24 August 2011

True Blood S4 E6 "I Wish I Was the Moon"

Spoilers Ahead

I'm starting to get the feeling I'm the only one enjoying True Blood's fourth season. Everywhere I turn I see complaints and criticisms: (former?) fans especially seem to be hating the Eric memory-loss storyline, his niceness, his helplessness, his relationship with Sookie--even his hair. I find this strange for a couple of reasons. Not only because I happen to be really enjoying this season, especially Eric, but also because I don't get how sociopathic, perpetually bored Eric (a la Seasons 1 and 2) could be deemed superior to and/or more attractive than emotionally stable and caring (yet still deadly when necessary) Eric. I think this says something about where popular culture is heading and it's not good. In any case, if you're not a fan of the new Eric you're going to hate this episode. Everyone else (if you're out there), read on.

"I Wish I Was the Moon" starts with Eric and Sookie moments after where they last left off (catch up here). Still kissing they enter her house, start ditching clothes, and end up on the couch. That's when Bill bursts in. The vampires start fighting and Eric, being much older, soon gets the upper hand. Just as Eric's about to run Bill through with a fireplace poker Sookie manages to stop him. Frustrated he asks who Bill is to her and she hesitates before finally replying that he's Eric's king. Eric immediately kneels and asks his "liege" for forgiveness. Bill, as you can expect, looks fairly well stunned.

He gets over it quickly, though, and takes Eric into custody. He even goes so far as to restrain Eric (who isn't putting up any fight) in silver. And when Sookie starts arguing on Eric's behalf Bill finally orders his guards to arrest her for trespassing if she steps foot on his property again. What's happened to Bill? His official argument is that Eric is under the control of a necromancer and could be a danger to them all. But it's obvious Bill is acting strictly out of jealousy. Bit of a double standard there, though, since (as Sookie points out) Bill's been running around sticking his fangs--and whatever else--into half the female population of Bon Temps. But he solidifies his douchery by calling Nan Flanagan and requesting a warrant to impose the true death on Eric. Come on, Bill--you used to be cool.

Meanwhile Eric gets put into a cell with Pam while she continues to rot from within, unsure how much time she has left. Pam tries to revive the old Eric by telling him he hates Bill and that he's a Viking vampire god who would rip someone's liver out with one fang. Surprisingly this doesn't convince Eric that he wants his old life back. He tells her he's not interested in remembering who he was since he is no longer that vampire. Sorry, Pam.

In the next cell Marnie desperately cuts herself and begs Antonia-the-spirit to come and use Marnie to avenge herself. We see more flashbacks of Antonia's life. In the first she's being bitten and raped by a vampire as his maker (a priest) urges him to be even more vicious because "fear sweetens the blood." In the next flashback we see Antonia burning at the stake as she chants a spell. Back in their cell her fellow witches chant along with her. Suddenly vampires are getting up and going out into the sun where they're burned alive along with Antonia, including the priest from the previous flashback. It's hard not to be upset at this scene knowing countless people were actually tortured and burned at the stake in past centuries. The vampires are actually the least disturbing part of these flashbacks because what humans beings did (and do) to each other is far worse. But I digress. As Marnie returns to the present Antonia's spirit is in the cell with her. A moment later she enters Marnie's body and takes possession of it.

The plot thickens with Terry and Arlene. They wake up to a raging fire and scramble to get the kids out. Only the baby is missing. Before Terry can run back inside to look for him the place explodes. As Arlene is about to lose it, Lisa and Coby point out that the baby was sitting outside when they got there, just hanging out with the creepy doll. Relieved, Arlene cradles him we see that he's smiling and laughing at something behind her. It turns out not to be a demon or even Rene but the ghost of a woman who smiles and waves at the baby. Okay, this is going in an entirely new direction. I like it a lot better than the possessed baby/serial killer baby plot that seemed to have been developing.

While Sam has to deal with the destruction of his rental properties (Holly's place was also ruined) he asks Tommy to open Merlotte's for him. Tommy agrees but he's deep in a spiral of depression and self-loathing after accidentally killing his mom. As he stares at himself in the mirror his self-hatred boils over and he starts hitting himself in the head. Before you can say "WTF?" Tommy has turned into Sam. Remember that thing about shifters who kill a family member can shift into other people? Suddenly Tommy's day is looking up. His mood improves even more when Sookie shows up to beg "Sam" for the day off and he gets to fire her. If Sookie believes Tommy is Sam then he can fool anyone. Unfortunately he next fools Maxine, who has nothing good to say about Tommy. She actually says she can understand why Sam shot Tommy. He seems pretty upset to hear it. It's hard not to feel sorry for Tommy sometimes.

Of course the sympathy we might have felt for him evaporates later when Luna arrives ready to hook up with Sam, not realizing it's not really Sam, and Tommy decides he can't waste the opportunity. Afterward she's ready to go shift together but Tommy is starting to look sick. Instead of telling her so he just gets mean, snapping at her to get out and throwing her clothes at her. She leaves in a fury (who can blame her?) and Tommy reverts to his own form and promptly starts throwing up. When Sam finally gets back he finds Tommy unconscious next to a pile of what looks like his internal organs. That's a lot of vomit.

