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True Blood – “Fire in the Hole” Review: A Balanced Episode

After last week’s debacle of an episode, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with how well True Blood rebounded with “Fire in the Hole.” Perhaps it is simply a case of the series choosing to spread its focus more evenly among the series’s more interesting characters, but this episode was engaging and well-written, adding depth to characters and bringing back old favorites, while once again finding the show’s sense of humor.

As I’ve mentioned over the past two weeks, True Blood is at its best when it combines camp with grounded drama. Where the series often goes astray it playing up its camp factor or simply forgets that we have seven seasons worth of history with characters and decides to have them act completely out of character to better serve whatever new hijinks are on tap for the given week. Several storylines have been threatening to fall into both categories so far this season, but for some unknown reason (I’m choosing to believe it was simply good sense), all of the stories have been dialed back from a 10 down to a reasonable 4 or 5.

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Sure, Sarah Newlin is back, and she can be as campy as they come, but something tells me we are going to see more of the ruthless Sarah from last season (one of the best elements of season six, to be honest). And having Sarah pitted against Pam and Eric (who truly has nothing left to lose now)? That showdown could very well become one of the season’s highlights. In addition, I would like to place a request now for more Eric and Pam flashbacks, as we have been sorely deprived of them over the course of the series, and the Eric-Pam relationship is without a doubt one of the greatest parts of the show.

On the whole, I think “Fire in the Hole” works because it is so focused on calling back to the past, both within the characters’ own histories and from within the series itself. Seeing Sarah and good old Nan once again takes the audience back to the heyday of the series. Listening to Bill and Sookie reminisce- including having Sookie remind Bill of the awful things he has put her through- reminds us that once upon a time, those two were good for each other. Reminding us of how far these characters have come, and how they’ve changed, is what the series needs to do. After all, who could have thought that Jason Stackhouse would ever contemplate children? But, even with this much needed nostalgia, the series must also churn forward and show us how the characters continue to grow and change. With some addition by subtraction, the show managed to do so this week.

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Now, within the Charlaine Harris series of novels, Alcide is one of the more interesting characters. On True Blood, Alcide has been one of the most stagnant characters since his introduction. Sure, he offered a living, breathing alternative to Bill and Eric in the quest for Sookie’s heart, but he was pretty boring. Couple that with his atrocious werewolf storyline of last season, and Alcide pretty much becomes a study in missed opportunities. Sure, his death frees Sookie up for her inevitable reunion with Bill (something I continue to dread), but it also opens up more screen time for the show’s more interesting characters. As with Tara, Alcide was a character the show never really knew what to do with, so losing him really isn’t all that much of a loss (although, I’m certain a large portion of the show’s fan base will mourn the loss of Joe Manganiello’s shirtless scenes).

That being said, I’m not entirely certain where the show goes from here. The renegade group of Hep V vampires have been dispatched with, a chunk of the vigilantes are dead, and Eric and Pam are off on their own side mission. There are still seven episodes left in the season, and I am completely at a loss as to where the central storyline will go from here. Which, I have to say, has me intrigued to see what’s in store for next week.

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Final Thoughts

— I’m glad that Pam did indeed feel Tara’s passing and that she had an emotional reaction to is as well. I’m still very disappointed that the Tara-Pam relationship was lost in the mess last year, as it had such potential.

— I’m not sure I buy Eric falling for a French human, but perhaps that explains how cold he was in the early seasons of the series.

— I’m still not certain how Hep V works. Blood from a positive vampire clearly infects humans, but what about a positive vampire feeding on a human? Is Holly infected? Does it even really matter?

— Finally, while part of me wishes the series had had the guts to kill off Eric last season, I’m happy to have him back, if only because Alexander Skarsgaard and Kristen Bauer von Straten have such wonderful chemistry on screen. And, Pam without Eric is no fun.

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About / Bio
TV critic based in Chicago. When not watching and writing about awesome television shows, I can be found lamenting over the latest disappointing performance by any of the various Chicago sports teams or my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Follow me @JeanHenegan on Twitter.

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