Rest in Peace, Terry Bellefleur.
"Life Matters," the penultimate episode written by showrunner Brian Buckner, was a beautiful love letter to Bon Temps' fallen neighbor, and it all but confirmed that Terry was indeed the principal character whose death loomed since the start of the season. Then again, this is True Blood, and there is still one episode left, so who knows? Todd Lowe (who was mum the day the day after Terry met his fate on whether we'd see his character again) made a welcome reappearance in several flashbacks, allowing Terry's friends, family and fans to say a proper goodbye. But the juxtaposition of the former Marine's gothic funeral (how hot was Arlene in her lace black veil and matching gloves?) with Eric (and Bill's) bloodbath of a Vamp Camp takeover was a reminder that no matter how important it is to value one's time on Earth, it's time to let Terry go and return our focus to the characters that made us all Truebies in the first place: the vampires.
Aside from the action over at Vamp Camp, most of the story lines came to a standstill this episode, with the majority of Bon Temps' nonfanged residents spending the entire hour at the cemetery. It was good to take a break from wondering when Sam will inform Nicole she's going to whelp his litter, and I was thrilled to see Maxine Fortenberry emerge from her mountain of dolls to gush to Sookie that Hoyt's doing well – girlfriend and all. But I fear that the slow pace of "Life Matters" will result in an overdrive of plot catch-up in next week's season finale. Like, will we ever find out what the deal is with Niall? He's Warlow's son, isn't he?
Vampires and Humans
We open on Sookie and Bill in the now-darkened faerie dimension, Warlow having been drained by Eric to near-true death. Bill, myopic in his quest to save the vampires, remains oblivious to the fact that Warlow can barely move, let alone feed an entire prison full of hungry bloodsuckers. Lilith's prophet and his ex-girlfriend engage in their 47th spat of the season (at this point, it's all starting to sound like this), until Sookie banishes Bill from faerie land with her light. Dude really didn't help matters when he fanged out just as Sookie offered up her wrist to Warlow. Bill zips off to Vamp Camp in search of Eric, while Sookie's blood restores life to Warlow and light to the realm. But that whole Sookie-becoming-a-faerie-vamp plan is put on hold once again because she's got a funeral to attend. Before she returns to the human world, however, she reassures Warlow that she intends to honor the promise she made to him, even though he won't be used to save the incarcerated vampires after all. For the rest of the episode, Warlow is made to languish alone in faerie land while Sookie kicks it with her Bon Temps pals in bidding Terry farewell.
Eric, still dressed in his LAVTF fatigues from when he escaped Vamp Camp two episodes ago, returns to the prison with one little difference – it's daytime, and his skin ain't burning. We don't see him massacring an entire detail of LAVTF guards, but we are privy to one of the most grisly maneuvers I've ever seen on television: I mean, this was pretty gruesome, even for True Blood standards. (Remember, no one actually saw Theon Greyjoy lose his manhood on Game of Thrones.) As vengeance for Nora's murder, as well as all of the misery he inflicted upon the jailed vampires, Eric punished Dr. Overlark by ripping out his genitals in one swift gesture, leaving the man who brought Hep V into the world to die a slow, agonizing death – at least until Bill stomped on his face. Eric continues on his bloody rampage, freeing the vampires (who delight in plucking out their human captors' teeth and forcing them to run on hamster wheels) and saving a couple of lucky humans (Ginger, Jason). But while Eric and Jason are frantically searching for the white room that Bill predicted will expose Jessica, Pam, Tara, Willa, Violet, James and Steve to the sun, a blood-stained Sarah emerges from under Ms. Suzuki's lifeless body and makes her way to the roof of the prison, reciting Psalm 23 as she cranks open the ceiling. The last thing this Bible-quoting Jesus freak expected to see was a crowd of vampires feeding off of Bill Compton, his arms splayed as if on the cross. By drinking Bill's Warlow-infused blood, Jess, Pam, Tara, Willa, Violet and James become immune to the sun, dancing in a circle as if they just landed at a vampire version of Woodstock (well, they are high as a kite, by vampire standards). Steve, I might mention, is the episode's biggest casualty, as he is denied a sip at the fountain of Bill as condemnation for ratting out his fellow vamps to Sarah last week – and, as Eric snarls, "Every time I've lost someone I've loved, you've been there." Just before he bursts into flames and we say goodbye to yet another of our favorite mischevious characters, Steve Newlin gets the last laugh: Staring straight up at Sarah, he screams, "I love you . . . JASON STACKHOUSE!!!" (Ryan Kwanten's WTF? reaction was only the beginning of his incredible performance this episode). Steve can only hope he'll be reunited in hell with Russell and Talbot.
