Last month, just before Season Six premiered, I chatted with True Blood showrunner Brian Buckner about what was in store for the citizens (human and supernatural) of Bon Temps. His "mission statement," as he put it, was, instead of glorifying the gory, violent deaths that have become synonymous with the series, "we're going to stop to grieve [these characters], and try to tell the more human side of the supernatural stories." Now that the death toll has begun to rise, Buckner's conceit for the season became much more apparent in last night's episode, "In the Evening." Sure, the plot lines are still chugging along at a brisk pace: Warlow is about to take his place in the everlasting triangle between Sookie, Bill and Eric; Sarah, as I predicted, has seamlessly taken over the deceased Gov. Burrell's administration, now the picture of the quintessential Southern politician in a power-red suit and big hair smoothed into a French twist; Jason's hotheaded plan to rescue Jessica has gone horribly awry – last we saw him, he was about to become the blood bitch to a vampire named Violet (the one who told Tara and Jess they "owed her one" after she saved them from their thirsty fellow inmates); and Alcide's good deed toward Nicole and Sam bit him in the ass big-time. But much of the episode focused on the sobering aftermath of Terry's death and how it served as a catalyst for bringing many of the loose threads of the season together. Also along the lines of telling the more human side of the supernatural stories, "In the Evening" was an earnest sendoff for Nora, as Eric's sister succumbed to the goverment-engineered Hepatitis V, and Alexander Skarsgård turned in an agonizing performance that puts Eric leagues ahead of Jessica and Bill (from Seasons One and Two only) when it comes to crowning the vampire with the biggest heart.
Vampires and Humans
Eric and a severely weakened Nora successfully escape Vamp Camp by hitching a ride underneath a truck, leaving Willa behind to warn Pam (who, like Martha Stewart and Piper Chapman before her, has taken up yoga while in the clink) not to drink any more TruBlood if they don't want their veins decorating their skin like a Jackson Pollock painting. Willa and Pam's sisterly relationship is frosty at best, and aside from promising to let Jessica and Tara in on the contaminated TruBlood secret, it may take them a good 350 years to reach the kind of love Eric and Nora have for each other.
It's worth noting that Willa is still blissfully unaware that her father's head has been separated from his body, and if Sarah has anything to say about it, all of Louisiana will remain ignorant until the Hep-V-laced TruBlood hits the shelves in the coming days. By then, Sarah, who discovered Burrell's severed head in his garden and brought True Blood to new levels of macabre when she kissed his cold, dead lips, will have carried out the final stages of vampire extermination, and Burrell will not have died in vain. As she informs a senator, "I am truly an unstoppable woman." She's not kidding: Instead of mourning her lover, she covers up his murder with the ease of Olivia Pope and punishes Jason for his godless ways (a.k.a. having sex with vampires) by throwing him into Vamp Camp's female "Gen Pop" cell with a bleeding arm ("Have fun with your sluts!" she teases). As a hungry mob descends upon this delectable human, Tara jumps to Jason's aid, only to be cast aside by prison queen bee Violet, who announces, "He's mine."
Poor Jason. Despite his good intentions to save Jess, he got screwed over six ways from Sunday this episode. First off, Jess rebuffs his rescue attempt, choosing to stay imprisoned (Jason adorably calls it "Stockholder syndrome") due to her guilt over killing Andy's daughters. Then she throws Jason over to spend time with James, the sensitive vampire who refused to debase her during Sarah's "copulation study." When she asks James how he's been able to maintain his humanity, he explains that he "believes vampires choose to forfeit their souls." That and he's been plenty humbled by having one of his fangs ripped from his mouth. She slips her knowledge about the contaminated TruBlood and Bill's vision of the vampires' destruction to her fellow inmate, but most of all, she asked to share this private moment because she fears it's her last chance to savor any kind of humane existence before she meets the true death. "Everything about you is good and decent," she says. "You have this humanity just coursing through you, and in my last days, that's what I want to know. That's what I want to leave the world feeling a part of." And what better way for Jess to feel that humanity coursing through her than to allow James to take her V-card, in every sense of the word (she's never had sex with a vampire). I feel for Jason, but when was the last time he pulled out the the Dirty Dancing lift during lovemaking? Come on, dude, at least James has seen Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Meanwhile, Eric and Nora spend the majority of the episode hiding out at Compton Manor, with Eric and Bill once again agreeing to put aside their petty squabbles and work together. Bill gives Eric the 411 on how he's able to daywalk – and on that little vision he had where the Viking vamp and his pals are bursting into flames. Eric's really not interested in the details, considering that Nora is fading fast, so the two strike a deal. Eric will return to Vamp Camp with Bill to end the vampire genocide once and for all, in exchange for Bill allowing Nora to feed off of him. Unfortunately, even Lilith-infused blood isn't strong enough to combat Hep V, so Bill heads out to find Warlow, reasoning that faerie blood might do the trick. But we'll never know – because Nora dies before they have the chance to test their theory. In Nora's final moments, we're treated to a good ol' TB flashback to 1665 London, where Eric, sporting a Doug Aldrich-length blond mane and a mediocre English accent, is a confidant of King Charles II. The bubonic plague is sweeping the city, and His Majesty wants "Lady Gainesborough" to cease tending to the sick and return to the palace. Eric is dispatched to collect her (he is immune to those pesky human diseases after all), but she's already been struck down with the illness, necessitating a visit to Godric for a dose of immortality. Returning to present-day Bon Temps, Eric's blood tears are flowing as the disease encroaches on Nora's face, signaling the end. "Who's going to comfort me for centuries?" Eric sobs. Nora reminds him that he's not alone, that he has Pam and Willa – right before her body begins to gruesomely disintigrate in her brother's arms. Eric is hysterical in a way we've never seen him before, not over Pam, not over Godric, not over his human family, not even over Sookie. As he looks up and sees Bill standing in the doorway – without Warlow – it remains to be seen if he'll be taking his grief and anger out on his longtime frenemy.
