27 May 2010

True Blood S2 E11 "Frenzy" + Blood Lines news

Spoilers Ahead

Season 2 is almost done, which means I get a short break before Season 3 is finally here! I'll also be reviewing the Sookie Stackhouse books. I have no regrets.

"Frenzy" starts off right where "New World in My View" left off: with Bill looking stunned. In the background we hear a woman gasping in pleasure and then the camera cuts to said woman reclining on a settee while another woman kneels between her legs, moving her head suggestively. Oh, True Blood--you and your innuendos (there was a similar scene in Buffy Season 5 "Into the Woods" featuring Riley and a female vampire--first time I started liking Mr. Teutonic). And thus we are introduced to the vampire Queen of Louisiana (aka Sophie-Anne Leclerq): as she drinks blood from the femoral artery of a "good woman" while Bill watches, looking intensely uncomfortable. Not bad.

I have to say--I love the character of the Queen. She's so lighthearted and flippantly amoral--great combination, and perfect for an ancient character with a lot of power. I also think she's stunning (eye candy is always a plus). I know a lot of people weren't thrilled with the casting of Evan Rachel Wood (Profiler, The Wrestler) but I have no problem with her. I think she does a brilliant job portraying the Queen and she dominates when she's onscreen--as royalty should.

Anyway, Bill looks no less uncomfortable as he's left alone in the room with the still-reclining human. She's staring and silent; I guess that would unnerve anyone. His relief at the Queen's return is short-lived; however, as she isn't quite as helpful as he'd hoped. She lectures him on his snobbery, offers him something to eat (going on about a particularly delicious Latvian boy), and then offers little helpful information about maenads. She does claim that you can't kill a maenad and then shares an intriguing (to me) theory that everything in the universe imagined itself into existence. If Maryann believes she's immortal (which she does) then she is immortal. Not exactly what Bill wanted to hear.

The Queen then teases Bill about having sex with her (the look on his face is priceless), before insisting he spend the day and leave the next night. He really wants to get back to Bon Temps, but when the vampire Queen insists, you do what you're told.

Back in Bon Temps things aren't going much better. In fact, they're going decidedly worse. To start, Tara's still fixated on getting Eggs away from Maryann. When Lafayette handcuffs her to a table to keep her from going back to the man he views as a trouble-making woman beater, Tara starts getting mean, saying incredibly hurtful things to everyone in the room. While Lettie Mae starts crying, Lafayette and Sookie escape to the porch as much to get away from Tara as to keep an eye out for Maryann or her minions.

Unfortunately, neither Sookie nor Lafayette really consider how Lettie Mae will be affected as she watches over her daughter. Tara pleads with Lettie Mae to let her go, promising to forgive her for everything if she does. Then she starts chipping away at Lettie Mae's faith, telling her the voice that's been guiding her all along has been Satan, but now God is knocking on her door, telling her to do the right thing. Lettie Mae turns her back on Tara and starts praying.

As Lafayette and Sookie compare notes about the disturbing dreams they've been having after drinking Eric's blood, Lettie Mae runs out in tears. She's had enough of listening to the heartbreaking things Tara is saying and wants to take over guard duty. Lafayette hands over his rifle, and the next thing he knows Lettie Mae is pointing it at him and calling out to Tara that she's got the gun. She then orders Lafayette to unlock Tara. Defiant, Lafayette says no. But when Lettie Mae fires a shot into the air, it sends him cowering behind a chair. While Sookie goes inside to free Tara, Lettie Mae starts talking to Lafayette, telling him she pities him. All of a sudden Lettie Mae turns into Eric. He starts talking about how he's going to kill Lafayette and how amazing it is to be a vampire. Lafayette is in full-out panic mode now. When Sookie and Tara come back out, Lettie Mae is where Sookie left her, wondering why Lafayette is freaking out. While Sookie tries to deal with the situation, Tara takes off to get Eggs.

Devising a fiendish scheme, Sookie convinces Lettie Mae to point the gun down. As the woman relents, Sookie throws a figurine at her, knocking her down and giving Lafayette a chance to grab the gun. It's like something out of The Three Stooges, only less clever. But the next scene makes up for it as Lafayette drives at high speed, awkwardly holding the rifle in one hand: from now on nobody holds it but him. Then the moment is over and Sookie is stressing that she needs Lafayette to shoot Maryann in the head if she gives them any trouble.

