01 September 2009

True Blood, S1 E4 "Escape from Dragon House"

Spoilers Ahead

By now I think it's pretty obvious I love this show, so what more can I say except that "Escape from Dragon House" is another excellent episode along the lines of the previous three. Accused of killing Dawn, Jason is taken into custody. As he's waiting in Detective Bellefleur's car, he suddenly realizes he has a vial of V (nobody seems to be calling it V-juice anymore) in his pocket. Panicking, he ignores Lafayette's warning not to take more than a drop or two and downs the entire thing. His resulting priapism goes from humourous to horrifying by the end of the episode. At least he's got Tara to rely on. First she provides an alibi to get him released, then she takes him to the hospital, where she offers reluctant support as his penis is aspirated (drained of blood) with a needle. Who couldn't use a friend like that? Via flashback as she's driving him home, we also find out why Tara is so devoted to the man who barely notices she's alive.

Convinced by her grandmother to use her gift to clear Jason's name, Sookie decides she needs to go to the vampire bar Maudette and Dawn used to hang out at ("Fangtasia") in order to try to get more information than she can glean closer to home. Bill, of course, is only too happy to take her there, although Sookie insists it's not a date. At Fangtasia, Sookie finds out both Maudette and Dawn were fairly well known, and the bartender ("Long Shadow") claims Maudette had a death wish. It's not long before Sookie catches the attention of Eric ("the oldest thing in this bar"), who expresses his interest--and then his disappointment--when both Bill and Sookie confirm she is Bill's [context here]. His interest is further aroused when Sookie's telepathic gift becomes apparent, but there's no time for questions as the police raid the bar. Nevertheless, it's fairly obvious we'll be seeing more of Eric. On the way home, Sookie and Bill pull over so she can have a minute of quiet after an overwhelming day. They're on the verge of kissing when the moment is cut short by a cop pulling up behind them. Proceeding to be obnoxious in the way that only TV cops are, Bill's patience runs out fast. Despite Sookie's repeated pleading, Bill--fangs extended--glamours the cop into handing over his own gun (I don't know what Sookie's complaining about--I think Bill may have glamoured me and all, what with his exceeding attractiveness during this scene. Just saying...) Bill teaches the cop to show a little respect and then shows him mercy by not killing him, although he does keep the gun. They pull away leaving the cop whimpering and wetting himself. This is one of several scenes where viewers get a glimpse of what vampires are capable of, and the fear they can induce without taking so much as a nip at someone. I like that the writers are fully rounding out the monstrous side of True Blood's vampires, as well as the human side (although, so far only Bill seems to have a human side).

Sam's character is also explored a bit more, with hints given of his own dark side. His dislike of Bill apparently extends to all vampires; he's willing enough to give them rights--as long as they keep their distance from humans. He's definitely no fan of integration. His vampire hatred may prove to be motivation for murdering so-called fang bangers like Maudette and Dawn. It turns out, as Dawn's landlord, that he had easy access to her apartment. We also see a photo of the two of them that shows they were slightly closer than mere boss and employee. The episode also ends with him sneaking into Dawn's apartment, sniffing her sheets until he finds her scent, and then rolling around in them, not unlike a cat stretching in a sunbeam. Whether he's the killer revelling in some kind of post-murder orgiastic bliss, or it's just the dog in him coming out as he relives memories, 'tis all very strange. As with any mystery, it's good to be kept guessing, and True Blood's got me slinging theories left and right.

There was some great directing in this episode, the opening scenes in particular. The juxtaposition between the curious onlookers outside Dawn's apartment and what was going on inside was really well done. An especially nice moment was when Maxine Fortenberry comments about being a fly on the wall of the apartment, and the next shot is of a fly crawling on Dawn's lips. Creepy and also beautifully shot. It would make a good poster.

There's an ongoing theme throughout the show, although it hasn't yet been explored in great depth, of Vampire Rights, with analogies to the Civil Rights Movement in the US, as well as (to a lesser degree) gay rights. Until the Vampire Rights Amendment passes, vampires can't (among other things) legally inherit property (Bill's house belonged to his last living descendant, but he doesn't legally own it yet). Presumably they can't vote or be elected to office, either. Mixed relationships (between vampires and humans) are looked down on, with many, if not most, people being hostile toward them, some openly. The cops raid Fangtasia for no apparent reason (although there are some questionable, if not illegal, activities going on) and then Bill and Sookie get harassed by the cop on their way home. It's not surprising that they don't have rights--and that a large number of people are opposed to the Amendment--given that most humans view vampires as little more than walking corpses; things at best. But this is part of what's so fantastic about True Blood (and so unique about this show): they've given serious thought to what it would be like if vampires were trying to integrate into human society. Besides the usual racism, sexism, and homophobia (an accurate reflection of reality, I think), the ongoing discrimination against vampires adds an extra layer of tension to the show. Of course, unlike the other groups who are routinely discriminated against, it's often difficult to sympathize with the vampires' desire for equal rights, given their general views toward humans (we're food, not to mention expendable). But maybe that's just my innate vampiphobia talking.

In other matters, I'm not thrilled with the character of Eric. Firstly, I don't enjoy his formal way of speaking (i.e., the lack of contractions in his speech). Unlike Bill's somewhat old-fashioned diction (and fantastic vocabulary), Eric sounds stilted and unnatural. He is much older than Bill, though, and English is apparently not his first language, so I guess I should cut him some slack. But he also seems wooden, and I don't think it's the acting. From what I've gathered I know he's got a huge following, so we'll see if the appeal of his character becomes more evident in time. In any case, he does have nice hair.

Looking forward to seeing what future episodes bring, possibly including more murder suspects, deepening relationships, and vampire rights protests. Hell, maybe I'll even get the whole Eric thing.

Fang Files

Strengths: Glamouring (hypnotism), super speed, super strength. Beautifully expressive eyes (oops--that's just Bill...)

Mythology and Vampire Culture: Blood types taste different (Bill prefers O Negative). V (vampire blood) is not only possibly addictive but there's no antidote to it should one OD.

Sound Bites

Sookie: ...apparently there's this vampire bar where Maudette and Dawn used to hang out at in Shreveport. You know it?
Bill: Fangtasia.
Sookie: Fang-tasia?
Bill: You have to remember that most vampires are very old. Puns used to be the highest form of humor.

Sookie: (inside Fangtasia) This feels a little bit like what a vampire bar would look like if it were a ride at Disney World.
Bill: Well, don't get too comfortable. It tends to get more authentic as the night wears on.

Tara: (after reluctantly agreeing to stay with Jason during the aspiration) I ain't never gonna be the same after this.
Jason: You're not?!

Eric: I enjoyed meeting you, Miss Stackhouse. You will come again.

True Blood, Season 1 Episode 4 "Escape from Dragon House." Written by Brian Buckner and Charlaine Harris. Directed by Michael Lehmann. From HBO.

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