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If a show in recent history has found a stranger way to come back to our screens I need to see it, because the return of True Blood made me feel like I was watching Lost all over again. Before getting into exactly what wrinkled my brain about the premiere of the fourth season of the show, it’s probably a good idea to recap last season’s events and how they lead up to what we got given last night.
The third season as a whole introduced us to an awful lot of things in the world of True Blood, the most notable of those being the vampire hierarchy and the fact that Sookie is a faerie. The finale left us with a mass of information to take in, and several cliffhangers... again. Most notably, Sookie’s distain for the fact that Bill had been a servant of the vampire queen since his arrival in Bon Temps and that Sookie was headed off into faerie land with her faerie godmother.
The trip to faerie land - or at least what we think is faerie land - is where we picked up. Sookie had crossed over, much like Bill had after drinking enough of her blood to do so. In the seemingly peaceful realm of the fae, Sookie sees her grandfather - a man who has been gone for over 20 years. After a short conversation between the two, we come to understand the difference in the way that time works over there - essentially that minutes are months (think Inception) - something that becomes quite focal once we understand what is really going on. Sensing something is amiss, Sookie refuses to take orders from the fae leader, and when she has no choice but to use her powers to protect herself, the shroud of the seemingly perfect world around her falls. The “faeries” that have brought Sookie, her grandfather, and several other humans to this world really look like some type of goblin-esque creatures with similar powers as Sookie.
To keep in line with the reveal, the world that Sookie is standing in is obviously not home to the true faeries - or at very least, they really are faeries, but it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be because they’re horrendously unattractive and live in a baron desert, not a forest of special fruit. There’s a dispute between the creatures that inhabit the realm about whether or not there should be a connection to Earth, given that Bill managed to cross over - one that turns fairly physical. The chaos allows Sookie to escape back to the real world with her grandfather before he dies after having eaten the aforementioned fruit. Surprisingly unaffected by her recent experience, Sookie heads home to find that things aren’t quite as she left them - her house is fixed up, and despite her claims that she is the owner, the builders working on the house call the police on miss Stackhouse when they disagree. Sure enough, law enforcement arrives, but instead of Sheriff Andy, now fully-fledged Deputy Jason shows up. It’s at this point that we learn that Sookie has been gone for over a year.
As one would expect, the rest of the episode is largely devoted to showing us how life has changed for our characters in the missing time period. As cliched as the idea seems, I really liked the direction that the show has gone. Having not read the books that the series is based on, I have absolutely no advanced knowledge of where this is going, but for now, Bon Temps is a pretty interesting place. Bill is the vampire king of Louisiana, and despite being much, much younger than Eric, he is now his superior. In the wake of Russell Edgington’s public vampire on human violence, Bill and Eric have taken to the role of politicians of sorts, to seek a renewed coexistence between vampires and humans. Jessica and Hoyt have stepped up their relationship and have been living together for at least some period of time, and Sam did actually shoot his brother at the end of last season - but only in the leg. Tara - seen leaving Bon Temps at the end of last season - is still on the road and is now a lesbian cage fighter, whilst Lafayette continues to date Jesus - a man revealed to be a witch at the end of last season. Whilst the lack of advanced knowledge of the books limits me to speculation, the witchcraft is undoubtedly going to be something that the vampires are uneasy with and an obvious source of tension throughout the season.
As I said before, the choice of the writers to throw us into the future works perfectly for me within the narrative of the show. Whilst I really have enjoyed almost every minute of True Blood thus far, an immediate continuation of the end of the third season would have given the writers no choice but to write scene-after-scene with Sookie hating Bill, crying about Bill, having angry yet sexually charged conversations with Eric and all around sucking up screen time to do nothing but whine. I enjoy a good emotional scene as much as the next person, but developing the story takes precedent and that is exactly what has happened here. “She’s Not There” wasn’t all exposition however, there were a couple of pressing plot points that will surely be the crux of at least some of next week’s outing. Jason - keeping his promise to Panther-shifter Crystal - is still looking after her “family”, and whilst the reason is unclear, they’ve seen fit to kidnap him after a year of him caring for them. The episode also ended on a cliffhanger note, with Eric revealing that he is the new owner of Sookie’s house and that somehow means that he owns her too.
True Blood is a difficult show to assess. Despite being close to an hour long in some episodes, the show often struggles to work out exactly what it wants to say - hence the confusion. I had the fortune of not getting into the show until recently, watching seasons 1-3 on dvd in very rapid succession, having to wait only minutes to see the result of the various “WHAT!??!?” moments that the show has to offer. Now watching on a weekly basis, I can already tell that I’m going to be angry at my television come late Sunday evenings for the foreseeable future. When it comes down to it, “She’s Not There” did what it needed to do - laying out the basis for the rest of the season - whether or not it is a good foundation however, only time will tell.