Warning: If you like your vampires de-fanged (i.e., sensitive and pretty), then this episode is not for you. The rest of you feel free to keep reading.
"Hard-Hearted Hannah" was genuinely frightening and disturbing, not least because of Bill's singing debut (he can sing, but there was definitely a feeling of disconnect watching Mr. Compton seated at a piano, belting it out). Between the creep factor, the unapologetically graphic details (you know--what that warning at the beginning is all about), and the deepening storylines and character development, TV was brought to a whole new level with this episode. Thanks, HBO!
We start with Bill's maker, Lorena, heading to the hotel's lobby, where Eric is latched on to the neck of a woman, looking bored as ever. This scene really epitomizes why I don't like Eric. Not only is he emotionless (his near-constant state of being), but he tells the woman that feeding on the willing is no fun. She tries to pretend she doesn't want it, but he's still not impressed. Hello, sociopath. Granted, this makes him scarier, but it sure doesn't make him interesting. But at least he promises to tell the woman's manager that she was "magnificent."
Anyway, as he and Lorena chat it's no surprise that he's the one who invited her to the hotel, hoping she would get Bill out of his way. Apparently he's interested in Sookie (if he didn't keep saying so, we'd never know). He also reiterates that Sookie is something more than human, although he--like everyone else--doesn't know what.
I took an instant dislike to Lorena. I'm not sure if it's because she's obviously going to cause trouble for Bill and Sookie, or if it's simply personal prejudice (she reminds me way too much of someone I know and can't stand in real life). In any case, it's clear she loved and still loves Bill. We get a good look at their relationship via flashbacks to a clandestine party in prohibition-era America. This is the scene of Bill's big musical debut (where he performs the titular song of the episode). Meanwhile Lorena charms their hosts with a really bad French accent and a suggestion that the four of them indulge in "European" activities after the other guests have left. Seeing Bill and Lorena together, he obviously feels for her as much as she feels for as him. That is, crazy intense--emphasis on crazy.
We next see Bill and Lorena covered in the blood of the terrified human couple, and revelling in it. As Lorena holds the man down and forces him to watch, Bill viciously feeds on the woman. This is definitely a new side of Bill; not so much the scary vampire, but his whole flippant and cruel attitude about what they're doing. If Sookie could see him now... Anyway, as the man screams, Lorena finally snaps his neck. Bill drops the wounded and dying woman, then takes the necklace from around her bleeding neck and gives it to Lorena (she'd been admiring it earlier), telling her he wants her to have it. Lorena tells Bill she loves him, and then they push the still-alive woman aside so they can have sex on the blood-soaked sheets. It's brutal, just the way vampires should be. Cut back to the present and Lorena is still wearing the necklace. Looks like she won't be letting go of the past anytime soon.
Let me take a second to ask if anyone else has noticed that the vampires on the show are getting paler and paler? Originally they had the complexion of your average goth, but lately they seem to have a more death-like appearance (not unlike your average hardcore goth). They look downright stark, and their eyes are more prominently red. Makes you wonder how people don't instantly pick them out of a crowd, especially in the south, where it's a safe bet that most denizens are some kind of sun-toasted shade. It also makes me wonder (although I'm glad they don't) why the vampires wouldn't just go get spray tans. Yes, I think about these things.
Anyway, blissfully unaware of Lorena's presence Bill and Sookie are still in bed, enjoying each other's naked company. A knock at the door (reluctantly answered) reveals Isabel and her human, Hugo. Realizing how worried Bill is about Sookie infiltrating the Fellowship of the Sun, and not willing to let Bill take all the risk for her Sheriff, Isobel has decided to send Hugo along with Sookie. It's clear that Isabel and Hugo are sickeningly in love, confirmed by Sookie after she reads Hugo's thoughts. But apparently it's not all sunshine and rainbows. When Sookie asks Hugo what his relationship is like with Isabel, he claims that every time he brings up the subject of being turned she shuts down. Then Buzz Killington goes on about how old and frail he and Sookie will one day be, while the vampires stay the same and certainly won't be able to still love them. Sookie suddenly sees the up-side of the mission going wrong and her ending up dead.
In other depressing relationship news, Sam and Daphne start off well enough, contentedly lounging on the pool table. He asks her about the scars on her back, but she's not sure what did it. All she knows is that she was running in the woods when she was attacked, and then she was "real sick" for weeks afterward. The doctors said she was lucky to be alive. Sam is totally smitten, telling her she's the most amazing person he's ever met. In turn, she tells him he shouldn't be ashamed of what he is and that he needs to share himself with people (aww...) Later they skip out of work and go running together (surprising a drunk Andy Bellefleur, who recognizes Daphne as the pig he saw). As soon as I realized that Daphne had turned into Maryann's pig, all hopes for some happiness for Sam went out the window. Alas.
