30 April 2010

The Vampire Diaries S1 E20 "Blood Brothers"

Spoilers Ahead

Spike has mommy issues; Angel has daddy issues; and Damon and Stefan--well, they have daddy issues too, but mostly their issues are with each other. And at this point, I don't know who to feel sorrier for.

"Blood Brothers" starts out with Stefan still locked in the basement room (see last episode) and looking like he's going through some serious detox (or he could just be expressing his inner turmoil--this is Stefan, after all). He flashes back to 1864 (not positive on the year--speak up if I'm wrong) and the vampires being rounded up and taken to the church for their imminent immolation. As he and Damon try to free Katherine (slowest rescue ever), the human hunters return and shoot, first Damon, then Stefan. Damon dies instantly, but it takes Stefan a few minutes. As he lies there dying, he and Katherine stare at each other, and Stefan suddenly flashes between her face and Elayna's. As Katherine tells him she loves him, Elayna says the same thing back in the present so it's not clear whether Katherine ever did really say it.

We switch briefly to the present, where Damon continues (from the previous episode) to insist he couldn't care less about Stefan--he just doesn't want him running around "chewing on people" while the Town Council is on the hunt for vampires.

Back to the past, Stefan wakes up with a blood-stained shirt and a ring on his finger. The ring, in fact (no, not the one true ring dumped into molten lava by a couple of hobbits--the one he still wears in order to tolerate the sun), which Emily soon informs him Katherine had her make for him and Damon weeks ago. She lets Stefan know that Damon is fine too, and that they're both transitioning; not quite vampires yet, they either need to consume human blood or permanently die. Stefan's confused, claiming he couldn't have vampire blood in his system, but Emily informs him that Katherine had been compelling him to drink her blood. Damon, on the other hand, didn't need any compelling.

At this point I had to ask why, since Katherine went to so much trouble to ensure the brothers would become vampires (even giving them magically charged rings like her own), did she simply abandon them? Why not catch up with them again, or at least contact them in the many years since she turned them and left Mystic Falls? Hopefully the show will eventually clarify this.

I also want to point out that the bloodstain on Stefan's shirt in this scene looks like a particularly beautiful flower set against the white backdrop. I don't know if it was intentional, but if so--nice touch.

Back to the show, Damon tells Stefan he woke up earlier and watched the church burn down with Katherine in it. He believes Katherine is dead so he plans on just letting himself die as well. Now that's love (that, or pathological stupidity--six of one...). Stefan still isn't sure what he's going to do. Really, you'd think one or both of them would want revenge against the people who killed Katherine and, oh yeah, shot them both. Hey, if someone killed me, I'd want to get my vengeance on.

Getting tired of dealing with an "extra broody" Stefan (and once again claiming he doesn't care about him), Damon decides to leave Elayna on her own while he heads out with Alaric to check on a house that may be Isobel's. At the house Damon finds he can enter without an invitation ("no permanent resident") but they find bags of blood in the fridge. Before Damon can tell him, Alaric is attacked. Luckily he has a handy pair of "brass" knuckles with mini stakes on them (they're very creative with the weaponry on this show). Before the fight goes too far, though, Damon steps in and realizes the vampire is one of the ones from the tomb. Henry says he met John Gilbert shortly after he escaped the tomb, and that John has been teaching him about the modern world (match.com!) in exchange for watching (spying on) the other vampires and making sure they stay out of trouble. Henry claims he doesn't know Isobel, and then suddenly John calls. Pretending to be John's friend, Damon asks to answer the phone and then hesitates, and hesitates, and hesitates some more. Henry realizes he'd been had, but before he can do much about it he ends up on the receiving end of a stake (courtesy of Alaric). Too bad--I kind of liked him. Over blood and beer, Alaric realizes he's wasted too much time looking for Isobel. He decides it's over and it's time to move on (come on--guess what happens next...)

Meanwhile Elayna's been trying to get through to Stefan, cajoling him to drink some blood. He just wants to be left alone to wallow in the misery of everything bad he's ever done. He claims he never should have taken the step to become a vampire. When she enters the room and won't leave even after he goes all scary vamp on her, Stefan finally breaks down and tells her how he was turned. In another flashback we see Stefan secretly listening to his father discussing the official story (versus the real one) about the events at the church with Johnathon Gilbert, who's recording it all. They decide to make the vampires human Union sympathizers, and Giuseppe insists that his sons be remembered as innocent victims. When Johnathon leaves, Stefan enters the house (oops--how did he get invited? Or does a transitioning human not need an invite?) and asks why even in their deaths Giuseppe only feels shame.

I think it's apt to say that Giuseppe is shocked and appalled at seeing Stefan. Stefan tells him he only came to say goodbye, that he's going to let himself die, but that's not good enough for dad. Giuseppe tells Stefan that not only did he approve of his sons being shot, but he himself pulled the trigger. He says both of them were dead to him the moment they sided with the vampires. Giuseppe is clearly not a nice man. (I think my own parents' reaction to me being turned would be more along the lines of them asking if I can't just stop being a vampire, and then fretting that I couldn't eat real food anymore. What can I say--they're Greek.) Anyway, despite Stefan saying he was planning on letting himself die, Giuseppe decides he can't wait that long. Grabbing a stake, he tries to finish Stefan off. Stefan, despite being suicidal, decides to fight back and ends up accidentally throwing Giuseppe hard against the wall, where he ends up staking himself. Stefan initially tries to help him, but the blood is too hard to resist. Stefan drinks and completes the transition.

Back in the present, Stefan is filled with self-loathing but Elayna thinks he needs to talk, to tell her these things and work out his issues (how twenty-first century). She gives Stefan back his ring and leaves the door unlocked, urging him to join her upstairs for more sharing. A little while later Damon returns and asks how Stefan's doing (not that he cares). For some reason, Elayna thinks this is a good time to tell Damon that he's at least partially responsible for Stefan's misery because of all those years he spent blaming Stefan for what happened to Katherine. Damon is not impressed (Ian Somerhalder also does righteous anger very well; he's one of my new favourite actors). He demands whether Elayna got the rest of the story, at which point she pleads with him to tell her.

Another flashback and we see new vampire Stefan return to still-transitioning Damon with a compelled girl to snack on. Stefan goes on about how fantastic it is to be a vampire, how strong he is, how unbelievably fast he can move, and--best of all--he can turn off all the guilt and pain inside him like flicking a switch. Damon's still not interested, Katherine still being dead and all (at least as far as he knew). But Stefan won't let him die. He bites the girl and ultimately Damon can't fight the urge for blood. After a moment of drinking, the monster comes out and we see the Damon we know from the early episodes of the show. When he comes back to the present, Damon claims that from the moment Stefan first drank human blood he was never the same person (he could have been saying that about himself, as well). And then he reminds Elayna that he doesn't care if Stefan dies (anyone else catching a whiff of 'protesting too much'?)

Elayna then goes back downstairs to fetch Stefan and discovers he's gone. And he left his ring behind! Oh noes! It turns out Stefan's hanging out by the Falls (where he convinced Damon to turn), brooding about the past and presumably waiting for the sun to rise. The next flashback takes us to the moments after Damon became a vampire. He tells Stefan that he got what he wanted and now they can explore the world together, for eternity. But, dear brother, he's going to make sure it's an eternity of misery for Stefan. After that, Stefan talks to Emily, who isn't happy that they decided to become vampires (which is why she never told Damon that Katherine was actually still alive). She tells Stefan that what seems like a gift now will soon feel like a curse, because even in death she can feel that his heart is pure. So, basically, sucks to be him.

Elayna manages to find Stefan, where she proceeds to give him a pep talk about what a good person he is, despite whatever happened in the past, etc., etc.,. He begs her not to say those things. He says that every person who's died or been hurt since the night he and Damon became vampires is because of him. He claims that being a vampire hurts him, that it hurts to know he could snap at anytime and the next time it happens he might hurt her. All things considered, Elayna is pretty understanding about everything (and possibly has a bit of a death wish). She tells him she knows he won't hurt her, then she gives him his ring, kisses him, and tells him it's his choice what to do next. Ooh--dramatic. For a second, as she's walking away, it looks like Stefan might still let himself fry, but then he calls her name, puts on the ring, and kisses her. Countless teenage girls just sighed contentedly.

Back at home, Damon is indifferent about Stefan's renewed interest in life (he said earlier that Stefan's "typical martyr stuff" would pass, as it always does). They chat a bit and then Damon tells Stefan that he hated him--and still does. Not because Stefan forced him to turn, but because Katherine turned Stefan too: it was just supposed to be Damon. On the one hand, Damon's grudge seems on the extreme side of petty. On the other hand, I can understand it. The love of his life betrayed him. So why doesn't he hate her instead of his brother? Or maybe he does (he could have a stake hidden away somewhere with Katherine's name on it, for all we know).

Anyway, as if that all wasn't enough, there still more going on in Mystic Falls this week.

Things are progressing well between Anna and Jeremy. She likes him enough to enroll in high school just to be near him. The feeling seems to be mutual, and in between talk of Johnathon Gilbert's journals and Uncle John's vamp hatred, we get to see Anna and Jeremy get smoochy in various stages of undress.

Speaking of John, he confronts Elayna about her relationship with a vampire. After a moment or two of denial, she just can't be bothered to hide her scorn anymore. And since he struck out with one woman, he decides to keep the ball rolling by setting up a meeting with Pearl. She's not happy to be there but she wants to know what he wants. He asks her about Johnathon Gilbert's invention and assures her he's going to convince her to give it to him. How is he going to do that, you ask? By promising to use his influence with the Council to make sure she gets the quiet life in Mystic Falls that she wants. Oh yeah, and also telling her that Johnathon Gilbert loved her until the end of his life, and then mocking her when she believes it. Uh, good plan there--way to get her onside. Then again, Pearl still ends up helping him (always get the villain monologuing) Disgusted with him, she gets up to leave and, not sure why, tells John she gave the artifact to Damon and that he should talk to him about it. Maybe she thinks John will be more scared of Damon than her, never mind that she's far older and stronger. Someone please tell me why I keep analyzing these shows?

