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TV Testimony: True Blood Season 4 Recap and Review

September 13, 2011

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU HAVE SEEN UP THROUGH THE FINAL EPISODE, “And When I Die” (aired 9/11).  You have been warned!

So, viewers – what did you think of the Season of the Witch?

True Blood was a lot more streamlined this season.  With the exception of a thankfully short side step into “fairy world”, most of the action has been right in the heart of good ol’ Bon Temps.  Amen to that.  Whenever our characters have traveled too far off the map (Season 2, I’m looking at you), it tends to get a bit dicey and disorganized.

I admit, I thought the opening episode was a bit of a cheese-filled mess in its first 20 minutes.  Our “fairies”, while no doubt comprising a majority of HBO’s makeup and FX budget for the much of the year, were less than compelling.  There are only so many bursts of light and green, dripping prosthetic noses I can handle in one small dose.  I’m hoping Sookie’s heritage and powers take her out of Fairy Light Princess territory soon, so she can start kicking butt and taking names as opposed to looking appalled at her scary fingers of doom.

Nan is back in black...and ticked (as usual)

What WAS interesting was the time gap while our dear Sooks was away.  We arrived with Sookie back home to discover that she’d been gone a year in real-time.  This led to some interesting revelations.  Some were expected: Arlene and Terry were married, Jason was a full-fledged deputy, Jesus and La Lafayette were happily shacking up.  Others were intriguing:  Bill was now the King of Louisiana and had turned his Civil War shack into a high-tech mansion apparently decorated by Tony Montana,  Eric had refurbished Sookie’s house (quite nicely and with subtle taste) in the hopes that she would return and see what a great catch he is (duh).

All this set up what we all knew would rear its head:  the showdown between Bill and Eric for the heart of our crooked-smiled waitress.  There are moments when I wonder why these two scions of power are so hot and bothered for the Sookster, despite all her obvious charms.  Pam and Nan seem to be the only ladies annoyed with this little glitch, realizing that Sookie has a long way to go before she is equal to the awesomeness that is His Viking Majesty.   I rejoice every time someone in the series actually comments about how often Sookie gets herself into trouble that would be COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE for normal, intelligent human beings.

Eric in a rare subdued moment

The “Eric has amnesia” storyline was taken straight from Charlaine Harris’s books, as was the war with the witches, but Alan Ball and his team of writers moved this season into different directions, choosing to focus on six intertwined stories (in order of MOST to LEAST important): Marnie/Antonia and the Necromancer Threat, Bill Vs. Eric for the Love of Sookster, Sam Must Deal with Annoying Skin Walker Tommy, Baby Possessed by Creepy Cajun Ghost Lady, Jesus and Lafayette Discover Their Powers and Jason and Jessica Finally Knock Boots Already.

There are also the issues of Andy’s Addicted to V and Tara is Gay, but the less said about those annoying plotlines, the better, in my humble opinion.

The opening four episodes delved into Sookie’s torn feelings about letting a formerly vicious Viking vampire into her heart and home.  Eric With Amnesia (or EWA) was cute and almost cuddly in his innocent crush, but as every episode ticked by, I kept hoping the old Eric would suddenly appear, dressed in skin-tight black, smirking and scaring the bejesus out of someone.  Alas, it was not to be.  That horrible sleeveless hoodie would be around for a while.

After finally consummating about three seasons worth of sexual tension, Eric and Sookie were literally joined at the hip.  Bill’s surprisingly supportive attitude towards all of this (even letting Eric live due to his love for Sookie) was satisfying.  I’m glad the writers let Bill’s more noble side shine back through.  Unfortunately for Eric-Sookie fans, this also meant Sookie was able to see that side again, as well.  Ah, being in love with two gorgeous vampires at the same time.  Life is tough.

By the end of the season the vampires were once again a united front thanks to a common enemy, but of course nothing can stay that simple in Bon Temps.  Thanks to (as Pam pointedly stated), “That GASH in a sundress”, Bill and Eric were in big time hot water with the vampire Authority (represented by eternally ticked off Nan).