Tara's already made it to Sookie's, and she finds black-eyed Eggs sitting at the table. He's missed her so much but there's not really time for a reunion as Tara tries to convince him they have to leave now. Suddenly Maryann is in the doorway asking Tara why she would want to leave when everything she wants is right there. Both Maryann and Eggs are super creepy in this scene, and I hate that Tara is in there (and that Sookie and Lafayette soon will be). Tara tries to argue that Maryann wants Sam (way to throw him under the bus)--she and Eggs have nothing to do with it. Or maybe not. Maryann lets Tara in on a little secret: she was the one who summoned Maryann to Bon Temps. Remember way back when Tara underwent that "exorcism" with Miss Jeanette and saw a black-eyed flickering "demon" that looked like her as a child? Yeah, that was Maryann. Tara's horrified as Maryann explains that ritual is a powerful thing and calling forth that kind of energy has consequences. A minute later Tara is back to black-eyed minion status and she and Eggs happily run upstairs.

And speaking of the minions, the group from Merlotte's suddenly arrives all atwitter with excitement because The God Who Comes came and smoked Sam good. Maryann is furious. She concentrates and suddenly a loud, high-pitched squeal (much like nails on a chalkboard) leaves the minions screaming in pain. That'll learn them.

Once Sookie and Lafayette arrive at her place, they pause to take stock of the situation and end up being confronted by Arlene and Terry. Lafayette hangs back temporarily in order to bribe them with drugs while Sookie runs inside. It's quite the scene waiting in there for her. Besides the filth and destruction, Jane Bodehouse is cutting off her own finger as a present for the god, some naked guy is curled up in the sink, and Mike the Coroner is lying on the floor. He grabs Sookie by the ankle and forces her to spoon with him (it's even creepier than it sounds).

And yet Lafayette somehow manages to top Sookie in the getting-into-bad-situations department. As he's skulking around the house he runs into Maryann and Karl. Maryann is her usual disingenuous self, going on about a poisonous herb that in tiny doses is delicious in wine-based sauces. Then she starts approaching Lafayette. He tells her to stop, but of course she doesn't listen. So he pulls the trigger. Maryann holds up her hand and the bullet ricochets into Karl's head. She seems less than concerned about her loyal servant, turning instead to Lafayette and asking "You cook, don't you?"

Surprisingly, Sam has managed to stay safe, but for how long is anybody's guess. Once they've gotten over the initial shock of finding out that Sam is a shapeshifter, Jason and Andy try to figure out what they should do next. Sam doesn't have a plan and he doesn't know what to do but he knows that Jason's idea to go after Maryann is not a good one. While he's arguing about it with Jason and Andy, he hears whispers and scurrying. Following the noise, Sam discovers Arlene's kids--scared and hungry (makes me wonder about how the other kids in town are holding up). While he's with them, Jason and Andy come out and tell Sam that they're going to the Sheriff's office to arm themselves. He tries to talk them out of it before giving up in disgust, calling Jason a damn fool. Jason can't believe the ingratitude.

Somehow the first time I watched these episodes I never noticed just how influenced Jason still is by the Light of Day Institute. Now that I've watched them again it's like a flashing sign is over Jason's head: unreformed zealot. He quotes the Bible, brags about his leadership skills and paramilitary training, claims to know what God wants him to do, and believes they're in the middle of a war between good (him and Andy) vs. evil (Maryann). The only thing that's setting Jason apart from the Steve Newlin brigade is his pro-vampire stance. This is worrisome, and leads me to wonder where Jason's going to end up next season. Lafayette must have been thinking of Jason when he tells Sookie that people do bad things because they're weak.

While Jason and Andy take off, Sam takes care of the kids. As they ask him what's wrong with their mom they mention that they need to find someone who would know how to help her--like a doctor, or a vampire. Believing Bill is still in Dallas, Sam thinks of the one other vampire he knows. This should be interesting.

