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True Blood has a problem. Last week I praised the show for setting up a large narrative giving every character the chance to become the focal point of an episode. What seemed like a good idea then, however, is just becoming irritating now. The issues don’t stem from the quality of the show as a whole. In fact, some of the character moments coming out of “If You Love Me, Why Am I Dyin’?” were perhaps the strongest of the season thus far. The problem is that some of them are. The core of main characters have the strongest storylines, as they should have, but relative to the supporting cast, the storylines are too strong. Sookie, Bill, Eric, Jessica, Hoyt and the coven all have consistently engaging moments on screen right now, but everyone else is just burning air time. The writers are trying to balance the story out and not have it be just about vampires, something that they should obviously aspire to, but it isn’t working.
Roughly a fifth of Sunday’s episode was devoted to Jason and his encounters with the were-panthers. Whilst I appreciate that Jason is one of the main characters of the show (a personal favorite of mine), his entire arc does not fit in at all. Throughout the episode we jumped back and forth between the goings on around Bon Temps and Jason’s captivity. If there was some extreme peril, significant plot shifting points, or really anything that anyone would care about at all happening, then the screen time would be entirely deserved. However, all of the information and “drama” that we got this week was just a slowly regurgitated version of exactly what happened last week. For no reason at all Crystal re-explained the entire lineage plan and the awkward sex scene that I predicted came to pass. When you consider what we already knew of Jason’s fate, the entire experience could have been limited to perhaps two minutes on screen and allowed much more time to one of the more interesting plot threads. One such plot thread being Eric’s amnesia.
After violently confronting the necromancer coven at Bill’s command, Eric is stuck with no memory of himself. When Sookie figures out what’s going on she takes him in, and works on a plan to keep him safe, when Pam suggests that the entire circumstance may have been by Bill’s design – a way to get the AVL to kill Eric. The entirety of Alexander Skarsgård’s time on screen this week was fantastic. There was plenty of humor to be had simply by looking at Eric’s face when he was told that he’d done something wrong or learned something about himself. You’d have imagined that getting a grown man to act convincingly like a child would be quite the task, but it was executed perfectly. As far as the story goes, questions are raised left, right and center as well – a big plus when it comes to True Blood.
Bill’s complicity in what happened to Eric was the biggest standout for me (this coming from someone who has never read the books and has no idea where all of this leads). Even having thought about where they were taking this story quite a few times throughout the week, I hadn’t even considered that Bill might have suspected that this would have happened. I’d imagine that both he and Eric were aware of the possibility given how fearful they were when they learned that the coven were necromancers, but the possibility of a combative struggle between the two vampires over something other than Sookie is an exciting one. Another question raised – one more likely to take prevalence in the immediate story – is what exactly Marnie (head witch) is/was doing. Every time someone in the coven asks her if she remembers what happened when she is possessed in the episodes that have come so far, she replies no, but I’m convinced she’s lying. My suspicions were somewhat confirmed this week when, after claiming to not remember how she dispatched Eric, we see the witch giving herself over to the spirit that possessed her with a blood sacrifice. With this mystery taking shape, the other question that occurred to me was “Do the writers have a clue of what they’re doing?”
The faerie storyline was brought back to life in this episode for a very brief moment, just to allow Eric to pull a hilariously ignorant face at the end of the episode. It seemed at the inception of the season that the faeries were what were new in town, but now the witches and their powers are becoming a big thing. Forgetting all of that, the human hatred of vampires on a large scale grows ever bigger, with them actively seeking to portray vampires in a bad light on YouTube, and Bill has to deal with the ramifications of everything that happens. Having a wealth of stories can be good, but when all of them are such large issues, how can you possibly devote the necessary screen time that is required to each? Already a quarter of the way through the season, I don’t know what I’m supposed to care about the most.
Story overkill aside, the character development that it allows throughout Bon Temps is a big positive. Everything going on with Jessica is extremely interesting right now. She’s completely grown up, but still has no idea what to do with herself. Her dad-like scene with Bill was one of the highlights of the episode for me, and some of that unnecessary panther time should definitely be going her way. Lafayette and Tara both play off each other strongly in the time that they did make the screen this week and the return of Alcide was two episodes overdue. Sam’s relationship with his brother could be an interesting one, but at the moment it appears to be setting itself up to be a carbon copy of last year. The only character really serving no purpose right now is sheriff Andy. If V was still a big part of the story or Jason was actually free and working with him, then Andy succumbing to it might be a worthy watch. The problem is that it is a completely contained story right now. Like Tara being in New Orleans in the season premiere, if it can’t connect to the bigger picture, it serves little purpose.
For the holes picked in “If You Love Me, Why Am I Dyin’?” it remained a reasonably strong episode, especially with Eric's amnesia, which was great. And the intrigue brought about by Marnie as well as Bill’s suave politician side are more than enough to make me want to see next week already.