After her encounter with "Sam" and unsure where else to turn for help with Eric, Sookie ends up going to Jason's. She can hear that he's in the house but he first hides from her and then shouts at her to go away. After Sookie ignores him and walks in on him half-naked and handcuffed to his bed he finally has to tell her about the possibility he might become a werepanther that night. Sookie points out that if he does transform, the handcuffs will just fall off. His reaction is what convinces her he's serious. Apparently forgetting about Eric she insists on staying with Jason. As they wait for him to turn he's upset to find out that when Sookie said she would take care of him if he turned she didn't mean she would kill him. She tries to make him feel better with a pep talk before heading inside to get them drinks. When she returns--surprise--Jason is gone.

He's off stumbling around the woods like the dumbass he is, waiting to turn and jumping at every noise. Lucky for him Jessica senses his fear and comes running. As he starts having a panic attack she calms him down and promises to stay with him while he turns.

Speaking of weres, Alcide returns home to find Marcus Bozeman having a cozy chat with Debbie. Marcus is in a much friendlier mood than he was the last time Alcide saw him and it turns out Debbie has already joined the Shreveport pack behind Alcide's back. He's infuriated with Debbie but she convinces him that her recovery (from her V addiction) depends on her getting out of the house and meeting other weres. Alcide reluctantly relents and agrees to run with Debbie and the pack during that night's full moon.

Meanwhile Sookie's started searching the woods for Jason and ends up running into Debbie and Alcide (is it just me or is it weird that on the night of the full moon we don't see any weres or shifters in animal form? Why are they all running around looking like people?) Sookie asks them whether someone can become a were by being bitten and they assure her you can only be born a were. Relieved she takes off again to find Jason. Debbie is comfortable letting Sookie take care of herself but Alcide is clearly worried. Women just love it when their partners are preoccupied with someone else.

After what is probably a few hours Jason finally realizes he's not going to turn, which leaves him strangely disappointed. He asks Jessica about what being a vampire is like and she tells Jason how awesome he is. Just when it looks like the two of them are going to act on their growing attraction Jason brings up Hoyt and starts treating Jessica like a little sister (complete with arm punches). Before Jessica leaves him they both agree not to tell Hoyt about spending time together. He just wouldn't understand.

Back at Bill's, the King of Louisiana is getting ready to execute Eric. He has his guards bring Eric in restraints out to the lawn. Eric accepts his sentence and is fine with being put to death, which seems extreme even to me. Exactly how docile has Eric become? But anyway he does have a couple of final requests. He asks that Pam be released since she doesn't have much time left and she isn't much of a threat anymore. He also asks that Bill let Sookie know that he was born the night she found him and that he's going to his true death knowing what it was like to love. He also mentions that she deserves love with anyone who can give it to her. As Bill raises the stake above his head Eric looks up in a pose that's instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with Christian iconography, particularly with those icons depicting the crucifixion. Nice touch. A little much but nice.

Tara's girlfriend, Naomi, shows up unannounced and demands to know what's been going on. So Tara finally tells her everything. This leads to anger and sex, so pretty much the usual response in Bon Temps. But the more she gets to know the real Tara, the more Naomi likes her. As for Pam's supposed harmlessness? Just as Tara and Naomi are sharing a moment outside Merlotte's, Pam shows up. And she is pissed. Tara tries to reason with Pam but when that doesn't work she begs Naomi to go. Naomi, however, isn't about to leave her. Luckily Pam is an equal opportunity killer and lets them know there's enough of her to go around (especially since parts of her are still falling off). Then she attacks.

Off in Mexico, Jesus's granddad toys with him and Lafayette, not only to punish Jesus and to prove his point but also because he just seems to like it. First he demands that Jesus bring him a sacrifice. When Jesus returns with a rattlesnake Granddad points out that snakes are gateways to the spirit world. He informs Jesus and Lafayette that they need protection from spirits and witches--not vampires. Then he sics the snake on Jesus, tells Lafayette to protect him, and leaves the room. As Jesus is slowly dying Lafayette is totally confused and panicking when he sees a man's spirit in the corner. A moment later the spirit enters his body and takes possession of him. It turns out to be the spirit of Jesus's uncle Luka, a gifted healer. He saves Jesus and departs, leaving Lafayette with no idea what just happened.

At Bill's again (presumably while he's outside with Eric) Sheriff Luis is obsessively watching Marnie on the security monitors. He was an early proponent of killing the necromancer and it looks like he can't hold out any longer. He goes to her cell ready to kill the witch but when he finds out Antonia's taken up residence in there he's all-too-eager to get his vengeance on (he turns out to have been Antonia's rapist and the "child" of the priest she compelled to greet the sun). But before Luis gets very far Antonia stops him with a spell and brings him under her control. When will these vampires learn?

The episode ends with Sookie still out in the woods shouting for Jason (how big are these woods anyway?) Suddenly Eric is there. He tells her Bill set him free and she forgets about everything else. As they kiss and the, ahem, music swells we see Bill standing alone on his porch, looking melancholy. The camera returns to Sookie and Eric who have already settled into a convenient clearing where they're (finally!) having sex. See--the new Eric isn't all bad.

