31 May 2010

True Blood Season 2 Finale "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'"

Spoilers Ahead

Season finales are always a mixed bag. I hate to see a good show end (even if only for a few months) but I have to admit it is a relief to get a break from note-taking and analyzing. The end of Season 2 brings a much-needed break for me, one that'll give me a chance to review something new (as well as giving my writing hand a chance to recover). Nevertheless, I'm counting the days (thirteen left) until Season 3's premiere...

"Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" picks up at the tail end of Sookie's big scream. Like all of Maryann's minions (not to mention Maryann herself), Lafayette doesn't take much notice of anyone else's distress. Instead he tells Eggs and Tara that "she" wants them downstairs with the giant egg. Once they're gone, Sookie tries getting through to Lafayette, both vocally and telepathically. From his thoughts she only picks up more strange chanting in a foreign language. What he says out loud is equally disturbing: he tells her to take her clothes off. Sookie is shocked, and who could blame her--this could get ugly real fast, particularly once Lafayette starts getting angry at her reluctance. When he gets angry you suddenly realize how scary he can be (and it's such a sharp contrast to his usual easygoing nature). Sookie strips and Lafayette hands her a white dress to put on.

Downstairs Maryann is holding court surrounded by fluttering women also in white dresses (looking very old-school Greek) with wreaths of ivy and flowers in their hair. Eggs is standing at attention, holding the giant egg. And Maryann is in a wedding dress and veil. Happy as any bride (showing no sign that she's the biggest bride-zilla ever) Maryann welcomes Sookie with the announcement that she's going to be her maid-of-honour. Sookie is downright pissed, not least because the dress Maryann is wearing happens to be Sookie's Gran's wedding dress. Maryann tells Sookie not to be so negative on her special day. Maryann is asking for a comeuppance in a big way.

Requesting a moment alone with Sookie, Maryann eagerly tells her to do what she did before, to use her "electricity." She claims it felt like Nature herself was shooting out of Sookie's fingertips. Interesting. When Sookie can't repeat it and admits she has no idea what she did or how it happened, Maryann tries to help her figure out what she is. Maryann seems almost decent for a moment there. Of course, they don't figure it out. The best Maryann can come up with is that Sookie is something beyond human since there's no human energy in Sookie for her to channel. There's also a hint that someone or something godlike is watching over and protecting Sookie (no, not Bill. Not Eric, either). I'm really curious to see where this ends up.

I'm surprised Maryann didn't want to use Sookie as the perfect vessel for her sacrifice, but her explanation for why it's Sam is pretty convincing. He came to her as a naked virgin and was immediately drawn to the statue representing the birth of her god. Sounds like sacrifice material to me. And maybe she would have used Sookie as a back-up if (when) Sam failed to impress the God Who (never) Comes. Anyway, Maryann tells Sookie she's there not only as maid-of-honour, but to lure Sam to Maryann so she can finally proceed with the ceremony. She seems to think Sookie is Sam's mate and that he'll always come to her.

It occurred to me that virginity seems to play a significant role in this show. There's Sam's, which helped lead Maryann to choosing him as her sacrifice (and to Bon Temps). There's Sookie's, which was meaningful when it came to choosing Bill as her first, but might also prove to have a greater significance as we find out more about what she is. There's Jessica's, which is already a problem and will be more so by the end of the episode (more on that later). And there's Hoyt's, which initially didn't seem like a big deal--until I realized that Hoyt never became one of Maryann's minions. As we've seen, people only need to be in the presence of the minions to become one, but Hoyt spends a significant amount of time with his mother and never turns. It could be merely coincidental, but since Maryann can't control supernaturals does that mean Hoyt is also something other than human? So far on the significant virgins list we've got a shapeshifter, a telepath/"beyond human," and a vampire. Where does Hoyt fit into this? Something to ponder...

While Maryann is busy inside the house, Jason and Andy are preparing for war outside. Jason is especially upset to see the minions partying on Stackhouse land. Andy has reservations about going ahead with their plan but Jason is confident with his Glock in his hand. Before they move into the crowd, Andy confesses he's never killed anyone (neither has Jason, for the record). As they start milling among the mostly white-clad minions, they're suddenly being grabbed on all sides. I guess since god's on his way the minions aren't quite as apathetic about interlopers as they used to be. Jason and Andy get separated and the next thing Jason sees is Andy with those telltale black eyes. Not so good. For a moment I was hoping Jason might be a supernatural as well, but as soon as Andy punches him, he joins the minion ranks. So much for their attack strategy.

Meanwhile Bill and Sam are at Merlotte's talking about the maenad situation. Bill lets Sam know that he and Sookie need Sam to make this right. Sam claims that if it were as easy as giving himself up he already would have done so. Bill's not about to let him off the hook that easily. He tells Sam he has to come with him, and--fangs out--he makes it clear he's not exactly giving Sam a choice. Things are just looking worse and worse.

Speaking of... the next shot is of Arlene licking the giant egg. It turns out the egg is an ostrich egg there to represent fertility. All the minions are sipping blood and anointing the egg by licking bloody streaks onto it. If the writers weren't on acid when they came up with this whole idea then I want to know what they were on because it had to be something. Seriously. Maryann forces Sookie, now tied to a chair, to also anoint the egg. It's hard to pick the most disturbing element of this scene.

Suddenly Jason and Andy burst in to tell Maryann that her vessel has arrived. Oh, joy! Sookie refuses to take part in anything so evil (like she hasn't been already) until Maryann threatens to kill Jason. After that Sookie is much more cooperative. Outside, Bill offers Sam in exchange for Sookie, and Maryann is only too happy to agree. As Sookie struggles and screams no, Sam tells Bill to get her out of there so she won't have to watch him die. When Bill gets hold of Sookie he tells her to trust him. And yet she doesn't (she's too busy struggling and shouting).

As the ceremony starts, the bronze bull head is placed on top of the meat effigy/offering and the egg is placed somewhere in the middle of it. Maryann starts hailing the god by his many names: Dionysus, Bacchus, Bromios, Eleuterios, Dendritas (managing to mispronounce most of them, I might add). Somehow she misses Satan, which is seemingly proof that Daphne didn't know what she was talking about. Not that this is any less annoying, pagans still being portrayed as evil and all. But I guess anything that's different from what you believe in must be evil, right? Ugh. At least when Maryann tells the story of Dionysus she gets it more or less right.

Meanwhile Sam has been tied to a wooden frame, gagged, and adorned with greenery. Sookie is still yelling and struggling. The ceremonial dagger is brought out, and Sookie yells for Sam to use his gift. In response Bill tells her to use hers. Again she doesn't listen. Sam has to get stabbed in the chest before she finally clues in and starts reading his thoughts. As Maryann is getting ecstatic over Sam's blood, he weakly tells Sookie to destroy everything. To the minions' horror Sookie grabs the ostrich egg and smashes it on the ground. As she starts pushing against the effigy the purple-white light envelops her hands again and she manages to push the thing over.

Maryann finally notices what's going on; unsurprisingly she's infuriated and shattered. She begs god for forgiveness and offers to sacrifice all the minions for him. She's not flickering so much as convulsing with power as a high-pitched squeal makes the minions start clutching their heads and screaming. Sookie yells at her to stop and somehow it actually works. Maryann then says that Sookie brought this upon everyone. She plunges her hands into the earth, and when she brings them out again they're the claws of her minotaur form. As she starts chasing Sookie, I'm wondering where Bill is. Meanwhile Sookie pulls the classic horror movie running stumble, and falls. Still on the ground, she turns to face Maryann.

Just as Maryann is about to strike, a noise catches her attention. Suddenly a pure white bull comes out of the darkness. It's a pretty cool moment, I have to say. Maryann's claws turn back into hands and she starts calling the bull her god, her husband. It's fairly up there on the creep factor--these sorts of unions are supposed to be symbolic, not literal. Watching a woman opening her arms to a bull/god and telling it/him to come to her is just... ick. But no one said Maryann's thought processes are exactly normal.

As the bull approaches Maryann it suddenly gores her through the chest. With dawning realization that she's the one meant to be sacrificed, Maryann says she's happy to die and that she willingly gives herself to him. By the way, the scene presents quite the imagery: white bull, white dress, black blood--just the right level of starkness; perfect for what's happening. As soon as Maryann gives herself to god, the bull turns into Sam, the bull's horn is actually his arm, and he's pulled her heart out. There's a look of horrified comprehension on her face as she asks "Is there no god?" I do feel sorry for her at this moment. A second later Sam crushes her heart and Maryann instantly turns into a shrivelled, black mummy-like corpse. Nice.

