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True Blood is a special piece of television. Rather than making the show consistently good, the writers have taken it upon themselves to deliver just about the most up-down season of anything in recent history. Throw in the fact that the show deals with the supernatural and things get interesting, but add to that the fact that the supernatural elements of this HBO behemoth lead to some of themost cringe worthy visual effects shots on television, resulting in some of the most appalling acting on television, and you get something special. “Soul of Fire” took that X-factor element of visual ridiculousness to an entirely new level when the vampire-witch throw-down at the Moon Goddess Emporium came to pass. Sadly, when I say thrown-down, I don’t really get to mean it, as the fight that everyone was expecting following the badass ending to last week’s “Burning Down the House” didn’t come close to happening.
The majority of the episode was, of course, still devoted to the happenings at the home of the coven, bouncing back and forth between the vampires outside and the humans inside, but instead of a battle, we got a negotiation. Arriving at their target with the intention of blowing it to hell, Bill, Eric, Jessica and Pam were stopped in action when Jason informed them that Sookie was inside. Admittedly, the result was probably the single funniest moment in True Blood’s history - both Bill and Eric showing their displeasure with Sookie’s actions in a unique way - but it was also, unfortunately, the beginning of a marginally palatable episode. Seeing that her feud with the vampires was coming to a head, Marnie called upon the coven to back her up. When they refused, she turned violent - telekinetically throwing a knife into one of their chests. Although she had gone back on her previous desire for exile, Antonia saw the murder as one step to far and tried to bail on the Irish witch.
The battle of the spirit and the witch is where the stupidity began, with an unbearable two minute long scene. Whilst we got glimpses of the actual Antonia and Marnie having a chat about the nuances of murder, as only Lafayette could see the former, he stood there and literally narrated their conversation for everyone else standing around. As Marnie cast a binding spell to force Antonia to stay with her, the awkwardness hit a plateau. Naturally, Marnie won the fight, and so the negotiation began. Demanding Sookie’s release, Bill asked the witch to name her terms and when she called for both the King and his Sheriff’s lives, they agreed to pay the price. Before they could give themselves the true death, Pam intervened against her makers orders, displaying the full power of Marnie’s protective shield over the Emporium when she shot it with a rocket launcher. The resulting explosion did little but dirty up the vampires, but Jason stood, or rather laid, at the brink of death.
As Jessica saved Jason on the outside, Jesus and Lafayette got to saving the humans on the inside. Under the false pretense that the woman with a knife protruding from her chest was still alive, Jesus took her into a side room to supposedly try and save her life. Using the dead body as part of a spell, Jesus summoned the demon within himself to break the bond between Marnie and Antonia in an effort to take away her power. In the spirit of everyone acting at once, Marnie also took the opportunity to try and finish the vampires once and for all, getting the coven - including Sookie - together to perform a ritual. Another of the hilariously bad acting moments came as the vampires “struggled” against the power of the spell before Sookie faerie powered them out of the jam. Seeing the fairly thinly veiled betrayal for what it was, Marnie turned on Sookie just as Jesus - in another hilarious VFX moment - completed the spell.
With Marnie’s powers now gone, the protection spell over the emporium fell and in went the cavalry, finally bringing an end (or so I thought) to the witch story line. After Bill ended the witch with a machine gun, there were some longing looks between Sookie and her two vampire loves suggesting that there is going to be more than enough whining from her in the finale next week. All seemed over and done with until Lafayette and Jesus went home. As the medium prepared to go to sleep, the now dead Marnie’s spirit possessed him (another of the aforementioned VFX blunders), sadly keeping the witch story alive.
The better part of the episode came in the form of a good old-fashioned revenge hunt by Sam and Alcide following the murder of Tommy last week. Although it took up roughly a fifth of the episode, all that really happened is they found Marcus and killed him, with quite a bit of angry dialogue in between. Marcus being found shacked up with Debbie also spelled the death of Alcide’s relationship with her. Aside from vampire, witch and werewolf business, Sheriff Andy also had himself a run in with a faerie, obviously reigniting their presence in the True Blood world. As I said before, “Soul of Fire” was only marginally palatable. It didn’t necessarily do an awful lot wrong, unlike many of its predecessors, but it failed to follow through on the suspense built up last week. It spoke to the tone of the season as a whole, being largely disappointing, but it did at least lay out some steps for the finale to try and finish the season strongly, in the wake of the worst season in the show’s relatively short history.