Published on July 8th, 2014 | by Bean


True Blood Review and Catch Up – Season 7 Episode 1 – “Jesus Gonna Be here”

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The theme tune is back! Sure, Sookie and the whole gang are too, but I can safely say Jace Everett’s song, ‘Bad Things’ is absolutely my very favourite (bad) thing about True Blood, a show I hold dear to my still-beating heart. Some may mock True Blood for it’s porny ways; I have myself from time to time. Some seasons have run amok, pushing it’s own boundaries and conventions, but it never jumped the shark. TB still has a lot to offer, and it is with a renewed enthusiasm that I watched last night’s season premiere. It’s still all about the tune for me; the music draws us close, whispers and howls in our ear, over the still-gorgeous opening credits, by turns turgid and turbulent. The sense of decay is strong, as it should be in a show about the undead, and as usual the themes intrinsic to True Blood ring truer than ever – at this point, everybody has done bad things. The premiere deals out a hand of issues that have run throughout the series; life, death, sex, religion, violence. Trust, blame and intolerance, a motley and familiar crew, are particularly strong themes in the opener, and for once it appears to be time for a truth-out. But first, let’s review what secrets are stinking up the closet, and what we’ve forgotten since the hiatus. True Blood’s sixth season covered a lot of ground – starting with God-Bill-Lilith going apeshit and showing off his spectacular powers, the show ramped up the action fast. Sookie discovers the horrible truth about her parent’s death (they were trying to kill her!), gets involved with and dumps another psychotic vampire, who also happens to be fey. Yey. This has to be Sookie’s lowest ebb, romantically, with yet more threat and abuse thrown her way. Much is made of her (dubiously titled) “danger-whore” status, albeit by the lunatic lover, a situation the show seemingly attempts to remedy (for better or worse) by season end. More interesting is the exploration of her powers and how she will choose to use them in the future. True-Blood-701-Bill-and-Andy Parenting featured a lot last season; Eric lost a sister and sired a daughter, Sam played surrogate dad to Emma, then got the supernatural rights campaigner Nicole pregnant. Andy became father to four fast-growing faerie-human children, and Jess lost control in their company, slaughtering three of them, a tragedy with endless fallout. Bill’s relationship with Jess faltered and was restored in his ascended state, and Lettie-Mae finally began to make amends to Tara. Another kind of guardian-ship – that of being a leader – also came up again and again. Alcide struggled with the politics of being pack-master in the aftermath of usurping Marcus  and eventually gave it up for the simple life with Sookie (a turn which had shippers up in arms!) For all the to-ing and fro-ing between characters, Hep V was the real game changer of Season 6, the spread of which was facilitated by the sadistic Louisiana Governor Truman Burrel, a man enamoured of his own status. The gov’ had his head torn off mid-season by a divinely-charged Bill, but the ramifications of the global spread of a vampire virus had only just begun to play out before season 6 ended. The finale finished on a cliff-hanger, with the guests at Mayor Merlotte’s inter-species mixer under imminent attack by a marauding gang of Hep V vampires. true blood - s7e1 - bon temps Season 7 picks up where we left off in visceral style. “Jesus Gonna Be Here”, directed with real flair by Stephen Moyer, boasts plenty of thrills and builds up a nice of roster of dilemnas for our characters to deal with. The erstwhile Mr Compton’s third directorial outing shows a burgeoning confidence; there are some beautiful moment in episode 1, from Jessica and a drooling vamp in a glorious western-style standoff as dawn rises, to a hollow Pam playing Russian Roulette in a bucket! The dizzying opening sequence is an impressive raising of the stakes (pardon the pun) visually, and the requisite sense of pandemonium and panic pervades the scene, with bursts of action and bites of exposition battling it out amongst the flailing victims of the carnage. jesus-gonna-be-here-pam-plays-russian-roulette-in-marrakesh-morocco The big trauma in the Season 6 finale was the sight of a naked Eric bursting into flame on a snowy mountainside, having taken to the the limits the sun-bathing opportunity Bill’s Lilith-god-blood gave him. Amid cries of outrage and disbelief (and hopes that he’ll not just dick about being on fire, and instead burrow into the ground like a sensible all-powerful being) the question is left hanging as to whether a major character would receive such a dismissive, even comical, send-off; the lounging casually with a bit of Proust, not so much  the immolation. True-Blood-2 Whilst Pam’s European quest for her sire confirms his survival, another major character doesn’t get so lucky this episode. There is a lot to be said for killing off great characters; apart from the jeopardy-injection, it keeps audiences on their toes, shakes up the narrative and usually comes hand-in-hand with roller-coaster emotions for all. Doing this offscreen has significantly less impact and at worst can be an insult to the actor, character and viewing public. true-blood-season-7-premiere-tara-death-hbo Losing Tara in the cold-open of Episode 1 felt cheap, not least because the last we see of Rutina Wesley’s kick-ass character, she’s.. well kicking ass. The argument may be made that Tara already had a brutal and traumatic death scene, two years ago on the site of many a violent crime, Sookie’s kitchen. The show-runners bought that back, and Tara received a supernatural reprieve. Was this only given to allow Tara and Lettie Mae to make peace? To paraphrase Buffy, this casualty was too casual. TrueBlood_701_007 Even Tara’s nearest and dearest cope with Tara’s true death as those accustomed to this  too-common pain. Lafayette lays his lack of grief on the line like a seasoned pro in a moving and exploratory scene with Jess’ new beau James. Nelsan Ellis has given one entrancing performance after another on a show with so many memorable characters, and the same is true here – Lafayette’s emotional exhaustion, downplayed to perfection, is verging on nihilism after losing so many loved ones, a state which James sanctions, encourages and yet also pardons in his own Zen way. tb4 The show makes a point of such pairings tonight, taking the opportunity to advance the dynamics between species. Using Sam’s party line, one vampire for every human, we follow Jason and Violet making moves towards a more equal partnership, and Jess and Adilyn dance around whether she can truly be trusted to control herself. zap-true-blood-season-7-premiere-jesus-gonna-b-009 In another odd couple, Bill and Andy must play good cop bad cop against vigilantes after Hep V vamps kidnap Holly, Arlene, Nicole, the hapless Kevin and a couple of redcoats. Most surprising about this scenario is how good a cop Andy really is now, proving himself a much-evolved man from the slack-spined V-addict of a couple of years ago. The vigilantes, led by Sam’s campaign competitor Vince, are obviously going to be a sideline of annoying trouble, fuelling the growing intolerance in Bon Temps. Things seem to be sliding back into the mire, and the only person counselling compassion is Sookie, everybody’s favourite scapegoat. trueblood-s7e1-captives_zps67022036 While the whole town is busy being a righteous, sneering d-bag, Sookie holds her hand up in a speech resounding with concern and a turn-the-other-cheek selflessness. This empowered honesty marks a very real turning point for our heroine, someone so repeatedly violated it is a wonder she can trust or love anyone. At all. In the final scene of “Jesus Gonna Be Here” the intolerance of the Christian congregation is finally outed once and for all, their fundamental lack of humanity heaped with irony, as they lord their imagined moral superiority over each other and the surrounding ‘community’. Can they change? True-Blood-Season-7-Premiere Anything is possible; that could be True Blood’s tag line. In this, the show’s final season, can the people of Bon Temps, vampire and human, rise up to their potential and evolve beyond their worst impulses? Can any of us?! As brutal as this show has been, it has always stood for something primal and eternal; as show-runner Alan Ball calls it, “The horrors of intimacy”. I, for one, cannot wait to see how it ends… Review by Nina Clark

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