As they wait in Sam's truck outside Fangtasia, little Lisa suddenly starts asking about her father. She mentions that she doesn't even know what he looks like because Arlene tore up all her pictures of him--but she does know that his name is Dwayne and that he has a tattoo of Arlene's name on his stomach. Okay, so whenever something that doesn't seem to logically fit into the rest of a show is emphasized, it always glares out at me. Like when, out of the blue, Arlene's ex is suddenly the topic of discussion. I'm wondering whether we'll be seeing him in the flesh at some future time (and if not, why waste screen time on the topic?) I also have to wonder whether there isn't a more subtle way to integrate this type of foreshadowing into dialogue and storylines. It gets tiring constantly being hit over the head with hamfisted writing.

Anyway, once they finally get inside to talk to Eric, he's less than interested in helping them out. Sam is known to be unfriendly to vampires, and why should Eric care about a maenad anyway? Sam makes a convincing argument that if somebody doesn't start trusting somebody else they'll all be single targets ripe for the picking. Finally willing to play along, Eric manages to connect Maryann with the bull-person but, like everyone else, doesn't know anything about maenads. He does, however, know someone who just might be able to help--but he needs to leave right away. Is it just me or are he and Bill slowly turning into the same person? Then again, unlike Eric (who shows his ability for the first time) Bill can't fly (not that we know anyway). Eric should really get himself a cape.

Meanwhile Jason and Andy are at the Sheriff's, and find it not quite as abandoned as they were expecting. Andy heads to find the weapons while Jason distracts an amorous blonde named Rosie. Andy's not off the hook, though; he ends up having the less-enjoyable task of dealing with the pantsless square-dancing Sheriff. At least he gets the weapons they were after.

Hoyt is possibly having an even worse time this episode than everyone else. Still at Bill's, he's infuriated as he pulls Jessica off his mother before she kills her. Jessica is confused at his anger, pointing out that Maxine was saying horrible things about the both of them. But Hoyt, not quite cured of his mama's boy affliction, tells Jessica his mother is allowed to say horrible things because she's his mother. He then says he should have listened to Vampire Bill when he warned him about Jessica. She looks crushed. Crying, she slams the door after them and then screams in frustration. I can't say I entirely blame her. Okay, obviously it's wrong to try to kill your boyfriend's mother, but after going on and on about how perfect Jessica is and how he'll never leave her, Hoyt seems pretty quick to walk away. I mean, he did lock his extra-obnoxious and hostile mother in a house with a hungry newbie vamp. A little understanding on his part might have been nice.

Anyway, once they're at their place Hoyt and Maxine get into an argument over going to Maryann's ritual/celebration. Maxine blames Hoyt for ruining all her fun by forcing her to take care of him all these years, and then says he's a pansy like his dad. Hoyt bristles, snapping that his father was a hero who died protecting them from a burglar. Maxine counters that his father was a secret drinker, probably a closet homosexual (he liked to dance more than a "normal" man should), and put a bullet in his own head. Leaving Hoyt reeling, she adds that she lied about his death in order to collect the insurance money. Sucks to be Hoyt right now.

Speaking of sucking, over at the Queen's mansion Bill is impatiently checking his watch while a line of humans stands at attention. The Queen wants to play Yahtzee, and she wants Bill to eat so he'll be at the top of his game. When he mentions he only feeds from Sookie, both the Queen and the human woman sitting next to them turn to stare at him. The Queen's in disbelief that he would do that to himself but Bill's only concerned about getting back to Bon Temps. Acting as though she doesn't hear him, she calls over one of the humans and introduces him to Bill, asking if he'll let Bill feed on him. Bill declines yet again, but this time the Queen insists. You can feel Bill's frustration as he gives in. The Queen comments that she loves watching men together.

Bill's frustration only grows as he's forced to play Yahtzee with the Queen and two of the humans (the man Bill fed on and the woman who was sitting next to them). Realizing the Queen's got nothing for him, he gets up and starts leaving. Giving in, the Queen finally starts talking. She claims that maenads are out of touch with the modern world, spending their lives waiting for the god who never comes. Ultimately, they seek death as they continuously try to summon forth "Dionysus" in hopes that he will ravish and devour them until they're lost into oblivion. Sounds like fun. In order to summon the god, a maenad needs a "perfect vessel" (preferably a supernatural, like a shapeshifter) to sacrifice. Most important of all, once a maenad believes she has summoned god and surrenders herself to him willingly, only then can she be killed. Now there's some information that was worth waiting for.

