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A strange installment in the series, not simply in the way the episode ends, which even for True Blood is pretty disturbing, but rather due to its inconsistency. The third series has yet to take hold and It Hurts Me Too, unfortunately makes little ground but is somewhat saved by some incredibly shocking imagery and a greater focus on action.
We were left last week with the cliff-hanger of Sookie’s gunshot that seemed destined for either Eric or her Werewolf stalker. Unsurprisingly, the bullet’s intended target is the stealthy wolfman, but via an out of place Matrix-style slow motion effect, we see Eric jumping before the bullet to defend any secrets the intruder may have. The action sequence that follows is unarguably exhilarating and watching Eric turn from softly spoken Gentleman, into merciless beast is a technique that True Blood seems to have perfected and it is always incredibly effective. This series of events acts as a transitional platform with which to direct Sookie as she searches for Bill. Unfortunately, the pace at which this main plot is developing is starting is cause the story (which really hasn’t been fully introduced yet) to stagnate. We know Bill is safe, so there is no mystery or suspense surrounding his whereabouts and the delay in connecting these two plot lines is frustrating, especially when there doesn’t appear to be any major payoff for the reunite (we’ve already had 2 seasons of Sookie and Bill, I’m in no hurry for more right now).
Sam returns to Bon Temp after meeting with his biological family. Even when his mother, father and abrasive new brother come to stay in an impromptu visit, there is little of interest in their interactions. Dad is a drunk and Tommy begrudges the attention Sam is receiving. It’s all very standard ‘broken-home’ stuff and the fact that they are a family of shape-shifters is barely mentioned and only given a hint of attention when Tommy is found rummaging through Sam’s office. So far I have been rather disappointed with the way Sam’s character has developed. A man that can change into almost any animal he desires, provides an incredible opportunity for excitement and intrigue, but so far this has been a largely untapped resource. I was hoping that his new family could reveal the source of this gift, or at least help Sam develop it in some way. However, we still appear to be working through his emotional issues, which let’s be honest, are a poor consolation.
In Mississippi, Bill is given somewhat of an ultimatum that finds him forced into pledging his loyalty to the King in return for Sookie’s safety. Lorena is fine by the way. Her little barbeque was nothing but a toasty surprise and she continues her sparring with Bill, desperately trying to force his affections. Interestingly, when asked why he doesn’t just ‘turn’ Sookie, Bill replies: ‘Impossible’. Now, I may be reading too much into this, but it seemed pointed to me that instead of simply refusing the request, he describes it as an impossibility. There is definitely something special about Sookie and possibly the entire Stackhouse lineage and we are still yet to know Bill’s long term interest in the mind reading waitress.
Franklin Mott is still lurking in the shadows and eventually steps from them to reveal his intentions of unearthing Bill’s secrets. Franklin admits to Jessica that he disposed of her corpse and demands information on Bill as payment. His encounter with Tara results in some bizarre sex, in which we see possibly the weirdest climactic expression I have ever seen either on screen or in reality... and I’ve seen some things. Like somebody shooting up heroin whilst having a stroke, Tara’s eyes twitch and spasm as Franklin touches the void (I’m not being dirty, apparently all vampires like to fiddle with the void during sex). As we have come to expect, Tara is another mess of hormones and bad language and becomes a mindless zombie once again as Franklin glamours her to gain access to the Stackhouse residence. Something really needs to change with this character, we’ve seen her emotional fireworks, seen her unintenially helping the enemy and we’ve definitely seen enough of zombie Tara to last a lifetime.
The highlight of the episode is undoubtedly its ending. One of the darkest and comically disturbing images I have ever seen on television, watching Bill having violent sex with Lorena as he breaks her neck and twists her entire head backwards, is as uncomfortable to watch as it is impossible not to. It’s a little surprising the network didn’t decide to censor the scene, but I’m glad they didn’t as it immediately drew upon the quirky darkness of the first season and reminds us of what separates the show form the slew of other vampire and monster dramas on offer. The other high point was a flashback to Bill’s past in which we learn of the fate of his son and wife. This is an effective inclusion to his back-story and also leaves the way open for possible developments with his daughter who is entirely absent from the story.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, the episode is incredibly inconsistent in its ability to entertain. I’m at pains to say so, but I feel that the majority of the blame must lie at Anna Paquin’s feet. Her performance tonight wanders from the charming and teasing we are familiar with to what wouldn’t have been out of place at a high school drama production. Sookie’s scene with Bill was embarrassingly sloppy, with sentences stopping short for incoming interruptions and lines that had obviously not been rehearsed. Sookie seems to have developed this strange habit of absolutely never breaking eye-contact with whomever she is speaking to. This kind of doe-eyed attention would normally have been an endearing feature, but tonight it was so noticeable that it detracted from what was being said. It felt like her counterparts were talking at some kind of catatonic robot that was only programmed to make facial expressions and blink when delivering lines. I’ve never questioned her acting skills before now so I’m hoping it was merely due to time constraints of an ‘off’ day, but it would be a shame for Sookie to become a parody of her former self.
A disappointing instalment, that although bursting with violent flavour at moments, the majority of the episode was unnecessary waffle that merely stalled for time whilst other plot-lines caught up for their imminent reconnect. The scenes with Bill are all interesting and even though it’s still not apparent quite where the writers are going with this, there is enough action and intrigue to keep the audience excited.
For whatever reason, Anna Paquin’s portrayal of Sookie was an extremely mixed affair and she needs to draw on the original quirkiness and hidden intelligence that used to lurk beneath her sickly sweet visage. Maybe once she is reunited with Bill, we can start to get to the bottom of what it is everyone seems to be so interested in her for. Franklin Mott seems to be a good catalyst for this and he is certainly the most promising new character. I’m aware that I haven’t mentioned the Werewolf bar but that is mainly due to the fact that I was entirely indifferent to everything that took place there.
By the third hour long episode of the series, we should have been firmly introduced to the main themes and a direction should have been established. As it stands, I’m not quite sure where it is exactly we are going, or if I really even want to get there. But to give due credit, this is the only time I have ever laughed watching someone have sex with their head twisted-back-to-front; that scene alone, may just deserve a Grammy for indecency.