It's back, baby! I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to season 4 of True Blood. The show seems to have been going downhill since season 1 (and last season was a major disappointment). The sneak peek of the season premiere did nothing to convince me otherwise. And it's true--the beginning of "She's Not There" pretty much sucks. But the rest of the episode more than makes up for it. Eric fans: prepare to do a happy dance (Bill fans too, for that matter). I have a feeling season 4 might be the best one yet.
If you remember the season 3 finale, Sookie had just had enough. In a moment of weakness and despair she followed Claudine to the fairy realm. Once there she sees that there are plenty of other humans, including Barry the bellboy and her long-lost Grandpa Earl, whom Sookie last saw when she was seven but who swears he's only been in the fairy realm a few hours. Sookie also notices that the fairies are feeding the people "light" fruit. Sensing something's amiss she refuses to eat any herself and then announces (telepathically, although everyone hears her) that it's a trap. Well, that didn't last long. Mab, queen of the fairies, shows up then, acting all creepy and insistent. Sookie pushes her away with a flash of light and suddenly it all turns ugly--literally. The luminescent fairy realm becomes a hideous place devoid of colour. The formerly beautiful fairies are now, well, not so much. Sookie tells Granddad to run and everyone scatters, with the fairies lobbing deadly balls of light at Sookie.
Why did I hate this scene so much? It's predictable, over the top, cheesy (the fairy attack reminded me of some bad B movie--or maybe a segment from an early episode of Star Trek). The dialogue and acting are awful. It's a disappointing departure from the fairies in the books. And Sookie grated on my nerves until my skin crawled. If this was what season 4 was going to be like I was happy to skip it entirely. Luckily things start improving as soon as Sookie gets back to the human plane (with the help of a fairy who disagrees with Mab's policies).
Once back Sookie returns to her house only to find it crawling with workers. Workers who don't realize she lives there. Given what happened with Granddad's time perception it's pretty clear that Sookie's been gone long enough that this is no longer her house. Responding to a call about the crazy lady who invaded the house, the police arrive. Only the police is Jason (in full uniform) and he is amazed to see Sookie. It turns out that although it felt like ten or fifteen minutes to her she's been gone from Bon Temps more than a year and was presumed dead by vampire. (By the way, this fast forwarded timeline is a good plot device to finally get Sookie's house fixed after all it went through in past seasons. It also works perfectly for progressing the story; finding out how things have changed is half the fun.) Because he'd given up on her Jason sold the house to a real estate company (anyone want to hazard a guess as to who owns said company?)
Jason claims he believes Sookie's story of being in the fairy realm, but he doesn't stop laughing until she gives him the watch Granddad gave her to give to Jason. As Jason ponders this latest paradigm shift Sookie realizes it's getting dark. She steps out onto the porch and a moment later Bill arrives. Let me just take a moment to say that Bill looks good this season. Really good. I think it's the hair. In any case he's amazed and ecstatic that Sookie is back and safe. It seems he still loves her and, although it's been only a short while (for her) since she discovered his betrayal, she seems to be softening a little toward him.
An instant after Bill's arrival Eric shows up (he's looking particularly good this episode as well). There's an amusing bit where he and Bill bicker at each other but Bill finally tells Eric he has to leave. Funny enough Eric does as he's told. Since when does Eric follow Bill's orders? Hold that thought. Before Eric goes, though, he makes sure Sookie knows that he was the only one--including Bill--who didn't give up on her and who believed she was still alive. Interesting.
After Eric leaves the next to arrive is Andy Bellefleur. Instead of being relieved that Sookie is okay after all, he starts yelling at her for the effort they wasted investigating her disappearance and trying to find her. He also blames her for costing him some kind of 'safe community' award. He only calms down a little when Bill announces that Sookie was on "secret vampire business" for him and offers to repay the cost of the search as long as Andy publicly clears Bill's name. After Andy gets back into his car, Jason joins him and we find out the reason for Andy's irrational behaviour. It seems the former alcoholic is now a V user. And Jason's the one trying to keep him in line. A lot really has changed in Bon Temps!
And not just in Bon Temps, either. It turns out Tara is living in New Orleans where she goes by the name Toni, fights other women in cage matches, and is dating a chick. Well, she did say she wanted a whole new life. The problem is she seems to have cut Bon Temps out entirely. She doesn't even care when Lafayette texts her to tell her Sookie is alive (and she lies to her girlfriend about it). Not good.
