21 June 2010

True Blood S3 E2 "Beautifully Broken"

Spoilers Ahead

Vampires, werewolves, and shifters--oh my! Has Season 3 got your attention yet? Because it sure as hell's got mine. There's already all kinds of supernatural action, and we're only two episodes in. I approve.

Bill's having an "interesting" time in
Mississippi. "Beautifully Broken" picks up in the middle of his fight with the werewolves, which started at the end of the last episode. Our first glimpse of Bill involves him bloodied, growling, and holding on to a severed werewolf ear with his teeth. The camera pulls out and we see that most of the wolves are now prone, naked men. Apparently werewolves aren't much of a match for the average vampire. And I was worried about Bill.

Just as Bill's about to get into it with the last wolf, a man on horseback shows up and tells the were to "heel," which he does. I don't think anyone was expecting that. The werewolf returns to human form and we quickly discover he was supposed to escort ("not hunt him down like an animal") Bill back to the man on horseback, who turns out to be the vampire King of Mississippi aka Russell Edgington (played by Denis O'Hare, CSI: Miami). Bill is disturbed that the King has werewolves working for him, particularly in light of the way they kidnapped and tortured him--and fed on his blood. But he's not half as disturbed as the King is when he finds out his wolves snacked on Bill. Pointing a gun at the alpha (Coot), the King suddenly switches and shoots the earless were (Louie) instead. I guess for an alpha, watching one of his defenceless pack members be cut down has to be almost as bad (maybe worse) as being killed himself. The King then extends an invitation (read: order) to Bill to accompany him back to his place. Not good.

And it doesn't get any better at the King's rather impressive mansion (vampire royalty know how to live in style). It's made clear early on that Bill doesn't get to leave until the King (every time I type that I picture Elvis) says he can go. And just to drive that point home, the guest room features 100% sterling silver doors on the inside of the room and round-the-clock guards outside. The room also comes equipped with a bed that used to belong to Elizabeth Bathory, rumoured in reality to have been a vampire for her penchant for bathing in virgins' blood. The vamps on the show, however, refer to her a mass murderer, not a vampire. I like that they could have gone the obvious route but didn't. So, anyway, what does the King want with Bill? Over a meal of chilled carbonated blood and blood bisque infused with rose petals, he offers to make Bill Sheriff of Mississippi Area 2--if Bill helps him convince the Queen of Louisiana to marry him (and let slip a few of her secrets while he's at it).

Okay, so there's a lot to comment on here. First, the King toasts Bill saying it's an honour to have Bill in his kingdom "again." It might be nothing but I'm curious as to when they met before and what that meeting entailed. Was Bill just passing through, or was there something more to it? The King also says he knows Bill is working for the Queen, and even though Bill denies it, I believe the King. He makes a valid point that it's not exactly the dream life to be living among humans in a backwater town. I heard that in the books it's eventually revealed that the vampires have been trying to recruit Sookie all along; I'm guessing the show is heading in that direction, as well. I don't know how I feel about that (especially the part about Bill secretly working for the Queen). And lastly, here we go again with the whole vampire marriage thing, of which I am not a fan. At least this time it's a matter of political gain rather than happily-ever-after; I think that's far more suitable for immortal monster types. And it seems vampires subscribe to the belief that a King is of higher rank than a Queen; Russell assumes he'll be in charge of Mississippi and Louisiana if he marries Sophie-Anne. Since she can't bear him any heirs, we can only assume her main role will be to sit around acquiescing to his will.

Of course, Bill isn't interested in helping the King or being Sheriff, so the King has to bring Sookie into it. Not good just got even worse. For Bill, anyway.

Those of you rooting for a Sookie-Eric match-up will be gratified to know there's some good interaction between these two this episode. After finding out that the symbol branded on the dead werewolf's neck was related to Operation Werewolf, Sookie and Jessica have since discovered that OW was (is?) some kind of secret Nazi special ops unit from WWII (I was thinking that symbol looked eerily swastika-like). They take the symbol to Eric in hopes that he can tell them more about it, but he claims ignorance--not that Sookie believes him. Signalling Pam to take Jessica out of the room, Eric tells Sookie that all he knows about werewolves is that they're territorial, vicious, and pathologically secretive--and she's not exactly circumspect. In her desperation to find Bill, Eric claims Sookie is likely to run through the streets yelling "werewolf bait!" Not exactly a flattering analysis, but not exactly untrue, either. He also keeps mentioning that Sookie is too valuable to risk losing. I can't tell if this stems from personal feelings on his part, or if it's all about business (that is, it's really Sookie's telepathic ability and/or extra tasty blood that's too valuable). He certainly acts like a man struggling with unwanted feelings (more like the little boy who gives the girl he likes a cupcake, and then throws a rock at her). Alexander Skarsgard is not exactly emotionally expressive (which is a large part of why it's taking me so long to warm up to him) so it's hard to tell what, if anything, Eric is feeling at any given moment. Could be longing. Could be regret. Could be some past-date blood he had for breakfast. Who can tell?