We see all the minions return to normal, and then Sookie runs to Sam. It turns out he and Bill made a deal in which Bill would heal him so that they could fool Maryann and get a chance at ending her. At this point Bill stumbles out of hiding, weak from blood loss. Sookie is absolutely amazed that Sam would die for everyone. Even Sam seems not quite able to believe it. Meanwhile, I'm wondering what this new blood connection between Sam and Bill is going to lead to.

Tara runs up to Sookie and tells her she doesn't remember what happened, but she knows it was bad. Sookie decides to take charge of the situation, ordering Bill to get rid of Maryann's corpse, and asking Sam and Jason to help get everyone home. She reassures Tara that it's over now, but Tara says she has the sick feeling that it really isn't. So do I.

The former minions are in various stages of confusion and distress. Lafayette wonders how he got there, Jane Bodehouse finds the finger she cut off, Arlene is panicking as she tries to get in touch with her kids, and the Sheriff--still without pants--realizes Andy was right all along and gives him his job back. Through all the chaos, Sam sits alone, looking disturbed as he watches a doe in the forest. Tears start running down his face, and Bill suddenly shows up to thank Sam for trusting him with his life. Sam seems bitter, but thankful that at least Sookie's all right. He claims that he finally realized you suffer a lot more hiding something (in his case being a shapeshifter) than you do facing up to it (I'm not so sure about that--his secret worked out pretty well for him when it came to escaping the minions at Merlotte's). As soon as Bill leaves, Sam looks back into the forest and sees the doe is gone.

Eggs is the most outwardly distressed of everyone. He's having a Lady Macbeth moment as he tries to scrub the blood off his hands and from under his fingernails. Tara's trying to calm him down, trying to convince him that everything should go back to normal--they can start fresh. But he needs to know what happened, why he has blood on his hands. He doesn't seem to realize what's happened to Maryann, either--or what she was. The boy is clearly never going to be the same again.

Over at Hoyt and Maxine's, Hoyt is happy and relieved that his mother is back to herself. The last thing Maxine remembers is meeting Jessica. Suddenly her hand flies up to her neck and the two bandaids that have been placed there. Upset that her son let a vampire feed on her, Hoyt defends himself and Jessica, pointing out that Maxine wasn't herself and that she said a bunch of horrible things, including about his dad. He mentions she even lied about his dad's death, claiming he shot himself instead of being killed by a burglar. But when Hoyt sees the look on Maxine's face it's pretty obvious which story is the truth. He can't believe she's lied to him for so many years, that she kept him trapped in Bon Temps with her by claiming she was scared of the burglar--the one who never existed. Maxine tearfully tries to justify her actions by saying she was, and is, scared, and that Hoyt is all she's got left. But he's done. He tells Maxine he wishes Jessica had finished her off. Then he walks out, slamming the door behind him.

The next day at Merlotte's, everyone is talking about what happened; or rather, what they think happened. Stories range from a gas leak to aliens to the pharmaceutical companies in conjunction with the liberal media (and possibly the Rand Corporation). At this point I noticed something else about the show--something I don't particularly like. All the rednecky/gossipy/ignorant people in Bon Temps seems to be overweight and/or unattractive. You can overlook all the main characters resembling models (although it definitely gets tiresome) but when all the overweight/"imperfect" people are universally dumbasses, that's when things get intolerable. Even Eddie, who was at least a nice vampire, was socially inept and nerdy. Please to be working on this, HBO?

Anyway, among the other theories, Jason is convinced he and Andy are the ones who took care of Maryann and got everything back to normal. Andy points out that neither of them remember anything, but Jason still insists they're the heroes. Okay, so there's one good-looking dumbass in Bon Temps. But it looks like these two former antagonists have finally bonded.

As Sam is asking Sookie to look after the bar for a few days while he takes some personal time, she gets a special delivery from some fancy boutique. Opening it outside, she finds a pretty lavender dress (the same colour as the light from her hands) and a note from Bill asking her out and requesting that she wear the dress. Lucky girl. Too bad the moment is interrupted by a tormented-looking Eggs. He begs her to help him remember what's missing, and although it's against her better judgment, Sookie agrees (she's one of those people who are so desperate not to hurt others they end up hurting them even more, isn't she?) Eggs sees images of Miss Jeanette, Daphne, Sam. And he knows what he did to them. Sookie tries to calm him, to tell him that it was all Maryann, but he makes the excellent point that while Maryann used him, it was his hands that did the killing. He runs off.

Eric spends the episode at the Queen's mansion, forced to play Yahtzee with her and the two humans (they have to play until 5 million) and endure the Queen's ramblings. At one point she offers sympathy for the loss of Godric, only to crush Eric's response in her excitement at rolling Yahtzee. I'm actually really starting to see the appeal of Mr. Northman. He looks so sad in this scene--I'm a sucker for sad. And it seems as though he's dropped his eternally bored affectation. In any case, he and the Queen play off each other well. He mentions he's there about a maenad, which leads to a conversation about Bill and Sookie. Hadley (Sookie's long-lost cousin, although it's not clear whether the Queen is aware of their connection) seems stunned to hear that Bill is in love with Sookie. I mention this because I think she's going to have a more prominent role in future, possibly helping Sookie figure out what happened to Bill. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Casually, the Queen asks Eric how Bill knows she's having him sell vampire blood. Apparently this is a very bad thing. Eric is surprised that she's aware Bill knows, but he assures her that Bill has no idea she's the one supplying the blood. Before Eric realizes what's happened, the Queen has him pinned to the ground, fangs bared. Is it just me or does she have bigger-than-average fangs? Maybe with vampires size really does matter. She tells Eric that Bill had better not know she's involved because she's holding Eric responsible. Then she kisses him until his fangs pop out, at which point she tells him he might be the oldest, strongest vampire in her Queendom but she could wear his fangs as earrings if she wanted to. Eric promises he'll take care of Bill Compton personally. Then it's back to the never-ending excitement of Yahtzee!

Now that the excitement/horror over Maryann is starting to wind down, everyone is slowly easing back into everyday life, including Bill. At his house both he and Jessica are all dressed up, although they have separate plans for the evening. Jessica says she's going over to Hoyt's to apologize for the "little fight" they had. Bill is in an exceptionally good mood, smiling, encouraging Jessica, even opening the door for her. When Jessica asks where he's going he says to a French restaurant--because humans always go there when they have something to celebrate. Sigh. My immediate reaction when I saw this: oh no--I hope he's not planning on proposing.

Before we can find out we cut to Sam, ringing a doorbell. An older woman answers. It's Mrs. Merlotte, his adoptive mother. The one who, along with his adoptive father, abandoned him after he shifted for the first time. She's full of apologies, saying she doesn't have a good reason for why they did what they did. The wound is clearly still raw for Sam, but he doesn't want an apology. He wants the names of his biological parents. Mrs. Merlotte says she swore never to tell, and that he doesn't want to know them. "They're bad people." Suddenly there's beeping coming from what looks like a baby monitor. Going into a bedroom, Sam finds Mr. Merlotte, bedridden and on a respirator. The man hands him a piece of paper with an apology scrawled on it, as well as the names and last known location of Sam's biological parents.

Back at Bill's, Hoyt arrives dressed up and carrying a bouquet. He rings the bell and knocks, calling out for Jessica, but there's no answer. He places the bouquet on the porch and leaves. It turns out Jessica isn't apologizing to Hoyt for their fight so much as making out with a trucker at a gas station. She pauses to tell the trucker she's a virgin. He says he doesn't mind--in fact he kind of likes it. She doesn't quite share his opinion. Out come the fangs and then she's sinking them deep into his neck. He screams as blood streams down.

Eggs, meanwhile, is still traumatized over the memories Sookie revealed. Actually, I'd say he's pretty much lost it. He walks up to Andy in the Merlotte's parking lot, waving around the ceremonial dagger and saying he's a murderer. He wants Andy to arrest him. Andy looks supremely confused, then scared as Eggs becomes more erratic, shouting, pushing Andy to the ground, and pointing the knife at him. To his credit, Andy tries to calm the situation down and even tells Eggs that he knows he was under Maryann's spell so it clearly wasn't his fault. Unfortunately he never gets through to Eggs. A shot rings out and the next thing there's a bullet in Eggs's forehead. Andy looks behind him and sees Jason. Jason says he thought Eggs was going to stab Andy. Then he starts freaking out because he realizes he's killed someone. Andy orders him to give him the gun. He tells Jason he didn't see anything, he was never there. He then wipes down the gun in time for people to start streaming out of the bar toward him. He shouts out to call an ambulance, claiming he got a confession from the killer, as well as the murder weapon, and that Eggs was coming after him. Then Tara sees Eggs. Her reaction is pretty heartbreaking.