When Anna gets home again she discovers Pearl hurriedly packing. She insists it's not safe there anymore, but Anna doesn't want to go. Pearl--for the first time treating Anna as the adult she actually is--tells her it's her choice whether to leave Mystic Falls or not (besides brotherly hate, making choices is the other big theme this episode). While Anna disappoints by going to Jeremy's and saying goodbye (even though he's asleep and doesn't hear it), Pearl answers a knock at the door and is greeted with a stake through the chest. When Anna returns home she finds both Pearl and Harper dead. She's distraught, shaking Pearl and begging her to wake up (regressing, as she always does, to a child-like disposition when it comes to mama). Meanwhile, John is tossing his weapons into the trunk of his car and calling the Sheriff to tell her he's got an update on the local vampires. Please tell me Anna shreds his ass next week.

The last shot is of Alaric, having a drink alone at the bar. Remember how he said he was done with Isobel? Yeah, not quite. With the uncanny timing inherent in TV land, Isobel shows up! Cue dramatic music.

Okay, so overall not a bad episode. It's clearing up mysteries and setting up more for the future. You also can't go wrong with deep psychological trauma. And I have it on good authority that Damon will be spending quality time shirtless in the next episode. As Damon says, all is right with the world.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human until the vampire emerges, then dark, red-rimmed eyes; dark facial veins, and subtle fangs (not too long or sharp--very natural looking). A dead vampire leaves an extra-veiny corpse behind.

Strengths: Super speed, strength, hearing. Can see in the dark. Ability to compel (hypnotize) humans.

Weaknesses: Vervain, sunlight, stakes.

Mythology: If a human dies with vampire blood in their system, they will return to life but they'll be in the process of transitioning. The revenant needs to make the choice whether to consume human blood and become a vampire, or allow themselves to die permanently. A vampire needs an invitation by the owner or a "person of entitlement" in order to enter a private residence (in other words, there are loopholes).

Sound Bites

Stefan: I'm not hungry.
Damon: Yes you are. You are eternally hungry.

Damon: I'm not going with you--you tried to kill me.
Alaric: You did kill me!

John: What do you think your mother would say if she knew you were dating a vampire?
Elayna: Which mother?

Elayna: How was the errand?
Damon: Futile. Although I think I witnessed a history teacher having an existential crisis.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 1 Episode 20 "Blood Brothers." Written by Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec. Directed by Liz Friedlander. From The CW.

29 April 2010

True Blood S2 E5 "Never Let Me Go"

Spoilers Ahead

There are three major storylines going on in Season 2: Sookie and Bill in Dallas, Maryann in Bon Temps, and Jason at the Light of Day Institute--not to mention several subplots. It's amazing they can fit all this into a mere 12 episodes. Not only that, but they do it all extremely well. If TV were to suddenly disappear tomorrow, True Blood is the only show I'd miss (well, maybe that and Hoarders). Okay, on to the episode...

Bill and Sookie in Dallas

Between Sookie and Jessica, Bill's got his hands full. Although Jessica barely tolerates being told what to do, Sookie won't stand for it at all. The thing is, Bill is terrified she's going to end up hurt or dead. He's less than impressed that she told fellow telepath Barry about her ability (to be fair, she didn't exactly tell him), claiming that the more people know what she can do, the harder it'll be for him to protect her. She doesn't think it's an issue, but she does promise she won't do anything stupid. And, of course, she does. Despite her assurances that she'd take extra care around the Dallas vamps, it doesn't take her long to offer to infiltrate the Fellowship of the Sun for them, to see if she can find out anything about Godric. Bill is completely opposed, arguing that none of them can help her during the day, but Eric insists she go ahead. When Bill presses Eric about why he cares so much about Godric, we get a flashback to when Eric was still human, dying of battle wounds. Suddenly a teenage boy appears. He calls himself Death but offers Eric eternal life. Godric is Eric's maker.

I have to say, I really liked the flashback. Eric actually had a sense of humour at one time, and a personality, and he showed some emotion! Actually, he is pretty emotional throughout "Never Let Me Go," which is probably why I actually kind of like his character for the first time. And I loved Godric. From the way he was introduced to his gorgeous tattoos and awesome hair. What can I say--I'm a sucker for cute Celts.

Bill's quite the hottie himself this episode. Lying pale and shirtless in bed, with red-rimmed eyes, and looking all wounded and sad. I particularly liked the way he holds his mouth, as though the fangs are there even though they're not showing. Where do I get me one of those? Anyway, Sookie promises Bill he will never lose her (which in TV land means it'll happen soon), and then his worries and stress are assuaged as she initiates lots and lots of sex. It would all be pretty sweet if Bill's maker (Lorena) didn't suddenly show up, striding down the hotel hallway before stopping outside Bill and Sookie's room and showing her fangs. Just what they needed.

Maryann in Bon Temps

The morning after Tara's big birthday bash last episode she's surprised to find that Maryann and Karl are still at Sookie's. Tara's even more surprised when Maryann tells her they're planning on staying (apparently the last house they were staying at belonged to one of Maryann's "clients," and he's back so they're homeless). Tara at least has sense enough to tell Maryann she can't stay. Maryann's not happy about it. But after a lecture by Eggs about what family is, and then a really bad night at Merlotte's (secretly instigated by Maryann), Tara's resolve is on shaky ground. And when she gets back to Sookie's and finds Maryann looking distinctly grandmotherly (not at all unlike Sookie's Gran, who was the closest person to a mother that Tara ever had), Tara practically begs Maryann to stay.

We're no further along in the "what the heck is Maryann" mystery, but she's clearly manipulative and vengeful. And don't forget the magics and the Minotaur alter-ego. Whatever she is Maryann is up to no good, and Tara is following blindly.

Jason at the Light of Day Institute

Speaking of following blindly, Jason's well ensconced in his newfound anti-vampire fanaticism. He acquits himself so well during the Soldiers of God "boot camp" (showing up Luke yet again, and then offering a Nazi-like salute as he praises God's light) that he's rewarded by both Steve and Sarah Newlin. Reverend Steve tells Jason he's rising to the next level, before taking him to the Light of Day Institute Research and Development department: a roomful of weapons. Steve tells Jason that the Institute is trying to find all possible ways to kill vampires, and so far they've armed themselves with wooden arrows, both wooden and silver bullets, silver bullets with holy water (if they'd bothered to ask any friendly vampire, they would have known holy water doesn't do anything), silver throwing stars in the shape of crosses (crosses also not an issue for vampires), a flamethrower, and a guillotine (on order). Both Jason and Steve are like kids in a toy store. Sarah's reward *ahem* comes later, while Jason's taking a bath. After rambling on about Mary Magdalene and God wanting Jason to feel joy, she overcomes his minimal resistance and pleasures him manually (I can't believe I just wrote that, but I've got to keep this blog at least somewhat respectable). I guess the preacher's wife really was looking for something on the side.

This episode offers us the first glimpse of cracks in the Newlins' shiny happy facade. Before Sarah's indiscretion with Jason, he walks in on her and Steve arguing about how Steve is shutting his wife out of things she should know about. She warns Steve that she doesn't approve of what he's doing and tells him he's taking it too far. Steve then goes off with Jason, telling Sarah there's no reason for her to join them. After that, Steve cracks a few jokes about how he can see how some people think divorce is acceptable, and how he's stuck with his wife whether he wants her or not. Guess the honeymoon's over, although I doubt anyone is really surprised.


Sam and Daphne: The episode starts off just after the end of the previous one. After Daphne tells Sam she knows what he is, they go for a walk into the woods. Sam tries to pretend he doesn't know what she's talking about, but she's not buying it. She's also stripping as they walk, and the next thing he knows she's turned into a doe. Sam is absolutely shocked. I'm not sure why his reaction is so extreme--he had to know there were other shapeshifters out there (although he apparently had never met one). It doesn't take long for him to realize the advantages of the situation, not to mention how good it is not to be alone. They end up being interrupted by Terry and Arlene (themselves under the effect of Maryann's influence at Tara's birthday party) and Daphne takes off. The next night, after Merlotte's has closed and only Sam and Daphne are left, they finally get a chance to bond. On the pool table, no less. And bonus points for turning an innocent conversation into foreplay! It looks like Sam is finally catching a break in love.

Sookie and Barry the Bellhop: Sookie spends the episode following Barry around and trying to convince him that they need to talk about their mutual gift. He wants nothing to do with her or his so-called gift (he considers it a curse). He does admit that he can't be glamoured (he fakes it), he can't hear the thoughts of vampires, and that he's never met another telepath. But mostly he doesn't even want to acknowledge what he is, much less talk about it. He doesn't even want her help in teaching him how to shut out others' thoughts to keep from being overwhelmed. He begs her not to tell anyone about him and takes off. By the end of the episode, he's quit and left the hotel. But it seems unlikely that that's the last of Barry.

Jessica and Hoyt: After being banished to her room, Jessica decides to look up Hoyt's number and call him. She's worried he's forgotten who she is, but not only has he not forgotten, he's thrilled to hear from her. Aside from being briefly interrupted by his mother--who wants to know what kind of indecent girl would be calling so late--they spend the night on the phone, talking about Hoyt's comic books and watching TV together. I think these two are beyond cute together. I hope it works out for those crazy kids!

Tara and Eggs: Their relationship is rapidly progressing; if they're not in love yet, they soon will be. She tells him this was the only good birthday she ever had, and it was because of him. He promises it's the first of many. Tara still doesn't completely trust him, but she's getting there. I'm still wondering if Eggs might be a little too good to be true.

