It's almost unfair, and it's nearly absurd, but it's not the least bit surprising. Alan Ball is a man who has continuously mined the themes of death -- and salvation -- to great critical and commercial acclaim. I admit, when I first heard he was doing a show about vampires for HBO, I was all "what the fuck?" But, as I think any reader here can notice, he certainly made a fan out of me. However, part of the reason he won me over so completely was because the weighty drama took a very far backseat to fun and flirty storylines. Granted, there was plenty of emotion in the first season, including some poignant passages.
But last night's episode, "I Will Rise Up," written by Nancy Oliver (a veteran writer of Six Feet Under and writer of the quietly and very weirdly touching Lars and the Real Girl) and directed by Scott Winant, was absolutely sublime. It was focused on family, exploring and exploiting themes of not just love, but devotion, and, ultimately, forgiveness, along with more than a touch of divinity.
Gods weighed heavily, as vibrating bitch Maryann was almost, for one spectacularly scary moment, reverent and awed while thinking of being at one with her god, and she then proceeded to destroy the residents of Bon Temps to achieve her goal.
However, the near-party atmosphere in the jail as everyone kept getting arrested was pretty funny. What was a little gross, however, was when Sam did his best Jeff Goldblum circa 1986 impression. Meanwhile, over in Dallas, Sookie's sympathy gave Godric a glimpse of true light, while his sacrifice may well have given back Eric his humanity. That Godric. I knew he was a Christ figure. I just didn't realize he'd be saving our favorite Viking, even if his actions caused Eric despair.
And, since I'm speaking of Eric, let's get it out of the way. Team Skarsgard Shirtless scored our first victory last night, and it was, indeed, decisive. To the writers, producers, lighting crew, and everyone else involved:
Well done, everyone. Well done. It's almost obscene, isn't it, to start talking so superficially about the enormous slab of naked Scandinavian -- in bed! Naked! With Sookie! NAKED!
Oh, I should be shamed to be bringing the quality of commentary down to this level. But don't you see -- that's precisely why Blood is so damn good -- because it gives us ALL this. It fires on all cylinders. Even when it's busy propelling itself toward superlative storytelling and tender heartbreak, it delivers all the frills along the way. They made us wait 21 episodes to get here, but they sure did it right. Big Bed. Big Boy. NO CLOTHES. And then he even slipped Sook tongue!
All this, of course, was just a dream of Sookie's, brought about by her magnanimous actions of sucking silver from injured Eric, therefore ingesting his blood. The look on Eric's face once he successfully tricked her into sucking and swallowing was priceless. He just is so good when he's bad. (Believe me, Sook, don't feel so stupid about it. It may not usually involve silver, but all us girls have been played into sucking and accidentally swallowing at one time or another ;))
But the best revelation was that Bill, though spitting mad, had to admit to her that she now not only had the emotional connection with him, but that she'd be sexually attracted to him. Hats of to Anna for pretending to be repulsed by the idea of sex with Eric, by the way. She had an all-around amazing episode for acting, once again pulling off the tears without chewing scenery. But what gets me, that Sookie apparently hasn't connected yet, is that this question now looms large -- did she REALLY fall for Bill? Or was she attracted to him because he managed to pump his blood into her almost immediately?
Anyhow, back to Eric being naked. For a guy who's got a severe allergy to silver, Sookie imagines that he certainly seems to have a tongue that's made of it, hitting Sookie in all her soft spots and declaring love for only her. Jesus. I mean, Godric. In stark contrast, there's Bill. For a guy who fears staking, you'd think he wouldn't constantly walk around with a stick up his ass. Oh, but poor Bill. I do feel for him.
Incidentally, in this week's "Bill is Johnny Drama" comparison, Drama spent his episode trying to keep a sweet girl away from a handsome, tall blonde dude who happens to be Drama's boss, and Drama even grabbed the guy by the throat, and then, well...it all worked for him as well as this exact same situation worked this week for Bill. Freaky, huh?
Anyhow, despite all Bill's proclamations that "Sook-ay is MINE," and telling Eric there's nothing he can do about, not even ten minutes later he catches Sookie sucking on Eric's chest. And, really, who wouldn't suck that chest? Silver smilver, I'd be all, "Eric, you've got a crumb right there. No, you missed it. There. Let me help..."
Anyhow you still gotta love Sookie. I notice in her dream scenario, Eric didn't bite her. Maybe she's getting sick of Bill always doing that? Then again, for a girl who, considering the company she keeps, should be keeping her jugular well protected, she continues to stick her neck out for the vampires. This week, she took on Nan Flanagan, professing Godric's heroic actions to save her life while Nan was so clearly unimpressed with vampire near-royalty giving a shit about a human. But Sookie just plugged away, despite Bill trying to stop her. Recurring themes and spot-on characterizations, there, I tell you. Every episode, at least once it happens. Bill: "Sookie, Don't!" Sookie: "Pfft. BLABBLAB obnoxiously at dangerous vampire."