Suddenly a guard comes to speak to the Queen, and Bill has a few moments alone with the humans. The woman--Hadley--suddenly asks how her cousin Sookie is. What's this? Sookie has a cousin Hadley? Why, of course she does--she was mentioned way back in "Cold Ground" in another one of those awkward foreshadowing moments. The conversation between Bill and Hadley is weird and out of place (although it's written as though it makes perfect sense), as well as seemingly pointless. Who knows--maybe we'll be seeing Hadley again. But you'd think the writers would have had more important things to focus on in the second-last episode.

The Queen returns and informs Bill that Eric has just arrived. Well, that's Bill's cue to go (the Queen remarks on their alpha male posturing and says they should just sleep with each other and get over it. I'm not sure that would solve anything, though--who would be on top?) The Queen also makes a point of telling Bill she's looking forward to meeting Sookie. Outside we get a good look at the alpha male posturing as both men try to assert their dominance, mostly over Sookie (I guess her opinion on this doesn't really matter). Bill tells Eric that if he ever comes near Sookie again he'll inform the Queen that Eric is forcing humans to sell V. Um, did Bill just threaten to tell on Eric? Forget about sleeping with each other; I think a three-way relationship between them and Sookie would solve a lot of these issues. Come on, guys--poly's the thing now.

In Bon Temps things go from bad to worse. As Sam sits lost in thought outside his trailer, Bill suddenly appears looking very much like he's got plans for Sam. Bad, unpleasant plans. Meanwhile Sookie manages to get away from Coroner Mike and heads upstairs, where she finds Tara and Eggs destroying what's left of her Gran's room in order to make a nest. Peeking inside the nest, Sookie sees there actually is a large egg inside it. It's a whole new element of WTF?! As Sookie backs away, Lafayette is suddenly there asking where she's been. She turns and sees his big, black eyes. Then she screams. Cut to credits and the titular song, performed by Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

I didn't much care for Sookie screaming when she saw Lafayette. Granted, Anna Paquin seems to have minored in the subject, but it feels out of place now (especially since Sookie declared earlier that she wasn't afraid). It also doesn't seem like the correct reaction to the situation. I'm thinking swearing, or maybe stunned silence, or a panicked glance around the room would have been better. Screaming bloody murder? Not so much. But I expect there to be a whole lot more screaming in the season finale as Maryann finally summons The God Who Comes. Get ready to party like it's 1999 (BC).

Fang Files

Appearance: Very pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and snakelike fangs that descend and retract at will. Vampires cry blood.

Strengths: Super speed, strength. In some cases the ability to fly.

Weaknesses: Vampire blood (V) is a powerful, and much-sought, drug for humans. Some humans will even kill vampires just to get their blood. Maenad blood (vampires can only drink human blood and modern-day maenads are no longer human).

Mythology: Vampire society is hierarchical, with Sheriffs, Kings, and Queens ruling over lesser vampires in their territories. Once a human has consumed a vampire's blood, the vampire can then always sense and track the human; the human will also become sexually attracted to the vampire, even if they can't stand them in reality.

Sound Bites

The Queen: (re: Maryann) Orgies, sacrifice?
Bill: Yes.
The Queen: Cannibalism.
Bill: We suspect.
The Queen: Oh, fun.

The Queen: Never underestimate the power of blind faith. It can manifest in ways that bend the laws of physics--or break them entirely.

Jason: Well, sometimes you need to destroy somethin' to save it. That's in the Bible. Or the Constitution.

Coby: He [Rene] went on a vacation with Jesus.
Pam: You make me so happy I never had any of you.
Eric: Oh, come on, Pam; they're funny. They're like humans, but miniature. Teacup humans.
Pam: (in Swedish) I hate them. They're so stupid.
Eric: (in Swedish) But delicious.

True Blood, Season 2 Episode 11 "Frenzy." Written by Alan Ball. Directed by Daniel Minahan. From HBO.

Speaking of True Blood, I'm thrilled to say that Blood Lines and I are featured in Becca Wilcott's new book Truly, Madly, Deadly: The Unofficial True Blood Companion. Becca interviewed me on the subject of vampires and True Blood a while back, and part of the interview made it into the book (hopefully the entire interview will eventually end up posted on her website). I had a blast discussing my favourite topic with Becca and I can't wait to read Truly, Madly, Deadly.

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