The decision to reduce the number of True Blood episodes from 12 to 10 this season made plenty of sense in theory (accommodating Anna Paquin's pregnancy, etc.), but I fear, judging from "Who Are You, Really?," that we're going to be stuck with sensory and character overload not only in some episodes – but all of them. At least for now, the vampire-human-faerie conflict remains the most intriguing. In a nutshell:
Luna's dead, and Sam and Emma are in hiding now that Luna's onscreen transfiguration from Steve Newlin back to herself has brought shape-shifters into the spotlight. Also, I hereby declare that everyone follow Lafayette's lead and refer to Emma as "Shorty-pop" from now on.
Andy's four half-faerie babies are exhibiting a Renesmee-esque growth timeline (they're talking toddlers within several hours of being born). Only thing saving these scenes are Andy's exclamations of "Hog tits" and references to "poop class."
Alcide, newly installed as Shreveport packmaster, is enjoying the perks, like watching his girlfriend, Rikki, and another she-were, Danielle, make out naked. But any hopes he might have had for a three-way are crushed when Rikki pushes Danielle to the ground (is she blowing him? not sure) and reminds her lover that she's still his "number one bitch."
And now on to the vamps...
Six Vampires, Two Humans and One Part-Faerie
As with all True Blood premieres, we pick up immediately where last season's cliffhanger left off. But instead of watching Eric and Sookie run for their lives, we open on blood-drenched Bill/Billith's red-hazed POV as the 1,000-year-old Viking and part-faerie waitress gape at the reincarnated vampire/god hybrid in horror. Bill's new ability number one – to see light shoot out of Sookie's mouth – is probably his only harmless additional power, as his second new ability is starting a fire with his eyes, causing the Authority building to burn to the ground. The Scooby-Doo gang consisting of Eric, Sookie, Pam, Jessica, Tara, Nora and Jason make their getaway in a spare SUV, but just as Eric is about to floor the gas, his vampire sister orders him to stop. The still-blood-soaked passengers stare out the window, dumbfounded at the crimson creature emerging from the flame-engulfed building. "Is that Bill?" croaks Jess. Sookie, having only witnessed his transformation minutes earlier, pithily replies, "Not anymore." Eric Grease Lightnings the car into the darkness – just before Bill (new ability number three) flies up toward the heavens (wrong way, dude).
But these vamps have an even bigger problem on their hands than Bill Compton 2.0. As Eric steers the car back to Bon Temps, the radio announces the arrival of Louisiana Gov. Truman Burrell as the True Blood universe's latest villain. The governor, a fictionalized version of the far-too-many right-wing nut jobs who hold political office in this country, institutes a statewide vampire curfew, shuts down all vampire-run businesses – and encourages all human citizens to buy a gun ("as many as you can!"). The Scooby crew then pulls over near the beach to figure their way out of this latest shitstorm. For Nora, the resident Vampire Bible expert, the answer is simple: If Bill is indeed a version of Lilith walking the earth, then he has to be destroyed. Except Jess ain't so keen to "Kill Bill" (yep, she says it). Eric wasn't kidding last season when he warned Pam how the bond between a maker and progeny is stronger than any other. By the season finale, Jess was hardly a Bill fan – he reminded her too much of her Bible-crazed human family, not to mention that parent-child physical abuse thing that's frowned upon in most societies. But now she's balking at the idea of her maker being eliminated.
Meanwhile, thanks to a little glamouring, Nora gets Jason to spill on Warlow. But once he's revealed the ancient vampire killed his parents and is out of the trance, Jason goes (understandably) batshit on Eric's sister, fed up with vampires "brain-raping" him and admitting that he doesn't care if Eric and Nora suck him dry, because he's felt "dead inside ever since [he] found out that vamper killed [his] parents." You can't not feel sympathy for Jason, but as Sookie reminds him, when she puts herself between Nora and Jason's wooden-bullet-loaded gun, murdering all other vampires isn't the answer. Jason's not having any of this, so he bolts – only to be picked up by new cast member Rutger Hauer while hitchhiking back home. Rutger lets Jason tell him his life story, even though he appears to know the Stackhouse family very well. Plus he's got the ability to apparate out of a car. Friend or foe? We'll find out more next week. But before Jason takes off, we get a major clue as to why Warlow is such a big deal – according to Nora, he was Lilith's progeny, one of the first-ever vampires. So we're talking more-powerful-than-Russell Edgington here. Like, Sookie, you in danger, girl, powerful.
At this point, we've gone way too long without seeing what this Col. Steve Austin version of Bill is really capable of – probably because Stephen Moyer directed this episode, thus necessitating a limited onscreen appearance. So he comes roaring back with new ability number four: a supercharged version of summoning his progeny by making her feel "like his fist is squeezing my heart!" All the vampires present, save for Tara, are willing to sacrifice Jess if it means stopping Bill, but Sookie, unwilling to allow Jess to become a martyr, agrees to accompany her back to Compton Manor. Eric orders Pam and Tara to return to Fangtasia while he and Nora fly off into the unknown.