When it becomes apparent that Eric's not going to help her, Sookie gets overwhelmed with worry for Bill and starts crying, which gets an amusing reaction from Eric. She tells him that she risked her life to help him find Godric, and although she doesn't expect him to do the same, she hopes he'll help her if he can. Lucky for Eric dawn is coming and Sookie's got to take Jessica home. Once they're gone Eric flashes back to Augsberg, Germany in 1945. I won't get into the details of the flashback but I'll just say it involves Eric and Godric (so happy that Godric is back!) posing as SS, a Nazi werewolf, torture, and some unnamed thing that Eric is apparently desperate to get.

While Sookie is busy with Eric, Jessica takes the opportunity to ask Pam for some advice, vampire to vampire. After discussing how to avoid killing someone when feeding from them, Jessica oh-so-subtly follows it up with a query about what one--in theory, of course--would do with a body, you know--if you accidentally killed someone. Hope she's not a poker player. We don't hear Pam's response but we can assume it involves a chainsaw, since Jessica makes inquiries about buying or renting one later on. But before we get to that, she and Hoyt see each other for the first time since their fight (by the way, I do not like his new haircut). He's waiting for her on Bill's porch, and while it looks for a second like things will be all right again between them, Jessica insists it's too late. After rushing into the house and closing the door, there's a sad, sweet moment as both she and Hoyt lean against opposite sides of the door, crying. Finally he angrily kicks the door a couple of times and leaves. And Jessica gets to spend another night with an increasingly disgusting corpse. The next night, after securing the chainsaw, Jessica's all ready to get down to business when--whoops--the corpse has disappeared. We have to assume he didn't suddenly get up and walk away, so who took him and what's that going to mean for Jessica?

At her own house again, Sookie is clearly not alone. Ominous music rises as someone sneaks up behind her and... a knee to the crotch later, Sookie has virtually ensured Jason won't be having kids anytime soon. It turns out he couldn't sleep and, knowing that their Gran would be doing handstands in her grave if she saw the (post-Maryann) state of the house, decided to start cleaning it. I like the scene with Sookie and Jason for a few reasons: they're bonding and strengthening their relationship, Jason is always good for lightening tension, Sookie does an awesome impersonation of Bill, and I find it weirdly soothing to see Sookie cleaning the house. Maybe because I find cleaning soothing myself, but also because in the show that's what she always turns to when things are difficult. No matter what else Sookie has been through, she always returns to her roots. There's something comforting about that. Anyway, she tells Jason about Bill and the weres, and also lets Jason know that she feels responsible for Eggs's death since she helped him remember. Jason offers to see if Andy can do anything to help find Bill. Meanwhile he's stressing because he knows who's really responsible for killing Eggs.

Andy has become town hero for killing the so-called serial killer, and he's giving a statement on TV when Jason shows up. Jason insists they've got to make things right because Sookie is blaming herself for something that's not her fault. Andy reluctantly agrees, although I'm not sure how hanging out at Merlotte's while Jason gets drunk is going to help anything. (By the way, it looks like Andy hasn't had a drink since he said he'd stop--which was right around when Maryann was killed. I think I was right when I said Maryann put the drunkenness whammy on him.) He does seem unusually concerned for Jason, though, giving him a pep talk and then offering to drive him home. On the way they get sidetracked by a meth-lab bust in progress. While Jason's waiting in the car he notices a girl skulking and crying in the shadows. When he follows her she takes off. Suddenly he notices a man sneaking out of the house. With an impressive tackle, Jason's taken him and his bag of meth down. Looks like Bon Temps might have another hero in the making. And possibly a new love interest/downfall for Jason.

On her way into Merlotte's the next day, Sookie suddenly telepathically hears a creepy voice. As she looks around she sees a creepier-looking guy standing at the edge of the woods. He's got a glyph branded onto his neck. Momentarily distracted by Terry, when Sookie looks back the guy is gone. She takes off after him and Terry takes off after her. Unable to spot mystery man, Terry starts tracking him only to end up confused when the boot prints are suddenly replaced by paw prints. And in case you didn't get that the guy turned into a wolf, Sookie finds his clothes and boots off to the side.

