By MIKE HALE, JULY 7, 2014 1:42 AM | ArtsBeat/The New York Times
Season 7, Episode 3 Sunday night’s episode of “True Blood” was titled “Fire in the Hole,” and to answer the first question of a few obsessives like myself, the simple, haunting version of the Steely Dan song “Fire in the Hole” — with its lyric “Am I myself or just another freak?” — was by the Swedish duo Sara Isaksson and Rebecka Tornquivst, who put out an album of Dan covers in 2006.
The comments on these recaps have brought out some “True Blood” haters, to whom I would say relax — if you take the show on its own terms, a comic book crossed with a Harlequin romance, it’s fun. That said, “Fire in the Hole” wasn’t the show’s finest hour. Several characters were introduced as plot conveniences, with targets on their foreheads — well, on a French woman’s midsection and a fraudulent guru’s neck — and were gone before the closing credits.
Worse — major spoiler alert — was the slapdash way in which the show killed off one of its more well-liked characters, the steadfast werewolf Alcide. Sure, he’d been a pill lately, always lecturing Sookie — in fact, that’s what he was doing when he died. And I did predict in Week 1 that he was on his way out. But he deserved better than to be shot without warning or buildup, in the most anticlimactic way possible, as if the producers were resolving a contract dispute.
To back up a little: Sookie spent most of the episode sitting in a clearing in the woods, reminiscing with Bill, who was sitting in a tree. (Really.) Sookie’s plan, it turned out, was to make herself available to the H-vamps — she even opened a vein so they could smell her faerie blood — and let them take her back to where Arlene and the other Bon Temps captives were being held. (Unexplained: why no one thought to look in the basement at Fangtasia all this time.) Vampire Bill would be able to find her because he re-established their connection by giving her some blood. This led to one of the episode’s better moments, when he tensed up and Sookie, her mouth full of vampire forearm, mumbled, “I have a boyfriend!”
Not for long, she didn’t. The plan worked until it didn’t, with Sookie captured but Bill at the mercy of the infected vampires. The H-vamps were a hapless bunch right up to the end, though, when Alcide, Sam, Sheriff Andy and Deputy Jason coincidentally arrived at the same time and juiced them, rescuing Bill, Sookie, Holly and presumably the Fangtasia captives. But then shots rang out and Alcide fell, victim of a Bon Temps vigilante. Jessica offered to turn him, but Sookie said no, she’d been down that road before, which seemed a little selfish, but then she had admitted to Bill earlier in the evening that she didn’t really love Alcide, so that probably took the edge off.
Alcide died naked, as if to remind us that his death means we won’t be seeing any more of the impressively muscled actor Joe Manganiello. But then it seemed like someone was naked, or close to it, for much of the episode. If it wasn’t Alcide and Sam (Sam Trammell) shifting shapes every time they turned around, it was Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), in flashbacks, rutting with Sylvie (Gabriella Wright), the French winemaker’s daughter introduced for one episode to set up a storyline pitting Eric against the Yakinomo Corporation, maker of Tru Blood. Or Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp) astride the guru (an amusing Shishir Kurup), who was dispatched as part of the same scene-setting.
Sarah Newlin, you say? Yes, everyone’s favorite sex-crazed fundamentalist resurfaced in the guru’s Los Angeles compound, where she was hiding out under the name Numi. Ms. Camp, with her 1930s-style gift for getting laughs out of lasciviousness, was Introduced in the episode’s opening scene, a yoga class in which the camera panned over one set of cleavage after another. The deepest was Sarah’s, and a sweaty Ms. Camp made the most of the moment, blowing a strand of hair from her face and sizing up the swami like defenseless prey.
Things went bad for Sarah later, though, when the same Yakinomo men — is it supposed to sound a little like Nakatomi? Would “True Blood” make a “Die Hard” reference? — who killed Sylvie in 1986 arrived looking for Sarah. The last we saw of her she was cowering in the guru’s wine cellar watching his blood flowing under the door.
Elsewhere, Adilyn the half-faerie and Wade, her step-brother, almost kissed before Jessica arrived to rescue them from the Bon Temps jail, where the anti-vampire vigilantes had left them. Lafayette and James got stoned and James admitted that he was attracted to Lafayette, but apparently he’s a one-woman bisexual and Jessica’s the woman for him, even if she hardly knows he’s there. (Nice moment: Nelsan Ellis, as Lafayette, dancing to the Brothers Johnson’s “Get the Funk Out Ma Face.”) The newly armed vigilantes confronted Sam and his buddy-vampire, Matt, killing Matt while Sam shifted into owl form and flew away. Then they made the mistake of taking on Andy, Jason, Jessica and the irritable vampire Violet, who ripped out Maxine Fortenberry’s entrails, upon which the mob scattered. (Jessica was shot in the shoulder and wasn’t healing, but in the final scene she seemed fine.)
The apparently complete wipeout of the H-vamps leaves things a little up in the air. The overriding gloom and doom of the first two episodes seemed to be building toward a big confrontation with them, but they went out with a whimper. The surviving vigilantes are still out there, including their leader, Vince, but they don’t seem like more than an irritant. In a way it feels as if the story line so far was just a red herring to get Alcide out of the way.
The focus now would seem to be shifting to Eric, and his own Hepatitis V infection, with its heavy overtones of AIDS. (Pam: “Did you contract the virus on purpose?” Eric: “No, but did I go about my dealings with a devil-may-care attitude? Absolutely.”) The entire 1986 story line, about Eric’s being punished by the Vampire Authority for carrying on too publicly with humans, was a back-fill job to give him a reason to hate the Yakimono hatchet man, Hiroki (Louis Ozawa Changchien). To give the two of them something to fight over in the present, Pam revealed to Eric that Sarah Newlin — the tainter of Tru Blood — was alive, giving him a revenge motive and raising him from his suicidal lethargy.
There’s also something coming involving Bill in the Civil War days, though whether it’s something good remains to be seen. In another teasing flashback, we saw human Bill and his family having their tintypes taken before he left to fight for the Confederacy. The photographer’s name: Fortenberry. Small tip of the hat to Maxine on the occasion of her hideous death, or major foreshadowing?
A final question: have we seen the last of Tara? Pam told Eric that she had felt Tara, her progeny, die the true death. But Tara’s mom, Lettie Mae, is still staggering around swearing that her daughter needs her help, and I have a feeling it’s not just the vampire blood talking.
Correction: July 28, 2014
An earlier version of this post misidentified the artist who recorded “Get the Funk Out Ma Face.” It is the Brothers Johnson, not Quincy Jones. (Mr. Jones was a producer and co-writer of the song.)
Reference: ArtsBeat/The New York Times By MIKE HALE, JULY 7, 2014 1:42 AM