With all this going on it's hard to believe Bill and Sookie are in blissful ignorance, having a lovely evening together. Bill's rented out the entire restaurant, so it's just the two of them. He also manages to look both hot and adorable as he asks Sookie to dance, not to mention as they're dancing. After dinner (I can't imagine spending an evening with someone watching me eat, or having to spend an evening watching someone else eating), Bill hands Sookie an envelope with two plane tickets to Vermont, the only state with legalized vampire marriage (I had to roll my eyes when she asks where Burlington is). It takes her a minute to pick up on what's happening, but it helps when Bill pushes a velvet box over to her and she opens it to reveal a gorgeous engagement ring. And then Bill proposes.

Yep.

I wish I could find this romantic, but I don't. Even if vampires could be domesticated they shouldn't be--much like tigers, or rock stars. The two things just don't go together. Besides, how boring would a married vampire be? I mean, at least have them live in sin.

Sookie isn't blissfully happy about the proposal, which is good. She's conflicted, as she should be. She claims her life is inside-out, she doesn't even know if she's human, and what will happen when she ages and he doesn't? She needs a minute. She runs to the bathroom as Bill looks like he's just taken a shot to the gut. In the bathroom Sookie looks in the mirror, she looks at the ring, she tries on the ring, she looks at her hand in the mirror. And she smiles. (Is it just me or are women who look at the diamond before answering a proposal the ultimate in shallow?) Meanwhile as Bill waits anxiously at the table, a pair of gloved hands suddenly loop a silver chain around his neck. It sizzles and he chokes. Crap. Sookie finishes putting on fresh lipstick then runs into the restaurant practically shouting that yes--she will marry him! But the restaurant is empty. There are definite signs of a struggle at the table. The front door is standing open. Bill?

And ever since we've been waiting on tenterhooks too see what happens next (13 days). The title song (by Bob Dylan) is once again used during the credits, but who cares about that right now? Is Bill going to be okay? Who took him? How can they make us wait until the next season to find out??? A lot of people seem to think Eric is the kidnapper, given his promise to the Queen, as well as his desire for Sookie. I actually think Lorena's behind it. Things didn't entirely seem final between her and Bill and, oh yeah, the bitch is crazy. From what I've seen of Season 3 promos, however, it looks like Bill and Sookie won't have a happy ending. But then, who ever does?

Fang Files

Appearance: Extra pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and snakelike fangs that descend or retract at will.

Strengths: Super speed, strength, healing blood.

Weaknesses: Silver, sunlight, blood lust, older vampires.

Mythology: Once a human has consumed a vampire's blood, the vampire will forever be able to sense and locate that human. Vampire blood is a powerful drug and aphrodisiac for humans.

Sound Bites

Sookie: I do not have electrical powers--I am a human being!
Maryann: You keep saying that but if you were human [concentrates for a moment while flickering and buzzing] I would have taken you over by now. Come on--it'll be our little secret--what are you?
Sookie: I'm a waitress. What the fuck are you?

The Queen: [re: Bill] You know, I think he's monogamous with his human.
Eric: He is in love with her, yes.
Hadley: He is?
The Queen: Well of course he would be--with her. You probably are too.
Eric: I do not love humans.
The Queen: She's not entirely human. Have you tasted her?
Eric: Sadly, no.
The Queen: Don't. Ever. One vampire falling in love is bad enough.

Jason: This is special ops. We're surgical. One shot. Say hello to my little friend. Hasta la vista, baby. I love the smell of nail polish in the morning.

Lafayette: God with horns--worship him, bitches!

Sheriff: You may have your faults, Andy; but at least you got pants on.

True Blood, S2 Season Finale "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'." Written by Alexander Woo. Directed by Michael Cuesta. From HBO.

My previous Season 2 True Blood reviews:

Episode 1 "Nothing but the Blood"
Episode 2 "Keep this Party Going"
Episode 3 "Scratches"
Episode 4 "Shake and Fingerpop"
Episode 5 "Never Let Me Go"
Episode 6 "Hard-Hearted Hannah"
Episode 7 "Release Me"
Episode 8 "Timebomb"
Episode 9 "I Will Rise Up"
Episode 10 "New World in My View"
Episode 11 "Frenzy"

And to keep you going until Season 3's premiere, check out HBO's awesome promo posters. So far 10 of 12 have been released, and they're all free to download. Or watch some of HBO's True Blood videos, including this Bill minisode.

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.

25 May 2010

True Blood S2 E10 "New World in My View"

Spoilers Ahead

Season 2 is winding down and even though Dallas is done, there's still miles to go...

"New World in My View" begins sometime after Godric's death in the last episode. We see a figure walking down a long hallway, slipping in and out of shadow. In a moment we realize the figure is Sookie (wearing a cute red and white gingham dress). She enters Eric's room where he's still crying over his maker (his bloodstained face is a nice foil to Sookie's dress). After offering her condolences Sookie starts kissing Eric, and he readily responds. Suddenly he's on top of her, fangs bared. She turns her head and offers her neck (what a slut). He strikes.

Sookie wakes up. She and Jason are being driven back to Bon Temps from the airport (Bill's in his travelling coffin in the back). I wonder how long before Sookie's dreams start becoming reality. No time to worry about it now, though--she and Jason start noticing something's amiss in Bon Temps. Everywhere they look they see vandalism, destruction, and people acting on the extreme side of weird. When Sookie and Jason try to help a couple who ran in front of their vehicle, they get their first look at the all-black eyes just about everyone in town is sporting. Not even noticing (or caring) that they've been hurt, the couple say they've got to find Sam Merlotte because "it's almost time." Something strange is afoot...and it only gets stranger from there.

Back at Sookie's house (now Maryann's headquarters), a freakish, massive effigy is being built by Maryann, Eggs, Karl, and others out of fun things like fruit, veggies, feathers, and meat. Lots of meat. You just know this can't be good. Meanwhile Sam is hiding out in Andy's darkened motel room while Andy scopes out the town (he reports back on the insanity Sookie and Jason have already witnessed, as well as mentioning that the Sheriff's department has been completely abandoned). Suddenly Sam gets a call from a hysterical Arlene begging him to come to Merlotte's; there's a mob there and she's terrified they're going to come after her. She's convincing and Sam's a good guy so he agrees to go. But I still wish he wouldn't.

As Sookie and Jason arrive at Bill's place, Mr. Compton finally wakes up. Sookie lets him know that something is seriously wrong, but before she can get too into it Maxine Fortenberry appears upstairs, black-eyed and making obnoxious comments about "vampers" and "vamper lovers." Jessica and Hoyt follow on her heels, looking normal if somewhat frazzled. They claim this has been going on since the night before, to which Maxine responds that she'll stay that way until "he" gets his offering, "he" being Maryann's god and his offering being Sam. Hoyt also lets Sookie know that her house is now Maryann's house, as well as filling her in on a few other things that have been going on. It doesn't take long for Sookie to connect Maryann with the "bull-person" that attacked her. While Jason decides to see what's going on at Merlotte's, Sookie needs to go to her place to find Tara.

Sam and Andy are already at Merlotte's, and before they know it they're surrounded by black-eyed Maryann minions. Andy tries to scare them off by shooting into the air, but Terry just grabs the gun and starts shooting around the room, eventually hitting someone in the arm. In desperation Sam and Andy lock themselves into the walk-in fridge. Content that they've "secured the target," Terry tells Jane Bodehouse to call Maryann and let her know she can come pick up Sam. Jane promptly gets distracted by a phone number on the wall, calling "Peanut" instead.

It's good of Sookie to want to go get Tara, but unfortunately Tara's not at Sookie's place anymore. She's at Lafayette's (having been kidnapped by him last episode), and he and Lettie Mae are trying to deprogram Tara with no success. They try pleading, yelling, and praying. They blame themselves for Tara falling in with Maryann. Tara's not affected by any of it. She claims "he's" coming and he's going to kill them all. Not exactly what her cousin and mother want to hear. Finally Lafayette realizes they need to call Sookie. His call interrupts her as she's discovering the shocking wreck that used to be her house. When he realizes where she is, Lafayette tells Sookie to get the hell out of there. Excellent advice, but a little late as Maryann chooses that moment to show up. Words are exchanged before Maryann starts getting rough with Sookie. Bill grabs Maryann, telling Sookie to run. As he bites her, Maryann laughs and urges him to ravage her. Sookie's frozen, staring--and who can blame her? The next thing we know Bill is doubled over, gagging on Maryann's blood, and Maryann is approaching Sookie again. This time Sookie pushes her face away and a purple-white light suddenly envelops Sookie's hand, burning Maryann. Confused looks all around. Sookie grabs Bill and helps him out while Maryann laughs and then looks awestruck, asking aloud what Sookie is. Yeah, we've all been wondering that.