In other news, Jesus convinces Lafayette to give a group of witches (which he insists is not a coven--but what else would you call them?) a try to help him develop his newfound magical abilities. One witch freaks Lafayette out after she channels vampire Eddie. The same witch freaks me out later when she brings her familiar back from the dead with what sounds like a rather unpleasant spell. The familiar (a bird) doesn't live long but strangely enough the witch still seems elated about her success. Hmm.
Hoyt and Jessica are living together and apparently the honeymoon is over. Jessica is still trying to hold on to the "normal" life she claims she wants but it's clearly just a matter of time before the whole thing implodes. Pity. As for Hoyt's mama, Maxine, after failing to kill Jessica she's apparently moved on and decided to adopt Sam's brother, Tommy. It's funny but bizarre to see formerly badass Tommy saying grace and playing dutiful son. But hey, maybe that's what he needs.
Sam, meanwhile, is paying for Tommy's physical therapy after shooting him in the leg. He's also taking part in anger management. Not sure it's helping much, though--he's pissed off at Sookie for leaving the way she did and isn't afraid to show it. Oh, and Sam's "anger management" group turns out to be three other shifters who all get drunk, talk about their issues, and then shift and frolic together.
And as for my least favourite storyline of all four seasons: Arlene gave birth to Rene's baby and is still convinced the kid is evil. What evidence does she have? Well, first the baby has Rene's genes, and second he beheaded a bunch of Barbie dolls. Better try him as an adult and throw away the key.
Back to the reason we really watch True Blood.... There's an interesting part in the episode where Eric--looking particularly pale and otherworldly--talks into the camera for a Nan Flanagan pro-vampire PR piece. The scene cuts to Bill, who is acting every bit the politician at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a seniors home. He also looks surprisingly human--has he been hitting the bronzer? The scene keeps cutting between the two of them as they talk: two sides of one coin. It's strangely unsettling.
One quibble I have with this episode (besides the beginning) is Portia Bellefleur. As Andy's sister she should be--at best--what could be called a "handsome" woman. Instead she looks like a movie ingenue. Does everyone (or at least every female under 60) on this show have to be completely stunning? It's not the least bit believable that this girl is Andy's sister. Fail. Incidentally she also has designs on Bill and isn't too fond of Sookie.
The episode ends on three interesting notes:
First, Jason is actually taking care of Hotshot and it's clearly wearing him out. Still he seems to be a good provider. So why do a bunch of the kids push him into a chest freezer and lock the lid?
Second, after the witches' ritual where the bird is brought briefly back to life one of the witches goes to see Bill. Still holding that thought about why Eric did as Bill told him? Bill is King. Obviously he killed Queen Sophie-Anne and inherited her title (I guess he's also King of Mississippi, since she was Russell's widow and heir). So does that mean Bill is an incredibly powerful vampire since he managed to best a thousand-plus-year-old vamp? That would explain why no one (Eric, for example) has challenged him. I wonder if any of this will be explained. In the meantime, from what we see of Bill in his lair he doesn't seem to be the humble ruler we would have expected.
Lastly, as Sookie is at home getting ready for bed (and having removed all her clothing) Eric is suddenly there. She rescinded his invitation in the last episode but she doesn't own the house anymore. In fact, he does. He tells her that he knew if he owned the house then he would own her. The episode ends with Eric declaring that Sookie is his and popping fang. Nice. I think this might have been the perfect ending to the episode (and beginning for the season).
I went from dreading season four to eagerly anticipating it. I say forget the fairies, never mind the secondary characters and storylines--let's focus just on the vampires. We all know that's were the real fun is.
Appearance: Pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and long snakelike fangs that descend or retract at will.
Strengths: Super speed, strength. Ability to sense humans who have consumed their blood.
Mythology: Vampire society is organized according to a strict hierarchy. Vampire blood (V) is a potent and unpredictable drug. A vampire needs an invitation to enter a private home and must leave if the invitation is rescinded.
Eric: [to Sookie] Apparently I have to go. But understand this: everyone who claims to love you--your friends, your brother, even Bill Compton--they all gave up on you. I. Never. Did.
Lafayette: [about the magic shop] Smells like where old air fresheners go to die.
Interviewer: And do human families have anything to fear with vampire-owned businesses in their community?
Interviewer: Can you elaborate on that?
Pam: Human families have nothing to fear with vampire-owned businesses in their community.
Eric: Sookie, you...are...mine.
True Blood, Season 4 Premiere "She's Not There." Written by Alexander Woo. Directed by Michael Lehmann. From HBO.