Published on July 15th, 2014 | by Bean0
True Blood Review – Season 7 Episode 2 – “I Found You”
It is perhaps understandable, heck, even desirable that a show in it’s final season make preparations for it’s ending by coming full circle; re-exploring it’s central themes and tenets and generally reminding it’s audience what it stands for. Personally, I’m all for this. A lot of people moaned about Buffy’s 7th season, mainly because of the injection of so many new characters in the shape of The Potentials; we fear change, and the girls did whine a bit. But really the show dug deeper than ever before, found resolution for many of the characters’ enduring issues (Spike and the monster within, Anya and her identity, Willow’s battle with addiction, Xander/Dawn’s status as everyman/woman, and Buffy’s constant sense of isolation) and wound up empowering those girls to fulfil their potential and find their strength.
True Blood has some strong themes at it’s core, and some pointed metaphors; the vampires came “out of the coffin”, and since the first episode the dual prejudices surrounding race and sexuality have been important to the tensions at the heart of this adventure. “I Found You” spend a lot of it’s 51 minutes mulling over the differences and similarities between humans and vampires, settling firmly in the camp of unity and searching out the things they have in common. This is the show’s message, and our heroes voice it regularly; even Alcide, never a fang-fan, makes a case for the normality of the first love Bill and Sookie shared.
What makes “I Found You” frustrating isn’t the central tension between vampires and humans, but how it plays out with a bunch of characters we barely know. Vince the Vigilante appeared last episode, shit-stirring like a pro, making the sheeple of Bon Temps seem even more spineless and mindless than they usually do. This insurgency lacks the depth of strong characters; Tara’s prejudice against vampires in the first 4 seasons was compelling to watch because we knew Tara and could see her valid reasons for being generally mistrustful of anyone, let alone violent vamps. We loved her character, so cared what she fought for, even if we might have disagreed. This sort of underpinning is crucial to tackling tricky topics; it must be a detailed study otherwise it’s a hokey soap opera.
I get it; people behave badly when they’re scared and ignorant. Crisis robs the weak-willed of their individuality; we’re pack animals, and the fury of the mob is terrible to behold – yes it should be. This mob, however, is mostly bitching and guns-y, and led by a dude we met yesterday. The issues are interesting, particularly the sub-tension between ‘normals’ and ‘supers’ (Fey, Shifters, Weres etc), but the way it is told is tired and convenient. I felt no sense of dread at the oncoming march upon Bon Temps PD, and I didn’t buy Kenya’s utter abandonment of her post and responsibilities. Again, I get it, she’s never taken seriously by Andy, overlooked for promotion, etc; she has good reasons, but there is no conflict in her left over once she breaks. ‘Sure, lemme show you how this firearm works random civilian, and yeah, fuck it, shoot up the corridor while you’re at it.’ Really? Thank god for the levity of Maxine Fortenbury; keeping small-town bigotry huh-larious since 2007.
The heroes mission to St Alice sees Sookie take point, holding up her heroic pleas of last episode. There is a lot of standing in lines looking serious, and Sookie’s leadership is regularly implied, which is just as well, since everybody else becomes a bit hapless. The problem here is how the police presence undermines the tension of the situation. It’s a tonal thing – I’ll happily watch Andy and Jason bungle about all day (“This is a Starbucks card”) but the pizza forensics will have an effect on the landscape, and if a scene is trying to reiterate that a brutal attack has taken place, and we should fear for Bon Temps and the safety of our heroes, probably lay off the comedy one-liners. The brilliant cold open between Jason and Eric, which reads like badly-written slash fanfic is another curious choice; not the fact of the scene – it’s a valid exploration. But here and now? Isn’t this an episode about bubbling tensions? Ohhh, I get it now. Still, with the aggressive cocktail-shaking, and flying-sexy-moves, it’s incongruous. Tone has always been an important factor for True Blood, but more self-control is needed if we’re to invest in the peril.
Fear comes in many different flavours in True Blood – Hep V has arrived to remind us of the brutality of vampires, and to remind the vampires that they’re fallible. The monsters had lost their edge in all the common-ground-finding, but is this an artifice too far? It is interesting to explore a threat to the threat; taking away the vampire’s strength and near-invulnerability should humanise them, and in some cases it does, with Betty the ex-teacher and her terror of dying.
The hostages in Fangtasia’s basement do a lot of the heavy lifting re. vampires are people too, with Arlene appealing to Betty’s morals and the idea of what her legacy means to those left behind. These are big themes, and it is a nice irony that the most immediately vulnerable to the savagery of vampires must find the shared experiences and perspective to stay alive. Carrie Preston digs her heels into these scenes; Arlene’s rousing St Crispin Day speech is a riot and her negotiations with Betty the ex-teacher poignant. We see this dichotomy come up again and again; Willa being woken and the monster inside calling the shots until her consciousness kicks in. Her youth also plays a part here, and we are reminded that self-control is a valuable tool to a vampire; without it they descend into savagery.
The show gives us parallels in the human world too; most compellingly Lettie Mae’s inability to control her addictive tendencies leads her to Lafayette’s door, looking for V – ostensibly to channel some kind of path to communicating with Tara. It is difficult to say what her true motivations are, and the sense is strong that even she doesn’t really know. What is important is the endgame, and for Lettie Mae, as always, it’s about getting what she wants, at any cost, the awful raison detre of an addict. This whole arc is played beautifully by Adina Porter, who swings between showing her terrible impulses, the facade she needs to project to others, and the very real torment she is in. Whether the torment is grief or the addiction doesn’t really matter; when her demons take over, and she becomes brutal, Lafayette calls her out for us either way. The point is, she’s in pain. And she will do bad things to make it stop.
The revelations of the ending pack less punch than they might (thanks internet), but the show makes a point of bringing Sookie’s two vampire exes back into focus; one she seeks out after pangs of nostalgia spark a, surely, very bad idea – though who knows trouble better than Miss Stackhouse? The other Pam finds covered in tendrils of encroaching death, on a chaise lounge in France, reclining in a manly yet consumptive fashion, which only Eric could achieve. Methinks this is gonna end in tears. Bloody, bloody tears.
Review by Nina Clark
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