Okay, so Season 4 Eric might be a little too meek. It would be good to see more fight in him. But he's also warm and caring and sweet (and still damn hot). In any case we know it won't last so those of you not enjoying this season, just hang on. Eric will be back to his Viking vampire god self in no time.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and long, snakelike fangs that extend or retract at will (and also when the vampire is excited). Cry tears of blood.

Strengths: Super strength (the older the vampire, the stronger they are). Super speed. Heightened senses.

Weaknesses: Silver. Witchcraft. Sun. Stakes. Sookie.

Mythology: Vampire society is highly hierarchical with Kings and Queens ruling over Sheriffs and lesser vampires, and all ruled by the mysterious Authority. Vampire blood (V) is a highly addictive and illegal drug. Once a human has consumed vampire blood the vampire will always be able to sense and track them.

Sound Bites

Eric: You are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
Sookie: Only because you can't remember anything else.

Sookie: If you ever loved me you won't hurt him.
Bill: This is strictly business. Vampire business. So for once in your life I strongly suggest you stay out of it.

Bill: Sookie is not mine.
Eric: But you love her.
Bill: Irrelevant.

True Blood, Season 4 Episode 6 "I Wish I Was the Moon." Written by Raelle Tucker. Directed by Jeremy Podeswa. From HBO.

18 August 2011

Fan Expo

Once again it's FanExpo time in Toronto! For those of you of a vampire fandom persuasion...

In the HORROR section of the Expo (aka Rue Morgue's Festival of Fear):

A screening of Near Dark along with Q&A with Lance Henriksen (special ticket required)

Appearances by Lance Henriksen; Sam Trammell (True Blood's Sam Merlotte); and Tom Savini (special effects genius and also appeared in From Dusk Till Dawn, Lost Boys: The Tribe and Innocent Blood).

Featured Authors:

Heather Brewer, The Slayer Chronicles
Nancy Kilpatrick, The Power of Blood
Alyxandra Harvey, The Drake Chronicles
Max Turner, Night Runner
Nikki Stafford, Bite Me (Buffy companion guide)
Crissy Calhoun, Love You to Death (Vampire Diaries companion guide)

Remembering Frightenstein
Lance versus Lance
Horror Fiction: Horror Heroes & Villains
Creature Features 2.0

In the SCI FI section of the Expo:

Eliza Dushku (Buffy's Faith)

FanExpo, Aug 25-28, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, South Building, 222 Bremner Ave

More info here.

16 August 2011

Being Human (UK) S1 E2

Spoilers Ahead

How do the Brits manage to make such good TV? I've seen it time and time again (e.g., Doctor Who, Misfits, Sherlock...): good acting, compelling stories, great cinematography and special effects. I'm guessing they have reasonable budgets, which they clearly put to good use. Even though we only get a few episodes (six for the first season of BH) they're worth every minute.

Episode 2 starts off with George's agonizing transformation to werewolf as Mitchell describes the equally horrifying and miraculous process in a voice over. The effects as George transform are impressive: realistic and scary. The full wolf itself is okay--it's makeup and/or a costume. These never look quite right but I've definitely seen a lot worse (including CGI wolves). By the way, I have to say that much as I like Annie and George I think Mitchell should do all the narration from now on. Never mind that he's the hot vampire--he's got a beautiful Irish accent. It definitely needs to be put to good use.

The next morning when George wakes up naked in the woods he realizes a man is sitting, watching him. Those of you paying attention will recognize him as the same man who asked George what he was running from as George tried to find a safe place in the woods to transform last episode. It turns out this man, Tully (Dean Lennox Kelly, who played Shakespeare on Doctor Who in "The Shakespeare Code" episode!), is another werewolf. Tully has been around longer and has picked up a few tricks on making the whole process easier. He's also been hearing that something big is about to happen and he figures there's safety in numbers. George, however, doesn't even want to acknowledge or accept the werewolf part of him. He gratefully accepts the clothes that Tully brought for him but then he takes off, telling Tully he's not interested in being werewolf buddies.

When George gets home he's in for another surprise. This time it's a group of his neighbours having tea in his living room while Mitchell plays happy host. Mitchell informs George that if they want to be human they need to get to know people and get involved in the community (the occasional beer down at the pub doesn't count). George is not at all convinced, especially when he goes back to the room and realizes that Tully is there.

Grabbing Tully and pulling him outside George tells him definitively to piss off. But Tulley argues that he can teach George how to manage and control the wolf and convinces him to let him back inside. Mitchell and Annie are immediately smitten with Tully. George is still not thrilled, though, especially when Mitchell invites Tully to stay with them for a couple of days after hearing that he's been "sleeping rough" (i.e., he's homeless). Mitchell can't understand why George isn't jumping at the chance to have someone teach him how to control his condition. You can hear the longing in Mitchell's voice--he's clearly someone who knows--and hates--what it's like to be alone.

