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‘True Blood’: Key Moments of the First Three Seasons

Everything you need to know before Season Four starts on June 26th

John P. Johnson/ HBO

When we last checked in with telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), she had discovered that she was part faerie and had been betrayed by her 173-year-old vampire paramour, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). What's a girl to do? Instead of tumbling into bed with perennially waiting-in-the-wings Nordic bloodsucker Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård), Sookie banished both immortals from her home and opted to join her new faerie friend Claudine – exchanging Bon Temps, Louisiana, for a more ethereal, hedonistic dimension. 

With HBO's smash series returning for a fourth season on Sunday, June 26th, we've put together a cheat sheet of True Blood's most essential moments that will be helpful even if you know what a maenad or “glamouring” is.

By Sarene Leeds

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Prashant Gupta /HBO

Season One, Episode Two: Sookie Stackhouse Drinks Bill Compton’s Blood for the First Time

The unbreakable bond between Bill and Sookie is formed at the beginning of the second episode, when Sookie, having been beaten within an inch of her life, drink's Bill's blood in order to survive. In the previous episode, Sookie had saved Bill from the Rattrays, a husband-and-wife team who wanted to sell his blood on the black market (in the True Blood world, vampire blood, a.k.a. "V," is the drug du jour), and now the Rattrays have beaten Sookie as payback for their lost revenue. Bill's blood not only heals Sookie within seconds, but works as a homing device. He can always sense her presence, and more important, if she is in trouble. The blood exchange also gave birth to one of TB's most campy, oft-used lines: "Sookie is mine."

HBO

Season One, Episode Four: The Introduction of Eric Northman

Presiding over his vampire bar Fangtasia like the 1,000-year-old Viking royal that he is, the third member of True Blood's steamy love triangle makes his debut in the fourth episode sitting on – what else? – a throne. An arrogant, aloof "sheriff" (vampires have their own governing body), Eric is immediately smitten with Sookie, who has come to his Shreveport club to investigate the rash of murders in Bon Temps being pinned on her brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten). Not only is he impressed by her fearlessness (within seconds of meeting she's parrying his "Aren't you sweet" with, "Not really"), but her mind-reading ability. After Sookie helps Eric avert a police raid by listening in on an undercover cop's thoughts, he is in her debt – and a permanent threat to her relationship with Bill.

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HBO

Season One, Episode Five: Bill Compton Speaks at the Descendents of the Glorious Dead Meeting

In an effort to prove to his fellow Bon Temps citizens that vampires and humans can indeed coexist, Bill accepts Sookie's grandmother's invitation to speak at the local Descendants of the Glorious Dead meeting about his experiences as a soldier in the Confederate Army. Between his old-school charm and debunking the myth that crucifixes are anathema to vampires, he wins over the God-fearing crowd. But it's when he's presented with an archival photo of his wife and children that he starts to display his long-dormant emotional side – and it's not lost on Sookie, who is still conflicted over the idea of dating the undead. The evening also opens the floodgates of nostalgia for Bill, as we learn via flashback how his journey home to his family at the end of the Civil War was cut short by the malevolent Lorena (Mariana Klaveno) – his vampire maker. 

Prashant Gupta /HBO

Season One, Episodes Four and Five: Jessica Hanby is Made Immortal

As punishment for killing another vampire (he did it to save Sookie's life), Bill is forced to create a new one. Enter Jessica Hanby (Deborah Ann Woll), a sheltered Christian girl with an abusive father – and Bill Compton's worst nightmare. When she is reborn as a monstrously hungry bloodsucker, with stringy hair and filthy from sleeping in the ground, she is still a petulant teenager: "You are the worst. Maker. Ever," she whines after learning killing people is frowned upon in mainstream vampire society. Jessica's ongoing struggle to reconcile her vampiric tendencies with her love for her human boyfriend, Hoyt Fortenberry (Jim Parrack), has been one of True Blood's more dynamic subplots over the past couple of seasons.

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Season One, Episode 12: Bill Goes Out in Daylight to Save Sookie from the Bon Temps Serial Killer

When Sookie realizes her friend Arlene's Cajun fiance, Rene Lenier, is responsible for all of the recent murders in Bon Temps – and that she's next on his list (he was killing women who had sex with vampires) – Bill can sense it too. He ventures out of his below-ground cubby while it's still light out, his skin scorching with every step. The sun prevents Bill from being a hero this time around though, as he collapses just a few feet away from where Rene has Sookie in a chokehold, allowing Sookie's shape-shifting boss and all-around good guy Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) to save the day instead. But Bill's willingness to sacrifice his existence for her proves to Sookie that the love they have for each other is something they can no longer suppress, and the season ends with the two affirming their relationship with a passionate kiss.