Meanwhile at Merlotte's Sam and Andy are regretting their choice of hiding place, but even more than that Sam is regretting not leaving town when he'd wanted to. If he'd gone then, none of this would have happened and no one would have died (except Miss Jeanette, technically, but who's counting). Inside the bar the usual orgiastic revelry is taking place, everyone having forgotten to tell Maryann they've got Sam (this is the downside of the chaos she loves so much). And out in the parking lot Jason arrives in commando gear and packing a crazy-looking nail gun and a chainsaw. Who else is looking forward to what's going to happen next?

When Jason enters the bar and sees what's going on, he tries to get everyone's attention by firing up the chainsaw. Nothing. So he cuts the CD player in half. A couple of people complain that there's no more music, but no one's really that bothered. Realizing he needs to do something extreme, Jason grabs Arlene and puts the nail gun to her head. When people notice they start urging Jason to put a nail in Arlene's head. Even Arlene joins in with enthusiastic cries of "yeah, yeah!" These people are all going to need some serious therapy when this is over. Terry is the only one who doesn't want Jason to hurt his "special lady" so he asks what Jason's demands are. Jason tells them they all have to leave, and they all have to keep away from him and Sam. Terry agrees and they all clear out. So far so good...

Jason calls out to Sam to let him know it's safe to come out, but Andy and Sam aren't about to fall for that. They won't even open the door until Jason swears on his Gran's grave, and then Andy insists on checking his eyes before he and Sam will leave the fridge. Too bad all that caution was for nothing. A couple of minutes after they're out of the fridge, a keg comes smashing through the window and the room is suddenly full of psychotic partyers again. Realizing they're trapped with no way out Sam tells Andy and Jason they've got to save themselves. Andy tries to stop him, but Sam's determined to give himself up. Thrilled with their prize, they grab Sam and leave.

As Sookie is driving to Lafayette's, poor Bill is still sick. He's puking black blood out the window like some freshman frat boy after his first kegger. In between he asks Sookie what she did to Maryann. Sookie has no idea but she does mention that when Maryann touched her she could feel her in her back where she was slashed (how creepy is that?) so Maryann is definitely the bull-person. Bill thinks they can get to Maryann through Tara, which seems like a solid plan, although what they're going to do when they get to her even they don't know. I was a little shocked when Bill then demands Sookie give him her wrist so he can heal. Are we seeing a new side of Bill here? Is his true vampire nature coming out or is he's just stressed and letting it get to him. In any case Sookie doesn't seem too concerned about it.

Nothing adds to the crazy like a little chanting, and Tara is repeating the same (Latin?) phrase over and over and over. When slapping her doesn't help, Lafayette utters one of the best lines of the entire show: "This has got to be the worst motherfucking intervention in history." Have I mentioned how much I love Lafayette? He's relieved when there's a knock at the door, thinking it's Sookie, but instead it's a bratty college girl who refuses to leave until he sells her some V (are people usually this demanding with drug dealers? Maybe only the dumb and cute). Luckily Sookie and Bill do show up then, and Bill scares the girl off (nothing pisses a vampire quite so much as people buying and selling their blood). Lafayette then gets defensive, surprising Bill by telling him that it's Eric who's got him pushing V. A vampire (and a Sheriff no less) selling V to humans just isn't right. Eric might be in some trouble here. In the meantime Sookie runs up to the door asking where Tara is. Lafayette invites her and Bill in.

Tara is, unsurprisingly, not pleased to see Sookie. She threatens to kill her if she doesn't get Tara out of there, and calls Sookie a few choice names for good measure. Sookie is shocked to discover that Tara is nowhere inside her mind--it's all darkness. If Maryann isn't one of the scariest monsters out there, I don't know what is. Destroying someone's body is one thing, but taking over their mind... Anyway, Bill tells Sookie she needs to get further into Tara's mind than she ever has before. Sookie tries and discovers there's an abyss in there she can't cross. Bill decides to give glamouring a try. At this point they don't exactly have many other options.

In Merlotte's parking lot there's great revelry as the minions hold Sam down. Suddenly lights go shooting overhead, and then a booming voice: "It is me--the god who comes!" Jason is elevated, shirtless, wearing a gas mask, and holding two flares as their smoke envelops him in a haze. Down below Andy is working a spotlight. The minions don't seem entirely convinced and Sam signals to Andy that Jason needs horns (there's a joke in here somewhere about Jason not being horny for once). While Andy goes in search of the necessary horns, Jason tells the minions that Sam is the best offering ever, and that they'll have great weather and good crops. Whether any of them are actually farmers doesn't seem to matter to anyone. I have to say: I really love this scene; something about it just makes me laugh. I think the world needs more pagan deity humour. Just saying.

Anyway, as Terry is calling the so-called god on his lack of horns, Andy returns. Jason bends forward and then straightens, showing off his newly sprouted antlers (a branch held behind him by Andy). The crowd is convinced. Sam slowly slides off the vehicle he was held down on and approaches Jason, asking to be smited. Unfortunately Jason and Andy can't hear him, which leads to more amusement as Sam gets louder and angrier ("Smite me, motherfucker!") Finally getting it Jason "smites" Sam, who screams, convulses, and disappears. There's much shock and confusion, especially on the parts of Jason and Andy. Despite Sookie and Daphne's lectures that he shouldn't hide who he is, Sam's secret shapeshifting ability seems to have worked in his favour. The jubilant crowd runs off to celebrate and tell Maryann. As Jason and Andy stare in confusion at the pile of clothes Sam left behind, he suddenly shows up wearing nothing but a cook's apron and carrying a fire extinguisher. As he puts out the flares he tells Jason and Andy that he'll explain later. Andy takes a swig from the bottle in his hand and swears that's the last drink he'll ever have.

Things aren't quite as amusing at Lafayette's as Bill is still trying to glamour Tara. Finally he has a breakthrough and Sookie can get into her mind. Tara's eyes revert to normal and she starts crying and apologizing. Then she remembers Eggs and claims she has to go to him, but there's no way Lafayette is letting her go anywhere.

Exhausted, Sookie and Bill go out to the porch to give the family some space, as well as to try to figure things out. After seeing Maryann through Tara's eyes, Sookie is shocked to realize that not only does Maryann want people's bodies--she wants their souls too. She repeats the words Tara was chanting, and suddenly Bill remembers that book he was so conveniently reading a couple of episodes ago. Somehow remembering something he read 80-something years ago (I can barely remember things I read a couple of months ago) he connects the chant to the god Bacchus (feel free to re-read my rant on this subject, also in the episode I linked to above) and realizes there's a vampire that *might* know how to defeat Maryann. He tells Sookie that he has to leave right away in order to be back by dawn. He wants her to stay behind and help the people there. Asking whether she can do again to Maryann what she did before, he's disappointed to hear that Sookie doesn't even know what she did. He makes her promise that she'll stay away from her house (will he never learn?), kisses her, and then he's gone.

Bill might be on his way out of town, but Hoyt and Jessica are still at his place, and still trying to keep Maxine under control. As she keeps insulting Jessica (calling her a devil slut and a dead whore) Jessica is rapidly losing patience. When Hoyt can't calm things down, Jessica mentions that she hasn't eaten in days. Surprise, Hoyt! The next thing we know, she's pushed Hoyt across the room and has Maxine pinned down. When she tells Maxine to give her one good reason not to drain her dry, Maxine is less than accommodating. Jessica bites and Hoyt is horrified. Things were going so well for those two. Sigh.

Back to Bill, he's arrived at a mansion surrounded by beautifully serene pools. A guard welcomes him by name and tells him the Queen is expecting him. As Bill approaches the mansion we hear the title song (by King Britt and Sister Gertrude). Inside the house is elaborately decorated (verging on tacky) with a mosaic tile sun on the foyer floor. As Bill enters the receiving room his head is lowered. He greets the Queen and then looks up, stunned to see a woman's leg hanging limp, blood dripping off it. We cut to the credits where the titular song continues.