Tara and Eggs also have some creepy bonding time. When Sookie's ancient water heater breaks, Tara and Eggs undertake the two-hour drive to pick up the needed part (meanwhile, Maryann is pitching a fit because she doesn't have hot water for a shower). Along the way, Eggs suddenly realizes he knows the area even though he's never been there. Getting Tara to pull over, he starts walking into the woods, somehow knowing exactly where to go. Eventually, and just as Tara is really getting freaked, they come to a clearing. Clothes are scattered around, the remnants of a fire remain. A circle of stones with strange carvings surrounds the area. Eggs realizes he has been there before, although he has no idea when. Approaching one of the stones, Tara and Eggs see that the indentation on top is stained with blood. Knowing something horrible has happened there and having no logical explanation for any of it, Eggs breaks down crying, terrified and confused.
When they get back to Sookie's place, they find it a mess. Empty bottles and cans, upturned furniture, and strewn clothing everywhere. Following the trail of clothes, Tara and Eggs suddenly hear eerie screams. And then they see the orgy. Not the previous orgy-like shindigs Maryann has thrown, involving lots of drinking and naughty behaviour. Nope, this is a full-out give-the-Romans-a-run-for-their-money animalistic frenzy. And might I add, the producers did not skimp on detail in this scene; you don't often see a fully nude three-way (among other things) on mainstream (okay, mainstream-ish) TV. Not for the conservative among you. Amid all the activity we see a bronze bull head resting nearby, and then Tara notices Maryann at the forefront, flickering and buzzing. She almost looks like she's feeding on the energy of what's going on around her. She notices Tara watching her but doesn't stop.
Meanwhile, at Merlotte's Hoyt confronts his mother for deactivating his cell phone, worried that Jessica will be upset with him for not returning her messages. Overbearing Maxine is fine with that, since clearly any girl who would call a boy so late at night must be a money-grubbing tramp. Hoyt tells her to reactivate the phone, or else. And if Maxine wasn't shocked enough at her son actually standing up to her, he then turns around and tells her and her pal Benita Lou that the reason his girlfriend has been calling so late is because she's a vampire. Mom is so horrified she's shaking. Hoyt ends up driving to the hotel in Dallas, where Jessica is anything but mad at him. Their relationship (for now, anyway) is the one little bright spot in all the messed up True Blood universe.
Speaking of messed up, Lafayette is in worse shape than we thought. When Andy confronts him about where he's been and accuses him of killing Miss Jeanette, Lafayette doesn't seem bothered. But when Andy threatens to lock him in a cell to rot, and then starts yelling at him, Lafayette ends up cowering in the corner, hallucinating Eric's face where Andy's should be. Luckily Terry steps in, ordering Andy to leave and then helping Lafayette through the panic attack. Clearly, Terry has been through this before. When Lafayette later gets paid a visit by Pam, he's not sure at first if she's really there or not. Apparently hallucinating vampires has become a regular thing for him. She is there, though, and with a bottle of V. She orders him (on behalf of Eric) to start dealing again. As Lafayette asks: what are vampires doing selling V? The plot coagulates.
Heading over to the Light of Day Institute, Jason and Luke are separated from the rest of the group and given the task of building a platform with a cross on top. When Jason questions if they're being punished, Sarah shows she's not above double-entendres when she tells him to stop sulking and be grateful for the "job" he's been given (see last episode). She then hurries on to remind him that Jesus was a carpenter. Oblivious as ever, Steve doesn't catch the subtext, but in any case he's way too excited about what's going to be happening. Ignoring Sarah's protests, Steve lets Jason and Luke in on a secret: the platform is for a ceremony called "Meet the Sun." If you haven't already guessed, this fun-filled ceremony involves chaining a vampire to the cross just before dawn and watching him burn as the sun comes up. Family-friendly entertainment for the whole congregation! Jason seems initially horrified (as he should be) but gets over it pretty quickly. He's preoccupied thinking about his indiscretion with the Reverend's missus. Luke, who's suddenly over his jealousy, insists Jason share what's bothering him. Jason doesn't get a chance to tell Luke about him and Sarah, but they do end up talking about sinning and adultery and abstinence, with Luke urging Jason to go abstinent too. Jason doesn't seem quite as enthused about it as Luke is.
While Jason is deep in philosophical discourse, Sookie and Hugo (or "Holly" and "Rufus") begin their infiltration of the Fellowship of the Sun by being greeted in the parking lot by Sarah herself. They claim to be an engaged couple looking for the right church in which to be married. Sookie, despite having promised Hugo to keep quiet, starts talking non-stop as soon as she meets Sarah. She admits to Hugo that sometimes, when she's nervous, she talks too much. No kidding.