HBO

Season Two, Episode Six: Sookie Infiltrates the Fellowship of the Sun

Sookie and Bill are sent to Dallas by Eric to look into the disappearance of an area vampire sheriff, Godric, a 2,000-year-old vampire who happens to be Eric's maker. They believe the Fellowship of the Sun, an anti-vampire fundamentalist church that has also lured Jason Stackhouse into its fold with its false promises of turning his dead-end life around, is holding Godric captive. Under the guise of a newly engaged girl seeking out a non-vampire-friendly church to marry her and her fiancé (Hugo, the human lover of another vampire looking for Godric), Sookie is welcomed with open arms into the FOTS – and confirms its plan to "sacrifice" Godric to the sun by reading the mind of its leader, the Joel Osteen-esque Rev. Steve Newlin. Except Hugo is a double agent working for Newlin – who takes Sookie prisoner.

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Season Two, Episode Nine: Eric Tricks Sookie Into Drinking His Blood

After what could have been a violent, gory standoff between vampires and humans at the Fellowship of the Sun church, vampires and humans celebrate the averted mass killing (Godric, a 2,000-year-old vampire who had been captured by the FOTS, implores everyone present to stand down and walk away). But a lone FOTS follower detonates a bomb at the house where the vampires and humans are convening. Eric didn’t need Sookie to save him – but he asks her to suck the silver bullets out of his chest so they will share a connection forever.

HBO

Season Two, Episode 10: Sookie Learns She Has Shooting-Light Power

Sookie and Bill return to Bon Temps after their sojourn in Dallas, only to find the Stackhouse home decorated in bacchanalia chic: branches, candles and mud cover every inch of the walls, and a giant meat-covered sacrificial totem gracing the front yard. It's been overtaken by Maryann Forrester (Michelle Forbes), a seductive maenad who has corrupted the townspeople by turning them into debauched, oversexed black-eyed zombies at her command. After Bill bites Maryann, white foam spurts out of Bill's mouth, and so Sookie takes matters into her own hands – literally. She pushes the maenad away with a never-before-seen spark of electricity emanating from her fingertips, prompting an astonished Maryann to join every other True Blood character before her in asking, "What are you?"

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Season Two, Episode 12: Maryann’s Grip on Bon Temps is Destroyed

Sookie continues to discover that she is, in Maryann's words, "beyond human." Since she is immune to Maryann's power (she can't be turned into one of the black-eyed minions), Sookie is the ideal bait to lure bar owner Sam Merlotte. Maryann has chosen the shape-shifter as her offering to the God Who Comes. While Sookie is stuck in a toga and a floral headdress, lamenting the unwitting degradation of her friends and family, Bill and Sam hatch an elaborate plan to dupe Maryann into thinking that her god has indeed returned (Sam, in the form of a giant bull). It is only then that she is vulnerable enough to be killed. The bull pierces her chest with its horn, unleashing a violent stream of black blood. Sam then reverts back into human form, pulling out the maenad's heart and freeing Bon Temps' citizens from her spell.

HBO

Season Two, Episode 12: Bill Compton is Kidnapped

Now that things in sleepy Bon Temps have finally calmed down, Bill and Sookie go out to a French restaurant for a long-overdue romantic night out. After taking a spin on the dance floor (with Bill's help) and finishing off dessert (without his help), Sookie is shocked by his proposal of marriage in Vermont (vampires being an analogy for homosexuals in the True Blood universe). Unable to accept immediately – "I'm don't even know if I'm human," she says with trepidation – Sookie takes a minute to compose herself. While waiting for her to return, a silver chain held by two black-gloved hands wraps around Bill's neck. Having made her decision and placing the diamond ring on her finger, Sookie bursts out of the ladies' room eager to accept Bill's proposal – only to find an overturned chair and an empty room.

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John P. Johnson/ HBO

Season Three, Episode Two: Russell Edgington, the Vampire King of Mississippi, is Behind Bill’s Abduction

It's not until the second episode of Season Three that Bill (and the audience) learns that Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare), the debonair vampire king of Mississippi, is the one who orchestrated his kidnapping. After a failed escape from his captors' car, Bill finds himself surrounded by a pack of werewolves, only to be "rescued" by Russell, who appears out of the darkness on a white horse. Turns out Russell is making a power grab – he wants to merge the vampire kingdoms of Louisiana and Mississippi – so he had his werewolves kidnap Bill so he could offer him a sheriff job. But he also wants  to let on that he knows about Sookie's special talents – and the fact that Bill has been doing secret work for the vampire queen of Louisiana. To keep Sookie safe, Bill is left with no choice but to accept Russell's offer – and to break up with Sookie via cellphone. 