Lafayette: Lafayette shows up at Merlotte's, much to the delight of Arlene and Terry. Sam's not quite as pleased to see him, and tells him as much in the privacy of the office. But Sam quickly relents when Lafayette asks for his job back, admitting the place isn't the same without him. It's pretty obvious that Lafayette's not the same as he once was, either. He looks like his old self, right down to the eyeliner, but he's quiet and withdrawn, almost shrinking away from human contact. He doesn't say anything when Sam asks him what happened. I think this storyline is fantastic. I've lost track of how many times I've seen characters on other shows go through horrific and traumatic experiences, and then are fine within a couple of episodes (if not by the end of the original episode). That's just unrealistic, not to mention lazy. True Blood writers and producers clearly know what they're doing. And you just know it's going to get worse before it gets better for Lafayette.

Possible future storyline: Bill mentions in passing the vampires' "international political agenda." Could be interesting...

The show actually ends with Lorena's appearance and a cut to the credits and the titular song by Katie Webster. The appearance of Bill's maker is especially troubling, and I can't help worrying about how she's going to affect things between Sookie and Bill (she's the ultimate 'other woman'--one that never goes away). The choice of song only emphasizes the trouble that's imminent. Looking back, "Never Let Me Go" is all about relationships, true love, and family. Built on a foundation of sand (not that we get to see that quite yet, but we know it's on its way). The next few episodes are bound to be illuminating.

In Season 3 news, click here to go to HBO's 12 collectible promo posters (new one each week, leading up to the season premiere). Or, if HBO doesn't cooperate with your computer, as it doesn't with mine, click here to see the posters as they're released. Enjoy...

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and snakelike fangs that descend at will.

Strengths: Super speed, super strength. Ability to glamour humans.

Weaknesses: Sunlight, silver, stakes. Compelled to do as their maker tells them.

Mythology: Vampire society is hierarchical, with territories ruled by Sheriffs, as well as Kings and Queens. What humans refer to as vampires "coming out of the coffin" (when they revealed their existence to human society), vampires call the "Great Revelation."

Sound Bites

Barry: Dallas vamps are serious and scary as shit.
Sookie: Mine are too, thank you very much. I had to learn pretty quick how to handle myself around them.
Barry: If they knew what we could do, they'd suck us dry.
Sookie: They'd do worse than that--you think I don't know?

Jessica: [After being told by Bill she's only to have Tru Blood] You are going to be so sorry when I get an eating disorder!

Jason: [Woken by the sound of an air-horn blast] God--
Gabe: God--that's right. Rise and shine for God!

Bill: Well, here I am, responsible for you and Jessica, and yet no decisions are mine. And it makes me feel...
Sookie: Like a human?
Bill: Like a waitress.

Bill: What we need is a plan.
Vampire Stan: I have a plan.
Vampire Isabel: It's not a plan; it's a movie.
Vampire Stan: It's not a movie. It's a war.
Eric: Idiots.

Sam: [on pool table with Daphne] Well, are you going to say it or should I?
Daphne: Say what?
Sam: Nice rack.
Daphne: Nice balls.

True Blood, Season 2 Episode 5 "Never Let Me Go." Written by Nancy Oliver. Directed by John Dahl. From HBO.

28 April 2010

Silver Borne (A Mercy Thompson Novel) by Patricia Briggs

I was excited to get an email from Penguin a couple of weeks back letting me know that they had not one, but three, vampire-related novels available for review. I'm always up for a bloody good read. So I decided to start with Patricia Briggs's Silver Borne (not sure why I chose that one first--although the nifty cover art is pretty inviting).

Silver Borne is the fifth "Mercy Thompson" novel by Briggs. This is the first one I've read, but it doesn't seem as though you really need to read the books in order (not that it would hurt, if for no other reason than for the sake of context). From what I gathered, Mercy is a were-coyote and auto mechanic. Her mate (Adam) is the local werewolf alpha, which is an issue as the other wolves aren't too pleased about the presence of a coyote in their pack. It also seems that our heroine has a tendency to get herself into some serious scrapes involving fae, witches, and vampires.

I should point out that no vampires actually make an appearance in this novel, but since they exist in the Mercy Thompson universe I decided it would be okay to review the book on Blood Lines. Vampires are mentioned, though, and I get the feeling they're purely bad guys.

Silver Borne focuses mostly on werewolves, fae, and a nasty witch. There are mysteries to be solved and friends to save. There are also sub-plots about a suicidal werewolf, as well as the fracturing of the werewolf pack. In other words, there's a hell of a lot going on.

My first impression of the book wasn't a great one. The first-person narration put me off, as did what seemed like an unremarkable paranormal romance/mystery framework. But then Mercy had to deal with the lingering effects of a rape (not a spoiler--this happened in a previous book) and I was suddenly intrigued. The main character had more to her besides the usual "spunky, independent woman with a soft side" stereotype. And the more I read, the more I liked Silver Borne. This book has depth. Mercy and Adam's relationship has problems that they need to navigate. The other characters have some serious issues, and aren't always nice/reasonable people. The other species (witches/fae) have their own well-thought-out mythologies, and are individuals rather than one-dimensional "creatures." I also liked that consequences from events in previous books are still felt in this book; happily ever after only works in fairy tales (even then I still find myself wondering "what about..."). And there's a plot! It's not just about the wacky adventures of our heroine, punctuated by sex with the requisite manly man. The book is light without the fluff, and complex but not convoluted. Just the sort of read I enjoy.

I would have liked more fleshing-out of the sub-plots, and I did think the conclusion was wholly unsatisfying, having been reached a little too quickly and easily (can you say anti-climactic?) There was so much more that could have been done at the end. But despite this disappointment, I'm still interested in reading more of the Mercy Thompson novels (especially the ones involving vampires).

Also, judging by Silver Borne, these books will be appreciated by readers who prefer a more PG type of paranormal/romance novel. No real swearing (characters might start but they never quite get the entire word out), no over-the-top violence, and minimal sex (and in this book at least, what there is only occurs between fully committed partners). But the restraint doesn't come off as preachy or annoying (except in the case of the character Bran, who sounds like a bratty teenager rather than an ancient alpha werewolf--sometimes it's okay to swear--really); it's still enjoyable to those of us who aren't opposed to R-rated material.

I recommend Silver Borne to anyone who likes a bit of action with their romance, who has an interest in paranormal mythologies, and who enjoys being kept guessing. No vampires this time around, but still a good read.

Text Bite

Mercy: [re: the pack's opposition to her] "They're adjusting as fast as they can," I told him. "First there was Warren--did you hear that after you let him in, several other packs have allowed gay wolves to join, too? And now there's me. A coyote in a werewolf pack--you have to admit that's quite a lot of change for one pack to take.
Adam: "Next thing you know," he said, "women will have the vote or a black man will become president." He looked serious, but there was humor in his voice.

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs. From Penguin (Ace Books).

27 April 2010

True Blood: First Taste of Season 3

HBO has released a Pam and Eric minisode (they're auditioning new dancers for Fangtasia). Watch the video and get a taste for more...

23 April 2010

The Vampire Diaries S1 E19 "Miss Mystic Falls"

Spoilers Ahead

I was all set to hate "Miss Mystic Falls" when I realized what it was about. There's a multitude of crises taking place and Elayna takes time out to enter a beauty pageant? Are you kidding me? Luckily my worries were unfounded for once. This episode actually turned out to be pretty decent. And there was much rejoicing!

It turns out Elayna entered the pageant--a Founders Day tradition--a while back. So long, in fact, she'd forgotten all about it. But since it was her mother who'd wanted her to enter, she feels obligated to go ahead with it. Unfortunately, Caroline is also a contestant, so we're forced to endure far too much of her whining, jealousy, self-involvement--all things Caroline ('wah Elayna's going to win because she's got the sympathy card, but I'm the one who really deserves it!' Ugh). Surprisingly, there's nothing to dislike about the actual pageant itself (except maybe the horrid evening gowns the girls choose to wear). There's an amusing montage of contestant interviews, and nifty dance scenes (rehearsal and performance). The waltz between Elayna and Damon was, well, kind of mesmerizing. They have far, far better chemistry than Elayna has with Stefan (actually, Damon seems to have amazing chemistry with all the women. They chose well when they cast his character). More importantly, the pageant serves as the focus of Stefan's downward spiral.

Before I get into that, though, I should probably touch on the lesser storylines going on.

Bonnie's back, at last, and none too happy about seeing Elayna again. She feels her gram's death was for nothing since the spell failed and the vampires got out of the tomb anyway. Not only that, but she blames Damon and Stefan for all of it. She doesn't want to put Elayna in the middle so she decides to make the choice for both of them. By the end of the episode she tells Elayna outright to leave her alone (despite having just helped Stefan, unasked). But they're BFF's! I'm sure it'll all work out in the end.

Speaking of the tomb vampires, Anna pays a visit to Damon to apologize on Pearl's behalf for what happened to Stefan (when Frederick kidnapped and tortured him). He's not interested, particularly in light of the company Pearl is keeping. But Anna claims all the vampires have abandoned Pearl and left town. Only Pearl, Anna, and Harper are left. I'm not too pleased about this. Weren't the escaped vampires supposed to make the town theirs? Wasn't that the big fear about them getting out of the tomb in the first place? And now they just decide to leave quietly? How convenient. I hope this is simply a diversionary tactic meant to throw the Salvatores off their trail. Otherwise: lame.

John Gilbert pays Damon a visit too, asking him about a mysterious invention of the original Johnathon Gilbert's that was supposed to have been buried with the vampires. He wants Damon's help because Damon knows said vampires. John then asks him if he knows of one named Pearl. That was just what Damon was waiting for. He'd only been going along with John because he'd been promised that John and Isobel could take him to Katherine. But now Damon realizes that if they knew Katherine they would also know that Pearl was her best friend. Busted. John threatens to out Damon to the Council, but Damon couldn't care less. If John says anything he'll just kill the entire Council before cutting off John's ring hand and killing him too. Well, all right, then. Apparently you don't live for 150 years without learning how to deal with blackmailing douchebags like John Gilbert.

