continuity. ‘Whatever I Am, You Made Me’ reminds us yet again of the disastrous outcomes of Sookie’s (Anna Paquin) actions in the finale and premiere. Not only is Tara (Rutina Wesley) suffering as she continues to adjust to life as a vampire, but now Debbie Pelt’s (Brit Morgan) parents have come to Bon Temps looking for their missing (actually dead) daughter. I’ll confess that this was never was my favourite story last season as I often felt the show used Debbie as a narrative pawn to maneuver Alcide (Joe Manganiello) and Sookie around. It’s nice, however, that Sookie hasn’t simply been able to shoot someone in the face in her kitchen without coming under some scrutiny. And now that she’s beginning to crack from the pressure, things should become even more desperate for the telepathic waitress.
Thus far I doubt that any of the Tara haters are any less swayed in their dislike of the character, but her change has helped to bring many of the show’s characters back into proximity with one another. Another of 5×03′s strengths are the scenes in Merlotte’s as Arlene (Carrie Preston) shames a distraught Lafayette (Nelson Ellis) on his role in Tara’s new state. We’re also reminded of Sam’s (Sam Trammell) relationship with Tara when he agrees to hide her in the freezer. I especially like the tender moment between Sam and Sookie when he condones Sookie’s decision to give Tara a second chance as a vampire, and that Tara will now have to decide what she wants to do with that second chance. By the end of the hour, we see that it involves trying to toaster strudel yourself in a tanning bed (dammit T, I’m trying to defend you from the haters and you do something stupid and try to off yourself? Grr!). Clearly this won’t take since Pam (Kristin Bauer) hears Tara screaming at the end of the episode.
The events with Tara continue to trigger Pam’s memories of her own turning by Eric (Alexander Skargard). Once again the show’s expert continuity ties seasons together as Pam’s desire to become a vampire in 1905 stems from her fears of becoming a pariah with TB or Syphillis (justifiably so considering her role as a Madame). These fears of becoming old or sick explain Pam’s horrified and brutally angry reaction to Marnie’s (Fiona Shaw) spell last season that caused Pam’s face to rot off. Returning to the flashbacks, I can honestly say that I did not expect Pam to attempt suicide as a desperate ploy to make Eric turn her. Side Note: between her penchant for melancholy looks and her amazing capacity for delivering bitchy lines, Bauer is easily one of True Blood ‘s underutilized gems. I’m psyched to see more of her this season and think that her ties to Tara will only strengthen what many consider to be a loose – or even dead – end.
- The flashbacks to 1905 have one other interesting function as they include Eric’s first meeting with Bill (Stephen Moyer). Considering the ups and downs these two have had over five seasons, it’s neat to see how far they’ve come. In many ways, they’ve switched roles as Eric now only lives for himself and fights the rules, whereas Bill is the goody-two shoes who rarely steps out of bounds. Also: Bonus points for nabbing actress Mariana Klaveno for an extended cameo as Bill’s maker, Lorena.
- The Authority bits are a touch slower as we dig into Salome’s (Valentina Cervi) role as Chancellor. It was clear before tonight that she was Roman’s (Chris Meloni) right hand woman, but it was uncertain whether she had additional powers beyond vampirism. Now it’s clear that despite her clarifications about her role in history (ie: John the Baptist and the dance of the seven veils are human fabrications in the “Us Weekly”-esque Bible), Salome remains a creature of intuition. Not only does she trust – and act – on her “gut” feelings, but she senses that she can trust Bill and Eric (after sleeping with both) because she can read their motivations. As much as I love Meloni, Cervi’s Salome remains the most enjoyably watchable element of the Authority storyline for me
- As predicted, it’s revealed that Steve Newlin (Michael McMillan) was recruited for his ability to tap into the religious right by the Authority. It’s still unclear who his maker is, but my money is on Salome or Barb from Cougartown (Carolyn Hennesy)
- There must be more to Hoyt (Jim Parrack) showing up in leather and guyliner at Fangtasia, right? He can’t simply be looking for a bite, can he?
- The Jason (Ryan Kwanten) bits are the dud scenes. The revelation that he was molested by his teacher as a child explains a great deal about his coping mechanisms, as well as his relationships with women, but this all feels like a big song and dance to get him back on regular speaking terms with Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll). Love these two together, but I’m unsure about the journey thus far
- Everyone catch the blink-and-miss-it return of Claude (Giles Matthey), the brother of Sookie’s fairy godmother, Claudine (RIP)? According to Jessica, he smells like cotton candy, fresh baked bread and sex (yum?). In related news, apparently we’re not done with the fairy business yet. Ugh
- Sheriff Andy (Chris Bauer) and Holly (Lauren Bowles) address the viral pic of his naked posterior (from the premiere) and decide to go steady. Much like Jessica and Jason, I like these two together and think they’re sweet, but if I could jettison an unnecessary storyline, it would likely be this one
- Unless, that is, I could eliminate Terry’s (Todd Lowe) side-story about his time in Iraq. Although very little time is dedicated to it this episode, I have a feeling we’ll see more when he hits the road…and I’m not looking forward to it.
- Finally, Tina Marjorino (Mac from Veronica Mars!) fills me with glee. Glee, I tells ya! Like the AV Club suggests, it’s kinda awesome that she’s essentially a vampire version of the same character
That’s episode three. Thoughts on some of these developments: are you enjoying how Tara’s storyline has brought characters back together or do you hope she burns in the tanning bed (you know Pam will save her, right)? Should we “trust” Salome, or is she the most duplicitous character this season? What will Alcide do know that he knows that truth about Debbie’s death? And how rocking is Valentina Cervi’s body?! Let us know in the comments below
True Blood airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO
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