True Blood review – 7×04: ‘Death Is Not The End’

Courtesy of HBO

‘Death Is Not The End’ brings to an end the first arc of True Blood‘s final season. Plus: a host of absent characters return.

Let’s bitch it out…

My initial notes for this episode are extremely dismissive (at the halfway point of the episode, I had tentatively begun this review with something along the lines of “Wow – this final season of TB sure is circling the drain, isn’t it?”). Having seen the more action-oriented second half of the episode, I’m a little less resentful of ‘Dead Is Not The End’, though it’s still hard to shake the fact that the show is taking its sweet time getting to the good stuff.

Initially it seems as though the episode is going to spend its entire running time during the day as Sookie (Anna Paquin) and some of the other humans, including Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and Sam (Sam Trammell) recover from the events of the night before. Things remain very talk heavy for the first half, which doesn’t have to be a problem, except that True Blood does character development about as well as The Walking Dead, which is to say not well at all. As a result the better part of half the episode finds various characters working through their (non)issues, making the episode feel like it’s suffering from a severe lack of dramatic urgency. Instead of, you know, doing something, we see Sam and Jason spend the day conducting official business (like visiting Deputy Kevin’s widow) and Jessica (Debra Ann Woll) whines about not wanting to feed because she’s guilty.

It’s boring, arbitrary stuff and combined with the Pam (Kristin Bauer von Straten) / Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) flashbacks (which are semi-interesting but fail to offer any significant developments aside from the convenient secret tunnel entrance into Fangtasia), a lot of the residual goodwill I have left for the show rapidly evaporated.

Things get much better when the assault on Fangtasia begins. I’ll confess that I’m not entirely certain about why things play out the way they do – it makes absolutely no sense why everyone waits for Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Pam to rescue Nicole (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and the other woman. Thankfully this is a minor quibble because the outcome is exactly as it should be as both the stupid human mob and the Hep-V vamp storylines are brought to an end. I never thought I would enjoy seeing a non-character get a stake to the head, but damn if I didn’t let out a fist pump and “whoot” when Vince (Brett Rickaby) got one in the back of the head. Good riddance, you terrible waste of space.

Despite feeling like this is little more than a transition episode designed to wrap up the initial conflicts and anticipate the final run of episodes, I will make a special shout-out to Carrie Preston. Preston’s Arlene has long been a True Blood B-lister: stuck in dead end storylines, made fun of and punished with a series of terrible boyfriends and husbands. Damn if Preston doesn’t sell the heavenly visions of her late husband Terry (Todd Lowe – reprising his role after dying last season). It’s a really nice, emotional beat hidden among an otherwise bland episode that hopefully sets up Arlene for a happy ending with her kids.

Courtesy of HBO

Other Observations:

  • The end of the battle suggests that everyone in the mob has been killed. Does this mean that Kenya (Tanya Wright) is dead? And considering the stakes (pun intended), shouldn’t someone from our team have bit the bullet? I believe Violet (Karolina Wydra) was available.
  • Joining the attack are new vamps Michael and Keith (Riley Smith), members of James’ (Nathan Parsons) band. Did anyone else catch a whiff of sexual tension between Keith and Jason post-fight? If True Blood wants to justify that eggregious fan-baiting gay sex scene from a few episodes ago, it’s gotta hook Jason up with a dude before the end, right?
  • In the Eric/Pam flashbacks we learn how they inherited a video rental store that would eventually become Fangtasia and how Eric became Sheriff of area 5, courtesy of the Magistrate (Zeljko Ivanek). Things perk up immeasurably when Ginger (Tara Buck) arrives on the scene in 1996 – her reaction to Eric’s slow motion entrance (to Garbage’s “#1 Crush”) is hilarious to the max and I love that Pam steals her idea for the bar without ever giving her credit.
  • Eric casually mentions triggering an avalanche that kills an entire ski village. Leave it to the Scandinavian to be so casually dismissive about mass murder.
  • Finally…OHMYGOD Hoyt (Jim Parrack)! Man, what a surprise it is to see good ol’Hoyt Fortenberry, working on a drilling rig up in Alaska. Also: did anyone else forget that his memories of Jason and Jessica were erased? I surely did.

Best Lines:

  • Robert Patrick’s Jackson (about Alcide): “He loved the fuck out of you, Sookie.”
  • Pam (upon meeting the Magister): “I’m sorry, have we fucked and I blocked it out?”
  • Eric (surveying the adult section of what will become Fangtasia): “Leave it to humans to make sex this depressing.”
  • Sookie (when Bill asks if she’s okay with him feeding on her): “It’s just lunch.”
  • Pam (as Ginger presents her throne): “Ginger, look at yourself and look at me. Who has better taste?”
  • Eric (as Bill opens the door): “Pam tells me that you wrote a book in which you claim not to be an asshole anymore. Is this true, Bill?”
  • Pam (referring to Sookie, as Eric indicates that they’re joining the Fangtasia assault): “She’s like a fucking fungus that just won’t go away.”

Your turn: are you glad that the mob/Hep-V vamps storylines are done? Should someone else have died? Are you hoping Jason ditches Violet and hooks up with a dude? Are you happy Arlene got a final “moment” with Terry? And where does the series go from here? Sound off below.

True Blood airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy

3 thoughts on “True Blood review – 7×04: ‘Death Is Not The End’

  1. I love the Eric/Pam flashbacks, I could watch those all the time. If they are going to do flashbacks, then those are the characters to do them. Would you rather watch flashbacks of Arlene giving birth to her kids, Holly raising her kids, Lettie Mae before she devolved into a wreck, Sookie and Jason playing on the playground, Sam opening the bar. A lot of the humor and fun on this show comes from Eric and Pam, at least when they aren’t acting depressed. The general consensus seems to be this was the first ray of light this season, and I like Eric and Pam being Eric and Pam was a big reason for that, not just the last 15 minutes, which were awesome. This show has too much depressing allegory, and not enough fun, and that’s why I enjoyed it, because it was fun. There was some boring stuff, but for once the fun greatly outweighed that.

  2. Where does the series go from here besides killing Violet (pretty please)? I suppose the story is building up to some kind of HEA for Sookie, but I have found myself profoundly bored by all of the romantic relationships. Except for Arlene and Terry, I haven’t believed any of them. The friendships and enemies have been more interesting.

    So, the Hep V situation is over. Surely the main purpose of all that, besides killing characters, was to build up to revealing Eric’s Hep V. By watching these inconsequential vampires suffer, know Eric will die horribly thus making it impossible for Sookie to end up with him.

    I’m delighted Sarah Newlin is back. I’m looking forward to the showdown! I don’t expect the show to go out with a big event, however. Maybe it would be better for Sookie to be optimistically single after all this craziness. Let her start some awesome charter school where all the kids know they can’t play around because Miss Sookie will always know when you’re up to some devilment!

    • Agree that Eric’s Hep V infection seems engineered to ensure Sookie ends up with Bill.

      Hopefully we’ll get some kind of big event to close things out, but Sookie being alone and using her abilities without shame or acting like a martyr would be a nice – albeit unlikely – ending.