Fiona Shaw as Marnie

Fiona Shaw as Marnie/Antonia is a wickedly talented actress.  She’s so unusual looking that she fools you into thinking she’s a normal human being, but watch out.  In a less talented actress’s hands, this over- the- top role might have been grating, but Shaw managed to convey Marnie’s conflicted self with dignity and power.  Basically, Marnie is that shy goth girl you all picked on in high school, and now she’s PISSED and out to hunt you down.  When even Antonia, the chick who was raped and tortured during the Spanish Inquisition, says you might have reached the point of no return, you should probably listen.  Okay, then.

Marnie/Antonia’s necromancer powers threatened to take down the vampires of Bon Temps, but thanks to some uncomfortable silvering and much grumbling all around, most of our night walking buds were relatively unharmed for most of the season.  One of my favorite scenes this season was when things boiled over at the Bon Temps Tolerance Festival.  Watching “Voice of the Authority” Nan get blood all over her Chanel was most satisfying.

After holding most of Merlotte’s staff (and Tara) hostage for the season in the Moon Goddess Emporium (a name so awful it is sublime), Marnie met her first death at the hands of Bill, after Eric cleared the way by FINALLY killing Marnie’s trailer trash minion with a well-placed hand through the chest, Temple of Doomstyle.  Old Eric is BACK and he is BETTER THAN EVER!

Tony Montana...I mean BILL...

Speaking of Merlotte’s, did anyone notice that round about episode 9, there was NO ONE working at the joint (Sookie was “fired” by Tommy, Holly was a hostage, Arlene was dealing with her baby, Sam was out stalking Luna, Lafayette was dealing with Jesus’s crazy face), and yet everyone somehow managed to get their food and beverages with little complaint?  Talk about supernatural.

The mystery of Terry/Rene/Arlene’s baby was finally solved,  leaving me confused and fairly miffed.  Despite the promise of Rene’s ghost returning from the grave, it turns out that little baby Mikey was being haunted by an unfortunate Depression-era local woman  involved in a situation right out of a Lifetime movie of the week.   This whole subplot was, well, sub par.

What DID make sense to me was the pairing of Jessica and Jason, two characters whose similar senses of self-control make them destined to spend eternity happily ever after.  Hoyt is a sweet guy, but as Jessica kept reminding him, “I’ll eat who I want”.  Exactly.  You tell him, honey.  You can’t keep a good vampire down.  Really, Hoyt wanted Jessica to suppress her natural instincts and settle down to play house.  I’m glad Jessica gave him the boot.   She’s too strong for him, but what a challenge she will have in our daft but sweet Jason.

Did I forget about Alcide and crazy Debbie Pelt? Alas, no.  I thought bringing back Alcide and Debbie was an awkward fit.  If they had given Alcide more to do than just pine after Sookie while inserting his nose, ah – muzzle? – in everyone else’s twisted business, I might have had less of an issue.  I actually enjoy Debbie more – she’s at least honest about being totally balls-to-the-wall insane.  If Alcide returns in season 5 – writers, please give this hot werewolf something interesting to do besides be the clean up guy for everyone else’s hot mess.

Jess and Jason sittin' in a tree...

Speaking of hot messes…Sam Merlotte.  I have this sneaking suspicion the writers do not know where to go with this character.  I was half hoping Sam would be killed off defending Tommy, but no suck luck.  He has so much potential, but his predictable path of noble defender is wearing thin.  At least we are rid of the eternally annoying Tommy Mickens, although I have a feeling that skin walker storyline is gone but not forgotten…

This brings us to the season finale, “And When I Die”.  Alan Ball promised death and the return of a both a beloved and a despised character.

In the first half hour there was not a vampire to be seen as we wrapped up the Marnie subplot.  We knew Jesus wasn’t long for this world the minute he moved  to Bon Temps, but it was sad nonetheless to see him give in to Marnie to save La La’s life.   Marnie went straight for our two vampire hotties, Bill and Eric, trying to burn them alive in punishment for, well, being themselves.  Holly finally proved herself useful with a can of salt and a few choice words, bringing forth the dead to convince Marnie to exit this plane forever.  After an anti-climatic therapy session with Antonia, Marnie agreed to leave well enough alone.  End scene.