Ironically as Tully starts mentoring George on being a werewolf as well as being all manly-like, George starts admiring Tully more and more while Mitchell becomes less enamoured of him. As George gets to the point of even talking like Tully he doesn't notice the subtly disparaging comments Tully makes about Mitchell. Or the way he's mooching off them. Or that he's something of a misogynist. George just see the slick guy who's helping him be better. Never mind that following Tully's example and aggressively coming on to a nurse at work gets George labelled as a disgusting sexist pig. Or that his best friends (Mitchell and Annie, of course) think he's acting like an idiot.

Meanwhile Mitchell's got his hands full with Lauren, who shows up at the house and tries her best to induce more than one kind of lust in him. It's amazing Mitchell doesn't take her up on her offer to feed or to simply "play." This vampire's got some self control. But as he kicks her out she lets him know that he can check out but he can never leave.

Speaking of leaving Tully manages to wear out his welcome with Annie by getting aggressive with her, calling her a tease, and then trying to kiss her. Luckily Annie goes poof (as ghosts are wont to do) before his lips make contact. Unfortunately she reappears outside in a panic, desperate to get to the hospital to find Mitchell and George, and can't ask anyone for directions because humans can't see her. She finally sees an ambulance and follows. It turns out the ambulance is going to a crime scene rather than the hospital and Annie notices Lauren being hastily ushered away by Herrick before anyone connects that it's her handiwork they're cleaning up. Herrick also sees Annie and manages to creep her out more than she already was. She's not having a good day.

It's worth a mention that Annie's reaction to Tully is a little extreme considering he couldn't really hurt her. A little foreshadowing, perhaps? We still don't know why Annie is a ghost.

When Mitchell gets home he finds Annie on the doorstep, where she proceeds to break down at the sight of him. Inside Mitchell orders Tully out. But Tully plays innocent as soon as George gets home and George angrily defends him, managing to alienate his friends in the process (as when Mitchell shouts that Tully pretty much assaulted Annie and George retorts that she probably loved it). George finally snaps that Tully is staying and then they both head out to prepare for their full-moon transformation.

Even as Tully is telling George how proud he is of him, George is regretting the things he said. But Tully claims they needed to be said and then admits that he's the wolf that originally bit George, turning him into a werewolf. He seems to think this news will solidify their bond but George is absolutely horrified. As far as he's concerned Tully cursed him. George wants nothing to do with him ever again. Tully is devastated. As George leaves he shouts after him that he can't be alone any longer.

When George returns home he apologizes to Mitchell and Annie. They readily forgive him (doesn't everyone need friends like that?) Then they all settle in to watch the copy of Casablanca a neighbour lent them (Mitchell is in it but, since vampires don't show up on film, all you see is a chair he kicks over!) Only it turns out it's not Casablanca and it didn't come from their neighbour. On the disc is a home video of a guy in a room, talking to someone who doesn't show up: a vampire. The man starts getting undressed and having sex, in the middle of which he's bitten and killed. As the vampire pushes his body off the bed and a pool of blood forms, bloody footprints suddenly appear across the floor. The video is basically vampire snuff porn, courtesy of Lauren who thinks it'll bring Mitchell back to being a proper vampire. All three look sickened. It really is a disturbing video and, aside from HBO, I can't imagine seeing it on an American network. In this case I'm actually not sure whether that's a good thing.

Later that night George has to go for his transformation. He returns to the home base he established with Tully, a shack in the woods. Tully is there with a noose around his neck. When he sees George he kicks the chair out from under himself and starts strangling. At first George approaches him but then he backs away and leaves the shack. George has another change of heart and goes back to save Tully. Unfortunately Tully begins transforming and attacks George. He won't let George leave even as George begs him to before they both transform and rip each other apart. As the serious fighting begins the scene cuts away.

The next morning we find out that neither ripped the other apart. This time, though, it's George who's dressed and watching as Tully still lies sleeping. When he wakes up George hands him some clothes and tells him he doesn't want to see him again. Ignoring Tully's unconvincing arguments, George walks away.

This would have been a good place to end the episode, an uplifting sort of conclusion with George finding his own strength and becoming, if not quite human, a better werewolf. But things are never that easy, are they? The episode actually ends with Mitchell at home, looking out the window as people walk by. You can see how apart from them he feels. Maybe he's realizing that reaching out to the community doesn't--and can never--make him part of it. After looking around one last time he digs Lauren's disc out of the trash as his eyes go black for a moment.

As any human knows it's not so easy being one of us. But it's interesting to see the struggle from the perspective of three non- (or rather, former) humans. The actors do a great job portraying the difficulties and their own turmoil and demons. Just looking at the photo above you can see simply from his body language the torment George undergoes every month. And the actor playing Mitchell does a brilliant job of portraying his eternal battle against the darkness inside himself. Right now things are looking bleak for our Irish vampire. But as much as I want Mitchell to succeed, is anyone else just a little curious to see him really unleash?

Fang Files

Appearance: Human (not even pale) until the vampire emerges, then pure black eyes and sharp fangs.

Weaknesses: Blood lust.

Mythology: Vampires need an invitation to cross the threshold. A vampire's image can't be captured on camera.

Sound Bites

George: [to Annie] We have to put a stop to this. He [Mitchell] doesn't understand-- these people are British. You're not allowed to talk to your neighbours until you've nodded to them for 15 years.

Lauren: [to Mitchell] I want to believe you, I really do. It's just... when you look at me you're hungry.