Sookie and a weakened Jess arrive at the vampire king's palace, only to find Bill, dressed and scrubbed clean of blood, a vision of his former self, sitting quietly on his back porch. Bill insists he "just wants to talk," his voice dripping with old-world Southern charm, but Sookie isn't buying it, and she's wisely got a stake at the ready. But before any talking can happen, Eric and Nora swoop in, except (new ability five), 175-year-old Bill is able to overpower 1,000-year-old Eric, and (six), when Sookie stakes Bill to save Eric, the wood doesn't even leave a splinter.
Seeing that her ex-boyfriend is now some invincible godlike being who can't be goo-ified, Sookie just wants this syrupy-mouthed old-timer out of her life. Permanently. So with steel in her voice, she orders Bill to get the fuck out of Bon Temps, because to her, Bill Compton is dead. Like, OMG dead. And, yeah, remember what I was saying earlier about the bond between maker and progeny, even if it borders on abusive? Well, Jessica got over that whole having-her-heart-squeezed thing pretty damn quickly, because she turns around and announces she's staying with Bill and everyone can just get the hell off his property. Heart-squeezing is one thing, but staking her maker? That's a dealbreaker for Jessica Hamby. Heh, not only does that rhyme, but it puts Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker" in a twisted new light. Oh, and Bill gets Sookie, Nora and Eric to comply to his progeny's demands by (new ability number seven) making the earth shake.
Back at Fangtasia, the romance that had us so enthralled at the end of last season is already unraveling. Pam is heartbroken over Eric's betrayal regarding Nora (in 100 years he never bothered to mention he had a vamp sister), and Tara just isn't getting it. "This isn't going to be some epic fucking love story," Pam informs her progeny. "You can't replace him, and you never will." But this lovers' quarrel is interrupted when a SWAT team bursts in with orders to carry out Gov. Burrell's edict of shutting down all vampire-run businesses. And for the first time, the humans finally have the upper hand on the heretofore more powerful vampires: When Tara tries to defend Pam, she is shot in the chest by a mysterious bullet that leaves her alive but screaming in agony.
Eric walks Sookie home, but before he signs ownership of the Stackhouse place back to her – in his own blood (talk about an unbreakable contract!), his demeanor harkens back to amnesiac Season Four Eric, as he tenderly reminds Sookie of his still-burning love for her. But Sookie's in no mood to reminisce about last month. As she's been saying for six seasons now, Sookie adamantly proclaims that she wants her life back, which of course means there is no way that's going to happen anytime soon. Especially because once Eric leaves, Nora, who, naturally, was waiting outside, announces how she wants to use "the faerie" to help them destroy Bill – and she knows she can because Sookie is Eric's "weakness." And when Eric tells her to leave Sookie out of this fight, it's pretty much an open announcement that Sookie will be leading the charge. But, for one night at least, Sookie will remain in control of her destiny. She rescinds Eric's invitation to her house in an unintentionally hilarious moment, thoroughly reminiscent of this scene from The Blues Brothers.
At Compton Manor, Jess is now comfily ensconced in her room, making it just the right moment for Bill to discover another new ability: when she accidentally spills her glass of TruBlood, Bill goes all Carrie White by stopping it – and its contents – in midair, and returning the glass to the night table intact. Jess admits that he's freaking her out, and Bill, in his charming, gentlemanly manner, insists that he needs her help to stay on the straight and narrow. He then launches into a bizarre comparison between himself and Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, claiming that Sherman became crazy as he acquired more power, and he doesn't want the same to happen to him. So he implores Jessica, "I need you to keep me honest." Yeah, Bill, you're no Peter Parker. And who even knows if he's telling the truth with all this "You're the only one I can trust" malarkey. Jess is one of the few vampires who still has such a good heart, so it would be awful to see that heart, to use a Once Upon a Time reference, blackened as this season progresses.
Later that night, Bill hears a voice calling his name, beckoning him into his study. Three blood-soaked vampires who are not Lilith appear, only to zip into his body as we go to credits. Great, now he's the reincarnation of four godlike vampires?
Favorite Couple: Rikki and Danielle. Their lip-lock was one of the few sexy moments in a hardcore episode that promises more pain than pleasure this season.
Winning Species of the Week: Humans. Gov. Burrell is one slimy, scheming son of a bitch. Not only has he reduced vampires to second-class citizens, but he's looking to make money off them. He makes a deal with the Japanese company that makes TruBlood to start up production again – so the vampires can return to being "law-abiding, tax-paying citizens." Why does he need revenue so badly? Well, any politician needs money if he's going to be re-elected. Arliss Howard is doing a fantastic job with this role – one episode in and already I despise Burrell.
Losing Species of the Week: Vampires. Humans now have the ability to bring vampires to their knees, as Pam can attest. And it's not like they have an ally in Bill anymore – more like a potential dictator.
Previously: The Rapture