It's interesting that even as the season is coming to a close, new characters are being introduced and storylines are being set up for next season. I love it when writers and producers think ahead instead of just stumbling along with no cohesive plan (Buffy was good for that too). Even though things are looking up at the moment (Tara's back, Sam is safe, Bill's gone for help), with two episodes left you just know things are going to get worse before they're resolved. That is--if they're resolved. With True Blood you can expect to be kept guessing.

Fang Files

Appearance: Extra pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and snakelike fangs that descend or retract at will. Vampires cry blood instead of tears.

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

Weaknesses: Sunlight, "maenad" blood, swords (oh, wait, that last one is just a dream I had last night about Bill ).

Mythology: Vampire blood (V) is a potent drug and aphrodisiac for humans. Vampire society is hierarchical, with Kings, Queens, and Sheriffs ruling over various geographical areas.

Sound Bites

Maxine: (gleefully, re: Sam) They're gonna rip that boy open and serve him up like barbecue!

Arlene: (as Terry shoots the room up) Hey, at least shoot the cheap liquor! Bottom shelf, bottom shelf!

Andy: We are fucked.
Sam: We're still alive.
Andy: For now.

Sookie: And here I thought vampires were the only ones who could hypnotize people.
Bill: No offense, Sookie, but humans are shockingly susceptible to just about every form of thought manipulation.

True Blood, Season 2 Episode 10 "New World in My View." Written by Kate Barnow and Elisabeth R. Finch. Directed by Adam Davidson. From HBO.

19 May 2010

True Blood S2 E9 "I Will Rise Up" + Season 3 preview!

Spoilers Ahead (don't pretend you don't love them)

This episode made me sad and somewhat annoyed. But it also made me happy and hopeful. Basically I'm an emotional wreck now. Vampires can do that to a girl.

So "I Will Rise Up" starts off a few moments before the end of "Timebomb." Luke has just started giving his message and Bill is still outside with Lorena. There's a bit more to the dialogue between Bill and Lorena than we saw last time. Now he tells her she's dead to him, to which she replies that she wishes he hadn't said that. Then she takes off. Between the fact that these lines were separated from the rest, and that Lorena's response can be taken a couple of ways, I think we can expect this to have some future significance.

In the meantime, as soon as Lorena's gone we get what we've been waiting for: house go boom. Bill runs inside the smoky, charred mess, ignoring all the screaming and moaning as he desperately looks for Sookie. She's okay and, surprise of surprises, it's because Eric shielded her from the blast. He's alive too, but weak, and he tells Bill to go after the humans. Apparently Luke brought some buddies along and now they're running for the car. As they start driving off, Bill manages to pull one of them from the vehicle. The young guy is terrified and blurts out that they didn't think Luke would really do it. Bill snarls that it's too late and sinks his fangs in. Yeah, baby. He doesn't end up killing the guy, though. Good for him (although perhaps not as much fun for us).

Back inside Sookie pushes Eric off her and starts calling for Jason. He's okay too, giving her the thumbs up from across the room. Sounding like he's on death's door Eric tells Sookie that he can't heal because of the silver embedded inside him. There's no time to get help--he needs her to suck the silver out of him now. Yes, you read that right: suck the silver out, like it's snake venom or something. And Sookie is dumb enough to do it. This is where I get annoyed. Who would actually fall for that? I doubt even Sookie would, and she's not usually the brightest bulb. Why couldn't she just reach in and pull the silver out? I think the writers really dropped the ball on this one. I know they needed to find a way to get Sookie to drink Eric's blood, but this is just capital-L Lame. There had to be a better way. There had to be a dozen better ways.

As Jason stares at bits of Luke, Isabel reports that Stan and four others (two vampires, two human companions) are dead. Meanwhile Bill is infuriated when he finds Sookie sucking on Eric's chest. He tells her that Eric wasn't in any danger--the silver would have been expelled from his body--and that he was already healing. You mean this was all an elaborate ruse? Sigh. On top of it all, she's mad at Eric like he somehow broke her sacred trust.

At least she gets mad at herself, as well, but not until she and Bill are back at the hotel. Bill's more understanding, saying there's no shame in being good and kind. Of course, those qualities are not mutually exclusive of the ability to use your brain, but whatever. He also tells her the really bad news: that having consumed Eric's blood she'll now find herself attracted to him. Sexually. So does that mean her feelings for Bill aren't so much love as blood-induced lust? It's depressing when you think about it (and for me, it's also a big, flashing neon arrow pointing to the paranormal romance-novel roots of the series--something it has generally managed to avoid).

Later, when she can't sleep, Sookie heads over to Jason's room. They take some time to reconnect and Jason shows more of his hidden depths. He explains that Steve and Sarah drew him in because they acted like they liked him for him--not for his athletic or sexual prowess. Besides, they kept his mind off "other stuff." Jason's clearly still messed up over his Gran's death, so much so that he claims he doesn't want to feel anything. Sookie says they have to keep remembering and loving the people they've lost, even if it hurts too much. It suddenly hits Jason that their entire family is gone and they have only each other. Now it's imperative that they stay together and take care of each other. It's a touching scene and one that will resonate with anyone who's ever lost someone they love.

Clicking on the TV, the screen is suddenly filled with Steve and Sarah Newlin debating Nan Flanagan over recent events. As Flanagan out-maneuvers them at every turn, the Reverend and wifey are getting openly frustrated. Sarah starts rambling and then snaps at Steve for cutting her off. He talks down to her. She hates his hair. Nan rolls her eyes as they publicly humiliate themselves. A fitting epilogue for these two.

Later, back in her own room, Sookie is restless. As she turns over in bed a hand reaches up and caresses her. She rolls back and it turns out she's in bed with Eric, and they're both naked. Well, now, this just got interesting. A rather sweet and romantic dream ensues, featuring Sookie and Eric (marred only by a taunting Lorena). It ends with Eric saying "This is the beginning." Not good for Bill, but if the dream is any indication it could be great for Sookie. I actually liked Eric a lot in this scene, probably because he smiles and shows some emotion. That whole stone-faced, eternally bored sociopath thing just doesn't work for me. More personality for Eric, please! Sookie wakes up next to Bill, looks at him for a moment, and falls back asleep.

The next day Nan Flanagan is inexplicably at the hotel, telling off Godric and the others for the PR mess they've made. She blames them, particularly Godric, for not realizing that Stan was a human-killing psychopath. She's pissed at Godric for exhibiting poor judgment and letting himself get kidnapped. Ultimately, she fires him. I thought she was head of the Vampire Defense League (or whatever that group is called)--how did she get the power to dress down and fire Sheriffs? Slightly confusing. In any case, Godric readily agrees to the firing and nominates Isobel to replace him. He also apologizes to everyone and swears he'll make amends. Sookie, mouthy human that she is, tries to defend Godric, telling Nan that the situation at the church could have been much, much worse without him. Nan's not interested.

Then again, neither is Godric. In living any longer, that is. Eric tries to stop him but Godric tells him to meet on the the hotel roof. Before Eric can join Godric, Bill decides it's a good time to confront Eric about tricking Sookie. It's not particularly sensitive (or effective) but at least Bill gets one good punch in. Eric probably would have beaten Bill to a pulp if he didn't have other things on his mind. After Eric leaves, Sookie suddenly realizes that she needs to be there for Godric. Bill is perplexed, telling her it's none of her concern, but Sookie appeals to his sympathies and Bill finally relents. He wants to go up with her, but it's too close to dawn and she won't let him risk it. He asks what she can do for Godric. She doesn't know, but she just has to be there.

In Bon Temps Tara and Eggs are nursing their wounds and trying to figure out what they hell is going on. When Maryann comes in she cracks a couple of jokes about how much they drank the night before, or else they must have done acid. Tara and Eggs don't think it's quite so amusing; Tara especially doesn't like being so out of control that she keeps blacking out. Maryann stridently lectures them that being out of control is necessary, that people crave it. She goes on about attaining a higher level of consciousness and is nearly in tears when she talks about uniting with god. Tara and Eggs give each other a WTH? look, and then Maryann snaps at them that a few bumps and bruises are a small price to pay for bliss. Okay, then. Evil and crazy.

At Merlotte's Arlene--the only waitress left--is worked off her feet. Forced to leave her kids to fend for themselves, she at least sorts things out with Terry. It turns out he's not angry with her for "forcing herself" on him because like her, he can't remember anything they did or might have done. In fact, just about everyone in Bon Temps is having blackouts, and none of them seem too concerned about it. Arlene at least can claim to be distracted, as well as freaked out about the recent deaths (Daphne's being the latest). She and Lafayette agree to look out for each other, which--it turns out--is a good choice on Arlene's part. If you want to have anyone on your side in Bon Temps, it's Lafayette.