After Pam finishes off her "oozy" therapist Dr. Finn, she conducts a vampire-human roll call: "Have we killed everyone who needs to be killed?" That's when Jason realizes that the answer is a big fat no – Sarah's still on the loose. He tears after her just as she's about to make a not-so-clean getaway in her car, and throws all of her bogus Jesus-loving platitudes back in her face as he holds her own gun to her throat, his rage at its boiling point. But all of this is happening right when a funeral attendee, "Big" John Dixon, begins to sing the elegiac "Life Matters," and somehow, at that moment, Jason decides he doesn't want any more blood on his hands – and he lets Sarah go. His conscience may be clear, but it's unlikely the vampires are going to let Sarah escape without a fight. To lose both Newlins in one episode would have been a bigger travesty than Terry's death, so I'm glad to see Sarah and her 1986 hair will live to see another episode, if not another season.
While the newly released vampires are spinning around in the sun and helping Eric destroy the boxes of tainted TruBlood left behind, the three blood-drenched sirens are trying to lure a weakened Bill back to Lilith's plain. They tell him his time on Earth is over, but he refuses to go, summoning Jessica to help him. She and James go back, with James offering his neck to a starving Bill. The three eventually join the rejoicing vampires in the daylight, with Bill ostensibly restored not only to his fortified self, but presumably freed from Lilith's bonds (yet another question to be answered next week). The party ends on a bittersweet note, though – as Bill and Jessica walk off arm in arm, and Jason willingly nuzzles up to a salivating Violet (oh, boy), Pam turns to see Eric standing alone. Tearing up, she pleads, "Don't you dare leave me!" He offers nothing more than a sad smile as he flies off into the unknown, leaving both progeny and audience completely baffled.
Chaos may have been reigning in the vampire world, but for one day, the humans, shifters, mediums, part-faeries and weres of Bon Temps, Louisiana, took some time out to remember their dear friend and defeater of the Ifrit, Terry Bellefleur. Recollections by Andy, Sam, Lafayette (resplendent in a pinstriped suit, fedora, and purple eyeshadow and lashes to match – causing confused matriarch Caroline Bellefleur to ask if he was a boy or a girl), Sookie and Arlene each triggered a flashback into Terry's life. As his friends and family spoke, we watched Terry morph from a haunted, PTSD-addled soldier into a tender, loving husband and father. And thanks to a heartfelt anecdote from Sookie, who publicly came out to her neighbors as a telepath during her eulogy, Arlene learned that Terry truly did fall in love with her at first sight. I will admit, the funeral scenes did drag on for a little longer than they needed to, but at least Caroline and her Paula Deen-esque comments balanced the somber mood with the right dose of inappropriate comic relief: "There are more Negroes here than I thought there would be."
Favorite Couple of the Week: Arlene and Terry. Forget Sookie and Bill/Eric/Alcide/Warlow. Arlene and Terry have left all the Bon Temps supernaturals in the dust when it comes to showing what real love is. Whether it was watching Terry hold Arlene tightly in his arms after he vanquished the Ifrit, or Arlene singing a lullabye to her dying husband, or Terry coaching Arlene through some postpartum relaxation techniques, this is the couple that sets the standard in the True Blood universe. A.F. + T.B. 4EVR
Winning Species of the Week: Vampires. They escaped Vamp Camp, many of them can now walk in the sun – and Bill may have been released from Lilith's grasp. All in all, it's been a productive day.
Losing Species of the Week: Humans. You never want to be in a situation where you can see your penis from across the room. Just sayin'. Thank you, True Blood, for making me listen to this song for the first time in 20 years.
Previously: Heels Over Head