Later, at the pre-pageant gathering, Damon asks Anna (who looks gorgeous all dressed up) about the invention and tells her about John's interest in it. Nothing's resolved at that time, but later still Pearl shows up and gives Damon the artifact, telling him to consider it an apology. It doesn't look like much, so it's impossible to tell what it might do. Pearl also tells him that all she and Anna want now is to stay in town.

Jeremy also catches up with Anna at the gathering. She's still angry that he was using her to turn him so he could go off and be with vampire Vicky, but then he reminds her that she used him for his blood to revive her mother. That shuts her up. Then he tells her about Elayna's diary. He's not as angry as I would have expected. In fact, he doesn't seem very angry at all. He says he was glad in a way that his memory was altered, because he wouldn't have wanted to remember Vicky as someone who wanted to hurt him. Anna responds that as they spent time together, her feelings for Jeremy changed. She claims she would never do anything to hurt him. That, at least, is believable--unlike Pearl's claim that she just wants to live a quiet life in town. While all this has been going on, John's been keeping an eye on his nephew. Eventually he asks Jenna who Anna is and finds out her mother is Pearl. I really hope this ends up getting him killed, but I think so does everyone in Mystic Falls, as well. I wonder what he did to piss off everyone in town. Maybe it's just his delightful personality.

Also, since he and Isobel are so close, I have to wonder if he's Elayna's biological dad.

So, back to Stefan's downfall...

Last time I was complaining that Stefan's "overwhelming" need for human blood was actually pretty tame. Ooh--Stefan's losing control and compelling people. Wow. Intense. This week the junkie really comes out. Of course he starts out cool and collected, telling Elayna the worst is behind him and he's fine now. Really fine. It doesn't take us long to see how fine he is. Besides his collection of plasma bags in the trunk of his car and the ones filling a fridge at home, he nearly loses it at the sight of a student's skinned knee, lies to Elayna and Damon, and generally acts twitchy. He goes downhill from there.

Elayna's blissfully clueless about what's going on, but Damon is worried. After confirming with Anna that none of the tomb vampires are stealing plasma, he realizes that Stefan's in serious trouble. I'm not entirely sure why he has to tell Elayna about it right as the pageant ceremonies are about to begin but his timing kind of sucks. Then again, he's worried that Stefan might snap at any moment, having spent so much time avoiding human blood instead of learning to control it. As Damon tells Elayna, a month ago he would have rejoiced at Stefan embracing his inner monster, but now... it's a different story. The Founders Council is aware there's a vampire in town stealing blood, and they're not about to let it slide (really, though--would they prefer it if the vampire just killed people? Angry mobs are such a pain...)

Elayna and Damon confront Stefan (also right before the ceremonies begin), not believing for a second his repeated assurances that he's fine. Shooed out of the room by one of the pageant organizers, Stefan has a fit of rage in a powder room, smashing the mirror. Unfortunately for her, one of the other contestants chooses to open the door right at that moment and finds herself face-to-face with uber vamp. Instead of dark eyes, Stefan's eyes have gone completely black. He's extra veiny too, and clearly not thinking rationally. We don't find out right away what happens next--just that the girl, Amber, and Stefan are nowhere to be found (which is why Damon steps in as Elayna's escort and dance partner). I was sure Amber was a dead girl, but then we see her and Stefan in the parking lot, and she's been compelled.

My first thought was again with the compelling. Yawn. But I'm glad to say it didn't end there. Stefan's fighting himself: he wants her blood, he wants to kill her, but he knows he shouldn't. If he does there's no going back. Just a little taste. No, he can't. But he has to have just one taste. Far from being satisfied with his initial drink, he compels the girl to run in terror in order to get her away from him. But then he changes his mind.

Elayna and Damon interrupt his second feed, as does Bonnie, who realized something was up and tagged along. For the first time on this show we get a look at a truly monstrous vampire. Stefan appears deranged, blood dripping from his mouth, eyes black. Damon tries to calm him down but he gets thrown against a tree for his trouble. Stefan turns hungrily to the girls as Damon recovers and prepares for a fight. Suddenly Stefan's clutching at his head. Bonnie's learned some kind of new mojo. She gets Stefan calm and back in his right mind. He looks at them all, horrified, before running off.

The episode ends with Stefan at home, looking tortured (quick--somebody get him a guitar!) Elayna suddenly shows up and they have a debate about whether he's really evil. The more Elayna insists that this isn't really him, and that she won't leave him, the angrier he gets. Finally he pushes her hard against the wall and screams for her to stop. Then he apologizes all stricken while Elayna assures him it's okay.

This part really annoyed me. No, it is not okay. It is not okay for your boyfriend to physically assault you. Pretty much all abusers follow their attacks with supposedly heartfelt apologies, like that somehow makes up for it. And so many girls and women believe them and stick around. So it's definitely not okay. Fortunately, it turned out there was a valid reason for Elayna's response. As she's reassuring him, we see her other hand holding a syringe. She injects its contents (likely vervain) into Stefan and he drops. Then Damon enters the room and asks if she's sure she wants to do this.

They end up locking Stefan in the basement, in what looks like the former vervain grow-op room (where Damon was so "successfully" kept back in episode 4 "Family Ties.") Damon initially wants to head back upstairs but Elayna settles in to wait, so he joins her.

My one real complaint about this episode: the lighting. In some scenes, characters looked about 20 years older than they actually are. Compare Damon in the scene at the beginning in the Founders Hall when he smiles at John, to the outdoor scene when he's dancing with Elayna. Night and day. Considering that Damon and Stefan are supposed to be teenagers/early twenties, unflattering lighting is not a good thing. I'm just glad I wasn't watching it in HD.

Now we're left to wonder: will Stefan overcome his affliction? Will he and Elayna ever be happy again? I do like the way the addiction storyline is being handled at the moment, but I'm pretty sure it won't last. I'm not too concerned about it, though; I'm far more interested in a potential relationship between Elayna and Damon. I know, I know--talk about abusive boyfriends. But as I mentioned, the chemistry is just too good to ignore. Of course, love triangles are far more interesting to watch (gotta love that tension), so maybe things are fine left as is. But the show seems to be getting consistently better, and that is a good thing indeed.

Oh, and by the way--Caroline won Miss Mystic Falls. Her life finally has meaning.

Fang Files

Appearance: Dark eyes, prominent facial veins. Subtle fangs with small points.

Strengths: Super speed, strength, hearing. Ability to compel (hypnotize) humans.

Weaknesses: Vervain, perky teenage girls.

Mythology: A vampire who avoids human blood for too long won't be able to control himself once he starts drinking human blood again. Some vampires have magically charged rings that allow them to tolerate sunlight.

Sound Bites

John: Hey, partner.
Damon: What do you want?
John: You haven't been returning my calls.
Damon: Most people take that as a hint.

Damon: In the running for Miss Mystic Falls?
Anna: Sometimes you have to wear uncomfortable heels to blend in.

Amber: Do you want to hurt me?
Stefan: I want to kill you. I want to rip into your skin and drink your blood.

Anna: We need to talk.
Damon: I'm not in the mood. Today's been a no-good, very bad day.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 1 Episode 19 "Miss Mystic Falls." Written by Bryan Oh and Caroline Dries. Directed by Marcos Siega. From The CW.

22 April 2010

True Blood S2 E4 "Shake and Fingerpop"

Spoilers Ahead

If True Blood is a show about anything, it's about saints and sinners, good and evil, darkness and light--and the way they're tangled together, usually in the same person. It's about corruption of the soul and clarity of the flesh. And with Alan Ball at the writer's helm in "Shake and Fingerpop," this episode has a bit of all of that.

It starts with a nighttime shot of the sign at the Light of Day Institute. A figure walks in shadow as wind chimes ring eerily. The figure is Jason returning home from his dinner with the Newlins (last episode). As he enters the dorm, moonlight reveals the bloodied forms of his fellow Light of Dayers. They're dead. All of them. Before Jason can react he's pushed down by the vampire responsible, a hooded man who tauntingly threatens to kill him. Jason is nearly as angry as he is terrified. And then the room fills with laughter and the lights come up. The "vampire" is Luke, the "blood" is ketchup, and everyone thinks they've just pulled the awesomest prank ever! Jason's not quite as impressed. He knocks Luke down with a punch and tells the others off for making light of something that isn't funny. He also snaps that there's a war going on, before quoting Reverend Steve's "you're either with us or against us" mantra. It looks like Jason's finally given himself over to the "Light."

I found it interesting that he, Luke and another guy had a debate (the next morning) over who the first vampire was, citing various biblical figures (Jesus, Eve, and Cain respectively). Every vampire fan has probably had this conversation at one point or another, so it's nice to see it echoed on a TV show. The fact that it's not quite up to intellectual snuff just makes it that much more entertaining. Unfortunately, the scene is cut short as Jason is called away. Waiting for him out front is Steve... holding a gun... in a 4 x 4. Against my better judgment, Jason gets into the vehicle and then goes target shooting with the good Reverend (the targets are wooden vampire cutouts, of course). The creepiness of Steve becomes more apparent with each episode, this time as he's waxing rhapsodic about staking vampires and watching "God's power obliterate evil right in front of you." He also dreamily adds "one day soon," making us wonder what he's got in the works.

Sarah's creepy in her own Stepford wife-like way. From bringing the boys beers while she cooks, to getting a little too cozy with Jason as she ties a rib bib on for him, to echoing her husband's statements with enthusiastic "amens" and praising of God's Light. She's cute but I get the distinct feeling something's not quite right with that girl. Jason's too busy to notice, though, as he gets lost fantasizing about her. Watching her grill meat, she's suddenly dancing, bending over, sucking sauce off her finger, blowing kisses, and--best of all--licking a long-neck beer bottle. Funny enough, he doesn't abruptly snap out of it as usually happens in absurd fantasy sequences. I almost have to wonder if Sarah actually was doing all that. With her, you could believe it.