When Tara and Eggs show up at the bar, Lafayette flips out when he sees the bruises on his cousin. Tara tries to defend Eggs, saying he didn't do it, but Lafayette threatens to beat up Eggs, saying he's poison and could end up killing Tara. Eggs doesn't take too kindly to this and takes a swing at Lafayette. Our favourite cook/drug dealer easily blocks the punch. Luckily for Eggs, Tara manages to break it up and push him out the door. When all the customers cheer Lafayette, I want to cheer along with them--even if he does tell them all to fuck off.

Sam's still locked up in jail, and isn't too happy about it. The cell next to him is now packed with Maryann's rowdy devotees, and Bud keeps bringing more people in. Whether directly or indirectly, Maryann's influence is affecting the entire town. Speaking of which, she shows up at the Sheriff's department claiming that she wants to help Sam. Within seconds she's got exhausted Bud under her control and is heading back to the cells. She pissed to discover a pile of clothes and no Sam when she checks his cell but she lets her unwitting minions out while she's there. The last we saw of Sam he was watching a fly intently.

Later, as Tara, Eggs, and Maryann are drinking and playing strip poker, we notice a fly in the foreground. Apparently Sam is done sitting back helplessly. Suddenly Lafayette and Lettie Mae show up to get Tara. Maryann acts like she isn't concerned, while Eggs gets possessive ('my girl isn't going anywhere'). Lafayette insists that Tara come with them while Lettie Mae begs her to come along. Suddenly Tara looks up with black eyes and starts saying horrible things to her mother, pushing her and daring her to hit back. Eggs takes this as his cue to jump Lafayette. I don't know what kind of hardcore criminal Eggs supposedly was, or where Lafayette learned to fight (might have something to do with growing up gay in a redneck town) but Lafayette puts Eggs in his place fast. Then he grabs Tara and runs out to the car with Lettie Mae. Yes! Tara's not as happy about it, screaming like a banshee for Maryann. Eggs tries to follow but is stopped by Maryann, who tells him Tara will be back and she'll bring the others with her.

In the meantime, Maryann really needs to get her claws on Sam. She bursts into Merlotte's and announces: "The god who comes demands his sacrifice. Where is Sam Merlotte?" Everyone's eyes go black and they start feeding her what little information they know. Finally she thunders (no exaggeration) to bring Sam to her. It's looking pretty hopeless for Sam, but maybe not entirely. We see the fly on a motel room doorknob. Inside is Andy getting plastered. There's a knock at the door and he opens it to find Sam standing there.

Jessica and Hoyt are dealing with their own issues this episode. Jessica is distressed trying to figure out a solution to her eternal virginity (on a side note: I'm also irritated with the way her hymen is repeatedly referred to as a "thing." It's a bit of skin--get over it. They make it sound like it's some alien creature that's nested inside her). When she tells him he should break up with her, he flat-out refuses. In fact, he even wants to introduce her to his mom. Jessica's excitement can't even be dampened by Hoyt's warning about what Maxine is like. There's then a lovely scene where he's seeing her off to sleep and they're silhouetted in blue-lit shadows. Very romantic. Wish it could last.

While Jessica sleeps Hoyt has a little talk with his mom, standing up to her at long last. She's obviously opposed to her precious baby boy dating a big bad vampire, but he tells her Jessica is the one for him, and there's nothing she can do about it. He also tells Maxine he wants her to meet Jessica, and if she can't be nice to her he'll leave the house and never come back. It's hard to feel sympathy for overbearing Maxine, even if she does look heartbroken.

The meeting goes about as well as you'd expect. Jessica is anxious and eager to please. Maxine is rude and cold. Hoyt is miserable. Maxine makes it clear she doesn't want her son's bright--as in the sun--future to be ruined by some orphan vampire girl. Jessica's fangs come out and she gets defensive, saying she can give Hoyt everything a human girl could. Maxine pointedly asks about babies and Jessica bursts into tears before walking away. Hoyt runs after Jessica, telling Maxine he's done with her (Maxine, that is--not Jessica). Oh yeah, this is going to end well.

On the hotel roof in Dallas Sookie arrives in the middle of an argument between Godric and Eric. Godric claims that two thousand years is enough for anyone, and he will go through with this. Apparently being a vampire is also not as fulfilling as it used to be. He's just done. Eric tries to reason with him before switching to threats and then outright begging. You wouldn't have thought Eric had it in him as he starts sobbing and falls to his knees. It's actually really nice to see--very moving; you can feel the love between child and parent (close enough, anyway). And again--Eric is showing emotion. I approve. His clothes are also not tragic for once--simple trousers and shirt, all black. Now I can see the appeal of Eric.

Realizing he can't change Godric's mind, he tells his maker that he won't let him die alone. Godric appreciates the gesture but commands Eric to leave. Forced to comply, Eric at least gets the comfort of knowing that Sookie will stay with Godric until the end. She and Godric talk as they wait for dawn. He admits what he did at the church was wrong, but he thought it would somehow fix everything. He asks her about her belief in god and the afterlife, and in a lighthearted moment asks if she'll take care of Eric (Sookie replies that she's not sure--"you know how he is"). She asks him if he's afraid and he says he's full of joy. Sookie says she's afraid for him. Suddenly his back starts smoking so he turns around and takes off his shirt. Spreading his arms, he walks toward the sun. Even as the blue flames engulf him he's perfectly calm. Then he's gone, leaving nothing behind.

I had a couple of thoughts about this scene. First, the blue flames look pretty cool. It was a good choice. Second, as Godric was engulfed I couldn't help but think of a phoenix (deliberate on their part?) Third, Godric tells Sookie that it won't take long for the sun to kill him at his age, but wouldn't you think an older vampire would have more resistance to the sun (and to fatal things in general)? Lastly, I'm sad that my new favourite character died. The show--nay all vampire shows--needs a vampire like Godric.

As Godric goes up in flames the show cuts to the credits and the titular song performed by Lyle Lovett. Dallas is done and I'm looking forward to seeing how Bill and Sookie react to what's waiting back in Bon Temps. Keep bringing on the emotions...

Fang Files

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

Strengths: Super speed, strength, sneakiness, sexiness.

Weaknesses: Silver, explosives, sunlight, Sookie.

Mythology: When a human drinks a vampire's blood (even a drop or two) the vampire can then always sense the human and know where they are; the human will also start feeling a sexual attraction to the vampire. A vampire has a strong bond with their maker, and their maker can command them (they must obey). Vampire society is strongly hierarchical. Vampires (possibly only the very old ones) killed by the sun are engulfed in blue flame and quickly burn until there's nothing left.

Sound Bites

Bill: (to young Soldier of the Sun) You tell the cowards who lead you, the cowards who send children to do their killing, that a vampire showed mercy where they had none.

Sookie: (re: Eric) I could kill him.
Bill: I concur.

Maxine: Who do you think you're talking to?
Hoyt: My mama. Who hates Methodists.
Maxine: I got my reasons.
Hoyt: And Catholics.
Maxine: Just priests...and nuns.
Hoyt: African-Americans.
Maxine: Hush--that's a secret.
Hoyt: People who don't take care of their gardens. People who park their trucks up on their lawn. Ladies who wear red shoes.
Maxine: It looks cheap.

Godric: (to Sookie) A human with me at the end, and human tears. Two thousand years and I can still be surprised. In this, I see God.

True Blood, Season 2 Episode 9 "I Will Rise Up." Written by Nancy Oliver. Directed by Scott Winant. From HBO.

And for your further True Blood pleasure, enjoy this preview of Season 3. I have to say it looks awesome (only a few more weeks to go)!

17 May 2010

Music Video: "The Recluse" by Cursive

For a change of pace I thought I'd post a music video--but fear not, it's vampire themed. Nicely shot with suitably sombre colours, it's an enjoyable bit of eye and ear candy. The story is well told and fairly creepy in parts. The song's not bad, either--reminiscent of The Cure. My favourite part: the dancing skeletons. Enjoy...

14 May 2010

The Vampire Diaries S1 Season Finale "Founder's Day"

Spoilers Ahead

It figures that just when the show was getting really good, it ditches us with a cliffhanger ending until next season. But what a great season finale for the show; I'm actually looking forward to watching Season 2 (I might even re-watch Season 1).