George: [to Mitchell] You know the difference between you and him [Tully]?
Mitchell: Oh, I don't know--I don't have to shave my palms?
George: That...I think that's actually racist!

Tully: It's a complex thing. It's a glorious thing.
George: This isn't a glorious thing--it's a curse! This isn't a gift--it's God stepping on us with his boots.

Being Human, Season 1 Episode 2. Written by Toby Whithouse. Directed by Toby Haynes. From the BBC.

08 August 2011

True Blood S4 E5 "Me and the Devil."

Spoilers Ahead

Vampires can't get along with anyone, can they? Humans, fairies, shifters, weres, other vampires, witches, even spirits... you'd think people would learn to just leave them alone. Why did they want to come out to the world again? Maybe they just had the burning desire to pay taxes.

Whatever their reasons "Me and the Devil" begins not with vamps but with our not-so-favourite shifters: Tommy and Melinda (and Joe Lee, shifter by association). They're still where we left them last episode, with Joe Lee beating the hell out of Tommy while Melinda proves how completely useless she is. Once Tommy passes out, his parents move away to discuss the "big money" dog fight coming up the next day. That's when Tommy throws the chain around Joe Lee's neck and returns the favour. What's really annoying (to me anyway) is that Melinda, who stood by while her husband tortured her son, suddenly starts fighting Tommy to protect Joe Lee. Nice. But Tommy fights them both off until he finally kills Joe Lee. Melinda then attacks, saying she's going to kill Tommy. Ah, motherly love. Unfortunately in the heat of the moment Tommy hits her a little too hard and accidentally kills her. She was worthless but she was still his mom so his subsequent devastation is understandable.

Elsewhere, Marnie wakes up after her latest possession by dead necromancer Antonia. Marnie tells Jesus, Lafayette and Tara about Antonia taking her over and they're horrified. But she's convinced the spirit is their protector. The others realize it's time to get going. As far away from Marnie, Eric, and Bon Temps as possible. For the boys that means paying a visit to Jesus's brujo granddad in Mexico (even though the man scares the shit out of Jesus). For Tara it's back to New Orleans.

Eric and Sookie, meanwhile, get up to all kinds of interesting things this episode, starting with a visit Eric pays to Sookie's room as she lies sleeping (minds out of the gutter, please). As he looks in on her suddenly Godric is by his side. While Eric holds back, Godric has no problem getting close to Sookie. At that point Eric steps in and tells Godric not to touch her (he also asks who Godric is). Godric wants them both to drain her and walk in the sun. Eric refuses. So Godric grabs him by the throat and forces him to his knees. He then tells Eric that there's no redemption for him and he needs to stop fighting his nature (odd since Eric could never have been accused before of fighting his nature. If anything, Godric was disappointed that he didn't fight it when he was torturing Russell). A minute later Eric pops fang and attacks Sookie. As she starts screaming Eric wakes up in his own room. This time he enters Sookie's room for real (looking appropriately monstrous, I was happy to see). As he creeps up to her bed, fangs out, she wakes up. Like a little kid caught doing something bad he covers his tracks by telling her he had a bad dream. He really is upset, though, and Sookie comforts him.

As for Bill, it's one headache after another. First Portia shows why the South has a bad name when she shows up with a list of reasons why incest is no big deal. Um, ew. (And if it's true about the majority of states repealing incest laws then that is truly disturbing, especially in light of all the opposition to gay marriage. Maybe it would be considered okay if the gay people involved were siblings :P). Anyway, Bill has sense enough to most definitely not want to get groiny with his descendants. Unfortunately the only way he can get her to back off is by glamouring her into being terrified of him.

Bill then gets paid a visit by Pam who's covered under layers of black lace. He's lighthearted about her appearance until he sees her rotting face and realizes she defied his orders and went to see the witch. Pam wants permission to torture and kill Marnie but of course Bill can't allow that (the Authority would put Pam to the true death for harming a human). But as pieces of her face come off he assures her he won't ignore the situation.

When daytime comes around Sookie finally puts her telepathy to good use! I guess the writers remembered that this show was supposed to be about a telepathic waitress. Sookie listens in on Holly to find out about the spell cast on Eric and the witch that did it. She then pays a visit to the Moon Goddess shop where she meets Marnie and convinces her to do a psychic reading on her (apparently being completely insincere will convince someone to do whatever you want). Marnie ends up contacting Gran and Sookie is lucky enough to hear Gran directly via Marnie's thoughts. Gran warns Sookie not to give her heart to the new man in her life because the situation is only temporary. She also tells Sookie that Marnie poses great danger and to run. Sookie wisely listens to Gran and gets the hell out of there.

Afterward Marnie gets a visit from pseudo-witch "Kitty" (of Bill's security staff). Kitty pretends to be concerned about what's going on but she only does so long enough for Marnie to be grabbed by Bill's commandos. See ya, Marnie. Not that she disappears or anything. She ends up in a cell in Bill's mansion (and we know he's not going to hurt her). As she prays in her cell she has another vision where she's transported to another cell in which Antonia is locked along with a bunch of other witchy ladies. As they huddle in a corner, chanting, the Inquisition priests come in and forcibly select one of the women. Turns out vampires are big in the priesthood and the witch they chose is dinner. Back in the present, Bill questions Marnie over the intercom and then face to face (he glamours her). It's clear she really doesn't know anything about the spells she performed or how to reverse them. Pam and Eric are screwed.

