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True Blood is on a downward spiral. After a decent enough episode last week, which was still riddled with flaws, I was hoping that the show would pick itself up by the bootstraps and multiply the positives that existed in the weeks to come. Instead, it seems like Alan Ball has taken a couple of weeks off. “I’m Alive and On Fire” had so many problems that articulating them all into prose would be quite the challenge, but at its core, the episode was not an episode. Character arcs can happen separately from each other, and in fact all of the best television around works by having a diverse and interesting universe, but at this point, True Blood feels like five different shows stuttering into each other for fifty minutes.
After an unbelievably pointless existence last week, Jason and the werepanthers continued to pillage screen time. Being held in captivity and forced into impregnating an entire family of women, while sick, would be a fairly dramatic and interesting journey to take with Jason if the writers insist on having him on screen this season. Ignoring that possibility, however, the lovable rape victim was freed within minutes and spent almost the entire episode erratically coming back onto our screens over and over again to pant, run and bleed. Liking Jason as a character is easy. Even amongst everything that is happening to him he is able to make you laugh, but everything happening with him right now just feels forced onto the screen. I understand that there is a sizable set of source material for the series, but artistic license exists for this exact reason. If it doesn’t translate well to screen, just keep it off air.
Screaming out its disjointedness even more than Jason’s plot thread thus far is everything that involves Bill Compton. Last week had the makings of something huge for Bill’s character when the possibility of him intentionally sending Eric to a fight he couldn’t win against the witches arose. Eric vs. Bill in a Sookie-love-filled super fight would have been amazing. The buildup could have gone on for episodes and the two could have come within an inch of delivering the true death to one another before combining to some common goal like eradicating the witches in the dramatic conclusion. I’m not a television writer, but I just posited a situation that would be far more gripping and interesting to watch than anything that’s happening with the show right now. It took all of two seconds to come up with that as I typed it, but sadly that potential was squandered almost immediately this week when we found out that there was no conceit at all and Eric really just drew the short straw.
The pinnacle of True Blood’s disappointment, however, came from what was fantastic only a week ago. Eric is a fan favorite and I’m definitely a fan, but slapstick amnesia gets old. Quickly. After clumsily drinking Sookie’s faerie godmother dry at the end of last week, Eric spent most of Sunday’s episode drunk. To thirteen year old fans of "Twilight," vampires running around quickly and swimming with no clothes on might be a delight, but to the rest of us, it feels an awful lot like that pointlessness coming back around to bite. I was really intrigued about where Eric’s story would go following last week, but after the kill(ed by) Bill scenario was shot down, it was about time for the real Eric to come back to us. A small silver lining crawled its way out of the situation, with Alcide and Sookie getting to spend some much needed time together in the hunt for the intoxicated vamp, but even their screen time was largely comprised of him strutting around in werewolf mode.
Somehow managing to actually connect to another part of the story, Tara, Lafayette and Jesus got to working on reversing Eric’s condition after being given an ultimatum by Pam. As much as I hate the very existence of head witch Marnie – with her terrible name, presence and all around acting failures – it seemed like there was some potential with the witches this week. That, however, much like everything that had come before it, also fell flat. Spending the episode hunting after a spell that would bring Eric back ultimately led the distressed witches to a book that might do the trick. Running out of time they set themselves about performing said spell under Pam’s watchful eyes, but then for absolutely no reason Marnie got herself possessed by whatever the spirit that did the original deed is and made Pam ugly. Whilst she may have initially freaked out at having half of her face decompose in an instant, if the story were actually coherent, Pam would be back to violently murdering each one of them once she found a prop from "The Phantom of the Opera." But that will never happen. The result of this story is only going to be contradictory to where it began whatever the outcome may be, so its entire existence is called into question, much like every other part of the episode.
Outside of the major characters’ involvements in the episode, Sam and his brother had their moments again this week whilst Terry and Arlene continue to cling onto any semblance of relevance that they might still have left. A gaping hole was left by Jessica and Hoyt who appeared for mere seconds when they discover Jason by the roadside – a further testament to where the show is going wrong. The narrative for the show at this point is a mess; a third of the way into the season and there is no clear path for anyone, not even Sookie. In the earlier seasons, no matter what was going on, Sookie and Bill always grounded the show, but without them sharing the screen, the show is lost.