As if all this wasn't enough, there's yet more to talk about this episode. Lafayette manages to save Tara by breaking into the bathroom and forcing her to spit out the pills she was trying to OD on. Although she eventually talks him out of taking her to the hospital (she doesn't want to end up locked in a padded room), he decides to take her elsewhere: Meadowglade Clinic, 2 1/2 hours from Bon Temps. Tara's response is to start angrily chastising him and insisting she knows her rights. When Lafayette finally gets a word in he tells her they're not there for her. It turns out they're there to see Ruby Jane Reynolds--Lafayette's mother. Apparently his mom is not only on the far side of loopy, but she's also unabashedly racist and homophobic (she informs her "faggot" son that her attendant is Mexican, but he hasn't raped her yet). Amazingly Lafayette has been working two "legal" jobs and then some in order to afford to keep her at Meadowglade. He claims it's because he hates her so much that he doesn't want to have to take care of her himself, but Tara calls him on that, pointing out that if it were true he'd have let the state take care of her, or would have left her on the streets where he found her. I think I kind of love Lafayette.

After their visit with Ruby Jane, Lafayette lets Tara know how he really feels. He claims there's a darkness in their family, but that he and she are too good to give in to it. He finally gets through to Tara, and we can see a tiny bit of her fighting spirit return to her. Everyone should have a Lafayette; I know I wish I had one.

Meanwhile, Sam gets the family reunion he was after. Discovered by Tommy as he sleeps in his (own) truck, Sam is herded at gunpoint into a hovel of a house. When Melinda and Joe Lee come into the room half-asleep, it's Melinda who slowly realizes that Sam is their son. Not quite as exciting as my theory that Sam had to be given away because his mom cheated with a shapeshifter, it turns out she was simply too young (16) and his dad was in jail at the time (he claims it was for a crime he didn't commit). His dad is "regular" but his mom and brother are also shifters, and Sam can't help but be bitter that he had to go through finding out what he was alone. His newfound biological parents are all sympathy and support, which pisses off Tommy more than he already was. Apparently life at chez Mickens has been no picnic, and Tommy resents Sam in a major way for being spared his craptacular upbringing. Sam tries to point out that his own life hasn't exactly been easy, but Tommy's not in a bonding mood. At least not right away. Not until they both shift and go for a run (as Tommy strips he reveals a body covered in scars). When Tommy shifts into a pit bull, you can't help but be a little worried for Sam. And, it turns out, with good reason. Tommy the pitbull stops in the middle of the road, making Sam the collie stop, as well. Suddenly a truck comes speeding around the bend as Tommy takes off in the form of a raptor (bird, not dinosaur). Sam barely gets out of the way in time. Talk about sibling rivalry.

There's also a growing (no pun intended) sub-plot about Arlene's unplanned pregnancy, which is causing tension between her and a clueless Terry. Thinking she's worried about how he'll be around her kids, Coby and Lisa, Terry writes a list of ten reasons why she can trust him with them. The list includes such convincing arguments as he's a nurturer, and he's never killed anything by accident (definitely a selling point). This scene is equally bizarre and funny as he keeps reading the list through the door while Arlene pukes (again) in the bathroom.

In a new twist we see a pair of boots as someone sneaks into someone else's house (I'm pretty sure it's Bill's house, but I can't be positive). The sneaking someone apparently knows what they're looking for as he or she goes straight for a file that turns out to be all about Sookie. It contains a Stackhouse family tree, newspaper clippings, and a recent photo of Sookie. If this is Bill's house, why does he have a file on Sookie? This adds to my suspicion that the King was right about Bill working for the Queen. Yikes. And who is this mystery person anyway? What do they want with Sookie?

After an awkward cut, we see Sookie sitting on her couch, holding a gun. Out of nowhere she gets up and heads to the door. I guess her hearing is better than mine, but I felt like I'd missed something. Anyway, it turns out Eric's on her porch--and he admits that he lied to her. He claims he's risking "everything" to tell her the truth about the werewolves, at least the ones of Operation Werewolf. The symbols the OW wolves are using are runic, predating the Nazis by quite a bit. These weres are different: they're organized, well-funded, highly trained, and fuelled by vampire blood (if they're anything like the ones Bill annihilated, they don't seem like such a big deal to me). Then he informs Sookie that she's going to invite him in--so he can protect her. And maybe have passionate, primal sex with her. Um, okay--that was kind of over the top for my taste (and a little out of left field), but whatever. Sookie seems taken aback, as well, and reminds him that she's still Bill's. He notices her engagement ring and gets weirdly annoyed. I guess his feelings are personal, after all. You'd think vampires would be more open to alternative relationships--what's with all the monogamy and lifelong commitments? Just saying...