When Sookie gets home again she also gets a visit. Tara decides to stop by and whine about how her girlfriend found out she was lying about her name (among other things) and about how much she hates Bon Temps and everything about it. Then she asks to spend the night, at which point the sun sets and Eric comes out. That leads to Tara completely freaking and storming out after declaring "Fuck the both of you." Really? Aren't these people too old for this kind of drama? She and Sookie are bffs, then they hate each other, then they're bffs, then they hate each other. Jesus. And you'd think knowing that Sookie hated Eric she might pause to think there's a good reason why Sookie is hiding him now. I'm really ready for Tara to just go. She was good for the first couple of episodes of the show and since then it's all been pointless melodrama.

Anyway, Sookie gets to comfort Eric yet again as now he's upset by the nasty things Tara revealed about him in her anger. He decides to leave rather than risk hurting Sookie. But Sookie runs after him and asks him not to go. He comes back and we finally get the big kiss we've been waiting for. Yet somehow it's... underwhelming. Maybe there was too much build-up, I don't know. But even though the kiss disappointed I am glad the inevitable finally happened.

Back to Tommy. Where do you run when you've killed both your parents? To big brother, of course. And despite their numerous differences it's nice to see that Sam is there for Tommy when he really needs it. They head out in Tommy's van with the bodies in the back. Unfortunately Tommy is already freaking out when Andy decides to pull them over. Sam makes him hide in the back while he deals with Andy. Sam is perfectly calm and reasonable but Andy, despite having no good reason, insists on seeing what's in the back of the van. Inside Tommy waits, clutching a shovel to add to the body count if it comes to that. At first Sam refuses to let Andy into the van but Andy isn't taking no for an answer. Grabbing the keys from Sam he throws open the door and finds... a rather pissed-off gator. Yes! Don't you love when supernatural characters use their powers in a smart way? It's a nice change (not that they haven't done so before but it's been pretty rare). Andy back off in a hurry while Sam explains that he found the gator by the Dumpster and is taking back to the swamp where it belongs. After Andy takes off they do head to the swamp, where they feed the bodies to some real gators. RIP Melinda and Joe Lee.

Jessica and Hoyt's troubles seem to be continuing. After healing Jason and getting him settled at his house, Hoyt moves in to kiss Jessica. She pulls away. It's obvious something is wrong but when Hoyt questions her she insists she's just tired. He ends up staying behind to watch over Jason while she goes home. I really wanted it to work for those crazy kids. Sigh. By the way, does Jessica work at Merlotte's anymore?

Hoyt later tries to talk to Jason about his problems with Jessica, but, as usual, Jason is too obsessed with his own problems (like the full moon the next night) to care. At least Jason is smart enough to realize that everything bad that ever happened to him was because of sex (or rather, his selfish need to get him some). Of course now that Jason has Jessica's blood in him and is already enjoying sexy dreams about Jess it's difficult to believe that he won't be getting into yet more trouble due to sex.

As for possessed baby, Terry and Arlene don't think it's the baby that's possessed so much as they believe Rene is haunting them. So they bring in the only "holy" people around who will cleanse the house for them: Reverend Daniels and his new wife, Lettie Mae. Between the chanting and the smudging the evil is sure to be chased away. Unfortunately as Terry and Arlene later enjoy some quiet snuggle time a pack of matches nearby spontaneously combusts. As if a little sage would really chase away evil.

And it seems Alcide is being set up for future trouble with the Shreveport pack master, Marcus Bozeman. Bozeman is pissed that Alcide's been living in Shreveport for a few months already but never registered with the pack. Sigh. More werewolf drama.

The episode ends with Bill meeting with the rest of the Louisiana Sheriffs, as well as Pam. We find out exactly what happened during the Spanish Inquisition (you won't expect it) and how dangerous necromancy can be. They then all get into an argument about how to deal with the situation. That's when Pam lets slip that she knows what happened to Eric. Bill is infuriated and demands to know where Eric is. She finally admits he's at Sookie's. I never expected to see Pam crumble under Bill's glare. Apparently neither did she. As Bill takes off for Sookie's (can't wait to see what he storms in on) Pam apologizes to Eric.

This wasn't the greatest episode ever but it was decent and had some fairly awesome moments. It was definitely nice to see paranormal characters acting paranormal (when was the last time Sookie used her telepathy for anything useful?) This episode also has the feeling of being the calm before the storm. Get ready for the show.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human with long, snakelike fangs that extend or retract at will (and also when the vampire is excited). Cry tears of blood.

Strengths: Ability to glamour humans. Super speed. Ability to heal wounded humans with their blood.

Weaknesses: Sunlight, blood lust, magic.

Mythology: Vampires have a strong bond with their makers, which apparently extends even beyond death. The Authority is a mysterious organization that all vampires must answer to. Historically many vampires became priests and nuns in order to blend in and have a hand in human power structures. When a human drinks vampire blood it creates a bond between the two that leads to, among other things, sexual dreams.