Two notes before I start:

1. People die this episode. More than one. And some may or may not be dead as of the next episode.

2. Much as it pains me to spell it "Founder's" rather than the correct "Founders'," someone at the show clearly doesn't know how to use apostrophes, and consequently is making us all suffer. Since the official title is "Founder's Day," that's what I have to go with. Even though it makes me twitch. (By the way, Founder's would be fine if there were only one founder of Mystic Falls; alas, that's not the case).

Okay, on to the review...

So, "Founder's Day" is the big shindig that the entire season has been leading up to. The opening shots switch between Stefan and Elayna, both getting dressed in nifty period costumes. Elayna looks even more like Katherine than she usually does, and when she enters the room just as Stefan and Damon are discussing how she really isn't Katherine, both of them stop and stare. (For the record, Damon also made a point of saying that Katherine is now out of the picture.)

Jeremy is also dressing up for the big day, in his case as a soldier on the "Battle of Willow Creek" parade float. They sure know how to party in Mystic Falls! He and Anna talk about how she's been. She knows that John killed Pearl, and Jeremy clumsily tries to explain that John only did what he thought was best, and even though Pearl wasn't out for revenge there's a tombful of vampires out there who are. Anna realizes she can't stay in Mystic Falls anymore, and she wants Jeremy to come with her. She offers to turn him, explaining how vampires can turn off their emotions (a plus for the endlessly tormented Jeremy). She also gives him a vial of her blood. Jeremy takes it but tells her he can't do it. When he turns around she's gone.

Back at Miss Mystic Falls base camp, Stefan tells Elayna that John is her biological father. She's not too happy about it but at the moment she's more upset about the situation with Jeremy and his newly unleashed hatred of her. She tries repeatedly to make things right with him, but Jeremy tells her it's not going to be that easy.

Considering all the build-up, the parade is over far too quickly. I would have liked to get a slightly better look at the floats. From stills I could see that the Battle of Willow Creek one was pretty cool looking, but you don't get a sense of it during the show. Shame that.

As Damon winks and grins at Elayna from the sidelines, Bonnie asks him what he wants. Rude. Damon says he's just watching the parade, so she starts storming off (I will refrain from saying anything about PMS). She tells him to leave her alone, but Damon stops her and, in a surprisingly touching moment--thanks her. By deactivating the device she saved his life; he doesn't take that lightly, and he is in her debt. If only he knew the truth. Not that he won't find out soon enough.

Speaking of the device, John is busy explaining how it works to the mayor. Apparently the thing will only work once and only for about five minutes--long enough to incapacitate any vampires in the vicinity so they can then be shot up with vervain, brought back to Graydon Gilbert's old office, and killed. He knows that the tomb vampires are planning to kill the founding families later that night, just after the start of the fireworks. Scenes of John urging the mayor that they have to go through with it and kill all the vampires once and for all are juxtaposed with scenes of the tomb vampires planning their attack. The last scene is of the tomb vampires as Anna shows up to join them.

Back at the festivities, Damon catches up with Elayna. He tells her he likes her better out of the period clothes--they don't suit her. Elayna says he needs to stop with the flirty little comments and the "eye thing" he does (what eye thing, he asks as he does it again). She tells him not to make her regret their friendship. He suddenly gets serious and nods, agreeing. She's not even his girlfriend and she's already got him wrapped around her little finger. Really, Damon? Anyway, Elayna goes off to try once again to make amends with Jeremy. She asks him what she can do and he tells her to go to hell. Ouch. As Jeremy strides away, Damon follows, warning him not to talk to Elena like that again. He tries to tell Jeremy that what happened with Vicky wasn't Elayna's fault but Jeremy's in a mood and not bothering to hide it. As Damon starts getting a little rough Stefan steps in and calms the situation down. Stefan repeats that Elayna had nothing to do with the Vicky situation, and that Damon turned her and he himself killed her, for which he's sorry (but it had to be done). Jeremy snaps that they shouldn't have erased his memory, and then he leaves.

Once Jeremy's gone, Stefan turns on Damon and tells him to leave Jeremy alone, that it's none of his business. Damon smirks at Stefan's "jealousy," but Stefan retorts that he knows Damon isn't doing any of this for the right reason. When Damon scoffs, Stefan informs him that the right reason is helping because he wants to do good rather than because he expects to get something out of it. That de-smirks Damon pretty well.

As all this is going on, John and the mayor are trying to convince Liz that John's plan is the right thing to do. Liz is horrified at the thought of using the town as bait, and as Sheriff her word is the final one. She says no. John asks the mayor to give him a minute to talk with Liz. She probably shouldn't be in law enforcement because she doesn't even see John coming. He knocks her out, takes her weapons, and handcuffs her to the nearest immovable object. And somehow no one checks on her or finds her, and her deputies are content to take orders from John and the mayor. Clearly, no one respects Liz's authority.

Outside again, Anna suddenly shows up and approaches Damon. She tells him about the tomb vampires' plan, and also that they think she's with them even though she's not. When Damon asks where the vampires are now, it turns out they're already there mingling with the crowd (most of them wearing handy orange t-shirts for easy identification). Anna leaves to find Jeremy and Damon, believing the device has been rendered harmless, goes to Alaric. He tells Alaric to go get any weapons he has because they're going to have to stop the tomb vampires themselves. Then he tells Elayna and Stefan what's going on before taking off again.

Meanwhile the mayor finds Ty goofing off, and shows his usual restraint where his son is concerned. When he notices that Matt and Caroline are also there he calms down and asks them all to please, please just get in the car and go home. Now. He can't tell them why but they're smart enough to listen.

While Anna finds Jeremy and tries to tell him what's going on, the mayor gives a speech to the crowd. As soon as the fireworks start he grabs his wife and starts walking away, and the vampires start closing in. Meanwhile Damon confronts John, asking him if he has any idea what he's done. John's pretty confident he does.

Switching on the device, it emits an ugly high-pitched sound. Suddenly vampires start collapsing everywhere, clutching at their heads (feel free to curse Bonnie--I did). Driving home Ty hears it too. He loses control of the car and crashes. Meanwhile all the vampires are being injected with vervain and carted away. Just as Stefan is about to be apprehended, Alaric steps in saying he's got Stefan and pointing out another vamp to the cop. Elayna and Alaric help get Stefan to safety. Anna isn't quite so lucky. As the cops drag her away Jeremy screams and pleads with them to stop.

Interestingly, the mayor has also collapsed. Unlike the vampires he's got blood oozing from his ears. You'd think the mayor would garner a bit more respect (especially since he agreed to the plan) but he's injected with vervain all the same and hauled down to the office basement along with the vampires. Welcome to the witch hunt (so to speak), kids!

The device is done doing its thing and all the vampires are rounded up (except for Stefan, of course). Most of them are awake and somewhat alert, but the vervain is keeping them down. John is busy pouring gas over and around them. Is it just me or is he completely evil? As he walks by, Anna weakly grabs his leg. He recognizes her and fetches a stake. She pleads with him not to, but as Damon watches helplessly, John kills her. This was upsetting as I like Anna a lot. At first I thought John was a complete bastard for staking her, but then I realized it was a merciful act--staking has got to be better than burning alive, right? I'm sure the vampires writhing in the flames and screaming in pain would agree.

The fire hasn't reached Damon yet (*insert sigh of relief*) but he still can't really move. He and the mayor notice each other and are equally surprised. Damon realizes the mayor isn't affected by the vervain, so couldn't be a vampire. What is he? Freaked that Damon turned out to be a vampire, the mayor is slowly backing away. Unfortunately, he backs into the leader of the tomb vampires who then proceeds to break his neck. Forgive me for this, but ooh, snap!

Meanwhile Stefan describes the pain as needles piercing his skull. He figures out it was the device and then has to convince a disbelieving Elayna that Bonnie didn't actually deactivate it. Finally Elayna asks Alaric to find Jeremy and take him home so she and Stefan can find Damon.

After the mayor was carted off, his wife finds Liz and tells her what happened. Then we check in with Ty, Matt, and Caroline. They're alive but not necessarily okay. Ty is unconscious, and when the paramedic opens his eye to take a look he finds a crazy-looking inhuman eye staring back at him. It's actually very pretty--multicoloured and almost cat-like. Ty wakes up after that, looking his usual self. Meanwhile it's apparent that Caroline, who's been insisting all along that she's fine, really isn't.

Back in town Stefan can hear the fire. They realize it's Elayna's father's old office and that John is out front looking pretty damn pleased with himself. He urges Stefan to go get Damon--it'll save him the trouble of killing Stefan himself. The risk is enormous but Stefan still has to try, so Elayna tells him about a utility entrance at the back of the building. When Elayna tries to follow Stefan, John stops her and says that if she goes he'll alert the deputies that they missed a vampire. When she asks him not to, he claims that it doesn't mean anything to him. Her response: "As my father, it should." He's shocked that she knows. She tells him she wasn't sure, but now she is. Crafty. He lets her pass.