Both Steve and Sarah suddenly put on their serious faces and I'm positive they're about to break into an Amway pitch. Instead Steve tells Jason that they and God need him to be part of the church's "elite spiritual army"--a Soldier of the Sun. It's not every day a guy is told that God needs him. On top of the world when he gets back to the dorm and tells everyone else he's moving out, Luke--sour as usual--quickly informs Jason that 14 other guys were chosen to be soldiers, including himself (not to mention four girls). Jason still can't be brought down. Not until they realize he's the only one who's going to be moving into the Newlins' house instead of the special soldiers' dorm. Suddenly Luke's in an infinitely better mood, claiming that the only reason Jason is being shown such favour is because the preacher's wife wants a little on the side. Jason tells Luke off, but he clearly isn't entirely confident that Luke isn't right. That night when Sarah comes to check on him (in her nightie) Jason asks why he's the only one staying at the house. Sarah claims there wasn't enough room in the soldiers' dorm, but she also thinks that Jason is the best of all of them. Then she tells him to let her know if he needs anything. Anything at all. I don't know whether to feel sad or scared for Jason.

Meanwhile, back in Bon Temps...

It's Tara's 26th birthday and it's turning out to be crap. On the heels of the party/orgy at Maryann's house, Tara decides to move in with Sookie--just in time for Sookie to leave town. But before she leaves, Sookie lets slip that Lafayette is back, which Tara didn't know. Nearly hysterical with concern for her cousin, Tara heads right over to his place. Her suggestion that they hang out for the rest of the day is harshly rebuffed (Lafayette claims he's been through too much lately to be able to help her with her issues). Back at Sookie's alone, Tara's crying when she hears an odd noise. Investigating, she's startled by a shout of 'Surprise!' It turns out Maryann, Eggs, and Karl had been planning Tara's birthday party for days, and since Tara had moved out, they brought the party to her. (I love the cake, by the way, even if it is more wedding cake than birthday. So pretty). Tara admits to Eggs that she always cries on her birthday because they're always so crappy, and Eggs promises this is the year that it changes.

On a side note, Tara is a fantastic dancer. If Rutina Wesley hasn't had some kind of training, I'd be surprised.

Okay, so we learn a bit more about Maryann this episode. If she's not Greek, she's certainly got a fixation on ancient Greece. When Tara tells her she's moving out, the background music is Middle Eastern but sounds remarkably similar to the Greek songs I've been tortured grown up with (don't tell my family). At the party her attire screams ancient goddess or priestess (you can see a bit of it in the photo above). As usual, Maryann's guests start getting a little wilder than decent society prefers. This time Maryann wanders off to a secluded spot where she starts getting chanty (the words didn't sound Greek, but either the accent is way off and threw me; or it was Old Greek, which is a lot different than the modern version; or it's something else entirely). The chanting leads to the usual orgiastic revelry (and this time Tara and Eggs join in, albeit privately, having sex for the first time in a nicely lit scene), but when she starts buzzing and flickering the partygoers suddenly take it a step further. They gorge themselves on food, even rubbing it onto their bodies. One woman rolls on the ground eating dirt. Fights start breaking out. And when we see Maryann again her hands have changed into the bull-person's (aka Minotaur's) hands.

Right, so bull-person and Maryann are the same being. Clearly she's not just a simple shapeshifter. But what the hell is she (a sorceress? I have a vague recollection of Circe from Greek mythology, who turned men into pigs--and Maryann does keep the company of a massive porcine...) Also, why does she want people to go out of their minds with food and drink and sex? What does she get out of it. Strange things are afoot in Bon Temps.

Sam still hasn't left town, although he keeps saying he will. During Sookie's last shift, she has a minor confrontation with him when she finds out he was planning on leaving without even saying goodbye. Interestingly he tells her almost the same thing Lafayette told Tara, although in Sam's case it seems a touch more selfish. Sookie responds that it's stupid to throw away years of friendship. That seems to get through to him a little.

Since everyone in town is at Maryann's party, Sam closes Merlotte's early. He has no intention of going anywhere near there but Lettie Mae suddenly shows up, asking about Tara and giving Sam a present to give to her. Resigned, he heads over, arriving to the sound of the titular song of the episode (performed by Junior Walker). At the party he tells Maryann that she can go ahead and turn him (into a dog) because in doing so she'll only reveal herself. Maryann is nonplussed, even when he says he won't stand by if she hurts the people he cares about. Her response it to taunt him over being left by both Tara and Sookie before saying he really isn't an alpha. Ouch. (Maryann also throws away Lettie Mae's gift when no one is looking.) But Sam is soon distracted by Daphne. They get to know each other, then a little better. As things start getting romantic Sam pulls back and admits to Daphne that he has something he has to tell her first. But wait--she already knows! Surprise!

Lafayette's probably the only person in town not at the party. Instead he's wrapped in his afghan at home, watching an old movie (speaking of the Greek theme, it looks a lot like 1963's Jason and the Argonauts). Lo and behold, Eric appears at the window. Lafayette's not about to invite him in, but as Eric points out he really doesn't have a choice. He can already smell the infection in Lafayette's leg, and unless he gets some healing vampire blood in him, he's a goner. Lafayette first demands to know why Eric wants to keep track of him (Eric replies that anything Sookie cares about, he finds... curious) but soon realizes he really doesn't have a choice. Drinking until Eric pushes him away, Lafayette's suddenly feeling a whole lot better. Manically dancing and humping everything in sight, he provides quite the contrast to Eric's utter stoicism.

Bill and Sookie are also kept busy this episode. As Bill shouts and threatens, Hoyt scrambles to get out of the house. He swears he wouldn't have hurt Jessica, but Bill informs him it's not Jessica he's protecting. Jessica looks crestfallen but when Hoyt tells her he doesn't believe a word of it, her face lights up. The actress is doing a great job portraying Jessica as part innocent, sheltered girl and part psychopathic monster. And I love the budding relationship between her and Hoyt (glad his character is getting a little more attention too).

After Jessica disappears upstairs, Sookie convinces a reluctant Bill that they should bring Jessica along with them to Dallas, claiming it'll be good for him (she doesn't mention that it'll also probably be better for Bon Temps if they don't leave a loose cannon vampire unattended). We're treated to a little more insight into Bill here, his hatred of vampires, his regrets at what he's done and suffered since being turned. Until this point it didn't seem as though he was that badly off, despite his avoidance of other vampires. See--even the undead have emotional issues (I wonder if there's big business in vampire therapy/counselling now that they've come out of the coffin).

When Sookie, Bill and Jessica arrive in Dallas (via Anubis airlines) just after sunset, the vampires are in fibreglass travelling coffins and Sookie gets off the plane on her own. She's buzzed on mini bottles of alcohol so she doesn't catch on immediately that the limo driver waiting for them is on the twitchy side. Just as she finally notices his thoughts he grabs her and tries to force her into the car. This leads to a fantastic moment when Bill bursts out of the coffin and gets his hand around the guy's throat, seemingly simultaneously. The tension is broken by Jessica, who can't figure out how her coffin unlatches, knocking it over as she tries to get out. It's funny, but I'm not sure I really wanted it right at that moment. I guess it helps illustrate what Bill has to endure with his progeny.

After glamouring the limo driver (and generously teaching Jessica how to do it, although he soon regrets it), Bill finds out that the man was hired by the Fellowship of the Sun to kidnap the human (he doesn't know Sookie's name or even that she would be a woman) travelling with the Compton party and take her to the church. How did they know and what did they want with Sookie (other than keeping her from finding Godric)? Also, you'd think the church would cover their tracks better knowing, as they do, that vampires can glamour humans and glean whatever information they want. Seriously--do you have to tell the mercenary who's really hiring them? I don't know if that's a plot hole or if it's deliberately there to show how stupid the Fellowship of the Sun is (then again Steve and Sarah don't seem like the brightest of bulbs). The limo driver is then glamoured into believing the Compton party never arrived in Dallas.

After calling Eric and finding out that he suspected all along that the church was involved (now he knows for sure), Bill is pissed that Eric didn't at least give him a heads-up. Eric reminds him that they're not equals, and if Bill has a problem with that he should take it up with the Magister or the Queen (this is the first overt mention of the Queen, although "she" was mentioned by Bill in season one). Finally able to get some quality alone time in their hotel room (at the Hotel Carmilla), Bill and Sookie are frustrated at being interrupted by the sudden arrival of Eric. Bill leaves the room to talk to Eric in the hotel lobby, questioning why Eric--who doesn't seem to care about anyone other than himself--is so concerned about Godric. Eric doesn't answer, but he does say that Godric is the most powerful vampire in the New World--so if he can get abducted, then none of them are safe. On top of which, the Texas vampires aren't the most level headed; if they don't get their Sheriff back soon, they'll start openly attacking humans. Things are not looking good.

Meanwhile, Sookie is alone in the room channel surfing (looking intrigued even as she says "ew" at the pay-per-view vampire porn). Suddenly room service arrives with a straight male (blood type B+) for Jessica, who's in the adjacent suite. Conflicted about what to do, the bellhop assures her the man is 21 and knows what he's gotten himself into. The only thing is, Sookie didn't say anything out loud. She and the bellhop have a telepathic conversation until they both realize that they can hear each other. Sookie's excited but the bellhop just turns and runs. The last shot is of Sookie chasing after him. So whatever Sookie is, she's not unique. I'm intrigued.

This is the part of a show that piques my interest even as it makes me anxious for my beloved characters. Things are turning into a proper mess--for saints and sinners alike. How is everything going to work out (is it going to work out?) And who'll end up treading the path of good and who'll be lost in the murky depths? Can't wait to find out.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with long, snake-like fangs that descend at will (with a soft "shik" sound).

Strengths: Super strength, speed, power to glamour humans.

Weaknesses: Silver bullets (incapacitate vampires so they can be staked). Wooden bullets (shot directly into the heart they have the same effect as a stake). Sunlight.

Mythology: Once a human has consumed a vampire's blood, the vampire can then permanently sense and track the human. Vampire blood (V) is a powerful healer, drug, and aphrodisiac for humans. When vampires are killed, they essentially fall apart, as Jason puts it--"like a water balloon." A vampire can't enter a private residence without the permission of someone who lives there.