HBO

Season Three, Episode Five: Eric Reveals Why He Hates Russell

Meanwhile, over at Fangtasia, Eric and his progeny, Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten), have been busted for selling vampire blood. Since he'd like nothing better than to frame Bill for the crime, Eric heads off to Russell's mansion. As Eric is given a tour, he stumbles upon a familiar-looking crown ("a random tribal crown" as Russell's manservant, Talbot, puts it), instantly triggering a flashback. In his mortal life, Eric was a lazy Viking prince who would rather roll in the hay with the servants than follow in his father's footsteps. Following a romp with the goat-feeder, Eric discovers his entire family has been massacred by a pack of werewolves under the bidding of a mysterious cloaked figure who also steals his father's crown. Eric has sworn vengeance on 3,000-year-old Russell ever since, even going so far as to join the SS during World War II to track the werewolves working for the vampire king.

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Season Three, Episode Seven: Why Sookie’s Blood is So Valuable to Vampires

From the first episode, we've known that Sookie Stackhouse was a little different. She could hear people's thoughts (but not vampires'), she's immune to vampire powers like "glamouring" (mind-control) – and then there's that whole electricity-shooting-out-of-her-fingertips thing. But it's when Bill stands in the sunlight after almost drinking his fiancée to death and is seemingly impervious to its rays that we finally find out why Russell, Eric, Bill and most of the vamps living in the southeastern United States are after Sookie like a V addict: Her blood allows vampires to withstand the sunlight for a brief period of time. Things only get more confusing for Sookie when she starts having dreams about a mystical woman named Claudine who lives in a pastel-colored world where everyone drinks from a fountain of white light. Oh, and the reason why Sookie has all of these special abilities? She's part faerie.

HBO

Season Three, Episode Nine: Russell Edgington Reveals His Plot to Destroy Humankind

In what is easily the most brilliant scene of the entire series, Russell interrupts an evening news broadcast to deliver his message of hate and fear to humankind. His marriage to Queen Sophie-Anne of Louisiana (Evan Rachel Wood) was just the beginning – this guy is out for world domination (makes sense considering he did time as a Nazi). Also, he's a little distraught after Eric killed Talbot, his companion for the past 700 years. After brutally ripping out the newscaster's spine (and holding it for about a third of his tirade), Russell calmly and menacingly explains that organizations like the American Vampire League, which fights for equal rights for immortals, are nonsensical because vampires have no need for equal rights: "[Humans] are not our equals." Then, with a snarl, he warns that bloodsucking is too much a part of their nature to give up: "We will eat you, after we eat your children."

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Season Three, Episode 12: Sookie Goes to the Faerie Realm After Learning Bill Betrayed Her

Russell Edgington's reign of terror is smothered when Bill and Eric bury him alive in cement in the final episode of Season Three. Bill tries to do the same with Eric, in an attempt to silence all vampires who know Sookie's secret, but Eric breaks free and tells her the truth about her lover: Bill was sent to Bon Temps to procure her under orders of Queen Sophie-Anne, who wanted Sookie's faerie blood. Despite Bill's protestations that he truly did fall in love with Sookie, he corroborates Eric's story. Heartbroken and devastated over Bill's betrayal, Sookie rescinds both his and Eric's invitations to her home. "I am sorry to see you suffer," the usually emotionless Eric tells her before leaving. Alone, Sookie goes to the cemetery, where she is visited by Claudine, who invites Sookie to come with her. With nothing else keeping her in Bon Temps, Sookie disappears with Claudine in a flash of light.

John P. Johnson/ HBO

Season Four Preview: The Season of the Witch

There's no rest for the weary (or the not-quite-human) in the True Blood universe. As Season Four begins, Sookie's visit with her faerie kin is fleeting, and she returns to Bon Temps after a rather eye-opening “family” reunion. But things are no less complicated back home: She's nursing fresh wounds from her messy breakup with Bill, and an unforeseen loophole brings Eric closer to her than ever. Plus, there's a powerful new witch coven in town, lead by the season's primary villain, Marnie (Fiona Shaw), who poses a dangerous threat to both the vampire and human communities. So much for a peaceful homecoming for Sookie, who whines, “Oh, great, now I have to deal with witches?”

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