Humans, Vampires and Faeries
A fully naked Sookie and Warlow are still in the faerie dimension, waking up from their night of light-filled lovemaking, prompting Sookie to make a rather astute observation: "This is a first. Waking up with a man in broad daylight." Their beatific morning after is short-lived though, because Warlow is under the archaic impression that Sookie has agreed to marry him because they made sexy time, and she immediately puts the brakes on their romance. But there's no time to discuss taking things to the next level over bed-head brunch as Sookie can hear Arlene crying over Terry in the cemetery. So she leaves Warlow in the safety of faerie-land for the rest of the episode while she tends to the tragedy that's befallen her human friends. Needless to say, Arlene's a wreck, and no amount of liquor can numb the pain she's going to feel when she finds out her husband orchestrated his death. Before he was glamoured and killed last week, Terry gave Lafayette a key to a safety-deposit box. When Sookie and Lala retrieve the box's contents, they discover a $2 million insurance policy. Except once Arlene sees the date on the papers (Terry took out the policy only three days earlier), she's going to need something a lot stronger than a can of PBR to calm her down.
The informal shiva at the Bellefleur manse starts off with a cute telepathic exchange between Sookie and Andy's surviving daughter, now named Adilyn (Sookie is less surprised by Adilyn being a faerie than she is learning Andy's a dad), but things go from awkward to downright batshit when Bill waltzes in, revealing his latest ability – to walk in the sunlight. Lafayette puts the perfect comic button on the scene as only Nelsan Ellis can: "I'm so fucking glad I took my beta blockers." Putting on the old-school Bill Compton charm, he offers his condolences to Arlene and extends an olive branch to Andy regarding the untimely death of the sheriff's daughters at the hands of his own progeny. Bill basically tells Andy to step off when it comes to hunting down Jessica: "As fathers, there is no more sacred duty," he says of protecting their daughters. The two men shake hands, but the truce seems fragile at best. Eventually Bill gets around to the real purpose of his visit, which is to demand that Sookie release Warlow back to him so he can use the faerie-vampire to save the inmates at Vamp Camp. Sookie may not want to marry Warlow, but she's not going to let him be a one-man blood bank. And that's when Bill lays it on thick, warning Sookie that she'll have the blood of all her incarcerated vampire friends on her hands if she doesn't comply with his wishes. Ugh, Bill is totally the annoying ex-boyfriend who won't stop horning in on the "moving on" phase (especially now that he can go out during the day and can barge into houses like any regular human), but he's the only one who can bring Sookie into the Vamp Camp plot line (Eric's been a tad preoccupied), from which she's been sorely missed.
Weres, Shifters and Humans
It doesn't take long for Sam to disregard Alcide's warning to play dead – one phone call from Lafayette about Terry's death and the shape-shifter is all, "To hell with those furballs." Following one last wet, hot romp in the shower, Sam sends Nicole home with her mother and heads for Bon Temps. Alcide returns to Shreveport after dropping Jackson back at his trailer (during which time Daddy wolf tries to persuade his son to dump the pack – it's turned him into quite the douchebag, in case you haven't noticed – and live among nature), and announces to his pack that Sam and Nicole are dead. Except Rikki – who obviously has been cozying up to Alcide all this time so she can step in as packmaster next – says he's full of shit and brings out a bound-and-gagged Nicole and her mother. Suddenly Jackson's idea of a simpler life is looking mighty appealing to Alcide, as soon as he saves Sam's girlfriend and her mom from this sadistic pack of werewolves.
Favorite Couple of the Week: Eric and Nora. I'd still like to see Sookie end up with Eric (somehow), so as heartbreaking as Nora's death was, there is now one less obstacle blocking that potential relationship reboot. However, I don't think there has ever been a greater love between two vampires on this show, and Alexander Skarsgård's magnificent breakdown when Nora decomposed into goo will haunt anyone with a romantic heart.
Winning Species of the Week: Werewolves. They are ruthless when it comes to tracking down any human who threatens their exposure, as proven by Rikki and her band of backwoods lycanthropes. The question is, has Alcide had enough of a reality check that Nicole and her mom have a shot at getting out of their sticky situation alive? I think he should start his own pack with Jackson, Martha and Emma – if anything, nice-guy Alcide will be back in a snap once he gets some quality time with a cute little cub like Shorty Pop.
Losing Species of the Week: Vampires. The bubonic plague looked like a week in the Bahamas compared to the way Hepatitis V ravaged the body from the inside out.
Previously: Kinky Boots