Television

Published on September 2nd, 2014 | by Bean

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True Blood Review – Season 7 Episode 9 – “Love Is To Die”

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If there is ever a time to get down to business, it’s now – wrap up any loose ends left hanging or the Series Finale ends us cluttered. True Blood has a history of very full-on penultimate episodes, and while the last few weeks have seen a lot of closure – the vigilantes, the Hep-V vamps, loves for Lafayette and Arlene, and peace and forgiveness for Lettie Mae and Tara – there are still some elements aside from the Sookie/Bill strand that must be resolved. The final season’s ninth chapter continues the tradition, featuring a lot of movement for the supporting cast, in particular Jess and Jason. This begins with Bill’s Choice, and the ramifications of his decision to die.

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Only Jess matches Sookie’s anguish; so distraught is she that she demands to be released by Bill. Nathan Barr’s beautifully solemn score grips during the cold open, imbuing the scene with the gravity Jess’ release demands. Her choice is an odd one – does she do this to lessen her pain, or to cause him the pain she feels? Whatever her reasoning, it gives us the opportunity to recall Jess’ vampire origins and Bill’s reluctant part in it. Eric and Pam’s shock brings further weight to this bereavement, though the latter isn’t so far gone she can’t bring a little sartorial levity to the table.

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From one gut punch after another; in a slightly contrived move, for some reason Sookie and Jess go to Sam’s trailer only to find the obligatory platonic Dear John. Another farewell in the thinning crowd of original characters, this wistful goodbye is nicely undercut in the next scene at Bellefleur’s by Andy. His arc from hapless clown to town patriarch is pleasingly mirrored in moments like this, and it’s a welcome reminder of Chris Bauer’s subtle comic timing.

Jess and James iron out their leftover angst, which leaves her free to make an enormously selfish move in Hoyt’s direction. Whilst inevitable, Jess’ decision to drag Hoyt back into her orbit has to be balanced out by the haranguing harpy-fication of the otherwise excessively pleasant and reasonable Bridget, a character with a tough hand of cards. As the Hoyt/Bridget union uncouples at Jess’ hand, it is a credit to all three actors involved that they keep it from going all Hollyoaks. That it feels pivotal and not overblown is in particular thanks to Ashley Hinshaw who grants the convenient/melodramatic scenario with a very human anguish, whilst Jim Parrack shows Hoyt’s guilty longing to understand his feelings for a stranger. His kindness and patience is a salve to Jess, whose dark side has been sufficiently explored since their last parting that she can finally comprehend the worth of a good man and the simple life.

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All this is bought and paid for by the performances; we know where this story has been and where it is going, but the calibre of delivery elevates the material. The conceit of Jason telling their story to Bridget gives the audience a nice insight into Jason’s take on the situation. We also get to hear his remorse as he describes the history of his friendship with Bubba, and the sense of their belonging together is heightened by another beautiful moment of scoring from Barr.

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“Love Is To Die” sees Jason finally make important steps towards a kind of sexual sobriety; whether brief or extended, it is meaningful. As funny as his no-sex disclaimer to Bridget is, I was more delighted than I can describe that he had made a positive decision about his addictive behaviour. Next, he uses his dubious ‘powers’ for good, helping Bridget out and being genuinely surprised by her gratitude. The archetypal good-girl, her education of Jason is a gentle process of acceptance and encouragement, charming to experience the innocent revelations with them.

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This theme of rehabilitation follows through to the rejuvenated Arlene playing big sister to Sookie. It’s yet more kudos to Carrie Preston, who can balance all the layers required of her whilst instilling the word “fuck” with yet another nuance! She is the positive side of re-invention, the negative being Sarah Newlin. Arlene moves on because she must, for her family and her sanity. Sarah is going back to her roots, Pam stripping her to the core in a couple of sentences and a bowl of bleach. Newlins fate sits uneasily; the subjugation or exploitation of a woman is not something to be taken lightly, but then True Blood is really more eye-for-an-eye when it comes to Newlin, and she did go all genocidal.

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The remainder of the episode falls to the fate of our central characters, a ball got rolling by Eric’s uncharacteristically charitable visit to Bill. The viking vamp is impassioned about the psychological effects of the disease, and it seems that Hep V has changed him too. The altruism behind his visit,  playing the unlikely life advocate, leads Bill to the crux of their attraction to Sookie; her feyness.  Described here as light in contrast to their darkness, he cites the fever dream revelation of the void and their hollow offerings to her as potential life-partners.

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Skarsgaard and Moyer do beautiful work attempting to grapple with their complicated natures, their desires and tendencies. The power balance that has swung back and forth between their characters for seven seasons has often been the source of both humour and peril; here they cast it aside. This is an intimacy, a soul-baring that neither have attempted before. The smallest gestures, drooping eyelids, tiny glances, vocal changes or half-smiles are loaded with meaning and depth. Eric’s last words to Bill in this exchange are “Save your strength”; at once a kindness, a pitying aside, and an acknowledgement that Bill will really need every ounce of it to go through with his plan. The shoulder-pat not only suggests decades of history between them, but seems to imply the respect Eric has for Bill’s decision in light of all he’s heard.

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The Northman continues in this altruistic vein until episode’s end. While he can’t resist lurking in the shadows, leaning against a tree like a male model, he lets Sookie go in his own subtle way, retreating into gentlemanly behaviour and self-restraint. As he resists her invitation to come inside, Eric’s “Goodnight Miss Stackhouse.” feels final. All this demands some sort of release, and instead we get the delightful wish fulfilment scenario of Eric and Ginger.

If anybody could make erotica hilarious its Ginger – Eric’s embarrassed bemusement and concern belies his affection for Ginger. Besides Godric, Pam, Sookie and the French whosit, Ginger is one of the longest standing relationships in Eric’s life. Tara Buck is brilliantly bonkers as a woman riding the crest of her fantasy to an extremely rapid conclusion. After years of ignoring her or having her exist in a state of perpetual glamouring, but it wasn’t until this season that we really understood the true nature of their bond. Ginger was willingly used from the outset, as a fan might be for a time, but as a faithful acolyte to the lust-cult of Eric would be forever. She still fulfils an important role in the human/vampire dynamic, and like the Arlene/Lafayette/Pam’s of TB, gives us so much humour that they break our heart extra quick when they show us real feeling.

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The episode ends on a dual cliffhanger, with the tedious Yakuza threatening a terrified Pam to glean information from Eric, and Bill walking to Sookie’s to “call on” her – a sombre echo of their first date so many years ago. The former promises to swiftly descend into carnage, but for my money the real dread looms with the vampire at Miss Stackhouse’s door.

Review by Nina Clark

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Bean

Director at Nina Clark Music / The Musical Walkabout at Nina Clark Music
Bean is the family nickname of Nina Clark, singer, songwriter and professional musician. Nina's many nerdly passions, aside from music, include Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and all things Whedon. (re. GoT, she has NOT read the books, so please be cool - no spoilers!)
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