The interesting thing about True Blood's Season One finale is that it was also the beginning of Season Two. The last we saw of Bon Temps, Sookie and Tara were screaming, and Andy was looking drunkenly disturbed as a dead person's leg (the only visible part) was hanging out of his car.
"Nothing but the Blood" starts off with Sam in another part of the parking lot. He hears the screams and takes off running. We then get a good look at the corpse: Miss Jeanette (aka Nancy Levoir). Although she might have been a heartless con artist performing fake exorcisms, she really has no heart now--it's been brutally removed, a look of sheer terror frozen on her face. And so begins the official start of Season Two.
Tara recognizes Miss Jeanette instantly but refuses to admit she knows her, panicking that it looks too suspicious that the woman conned her and her mom and then suddenly shows up dead. Sookie overhears her thoughts and convinces Tara she has to tell the police. Tara grudgingly acquiesces. It's no surprise that Deputy Kenya, Sheriff Bud, and Detective Andy don't believe Tara's story, especially after her tale a couple of weeks before of a naked woman and a giant pig standing in the road in the middle of the night. Andy seems particularly enraged.
Against Tara's wishes, Lettie Mae is called and arrives in distress. Tara tells her that Miss Jeanette was a fraud, but Lettie Mae refuses to believe it, claiming she's still cured. She then says they're being tested by God and Tara has failed by not staying true to Miss Jeanette. Just when we're thinking what a lovely mother Lettie Mae is, Maryann arrives on the scene. Her initial polite friendliness turns to outright cruelty as she calmly accuses Lettie Mae of abandoning her daughter, as well as emphasizing that she's completely empty. As Maryann walks away with Tara, we suddenly feel sorry for mom.
Tara doesn't seem overly concerned, though, especially as she lounges around Maryann's mansion with Eggs, both helping themselves to the ever-present feast of tropical fruit and pot. It doesn't come as a surprise when Tara and Eggs end up getting smoochy at Merlotte's, or that Sam sees them and looks less than happy about it. Something's seriously off about Tara's situation with Maryann and Tara doesn't even notice.
Speaking of Sam, we finally find out what his situation with Maryann is. Through flashbacks, we find out that Sam met Maryann when he was 17 and attempting to rob her house (did I mention he was naked at the time?) As he's contemplating a goddess statue, she shows up and calmly begins questioning him. Instead of calling the police, she ends up having sex with him, although he seems more confused and freaked out than turned on. Especially when she starts flickering and buzzing in the middle of it. As she's showering, he gets dressed in some men's clothes he finds in the closet and gets back to robbing her. This time he hits the jackpot when he finds a drawer full of cash. Back to the present and believing Maryann is in Bon Temps looking for payback, Sam hands her a bag full of the money he stole and offers an apology. She laughs and tells him that's not what she wants.
So, what's up with Maryann? She's preternaturally calm, although she loses her temper with Carl (her butler) when he interrupts Tara and Eggs before they can kiss. She clearly has an agenda (why does she want Tara and Eggs to kiss? And what does she want from Sam?) She has a way of showing up at just the right (or wrong) time. If she's not inhuman, she definitely has inhuman abilities (like not aging, among other things). And it's a pretty safe bet that her origins lie somewhere in Greece. There's a large image at the mansion of the god Pan with one of his lovers; Maryann goes on about it, mentioning that the ancient Greeks believed there was only the thinnest of veils between the human and the divine. The goddess statue, although not strictly Greek (at least, not that I recognize) speaks to her polytheistic tendencies. And the sudden arrival of a new waitress named Daphne leads me to think it's not coincidental (despite her assertion that she thinks her name is French). Maryann's definitely interesting, although I still wish Tara would get the hell away from her.
I mentioned in my episode 11 review that I thought Maryann put the whammy on Andy, transferring Tara's drunkenness onto him. Whether she did it or not, he's hitting the bottle pretty hard lately. Bud has to tell him more than once that he needs to go home. He also tells him that, as both a material witness and a suspect, Andy's off the Miss Jeanette case. Not that Andy listens. He's on his way to building quite the reputation for himself as town drunk.
Bill's been missing all the excitement because he's got his hands full with Jessica, the teenager he was forced to make into a vampire. Not only is she a teen, she's also a newbie vampire full of volatile emotions. It's cute to watch old-fashioned Bill try to father the seriously rebellious girl. She rolls her eyes as he explains the recycling system at his house, and she thinks it's awesome when he tells her she looks like a slattern. Somehow this only endears me more to both of them. When Sookie shows up, she's introduced to Jessica as the girl emerges from the shower, wrapped only in a towel. Sookie's not impressed, particularly by the fact that Bill never told her about Jessica. Bill claims he didn't want to share the pain of what he did, but Sookie snaps that she doesn't want him to protect her anymore (we'll see about that). Bill looks stricken as Sookie leaves.
At home Sookie tries, but can't bring herself to pack up her Gran's things. When she ends up being interrupted by the doorbell, it turns out to be more upsetting news: Uncle Bartlett's body has been found. It seems he fell into the creek behind his house a few weeks back and drowned. The body's in too bad shape to really tell. But he must have cared for Sookie very much because he left her his house and all his assets ($11,000). We're treated to some depressingly obvious imagery as Sookie takes the envelope with her inheritance and smears blood on it from a cut on her finger. Yeah, we pretty much already got that it was blood money, thanks. One of the less impressive moments of the show.