Sound Bites

Tommy: Remember what I once said? I'm going to be free the day you die?
Joe Lee: Worthless piece of shit.

Marnie: What...what happened?
Lafayette: Hooker, you pissed off another vampire and then you took a goddamned nap.

Godric: [to Eric] You are incapable of love. You are damned.

Bill: [seeing Pam in a big hat and veil] Oh good--the world needs more beekeepers.

Tommy: I fucked up, Sam.
Sam: I see that, Tommy.

Eric: [to Sookie] There's a light in you. It's beautiful. I couldn't bear it if I snuffed it out.

True Blood. Season 4 Episode 5 "Me and the Devil." Written by Mark Hudis. Directed by Daniel Minahan. From HBO.

03 August 2011

Being Human (UK) Season 1 Premiere

Spoilers Ahead

Being Human sucked me right in. On the surface it sounds pretty silly: a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost are roommates... like a cheesy joke. But these are not cardboard characters. They have depth, they have demons, and the bond and chemistry among the three of them makes me wish for more scenes with just them. Why do British TV seasons have to be so damn short (only 6 measly episodes)?

Annie the ghost (played by Lenora Crichlow, Sugar Rush, Doctor Who) provides the narration for this episode. She's trapped in the house in which she died after slipping on the stairs. Her fiance, brokenhearted about her death, has moved out and rented the place. So Annie is stuck living with one set of tenants after another, none of which can see her but who can feel her "creepy" presence. Things start improving for her after Mitchell and George move in, in large part because--being supernatural themselves--they can see her and talk to her. She's even gotten to the point where humans are noticing her and she can venture outside the house (not far but it's a start).

Mitchell (Aidan Turner, who played Dante Gabriel Rosetti in Desperate Romantics) is the hot, brooding vampire with a gorgeous Irish accent. Yes, I am drooling a little. Unfortunately he's got some serious torment going on. Desperately trying to overcome his nature (by not feeding from humans, hanging out with humans and werewolves, shunning the other vampires) he's wracked by self-recrimination when he slips while having sex with co-worker Lauren (Annabel Scholey, Personal Affairs) and kills her. And that turns out to be the least of his problems.

Then there's George (Russell Tovey, Him & Her, Doctor Who), the neurotic werewolf. He's been a wolf about a year and has yet to accept that it's a part of him. He was infected when scratched on holiday in Scotland (the guy he was out walking with ended up dead) and has since run away from his old life (including his fiancee). He really just wants a normal life but the excruciating transformation he undergoes every month is kind of getting in the way. Or maybe he's just getting in the way of himself.

Episode 1 also introduces us to some of the vampires Mitchell is trying to escape. Herrick (Jason Watkins, Psychoville) is Mitchell's maker, head of the local vampires, and high up in the police department (the vampires have ways of covering up their activities). He has megalomaniacal dreams of coming out to the humans and making vampires the dominant species on the planet. Despite Mitchell's betrayal Herrick wants him back in the fold and is confident that will happen, sooner or later.

Seth (Dylan Brown, EastEnders) is Herrick's current right-hand man and is trying to "recruit" people from the hospital in which Mitchell and George work. Mitchell refuses to allow the hospital to be a feeding ground for the vampires. Seth backs off but it's obvious the moment Herrick removes his leash he'll be after Mitchell in a heartbeat.

And then there's Lauren. It's unclear whether Mitchell turned her out of guilt or by accident but he abandoned her before the process was complete and she's pissed about it. Now she's in Herrick's pocket and is out to force Mitchell off the wagon and back among his peers, while at the same time ruining his chances of having any kind of normal life.

So while Mitchell has to fight his own nature he also has to fight the other vampires, their long-term plans and short-term chaos and sabotage. George--already dealing with his own issues--is drawn in as the vampires attack and kill his co-workers and harass Mitchell (they also hate werewolves). While Annie is at least sheltered from the things that go on outside of the house, she suffers her own setback when her fiance and the guys' landlord (Owen, played by Gregg Chillin, Nearly Famous) shows up to fix the house's plumbing with his new girlfriend. Suddenly Annie's invisible to humans again, not to mention devastated about Owen.

There's already a lot going on and even more being set up for the future. The vampires are clearly only going to become a bigger problem. George is going to have to come to terms with his wolf. And what exactly is keeping Annie tied to this plane and to the house? The season may be short but it's already compelling.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human until the vampire emerges, then black eyes and sharp, prominent fangs. Vampires do not show up on camera.

Strengths: Heightened senses.

Weaknesses: Not drinking human blood results in shakiness, weakness, and obsessive thoughts of what they most want. Psychopaths by nature (but this can be overcome with major persistence).

Mythology: Vampires can eat food and go out during the day. They take jobs in the human world to blend in and also cover their existence.

Sound Bites

Seth: [to Mitchell] Word of warning, one friend to another, it's cold out there without us.

Annie: Hello, George. I thought it was your time of the month.
Mitchell: It is. He's doing it here.
Annie: I just hoovered!