Sound Bites

Bill: [to Hoyt] Are you going to leave my house or am I going to have to throw you out? Through a window. That's closed!
Sookie: Bill, that is just rude.

Sookie: I think, deep down, you don't like vampires even though you are one.
Bill: So?
Sookie: Well, hating yourself is a bad thing.
Bill: I am a vampire; I am supposed to be tormented.

Luke: One thing you can count on--God will make sure evil gets punished.
Jason: Yeah? Then explain Europe to me.

Eric: I hope you'll enjoy your blood substitute, which is costing me $45.
Bill: Oh, I have no intention of drinking it; I just want you to pay for it.

True Blood
, Season 2 Episode 4 "Shake and Fingerpop." Written by Alan Ball. Directed by Michael Lehmann. From HBO.

20 April 2010

True Blood S2 E3 "Scratches"

Spoilers Ahead

You know what you shouldn't do when you're an unarmed human in a world of vampires, werewolves, and monsters? Storm out of your boyfriend's car in the middle of the night and attempt to walk home through the woods by yourself. And yet, that's exactly what Sookie does. The girl's got guts... and we nearly get to see them.

After leaving Jessica's family (unharmed, but glamoured to "within an inch of their sanity"), Bill is still pissed at Sookie and Jessica, and he's not exactly bothering to hide it. Refusing to accept any of Sookie's many apologies, Bill reams her out for her thoughtlessness and irresponsibility. So Sookie finally does what I think she should have done last episode--tells Bill off before leaving. Unfortunately her timing leaves something to be desired.

As she's walking home through the aforementioned woods, Sookie hears weird noises and heavy breathing. At first she thinks it's Bill trying to scare her into going back to the car, but when he doesn't respond she turns around and sees what looks a hell of a lot like the Minotaur standing in the road. She later calls it a "bull-person," but at the moment she's concentrating on running as fast as she can. The bull-person easily catches up with her and rakes its massive claws across her back. Sookie screams and falls to the ground.

By the time Bill gets there, the bull-person is gone and Sookie can't move. When he tries to heal her by giving her his blood she starts convulsing and foaming at the mouth. It's not a pretty sight but Bill is too terrified to notice. He gets Jessica to drive them to Fangtasia before sending her home. Inside the club, Sookie opens her eyes to see an odd woman standing over her. It turns out Dr. Ludwig has some experience treating paranormal maladies. She claims Sookie has been poisoned the same way a Komodo dragons poisons its prey--with bacteria that slowly destroys the nervous system so the predator can track the prey and eventually eat it alive. Nice.

Sookie's fading fast so Dr. Ludwig sends the vampires out of the room. While they're out, Eric orders Pam and Chow to go investigate the area where bull-person was. So far it seems that no one has any clue what the thing really is, or what it's capable of (beyond gouging people with toxic claws). Meanwhile, if the pain of the wound was bad, it's nothing compared to the pain of the cure. Sookie screams bloody murder as a sizzling blue potion is poured into the gashes. Bill has to come in and hold her down it's so bad. And then the doctor starts digging into the raw wounds to pull out a disgusting-looking gel-like substance (presumably the poison). This scene is not for those with weak stomachs. Seriously. When it's finally over, Bill can give Sookie blood to finish healing her (Eric "valiantly" offers his own, more potent blood, to which Bill replies "Never"). This is a much pleasanter scene. The way Bill and Sookie look at each other reveals a deep connection that's beyond mere romance or lust. No wonder Eric watches them wistfully (hey--he almost displayed an emotion there!) Pam and Chow return and inform Eric that bull-person's tracks are human but its smell is distinctly of a filthy animal. I'm still thinking Minotaur.

Sookie and Bill have to spend the night (or in Bill's case, the day) at Fangtasia, which is convenient as it gives Sookie a chance--via Ginger's thoughts--to discover that Lafayette is being kept in the basement. He's not a vampire but he's still alive, if only barely. Since Eric is the only one with a key to the lock on Lafayette's chains, Sookie waits until Eric gets up.

You have to admire Sookie's courage, if not her intelligence. She's not only unafraid to tell Eric what she thinks of him, and to threaten him if he doesn't release Lafayette, but she smacks him one while she's at it. At no point does she back down, even when Eric hisses and looms over her threateningly. Poor Bill is off to the side looking like he has no clue what to do about any of this. But Eric's apparently intrigued by Sookie and is willing to make a deal. She'll go to Dallas with him to help him find Godric in exchange for Eric letting Lafayette go. Eric will also pay all her expenses and--after a little bargaining--$10, 000 (what--she needs new driveway). Bill's not too happy about it but he feels a little better when Eric allows him to tag along.

Jessica, meanwhile, wakes up to an empty house. You'd think she'd be concerned about Bill and Sookie, but I guess her indifference (actually she mostly looks annoyed that she's on her own with nothing to do) is indicative of her lack of humanity (what Bill said). But Jessica's a resourceful girl. She dolls herself up and heads over to Merlotte's (although she looks super cute, she's still wearing the same dress she slept in... in Bill's crawlspace. Um, ew). While most of the other patrons stare at her in a not overly friendly way, Hoyt is completely enamoured. He tells her she's got a beautiful smile and thinks her being a vampire is cool. She takes him back to Bill's place where she proceeds to kiss him as he's trying to teach her how to use the Wii. Ah, young love. When Hoyt proves to be a total gentleman, Jessica pushes him down and jumps on him--fangs out.

After dropping Lafayette off at home, Bill and Sookie have a talk about Eric and vampires in general. She's starting to question whether she was right to ever defend them because the more open her mind gets, the more evil she sees. Bill tries to defend Eric, and also points out that humans are just as capable of evil as vampires--just as vampires are equally capable of good. The lighting in this scene is brilliant, alternating between dark and light as the car passes under street lights. Very well done. Sookie ultimately reassures Bill that although she's scared of the darkness she knows is in him, when she looks into his eyes she only sees his goodness. I like the deepening of their relationship; maybe the bickering will finally end.

When Sookie and Bill get back to his place they get all flirty talking about, of all things, petticoats and start the preliminaries to another bout of make-up sex (or maybe it's grateful-that-Sookie's-alive sex, or even we're-going-to-Dallas sex. Like anyone on this show needs a reason). As they enter the foyer they're distracted by the sound of Hoyt gasping. Looking over, it appears that Jessica is feeding on him. Bill throws Jessica across the room, not interested in her protests that she wasn't going to bite him. When Hoyt says it's okay and tries to stand up, Bill pushes him back down and growls. So, what do you see now, Sookie?

Back to Lafayette for a second, once he's released we finally get a sense of the trauma he's suffering. Although he's unafraid enough of Pam to call her a bitch, he's clearly terrified of Eric. He swears he's done with all things V, that he's retiring. Outside his house he tells Bill and Sookie that, as far as he's concerned, he's spent the last weeks at Club Med--and he'd really appreciate it if Bill let the other vampires know that's how he remembers it (in other words, he won't be retaliating. At all). And when he gets inside his house, he locks the door then wraps himself in an afghan (looks like something his mom or grandma would have made him). He curls up almost into a fetal position and starts weeping. He might be alive, but Lafayette is anything but well.

And surprisingly, there's still more that happens this episode. The producers are definitely giving us our money's worth--normally I take about three pages of notes. "Scratches" left me with seven pages of notes. I had writer's cramp. HBO should put me on their payroll.

Jason is still at the Light of Day Leadership Conference, and he's still being plagued by visions of Eddie. He's starting to be unsure of what's right or wrong anymore, and he feels lost. At a group session (more like a confession), Jason admits he's got nothing against vampires and that they've never done anything to him. He points out that his best friend (Rene) killed his gran and girlfriend (Amy, not to mention Maudette and Dawn) just because he hated vampires. He gets up and walks out, and almost--he's so close--gets away from these fanatics. But Sarah follows him out, claiming that Jason is special and the Lord sent him to her because they're so much alike. When Jason breaks down because he feels responsible for all the deaths in Bon Temps (he thinks he should have done more), Sarah tells him the deaths of his loved ones won't have been for nothing if they can save even one family (she doesn't elaborate but I guess the saving would be achieved by wiping out all the vampires). Then she urges him to give himself to God's Light before getting him to pray with her. If Jason's still conflicted after that, it's taken care of over dinner with the Newlins. Reverend Steve expounds that "Hating evil is really loving good," and that hate is simply a survival skill. He calls vampires baby killers and claims that if you're not with us, you're against us. Finally, they ask if Jason can feel that God's got great things in store for him. And he does--he does feel it. Hallelujah! God: 1, Evil: 0.

Back in Bon Temps, Sam is in a mood. He's snappy and mean to the waitresses (especially incompetent Daphne). Finally Tara tells him he needs to offer some positive reinforcement, which just annoys him more because she sounds like Maryann. When Tara asks him why he hates Maryann so much, he won't tell her the truth but he lets her know that she doesn't really know Maryann and she should stay away from her. Later, Tara asks Maryann why Sam hates her. Maryann feigns ignorance (he hates me? Really?) and suggests that he might be jealous because he's looking for someone to blame for losing her. Maryann's a tricksy one.

Tara's soon distracted from Sam's issues by the party Maryann's having and the massive amount of pot that always seems to be around. She and Eggs have been getting to know each other better, although they haven't slept together yet. Eggs has had a difficult life, one that led him to drugs and crime, which ultimately led him to Maryann. He's sweet and I like him, although given his connection to Maryann, I can't quite trust him. Neither can Tara, apparently. When she notices the bacchanal going on around her (fuelled by a bloody-looking stew that butler Karl is dishing out, and resulting in more all-black eyes), and Eggs getting cozy with a random topless girl, she accuses him and Maryann of being into a weird scene. She wants no part of it. Now if only Tara would have walked out the front door instead of just stomping upstairs.