Sarah brings the happy couple inside to meet Steve, who seems to buy their story as he talks to them about their upcoming nuptials and the inappropriate behaviour of their last pastor (he was a 'sympathizer'). Meanwhile he's thinking about bringing the vampire up from the basement and watching him finally brought to glorious justice. Sookie plays along, probably pushing it a little too far as she goes on about what vicious monsters vampires are. As they're given a tour of the truly beautiful church, Steve asks Sookie if she's ever been to a lock-in before. She's obviously never even heard of a lock-in, and Steve's thoughts reveal that he's on to her and Hugo. Sarah is getting agitated too, thinking and hoping that Steve will let Sookie go because obviously the vampires are making her do it. Sookie's having trouble maintaining her composure as she tries to convince Hugo, who seems weirdly unperturbed, that they need to leave. Suddenly Gabe arrives to join the tour. I'm not sure why Sookie doesn't just run at this point.
Steve is insisting the happy couple absolutely has to see his father's tomb in the basement, in order to get the full tour of the church, of course. Sookie's still desperately trying to get away and finally even Hugo shows reluctance to keep going (he claims they're both a touch claustrophobic). Steve stays pleasant for another few moments before he and Gabe grab the infiltrators and start dragging them down the stairs. Sookie is fighting like hell, prompting Steve to call her a few choice things (the nicest of which is [fang] banger). Sarah is shocked and looks stricken. For a minute there's hope she might help Sookie, but then she says she's sorry and leaves, closing the door behind her.
Sensing Sookie's fear, Bill suddenly wakes, alert. At which point he has a not-so-happy reunion with his maker. She pins him down, telling him his blood knows hers and that he'll never be able to physically overcome her. Then she kisses him. He looks like he'd rather be eating silver.
Back in the church, Jason is looking for Steve and Sarah to let them know the platform is finished. He finds Sarah up in the balcony, crying. He asks what's wrong and she claims that Steve isn't the man she thought he was. Jason tries to defend him and doesn't seem convinced even when she tells him that Steve is only using the soldiers to start a war. Trying to keep him from leaving, she tells Jason that even as a girl she knew she had a calling to be the great woman behind her great man, but now that Steve's lost his lustre she realizes Jason is the one she was meant to be with. Jason tries to protest, saying it's wrong and that she's married. Ever prepared, Sarah responds that she's not married in her heart anymore and, oh yeah, God is commanding her to have sex with Jason. God wants them to do it. Who can argue with God's will? Not Jason.
The episode ends with Daphne leading Sam through the woods. They hear drums and Sam stops, not wanting to go on. Suddenly a couple of people from the set of One Million Years B.C. show up and grab Sam. They drag him to the orgy (where Tara and Eggs have now become black-eyed participants), and Daphne picks up the bronze bull head and puts it reverently on Maryann's head. Maryann starts chanting and Karl brings her an elaborate dagger, wrapped in red cloth. Scared, Sam screams 'no' as the camera pans out, shooting the scene from above. Cut to the credits and we hear "Hard-Hearted Hannah" (the vamp of Savannah) again, this time performed by Dolly Kay.
So this is the point where things are looking worst for the heroes. And the problem (well, really it's a good thing) with True Blood is that you never know who's going to be offed (other than Sookie, who we know is not going anywhere). The bigger problem is that you can't wait to see the next episode and yet are forced to endure a week or more of torturous waiting before you get to. TV sucks.
Appearance: Pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and snakelike fangs that descend at will. Vampires cry blood rather than tears.
Strengths: Super strength. Seductiveness. Makers have control over their progeny.
Weaknesses: Sunlight, silver, their makers. Vampire blood (V) is a powerful drug for humans; they'll often hunt and kill vampires just to get it.
Mythology: A vampire can never physically overpower their maker. Vampire society is hierarchical, with Sheriffs controlling specific geographical areas.
Sookie: (re: Sarah Newlin) You know, in person, she looks like vanilla pudding.
Bill: Say 'au revoir.' Say it! Au revoir.
Woman: Why are you doing this?
Bill: Well, because we can. [Bites her]
Hoyt: You're not mad at me?
Jessica: No. I'm so happy I could cry, but I don't want to because it's really gross when I do.
Daphne: What? You don't like drums?
Sam: No. It's just that, in my experience, no good can come from drum music. Follow it and all it ever leads you to is hippies and cults.
True Blood, Season 2 Episode 6 "Hard-Hearted Hannah." Written by Brian Buckner. Directed by Michael Lehmann. From HBO.