George: [After spending the full moon locked in their house] Oh no. Where's...where's all our stuff? What did I do?
Mitchell: We've salvaged what we can but there's about 10 bin bags of crap and wreckage stashed in my bedroom. I'm sensing a trip to Ikea. You know my feelings about that.

Mitchell: [after spotting Herrick at the hospital] You didn't get my message? This isn't your fucking larder, Herrick.

George: [after Owen comes by with his new girlfriend] You're much prettier. And much nicer.
Annie: And much deader.

Being Human, Season 1 Episode 1. Written by Toby Whithouse. Directed by Toby Haynes. From the BBC.

02 August 2011

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

Spoilers Ahead

I feel like my world revolves around Charlaine Harris these days. My last several posts have been related to her and her work. Season 4 of True Blood dominates my thoughts. Even the posts I write for Heroes and Heartbreakers seem to disproportionately feature her (for example, this one). I'm not sure how it's ended up this way. Other vampires and their creators beckon for my attention and yet still I return to the Sookieverse. I'm going to have to do something about that. In the meantime, though, you'll have to endure one more Harris review--but at least Dead Reckoning is worth it.

The book starts off well, bringing you smoothly back into Sookie's world. And, of course, it isn't long before trouble begins. A molotov cocktail through the window of Merlotte's leaves everyone wondering who the culprit could be--and who they were after.

I was happy that there was plenty of Eric action this time around, starting early in the book (a nice change!) Unfortunately something odd is going on with him. He's getting into major fights with Pam and is clearly keeping something from Sookie. He's also stressed because Victor is continuing to make life miserable for him and isn't above getting to Eric through those he cares about.

There's also lots of fae action for the fairy fans out there. Although most of it is more disturbing than fun. Incest among fairies was mentioned more than once (suddenly glad I have no fae relatives). And we discover that fae vengeance is not pretty. There are also a number of revelations involving Gran, a fairy artifact, and Mr. Cataliades. We even (finally) find out why Sookie has more fairy attributes than Jason.

Of course there were also the usual annoyances, which for me are mostly due to Sookie, as well as a certain Southern, small-town attitude I can't relate to. Other people may not have an issue with these things, though. But does it not bother anyone else that every non-human species is portrayed as barbaric, or backward, or otherwise less than humans? I've complained in past reviews that Harris writes about vampires but doesn't like them. I think the same can also be said about her other paranormal races. Her scorn might be subtle but it comes through and, for me anyway, it's a constant irritation. There's also the usual sloppy editing (e.g., "DEFCON 4" when the author clearly meant "DEFCON 2"--how hard would it have been to double-check this before letting it go to print?)

One major plot point that really bothered me was Sookie using magic to break her bond with Eric. It seems stupid given all the threats she constantly faces, as well as cruel (Eric thought she was dead). Even worse--she never fixes it. The book ends with the bond still broken. Maybe I'd like Sookie more if she did anything that seemed remotely logical to me.

Dead Reckoning finishes with quite a few loose ends, although it's done intentionally and makes for a decent cliffhanger. In particular Sookie's relationship with Eric is left on seriously shaky ground. Sookie has the means to fix things but between her burgeoning self-hatred and her uncertainty about Eric her only action so far is inaction (I sincerely hope that changes in the next book).

While it wasn't without its problems, Dead Reckoning was definitely one of the better Sookie Stackhouse books. It was interesting and well paced. It sets things up for the future without skimping on what's happening in the present. I lost myself in the story and kept wanting to find out what would happen next. Yet when it ended I was disappointed there wasn't more to read. All in all, I would actually read this one again.

Fang Files

Appearance: Very pale humans with long fangs that extend and retract at will (and also when the vampire feels strong emotions).

Strengths: Some vampires have special skills, such as the ability to fly. Super strength, speed. Fast healing (holding a vampire's severed limb in place while drinking real blood will heal the limb).

Weaknesses: Vampires are beholden to their makers. Stakes. Beheading. Sunlight.

Mythology: When a human drinks vampire blood the vampire can then sense the human and feel their emotions (the more blood is exchanged the stronger the bond). Vampire blood is a potent, illegal, and unpredictable drug for humans.

Text Bite

[Sookie] "In one of those awful moments you have at random, I realized that everyone I'd ever dated--though, granted, that was a short list--was a killer. And so was I."

"It wasn't often you ran into a bondage/Elvis/whorehouse-themed vampire club."

For those of you who can't wait to find out what (might) happen next, Ms Harris drops some hints on her blog for the next book ("Deadlocked"):
While I know where I want to be at the end of each book, I don't always know how I'm getting there. Sometimes I surprise myself. Last night, Sookie got kidnapped, and I'm going to see how that shakes out. A character I thought was dead is probably alive, and I'm real happy for him. Then again, if the work doesn't go so well today, he may be dead again. This is the fun (and the panic) of being a writer. Every day brings decisions, and I have the power of life and death and procreation over all these people I've invented.
I wonder who the possibly dead guy might be (or if we'll ever find out for sure).

Want to see what I had to say about the previous books?

Dead until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail
Definitely Dead
All Together Dead
From Dead to Worse
Dead and Gone
Dead in the Family

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris. From Penguin (Ace Books).

Thanks to Laura at Penguin for sending me my review copy.