Before we find out whether Sookie caves to Eric, we go back to Tara and Lafayette for a bit. He has to work so he brings her with him to Merlotte's. As she sits at the bar, lost in depression, a new guy walks in and starts chatting with her. Yes, we have a new vampire in Bon Temps! We don't get his name yet, but for future reference it's Franklin Mott (played by James Frain, The Tudors). And I think he might just be my new favourite. Something about those intense eyes and his (authentic) accent. Oh, baby. And, as the camera pans down to his footwear, it turns out he's the mystery sneak gathering info on Sookie. But who cares about that? Later, as Tara is drinking alone in the parking lot, a couple of drunk rednecks leave the bar and start making racist comments about Eggs. When one of them decides to relieve himself on the spot where Eggs was shot, Tara loses it. She knocks him down with a punch, and as the rednecks start getting personal, a blur suddenly knocks the first guy down again. Next thing we know, new vamp in town is holding the second redneck in place while he orders him to apologize to the lady. Instead the redneck says something unflattering about Tara's choice of sexual partners. So she wallops him. Franklin again orders the guy to apologize to the lady. The redneck is clearly incapable of learning. Telling Tara "fuck you" sets her into a rage. As she wails on the guy while Franklin holds him, the vampire is clearly enjoying himself (out come the fangs). Tara's falling apart, but somehow I'm not that interested in her anymore.

We get one last glimpse of Bill, as he's still trying to convince the King to leave Sookie out of this. But the King knows he's got the perfect bargaining chip with her, since Bill is so crazy in love. Just when things look like they can't get any worse, they--of course--do just that. Enter Lorena, Bill's obsessive sire. I really hate her. And apparently so does Bill. He gets up and throws an oil lamp at her, hitting her dead on and setting her ablaze. She sizzles as she screams. It's kind of satisfying except I'm almost positive this is going to end up being Bill's fantasy, rather than reality. But even if it isn't, he's going to end up in yet worse trouble no matter what. Damn.

Now--back to Sookie and Eric. She's still refusing to let him in, making a rather valid argument that she can't trust him (the man is inconsistent). Suddenly he perks up. Grabbing her and pushing her against the house, he tells her to invite him in. When she refuses, his fangs come out and he repeats the order more insistently. Sookie has never seemed so afraid. If we didn't know better, we'd think she was glamoured the way she quickly issues a formal invite. As Eric enters the house, a werewolf comes out of the shadows. Eric prepares to attack and suddenly Sookie fires the gun. Cut to credits.

Okay, so a lot going on this episode. Multiple storylines, several new characters, plenty to think about. It might be a little too much, but hopefully some of it is just being set into place for a future season; otherwise, I have no idea how they're going to tie up all the loose ends in the show's short season (did they get extra episodes that I'm unaware of?) With so much going on it's hard to believe that I'm actually asking for something else to be included, but I can't let this slide: Wasn't Lafayette supposed to have sold all the remaining V by now? Pam seemed pretty insistent that it had to be done. Did she and Eric (and the Queen) forget? Did Lafayette sell it in between working and saving Tara? Did the writers just decide to drop that storyline? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I can't wait to see what next week brings.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and sharp, snakelike fangs that descend or retract at will.

Strengths: Super strength, speed. The ability to kick werewolf ass.

Weaknesses: Silver, sunlight, blood lust.

Mythology: Vampire society is hierarchical with Kings and Queens ruling entire states, which are sub-divided into areas presided over by Sheriffs. From Pam's description, feeding on someone is akin to having sex--in order to prevent killing/climaxing it helps to think of something unpleasant. Violence also excites vampires (and excited vampires extend their fangs). A vampire needs an invitation to enter a private residence.

Sound Bites

Lafayette: (to Lettie Mae) You too busy praising Jesus to notice your daughter trying to move in with him permanently.

Jason: There's werewolves?
Sookie: Yes.
Jason: Shit. Bigfoot--is he real too?
Sookie: I don't know; I guess it's possible.
Jason: Santa?!
Sookie: Jason--focus.

Tommy: (on discovering Sam) Don't move. Get out of the truck.

Terry: (handing Sookie a gun) You know how to use one of these?
Sookie: I ain't that blonde.

Godric: (to Eric, 1945) A vampire is never at the mercy of his emotions. He dominates them. [Good line but in retrospect, isn't 1945 a little late for Godric to be giving Eric vampire lessons?]

True Blood, Season 3 Episode 2 "Beautifully Broken." Written by Raelle Tucker. Directed by Scott Winant. From HBO.

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