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After last year’s train wreck of a season, I’ll admit I had very low hopes for this season of True Blood. But, after watching “Jesus Gonna Be Here,” I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. The seventh season premiere is one of the show’s strongest episodes in recent memory, setting up a clear storyline for the show’s final season and showing that the series isn’t afraid to raise the stakes from the get go.
While True Blood has never worried about pushing things to their limit (often to the show’s detriment), that opening fight scene was a thing of beauty. The clear chaos and panic is highlighted by the inability of the audience to see what is going on, creating a true sense of uncertainty. It truly highlights the power and speed of the Hep V vampires, as it’s not clear who is taken or killed until Jason gives Andy his run down of the missing. As for Tara, without a death scene, I’m not going to believe she’s dead until I see it. Especially since Pam showed absolutely no reaction to Tara’s apparent death. However, if Tara is indeed dead, I have to hand it to the show for offing one of it’s original characters with almost zero fanfare. Most shows wouldn’t have the guts to do that, and considering how much True Blood thrives on over the top spectacle, Tara’s death would be a great step in the right direction in its lack of fanfare.
Despite opening with an incredible battle, the rest of the episode is focused on character development- something the series has been sorely missing over the past few seasons. Spending time getting to know James through his absolutely lovely conversation with Lafayette (kudos to the episode’s writer Angela Robinson for penning this and the other great one on one scenes within the script) is something that is desperately needed after his lackluster introduction last season. While James is certainly fatalistic (and, considering what he’s been through, who can blame him), his words have a resonating truth and serve to set-up the season’s central struggle well.
Also enjoying an excellent conversation are Adilyn and Jessica. Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica) remains the true MVP of the series, delivering yet another excellent performance. True Blood has the tendency to get so caught up in its mythology and the various supernatural creatures that it often loses its humanity (and the humanity of its supes). Watching Adilyn and Jessica talk about boys, just like normal teenagers would do, is what the show has been missing. The only way to make us care about characters is to make them relatable on some level. This conversation made me forget that Adilyn is a faerie and Jessica is a vampire for a few moments and I simply saw them as two girls having a chat about the boys they like. It is a simply moment in the grand scheme of things, but it makes me care about these two characters just a little bit more than I previously did.
I only have one quibble with the episode, and it’s the inclusion of the four vigilantes. I’m assuming they will continue to make life difficult for Andy, Jason, and Sam throughout the season, but are they really necessary? The show already has too many characters (I certainly wouldn’t mind if Holly, Arlene, or Nicole become casualties of the Hep V crew, since it would continue to pare things down), so introducing these bozos, who will undoubtedly get killed in the next few episodes or cause one of our regulars to die saving them, is a waste of time in an already shortened season. Having two storylines going (Pam’s search for Eric and the Hep V fight) is just enough. We don’t need subplots with vigilantes added to the mix.
— Chris Bauer (Andy) has really become one of the series’s best assets. While Andy may have started things off more as comic relief than anything, he has become a truly wonderful character and Bauer’s performance has been nothing short of stellar.
— You know who also surprised me this episode? The Reverend Daniels. Taking poor Willa in, being truly kind to her, and mourning Tara are all things I never expected from the good Reverend.
— I’m glad that Pam and Lafayette had things to do this week after both were sorely underused last season. Here’s to hoping they continue to get enough screen time!