After his argument with Tara, Sam apparently thinks the best way to deal with Maryann is to leave town. He loads moving boxes into his truck, and asks (a highly unimpressed) Terry to take care of the bar... just until he comes back. After that his mood improves--he's actually nice to the staff again and smiles as he looks over all the photos behind the bar (Sookie's photo gets an especially long, thoughtful look). After the bar closes, Sam finishes loading up his truck and decides to go for one last run with the local dog (the one he impersonates when he shapeshifts). After their run Sam jumps into a pond, and then suddenly Daphne shows up. Sam apologizes for his behaviour toward her and she graciously accepts. Then she starts stripping so she can join him in the water. As she takes off her shirt we see three large, ugly scars on her back bearing a distinct resemblance to Sookie's earlier wounds. And cut to the title song, performed by Debbie Davies ("Who been making those scratches, all over your back?...")

Okay, so not only is Maryann still a mystery but now there's a bull-person/Minotaur in the mix. And what about Daphne? How did she survive the wounds? Is she something other than human? And that's only the tip of the question iceberg. It's amazing how this show can give you so much and yet still leave you wanting more.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with snake-like fangs that descend at will.

Strengths: Ability to glamour (hypnotize) humans, although not Sookie for unknown reasons. Super speed, strength.

Weaknesses: Sunlight.

Mythology: Makers are able to command the vampires they've turned. If a mortal drinks a vampire's blood, that vampire will then be able to sense the mortal and easily find them. Vampire blood (V) heals mortals (and also gets them high). The time when vampires admitted their existence to human society is referred to (by humans, at least) as when they "came out of the coffin."

Sound Bites

Bill: (re: Jessica) She is a loaded gun, Sookie--not a doll for you to dress up and play with.

Sookie: Am I dying?
Dr. Ludwig: Yes.
Bill: No! She cannot die--you will save her!
Dr. Ludwig: Back off, vampire; let me do my job.
Eric: Forgive him. Bill is abnormally attached to this human.

Eric: She [Pam] is extremely lazy. But loyal. How's yours--Jessica?
Bill: Petulant. Dangerous. Afraid.
Eric: I am glad to see you two are bonding.

Sookie: You look awful.
Lafayette: I feel fucking worse. Guess I'm not a vampire yet.

Rev. Steve Newlin: You're either on the side of darkness or the side of light. There's no in-between.

True Blood
, Season 2 Episode 3 "Scratches." Written by Raelle Tucker. Directed by Scott Winant. From HBO.

16 April 2010

The Vampire Diaries S1 E18 "Under Control"

Spoilers Ahead

It occurred to me as I was watching the Vampire Diaries this week, that if you weeded out all the mediocre/crappy episodes and simply watched the few good ones, you really wouldn't miss that much. But then what to do with episodes like "Under Control"--mostly unimpressive, but with a couple of unexpected, and enjoyable, bits? My kingdom for some consistency on this show.

So, after reluctantly consuming human blood last time Stefan is now desperate to "detox." I don't know what's in the stuff versus animal blood but it has a similar effect on Stefan as meth has on some humans. Despite Damon's urging to use non-lethal sources of blood (i.e., blood banks), Stefan manages to stay strong. He even tells Elayna he's almost all better... after only a few days. But just when I was worrying that the show was wasting yet another opportunity for an interesting storyline, Stefan's resolve starts cracking. He shocks them both by vamping out in the middle of a hot and heavy session with Elayna. Later he gets drunk in an effort to take the edge off, which seems to only shorten his fuse. We know Stefan must really be on the edge because he's compelling people left and right. How... underwhelming. He then has the opportunity to unleash on a douche who's trying to pick a fight, but our hero manages to control himself and only hurts the guy's arm (and erases his memory). Yawn. After telling Elayna how much he's suffering and how he doesn't want her to see him this way, they get all sickeningly lovey dovey (like she's not secretly thinking of Damon). At home again, Stefan gives in to his brother's urging this time and drains a glass of human blood. I don't know--after watching a few episodes of Intervention, none of this seems particularly interesting or out-of-control. Then again, Stefan hasn't hit bottom yet. Let's see if the pretty boy vampire really has a dark side.

Which reminds me: clearly not all vampires lose control when they drink human blood. Damon lives on the stuff and seems calm even when he's killing people. Which means that he didn't kill anyone because he lost control--he killed because he wanted to/liked it. As a vampire fan, I have no problem with that. But maybe Elayna, Bonnie, and Saltzman (aka those who know what Damon has done and is capable of) should. Yet, other than initial bouts of annoyance, they're all fine with him. TV land is clearly populated by sociopaths and maladjusts. Or maybe he simply won them over with his charming personality.

Elayna spends the episode being about as useful as she ever is. She does attempt to bond with her brother, which backfires spectacularly when the topic of Vicky comes up and Jeremy--already suspicious about the circumstances of her death--realizes that Elayna is hiding something. Yeah--her diary, which he soon finds and reads. It's chock full of juicy bits about her vampire boyfriend, Vicky's demise at the hands of Damon and Stefan, and how Jeremy was compelled. Of course Elayna would be dumb enough to put all that on paper--it's not like these things ever fall into the wrong hands. But Jeremy keeps it to himself when he sees Elayna again, probably too preoccupied with planning her and Stefan's messy deaths.

By the way, Vicky's cause of death has been officially declared an OD, although the officials all secretly know better. But man is this tiny town efficient; Vicky's autopsy, funeral, and memorial service all take place within a few days (and they probably don't even have a coroner handy). You want value for your tax dollar, move to Mystic Falls. Yes, I am being sarcastic. No one expects realism on TV, but can we aim for believability?

Speaking of annoying, the writers managed to script the exact same conversation between Elayna and Damon twice this episode. The first time in her bedroom after she calls him over to talk about Stefan, and then again at the Founders Day kickoff party that night. Repetitive much? Wasn't I just complaining about the terrible editing on this show (see my review of Episode 17)?

Anyway, at the party Matt and his mom fall out again after he catches her sucking face with Vicky's ex, Ty. Classy lady. Drunk Matt's first instinct is to start wailing on Ty, but pretty soon Ty gets the upper hand and just about pulverizes Matt. When he's finally pulled off, Ty says he doesn't know what happened (anybody check what phase the moon was in?) Meanwhile Kelly is overcome with regret, tearfully promising to change--for reals this time! But Matt's done. He wants her out of the house--and his life--by morning. Meanwhile, Ty's dad the Mayor reacts to his son's apology in a way that would have made Alexis Carrington (you know--the bitchy one on Dynasty. Feel free to substitute the name of a character from a show made sometime this century) proud. In other words, he bitch slaps Ty and tells him that's the last time he embarrasses the family.

But all of that is inconsequential as the real story this episode centers around Damon and Elayna's uncle John(athon) Gilbert (David Anders, Heroes). John saunters into town without warning and without a plan for when he's going to leave again. It quickly becomes clear that no one likes the guy, including Sheriff Liz (who cleans up rather nicely, for the record). It's no surprise that John is part of the Town Council (aka the anti-vampire cabal), but his opposition to Jenna selling his brother's old office (the one that Pearl's intent on buying) is a little weird. And for someone who's been out of town since his brother's funeral, he seems to know a lot about what's been going on, including information he shares with the Council about missing people and blood bank thefts (all within a 75-mile radius of Mystic Falls). At the same meeting, Damon (who still hates the Founders Council but loves that they love him) takes note of the new guy, not least because he's a Gilbert.

What is surprising about Uncle John is that he knows who and what Damon is, as well as about the tomb of (now escaped) vampires. After informing Damon of this, he then taunts the vampire to tear his throat out. Cocky son of a bitch. Damon replies that he's not worth the effort and then walks away. So I really didn't expect Damon to suddenly run back and snap John's neck. After he dumps the body over the balcony, he goes back inside looking pretty pleased with himself. It's moments like these that make this show tolerable.

But there's more! Maybe we both should have seen it coming, but I admit I was about as stunned as Damon was when John walks back into the party as though nothing happened. Sadly, he's not a zombie. He does, however, have a magic ring just like Saltzman's. Cue dramatic music.

After filling Saltzman in on the details, he and Damon both confront John. It turns out John knows Saltzman... and Isobel (he's the one who sent her to Damon)... and Katherine. (No word on where the rings came from but they used to belong to Elayna's dad and John, but John gave his to Isobel--who gave it to Saltzman--and is now wearing the ring that belonged to his brother. Got all that?) Anyway, it seems John's a repository of useful information that he's not yet divulging. Oh yeah, and if anything should happen to him--like a vampire using his speed to get the ring and then permanently kill John--all that useful information is going straight to the Council. Damon is shaken, possibly for the first time (when Stefan was kidnapped by Frederick, Damon seemed more angry than worried). And I'm begging--begging--the writers and producers not to resolve this storyline this season. It's not a race--really.

Obviously this show has a lot of potential, but so far it's gone unfulfilled. Will they do any better with all the rich material (Uncle John, Stefan's addiction, Jeremy's revenge...) they now have? Sadly, I doubt it. Some people just don't know how to use what they've got.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale human until vampire comes out, then dark eyes and prominent facial veins.

Strengths: Super strength, speed. Ability to compel (hypnotize) humans.

Weaknesses: Vervain, pesky humans who won't stay dead.

Mythology: The longer a vampire avoids human blood, the more he craves it after he has it again.

Sound Bites

Damon: (loudly after seeing Jeremy in the kitchen) No, Elena, I will not go to your bedroom with you!

Elayna: (re: Stefan) He's not you. Not even close.
Damon: Well, he doesn't want to be me. But that doesn't mean he isn't, deep down.

Damon: (after John returns from the dead) You've got to be kidding me.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 1 Episode 18 "Under Control." Written by Barbie Kligman and Andrew Chambliss. Directed by David Von Ancken. From The CW.

14 April 2010

True Blood S2 E2 "Keep this Party Going"

Pam, Eric, and Chow put their left foot in before shaking it all about.

Spoilers Ahead

"Keep this Party Going" starts off as any television show should--with a disembodied human limb flying through the air and landing in front of a terrified captive. In fact, I think I saw this very scene on a recent episode of Two and a Half Men.