After annoying a drunk Sam by trying to apologizing for hurting him (he snaps that she's always either apologizing to him or yelling at him, and he can't be whatever she wants whenever she wants anymore), Sookie heads over to Bill's place. Bill is in the middle of trying to find a Tru Blood mix that Jessica can actually stomach (two parts O neg to one part B pos seems the most palatable). Sookie sweet-talks Jessica into giving her and Bill some alone time, and then confronts Bill about Uncle Bartlett's death. I can understand Sookie's angst about someone potentially ending up dead every time she confides in Bill, but I don't know if I'd be too upset (or surprised) about my vampire boyfriend killing my molester. Just saying. Anyway, she tells him she doesn't know if they can be together, and after a moment of frozen anguish, he stops her from leaving and tells her he'll atone for everything he's done to hurt her, but he isn't sorry about killing Bartlett. Then he tells her he loves her and Sookie breaks down and tells Bill she loves him. The best way to describe what happens next is to say that Bill takes her in a manly fashion. It's not a bad scene at all, but I have to wonder why vampires insist on white bedding when there's all that biting going on. So impractical.
Jason's been busy being "saved" and finding his purpose with the Fellowship of the Sun. After reading Rev. Newlin Sr.'s book (which posits--unsurprisingly--that vampires are the children of Satan), he ends up going to a reception/book signing for Rev. Newlin Jr (Steve). Jason is almost as enamoured with the anti-vampire crusader as the Reverend's cute wife (Sarah) is (she's wearing clothes that match his tie and claims that her husband is God's purpose for her. Feel free to gag...) Orry Dawson (who first made contact with Jason and is the one who introduces him to the Newlins) claims Jason would be a perfect candidate for the Light of Day Institute, which trains the best and brightest to spread the church's gospel. And the upcoming leadership conference is only $1200! Jason doesn't think he can afford it, but Steve points out that "there's no price on salvation" while Sarah tells him he should pray on it because God will give him a sign. At work, Jason tells Hoyt about the Fellowship. Hoyt calls them vampire haters, but Jason says they've got answers and that he feels like he got a calling from Jesus--or from Steve Newlin himself! God really must work in mysterious ways: Sookie shows up and insists Jason take the money from Uncle Bartlett. Awestruck, Jason looks up to heaven and thanks God. Meanwhile the rest of us want to tell him to run from these people as fast as he can (I hope he and Tara eventually end up together because they seem to have way too much in common).
Perhaps most important of all this episode, we find out what happened to Lafayette. It turns out he's chained up with other people in a dark, dank basement. He looks sick, weak, and filthy. He has no idea how long he's been down there. Suddenly a hooded man is brought in and chained with the rest of them. As his hood is removed we find out it's Royce--the redneck who complained about the "AIDS" in Lafayette's food, and who also helped torch the house with the vampires inside. Royce is scared and confused and starts asking questions about what's going on. Lafayette doesn't know why he's there or what happens to the other people, but "sometimes there are screams."
Giving in to his fear, Royce starts confessing everything bad he's done. He mentions he was thrown out of a window and shattered his hip, leaving him with a metal hip and a magnetic ass. Lafayette doesn't want to know any of it. After time passes Royce claims he has a plan to break out, but he swears he'll come back for Lafayette. As Lafayette is telling him to shut up, Eric comes downstairs (the highlighting foil in his hair is a nice touch). He tells them he can hear everything and since they made him come all the way downstairs, he's going to take out some of the garbage. Grabbing Royce, Eric reminds him of the fire and claims that crimes against vampires are on the rise, that they've even lost a Sheriff. Lafayette is cringing in the corner as Eric starts dragging Royce upstairs. Royce gets the bright idea to burn Eric on the face with a silver cross he's wearing. To say Eric is enraged is an understatement. We see their shadows on the wall as Eric tears Royce apart, we hear Royce's screams, and we watch blood splatter across Lafayette as he looks on helplessly. Cut to the credits and a nifty song (also titled "Nothing but the Blood") about the "precious blood" of Jesus. (Apparently all the episodes of season 2 share titles with songs featured in the episode.)
Overall, I'd say this is a fine start to Season Two. There's already tons going on and plenty more to anticipate. All the characters are showing new dimensions, particularly the vampires. And connections to the characters deepen as they get themselves into increasingly worse trouble. As far as TV shows go, I think True Blood is hitting, and surpassing, the mark. Now if they'd only release the second season on dvd...
Strengths: ability to hold a grudge, super speed, super hearing, super strength.
Mythology: Newly turned vampires are vulnerable (2/3 die within the first year--they need to keep their strength up by feeding) and prone to erratic impulses.
Sookie: (re: Jessica) You bit her.
Sookie: You drained her.
Sookie: Did you have sex with her?
Jessica: Eww! Old!
Sam: What are you?
Maryann: Baby boy, you're not the only one who's special in this world.
Sookie: (after Bill tells her he loves her) Oh, damn you, Bill Compton. I love you.
True Blood Season 2 Episode 1 "Nothing but the Blood." Written by Alexander Woo. Directed by Daniel Minahan. From HBO.