As Stefan is about to go into the burning building, Bonnie stops him saying if he does he'll burn. But there's no way he can leave Damon down there. Elayna shows up and tries to follow him. That's too much for Bonnie; she grabs Elayna's arm and starts chanting. Suddenly the flames go down enough to let Stefan by. He finds Damon and speeds him out of there, just as Bonnie stops chanting and the flames blaze again. There's a second when we're not sure whether Stefan and Damon made it out, but then they stumble outside. Elayna is thrilled but Bonnie looks rueful.

In the aftermath Damon takes off, and Stefan and Elayna head to the bar. In another moment of super efficient Mystic Falls bureaucracy, there's already an official cause for the fire: old wiring. She's just glad Stefan's okay. Then she mentions how much they both care about Damon. Cluing in that Stefan's worried about what might happen between her and his brother, she reassures him that she loves only him, and there's nothing to worry about where Damon is concerned. Stefan doesn't seem entirely convinced, I suspect not only because he doesn't trust Damon, but also because Elayna's reassurances have a slight tinge of protesting too much. She leaves Stefan so she can go pick up her parade clothes and then check on Jeremy at home.

Damon beats her to it, however. He goes to Elayna's house to let Jeremy know about Anna. Damon says he watched it happen, thinking the whole time that he wanted to help her, but he couldn't. He then offers Jeremy the choice to be compelled in order to erase the pain. Jeremy claims the compelling didn't really work before, that even though his pain over Vicky was supposed to have been erased, he still felt it--he felt wrong and empty. Damon apologizes for his role in what happened to Vicky--and he really seems to mean it. Then Jeremy asks if it's true that vampires can switch off their emotions. Damon confirms it, saying that's what he used to do a long time ago, and it was easier. This new emotion switch thing is a good way to explain and exonerate (at least in part) Damon's past evil behavior--and to make him a "good" character now that he has emotions again. I was wondering how they were going to achieve that.

At the hospital, Ty and Matt finally get over the tension between them. Luckily neither of them is seriously hurt, but Liz shows up and tells them Caroline suffered internal bleeding and is in surgery. Will she make it? Do we care? Liz also tells Ty he needs to call his mom. It's about his dad.

Bonnie, meanwhile, decides to have a chat with Stefan. She tells him she only saved him and Damon because her best friend, Elayna, loves Stefan. But Damon has to change. She's apparently the all-powerful witch now, as well as guardian of all that is good and right, so if Damon spills one drop of innocent blood she'll take him down. Even if that means taking Stefan with him. Yeah, I don't really like Bonnie anymore. And she's pretty self-righteous for a pyromaniac. But at least Stefan knows where he and Damon stand.

Back at Elayna's it seems Jeremy's had enough. He downs the vial of Anna's blood before emptying a bottle of what look like painkillers onto the counter. After he takes the pills he lies on his bed seeming depressed and out of it. Still alive and still human...for now.

As Elayna arrives home she runs into Damon as he's leaving. He's having some kind of mid-century crisis or something. He claims that he found himself suddenly wanting to protect the town rather than destroy it, and it doesn't feel right because he knows he's not a good person. Elayna suggests that maybe he is. He's in a grateful mood this episode because he then thanks Elayna for deciding he was worth saving. He kisses her on the cheek, but doesn't pull away completely. There's a long moment of gorgeous tension as he slowly moves closer. Elayna doesn't stop him. And then they're kissing, proper-like. Very nice indeed. Until Jenna opens the door and tells Elayna it's late and to come inside. Their reactions in this scene are great. Elayna's kind of hunched over and Damon's turned away, as though in shame. (By the way, anyone else think Jenna's being a touch judgmental here? Hasn't she dated the entire town?) Once Elayna's inside, Damon looks thoughtful and slightly uncertain as he leaves.

Elayna startles John in the kitchen, which somehow prompts him to spill his guts about himself and Isobel, claiming he just wants Elayna to understand. He says he never would have sent Isobel to Damon if he'd known she'd wanted to be turned. He asks Elayna if she understands. She's staring intently at his immortality ring so I'm thinking she's going to grab his hand and pry the ring off or something. Instead she grabs a knife and cuts off his fingers. That was definitely a shock, especially for John. She pushes him against the fridge and he's freaked right out. Then he looks at her closely and asks "Katherine?" Elayna suddenly vamps out, says "Hello, John. Goodbye, John," and shoves the knife into his stomach. That's got to be one of the worse ways to die. But who cares about that--WTF--Katherine? More on that in a second...

The next shot cuts to Elayna coming home, telling Stefan over the phone that someone took her stuff from the parade grounds. Once she steps inside she calls out to Jeremy, but then is distracted by a crashing sound in the kitchen. She starts walking over to investigate, and...black screen--end of season.

I have to say, this was the first time watching The Vampire Diaries that not only did I not check the clock once, but I was amazed that the show was already over. It doesn't really get any better than that (as long as the season premiere doesn't ignore everything that happened in the finale and go in a completely lame direction, as I have seen happen far too many times).

The unexpected appearance of Katherine got me thinking, and I came up with a crazy theory that somehow is making more and more sense (to me anyway) by the minute: Elayna is Katherine.

I've been noticing the last few episodes that characters keep emphasizing that Elayna isn't Katherine. It was awkward enough to stand out, and as I learned in my long-ago media class--nothing on TV is accidental. There's also the sudden introduction of the vampires' ability to instantly switch their emotions on or off; that too has been mentioned an inordinate amount of times in recent episodes. Why do these things keep being pointed out? I have a strong feeling that when her emotions are switched off, she is Katherine and when her emotions are back she is Elayna (only Elayna doesn't know she's both of them).

I keep finding other clues that point me to this conclusion. Katherine had the loyalty of witch Emily; Elayna is best friends with Emily's equally witchy descendant Bonnie. In "Founder's Day" Katherine and Elayna had identical clothes and hairstyles, not to mention the same voice. No one can perfectly mimic a voice. And even though one person might look a hell of a lot alike to someone else, no one--usually not even twins--looks identical enough to fool close family and friends.

Then I started thinking--what if there was no baby Elayna? The entire story could have been concocted and the family compelled into believing it; after all, there's no record of Elayna's birth. Or maybe the real Elayna died and Katherine took her place (compelling could again be involved). I'm not sure why Elayna can tolerate vervain and wasn't affected by the device, but good old Emily might have made Katherine impervious to both. Or Emily might have even worked some mojo to give Katherine a double personality and a double life--so Elayna really is human, even though she's half of vampire Katherine. I know, I know--that's a lot of "what-ifs," but I think I could be onto something here. Time will tell, but remember you read it here first.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human until the vampire emerges, then dark eyes and prominent dark facial veins. Dead vampires leave behind extra veiny corpses.

Strengths: Super speed, strength, hearing. The power to compel (hypnotize) humans. The power of sudden, silent arrivals and departures.

Weaknesses: Fire, vervain, stakes, the device, witches.

Sound Bites

Damon: (to Stefan, re: his period costume) Look at you, all retro.

Mayor: What are you doing here?
Damon: I'm a vampire--what's your excuse?

Stefan: I try so hard to hate him [Damon]. I guess it's just pointless.
Elayna: You care about him, Stefan. So do I.

Damon: Life sucks either way, Jeremy. At least if you're a vampire you don't have to feel it if you don't want to.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 1 Episode 22 (Season Finale) "Founder's Day." Written by Bryan Oh and Andrew Chambliss. Directed by Marcos Siega. From The CW.

Read my previous Vampire Diary reviews:

Episode 1 "Pilot"
Episode 2 "Night of the Comet"
Episode 3 "Friday Night Bites"
Episode 4 "Family Ties"
Episode 5 "You're Undead to Me"
Episode 6 "Lost Girls"
Episode 7 "Haunted"
Episode 8 "162 Candles"
Episode 9 "History Repeating"
Episode 10 "The Turning Point"
Episode 11 "Bloodlines"
Episode 12 "Unpleasantville"
Episode 13 "Children of the Damned"
Episode 14 "Fool Me Once"
Episode 15 "A Few Good Men"
Episode 16 "There Goes the Neighborhood"
Episode 17 "Let the Right One In"
Episode 18 "Under Control"
Episode 19 "Miss Mystic Falls"
Episode 20 "Blood Brothers"
Episode 21 "Isobel"