So, if you recall where we left off last time, this episode picks up right away, at the tail end of Eric's hissy fit over a bit of silver (RIP redneck Royce). My Eric-loving friend assured me that this scene would convert me into an Eric disciple. Yeah, not so much. I still don't get the appeal of Mr. Northman, but those of you who do--carry on. Once he's done with the dismemberment, he frets over his hair, shows no emotion as he kicks Royce's torso out of the way, and pouts when Pam chastises him for ruining his fresh highlights with blood. He does seem concerned, however, over a missing ancient Sheriff named Godric.

We get some good insight this episode into who Lafayette really is. I always thought he was all about making money and having a good time. It seems more than anything that he's a survivor, aka an opportunist. It seems he'll do anything, give up anyone to save his own skin. He bargains with Eric, Pam and Chow, offering to give them the names of anyone he ever sold V to. With only a slight amount of reluctance, he names Jason as the likely kidnapper of Eddie. He readily hands over the email of a Dallas V dealer he trades with. When he's locked up in the basement again, Lafayette retrieves Royce's leg, pries out the metal hip (at one point with his teeth), and uses it to break the chain keeping him in place. I didn't know whether to be disgusted or impressed with Lafayette. As he tries escaping from the club, human waitress Ginger shows up with a gun. His first instinct is to charm her (convincingly coming on to her despite his lack of interest in women), then--when she doesn't fall for it--he gets angry. Twitchy to begin with, Ginger accidentally shoots Lafayette in the leg. When Eric gives him the option to die slowly (via his leg) or quickly (via the vampires), Lafayette chooses option C: to be turned. He says he'll work at the bar and would not only be a bad-ass vampire, but he'd be Eric's bad-ass vampire. At this point I decided I was impressed with Lafayette. Eric even seems intrigued, telling him he'll take it under advisement. Then the three vampires jump on their prisoner and start helping themselves to what little of his blood remains.

I'm impressed with the True Blood writers for taking what is apparently a non-character in the books, and making him into an interesting, complex character on the show. Lafayette is definitely one of my favourites, and I sure as hell hope Eric et al spare some of his blood.

Meanwhile Jason is trying to find his purpose at the Light of Day Leadership Conference, and is having to contend with a whole other type of drama. He seems to be Steve and Sarah Newlin's golden boy (especially Sarah's), and shines both in a game of Capture the Flag and in some anti-vampire roleplaying. The only person who doesn't seem to like him is Luke McDonald (played by Wes Brown). Friendly at first, it doesn't take Luke long to succumb to blinding jealousy and no small amount of disgust at Jason's obvious ignorance. Jason's worried that Luke is right when he says everyone will soon see Jason for the joke he is, and he keeps flashing back to his time with Eddie. It's pretty obvious that there's just no way this is going to end well. Jason's in the lion's den and I keep wanting to tell him to get the hell out.

And speaking of the Light of Day Conference--what is up with the cute girl singing all sexy about Jesus asking her out? When I first heard this song on the soundtrack, I was *sure* it was meant to be ironic. But after seeing the context onscreen, I'm just really confused. I'm not exactly an expert on modern Christian song stylings, but I can't imagine this would be considered appropriate. Anyone out there care to clear it up for me? Seriously, "Jesus Asked Me Out Today": ironic, or sincere? Less confusing (and better utilized) was the titular song of the episode, used in a scene at Merlotte's, although I'm not sure the B52's and True Blood are a great fit. At least it made sense.

Quite a bit is happening at Merlotte's, actually. Sookie stops by to ask Tara to move in to Gran's old room. Sookie thinks it's the perfect solution--helping her move on after her grandmother's death, and giving Tara a permanent place to stay, but Tara isn't sure. Despite thinking it's got to be too good to be true, Tara is comfortably ensconced at Maryann's. She does promise to consider it, though.

After dropping Tara off at work, Maryann decides to hang out at Merlotte's where she whiles away the hours tormenting Sam and eating everything in sight. She's thrilled to finally meet Sookie (not so thrilled when she hears that Sookie wants Tara to move in with her, although she hides it). But when Sookie tries to hear Maryann's thoughts, she picks up some creepy chanting in a foreign language. When Sookie tells Maryann she can't place her accent, Maryann says she's from Cape Cod. If she says so...

We're still no closer to finding out what Maryann is or what she's doing in Bon Temps. She obviously has some power, though. After she starts dancing at the bar, suddenly everyone else is dancing too... and grinding... and virtually having sex on the pool table. At one point, barfly Jane Bodehouse looks up and her eyes have turned entirely black. It's not every day you find someone with the power to instigate a near-orgy, let alone an evil one. (When do black eyes ever mean anything but evil?) When Sam confronts Maryann about what she's doing, she plays innocent before getting all buzzy and flickery. The next thing we know, Sam's in dog form and Maryann is telling him she can do that to him whenever and wherever she wants--so he'd better not threaten her again. Okay, so evil and magical. Wonder if she's related to Dark Willow.

While Sookie's occupied elsewhere, Bill is busy trying to navigate the misses section at the mall in an attempt to buy Jessica some new clothes. The saleswoman is only too happy to help hottie Mr. Compton, especially when she finds out he's undead. She offers to try on some of the sluttier apparel for him in the dressing room, and doesn't quite believe it when he declines. Out of nowhere, Eric shows up sporting his new short haircut (a result of the ruined highlights) and a cheesy track suit. He and Bill exchange pleasantries and Bill says how much he likes the new do. Suddenly the saleswoman realizes why Bill wasn't interested in her, and walks away laughing. Of course, Eric isn't there just to talk fashion (although given what he's wearing, he really should be). He wants to ask Bill's permission to take Sookie with him to Dallas so she can help him find Godric. Bill is adamantly opposed, so Eric reminds him that he's only asking his permission out of respect. Bill still says no, but it's clear Eric won't take no for an answer.

The parts with Bill and Sookie on their own this episode are okay, but their storyline when they're together is odd and somewhat annoying. It starts off well enough, with the two of them sharing post-coital bonding time. Despite the cliched fantastic make-up sex, they agree that they don't want to be one of those couples who are always fighting. As even Sookie points out, this is ironic because they're fighting again a minute later (not to mention that they seem to be upset with each other nearly every episode; or at least Sookie's always upset with Bill). This time they're disagreeing about Jessica. As a new vampire, Bill argues that Jessica has lost her humanity and won't be able to control all the overwhelming impulses she's experiencing. Sookie maintains that Jessica sounds like any other teenage girl.

Later as Sookie tries to get to know her, homesick Jessica manages to convince Sookie to take her to her parents's house (she also does a great impression of Bill). She swears she only wants to catch a glimpse of them from across the street. Sookie is stupid enough to agree, although it's not as stupid as telling Jessica in the car that she blames herself for Jessica being turned and taken away from her family. I thought Jessica would tear Sookie's throat out, given her emotional state, but instead she spots her sister at the window and is knocking on the door a second later. Of course it doesn't take long for things to get out of control. Luckily--or maybe not--Bill turns up a moment later and glamours the younger sister into inviting him in (a fairly creepy process now that we get to see it). Bill not only shouts at Sookie to shut up, but he also pushes her out so he can clean up "her" mess and shouts that this is all her fault. Okay, putting aside for a moment that he left Jessica on her own (why couldn't he have taken her shopping, exactly?) and didn't tell Sookie he'd be out so that she wouldn't go to his place, if my guy talked to me like that for any reason, I'd be done. I mean, I really like Bill (especially when he lets the monster out a little), but if I were Sookie I'd kick him to the curb after that. But Sookie's feeling upset and guilty, so the only response she manages is to beg Bill not to kill the family (personally, I only care about the little sister, who is super cute).

"Keep this Party Going" ends with Bill approaching Jessica's terrified dad. Bill looks at the man, looks back at Jessica and the rest of the family, then turns back to the dad (and the camera) and growls. Is he going to listen to Sookie and spare them despite his rage? Tune in next week to find out!

Overall I liked this episode, aside from my issues with Bill and Sookie. It had lots of good vampire action, some paranormal mojo, attractive people in various stages of undress... Some of the lesser characters are really starting to be developed (and developed well). And there's mystery too! As long as Sookie and Bill don't keep being one of "those" couples, I think we'll be okay.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with long, snake-like fangs that retract or extend at will. Instead of tears they cry blood.

Strengths: Super strength, speed. Power to glamour (hypnotize) humans.

Weaknesses: Silver, stakes. Vampires are often preyed upon by humans for their blood (V), a powerful drug.

Mythology: Vampire society is hierarchical, divided into regions ruled over by Sheriffs. A vampire needs an invitation (by someone who lives there) to enter a private residence. New vampires have no real humanity and are undergoing an overwhelming number of transformations; they're dangerous and not to be trusted. A vampire's maker has command over them.

Sound Bites

Eric: Is there blood in my hair?
Lafayette: What?
Eric: Is there blood in my hair?
Lafayette: I... I don't know. I... I can't see in this light.
Eric: (appears in front of Lafayette) How about now?
Lafayette: Yeah... there's a little bit of blood in there, yeah.
Eric: This is bad. Pam's going to kill me.

Pam: You know, all this time I thought prostitutes were good at keeping secrets.
Lafayette: Oh, don't get it twisted, honeycomb--I'm a survivor first, a capitalist second, and a whole bunch of other shit after that. But a hooker dead last.

Lafayette: (trying to charm Ginger) Well, look at you. Not only is you sexy, yeah but you can read minds too. That get me all riled up in my nether regions.

Luke: You think you walk on water, don't you?
Jason: I'm pretty sure that was Moses.
Luke: No, it was Jesus. Moses parted the red sea. And what the hell was the deal with you snapping the American flag in half like you're some Muslim Buffy with a dick? That's all kinds of messed up.

True Blood, Season 2 Episode 2 "Keep this Party Going." Written by Brian Buckner. Directed by Michael Lehmann. From HBO.