Not only that, but Bill once again looked the fool. He finally DID pick his fight with Eric, punching him square in the jaw with all his vampire might. Eric took it, spit blood, and then quietly said, "Get out of my way." And Bill moved aside! Bill! Oh, Bill. (Johnny Drama!) But Bill did have the coolest special effect, right at the start of the episode when he bit the crusader's neck. A blood mist exploded, and that was something new and really quite gross. Also, I guess it's because of his coloring, but while Eric, to me, is hands down the scariest looking vampire when he's in attack mode, Bill takes the prize for always looking the grossest when his mouth and lips are all bloody. Maybe it's his coloring. But I also had a MAJOR issue with the makeup/coloring on Stephen Moyer's Bill this week. He no longer looks undead, makeup department. He looks fucking dead. Like a corpse. Greenish, even. Fucking, fix this shit, would you? It's bad enough he's now got to compete against Eric. He doesn't need to look like he belongs on the coroner's table to do it.
As I mentioned, it was just love, or even loyalty, but devotion that played a pivotal role in this episode, with several characters' devotions coming into question, while others were just solidified. There was:
Lafayette - Tara - Maryann
Godric - Eric - Sookie - Bill
Hoyt's mama - Hoyt- Jessica
But I particularly loved Sookie and Jason reconnecting. Though he wasn't kicking actual ass in this episode, Jason and Sook kicked figurative ass while bonding over Gram as the siblings ought to. And poor Jason, admitting to being a fuckhead idiot.
Jason and Sookie's scene, while being quietly and truly touching, also gave us the best visual laugh of the week once the Newlins popped back onscreen, with Steve sporting a bruise from the paintball, and he and Sarah devolving into sniping at each other instead of defending themselves against Nan, until Sarah finally frustratedly shouted to the vamp PR queen "I hate your hair!"
Not quite siblings, but sharing the deep bond, Tara's cousin Lafayette did the literal ass kicking this week. Lafayette!
Oh my Godric, y'all, I loved seeing him put the hurt on fucking Eggs and rescue his hooker cousin! I have to admit, after the way her mother treated her, I wasn't too broken up about seeing Tara attack her mom, but then it got a little, you know, demonically violent and was glad Lafayette broke it up. I do notice he was super-strong, and assume that's courtesy of -- say it with me -- having ingested Eric's 1000 year old blood. I also have to wonder if that supernatural blood will help protect Lafayette from Maryann's advances, because she sure seemed to take an instant interest in him (though, who wouldn't, right?) while he immediately said he "didn't know what you are, but you're a soulless bitch." You know, I know the whole imprisoning/torture thing that Eric did to Laf was not cool, but I also now wonder if it didn't ultimately save his life in more than one way, because you know Lafayette would've been first in line to the wild orgies. Also? Rutina Wesley wins scream of the week.
Also kicking ass, even if it's only verbal ass? Real men Hoyt and Terry. Terry, "I didn't mean to get peculiar at you" to Arlene was classic, and Hoyt standing up to his momma was awesome.
Hoyt is, without question, any girl's dream first-boyfriend. In other words, someone that good just doesn't exist, but I really hope both he and Jessica survive the season.
I must say I was shocked that Stan died oddly quietly. I assume he bit the dust because I found his evil ass attractive, which is what makes me worried for Hoyt and his uber-goodness. I don't even recall seeing a gross shot of Stan's exploded corpse or anything amidst the rubble of the explosion. And I do enjoy my gore effects on this show. Given that, I wasn't so impressed with the special effects of Godric's immolation. It did nothing to lessen the power of that scene, but it was one of the few times when I thought "TV budget" instead of movie quality. And I still question why the fuck Isabel is so fucking tan!
But this was quite possibly the best episode of this show to date, of both seasons. Not only did it bring all the fun we're used to, but it rose up levels and touched up universal and well-worn "heavy" themes that could've come off as clunky, melodramatic, or even cheap. But young Allan Hyde as Godric played it understated, while Skarsgard and Paquin did the heartbreaking work. And what was most notable is that in this show about near-constant bloodshed and violence, the biggest and most moving moment to date was one of pure gentleness and simple kindness.
But even stranger, instead of it closing doors, this episode also managed to open up so many more questions and boundaries, perhaps confusing even the viewer's devotions along with the characters'. One thing that is still a constant, though, is my allegiance to Team Skarsgard Shirtless. Alex just proved it. No matter how good the show is, it can always be improved with proper nudity.
NOTE: I usually get my screencaps from True Blood.net or marishna, but I've a feeling they're gonna take their time clicking through this episode, so we did it a little different. The most excellent gifs were courtesy of Sophistabitch.