We then cut to an anguished Pam, always the voice of reason, who lamented that Sookie’s fairy lady parts and her ridiculous name (Amen to that) were way too inferior for the likes of Eric, a man who had seduced princesses and supermodels and then “spit out their bones” (Eww).  Showing genuine remorse and heartbreak at the thought of losing her maker to the backwoods waitress, it was left to a befuddled Ginger to cuddle with our normally pink-clad progeny and assure her that everything would be okay.   Thanks to our intrepid writers and a great performance by Kristin Bauer, this was one of my favorite scenes this season.

Alcide and Debbie in happier times...

Sookie finally had her moment alone with a newly healed Bill and Eric,  but in the end she chose to be alone (thanks to Gran and Alcide’s  sage advice).  Watching both vampires’  faces as the glimmers of hope turned to despair was a nice touch.  Sookie made the right decision, but if she runs straight to Alcide next season I will lose my new found respect for her post-haste.

Arlene finally had a long-hinted at reunion with the ghost of Rene, who warned her that Terry’s new pal (played by Scott Foley) would bring trouble and death with him.  Something to look forward to next season, I hope.  Mayhem is always a good thing.

Meanwhile Jessica and Jason continued their ill-advised but undeniably cute romance by acknowledging that they don’t know each other well enough yet to make a commitment.  So true, and yet by that look in Deputy Stackhouse’s eyes at the end, I’m betting our Jason may not be satisfied with booty calls for long.

Jason answered the ringing doorbell hoping that Jess was back for more…only to come face to face with the Reverend Steve Newlin.  Make that the dearly departed Rev. Newlin, as he is now sporting a new set of shiny white fangs.   What a goldmine for next season.  Having spent his whole career spouting anti-vampire venom (pun intended), now Steve is playing for the other side.

Bill and Pam "face" off

Back at the world’s tackiest Vampire Plantation, our new best buds in dejection Eric and Bill were treated to a visit from Nan, who brought news that she was fired from her AVL post.  Seeking a mutiny, she thought to blackmail our black-clad duo with the notion that our fairy friend Sookie was in grave danger from an Authority recently enlightened to the Sookster’s true identity.  In a move that led to audible whoops of joy from yours truly, Eric promptly beheaded Nan’s “Gay Stormtroopers”, while Bill staked our dear Lady of Perpetual Sneers into a puddle of vampire goo.

Meanwhile, to give Alcide something to do, we flashed to him uncovering an ominously empty hole at his newly constructed parking garage, complete with some empty silver chains.  Looks like Mr. Russell Edgington himself will be resurfacing next season to bring some much-needed drama back to Bon Temps.  Amen.

Sookie’s woes weren’t over yet.  She was greeted by a shotgun-toting Debbie Pelt, who in aiming for Sookie, managed to hit a selfless Tara straight in the head.  We left our dear Sookie sobbing for someone to help her as she cradled Tara’s lifeless body.

This leads me to my wish list for season 5.

1.) As much as I hate to say it, I really hope Tara is stone cold dead.  If not, the writers need to come up with a way for her to reclaim the saucy and fun Tara from Season 1.  Dare I say it – should they make her a vamp?  If so, who would be her maker?  Bill and Eric already have progeny, so my vote goes with Pam.  I am LOVING the idea of Pam having to deal with Tara and Sookie on a regular basis.  I’m gleeful at the very thought of all those potential one-liners.

2.) I am looking forward to next season’s promise of formidable bad guys in the guise of Reverend Steve and Russell.  Let’s get back to the basics and focus on the internal workings of the vampire hierarchy.

3.) I’m also hoping that season 5 brings us more of the bad ass Sookie we used to know and love, rather than the wide-eyed,clueless waif who constantly gathers trouble around her wherever she goes.   I also sincerely hope that SHE is the one who has to work to earn back the love of whatever vampire she chooses to love in the long run (you know it is inevitable).  Here’s hoping it is Eric, just so he can shoot her down a few times with those choice witty barbs that were sadly missing from much of this season.  Bill, Eric: whichever one of you she chooses,make that girl work for it already.  She owes you one.

Well, that’s it until next June.  Comments are welcome below.  What did you love and what did you loathe about Season 4?

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