Even when it’s good (and while this season hasn’t been the greatest, it’s generally been an improvement over the last couple), ‘True Blood’ can be an endlessly frustrating show. We’re six seasons in now, and the writers still haven’t figured out how to structure a story arc worth a damn, much less to build an entire season into a cohesive whole. This past weekend brought us the penultimate episode of the season, which, on the one hand, seems to contain all the climactic action of the season and to wrap up most of the major storylines – yet on the other hand also feels like it’s burdened with at least thirty minutes of filler.
‘Life Matters’ brings an end to the vampire prison storyline. Eric, having drunk most of Warlow’s blood (but not enough to kill him), waltzes back to the prison in broad daylight, slaughters a ton of guards and police (there’s absolutely no shortage of gore in this episode), and sets the vamp prisoners free to, “Go forth and kill the humans.” After encountering Dr. Overlark, Eric rips his penis off and leaves him lying on the floor to bleed out. He finds Jason, who’s been fed on by most of the female convicts (since his protector Violet is locked in the white room with Pam, Tara, Jessica, James and Newlin). Eric agrees to heal him with his blood, and takes some delight in the bond between them this will yield, in exchange for Jason helping him to find the room.
Meanwhile, Bill, pissed about Warlow’s uselessness, heads to the prison himself. Determined to be the savior of vampirekind, he can’t let Eric hog the glory. Bill finds Overlark on the floor, begging for death. When Overlark admits to having harmed Jessica, Bill stomps his face into a puddle of mush. It’s not a very pleasant death for the good doctor.
Bill finds the white room before Eric does. However, at that same moment, Sarah Newlin climbs to the top of the tank (the prison is hidden in a refinery, if that wasn’t clear) and opens the panel on the roof, letting the sunlight in. This is when Bill has an epiphany and lets the vamps in the room feed off him, drinking Warlow’s magic fairy blood in his system and immunizing them from the sun. In none-too-subtle imagery, Bill becomes the vampire Jesus.
Steve Newlin doesn’t get any blood, unfortunately. Like the runt of the litter, the other vamps won’t let him feed. Eric actually walks in and, annoyed with him, forces him right into the sun. At his moment of death, Newlin looks up toward the light, sees his ex-wife staring down at him, and proclaims, “I love you… Jason Stackhouse!” Then he explodes in a pile of goo. R.I.P. Steve Newlin. You were a fun character.
Jason lets Sarah get away. For a moment, when Lilith’s sirens come for him, it looks like Bill’s sacrifice will bring about his true death. However, Jessica and James feed him back some of the fairy blood and he gets better. (A lot of the vampire blood-swapping in this episode strikes me as cannibalistic.) The freed vamps then have a big celebration by destroying the tainted Tru Blood.
On the Other Hand
While all of the above is fairly exciting and entertaining, the episode is repeatedly dragged to a halt by the storyline about Terry’s funeral, which is intercut between scenes. First off, why is Terry just getting a funeral now when Arlene cried over his grave in a previous episode? Did they have to dig him back up to bury him again?
I liked Terry as a character, even if he didn’t serve much purpose the last few seasons, and I appreciate that the point of this storyline is to give us a bunch of nice little character moments between him and his friends and to send him off on a fond note. Unfortunately, the numerous flashbacks to his life don’t really accomplish much except to repeat scenes we’ve already seen in the past and reiterate things we already know. They’re a transparent attempt to give Terry some extra screen time before writing him out completely, and to give most of the show’s non-vampire characters (Sookie, Sam, Alcide, Lafayette, etc.) something to do in an episode that isn’t about them and doesn’t need them around. Other major characters have died on this show without this much fuss made about them.
Mostly, these scenes are just dull. Really, really dull. Especially the part where Sookie invites “Big John” Dixon (the dishwasher at Merlotte’s, who’s only ever had a combined total of two minutes of screen time on the series until now) to sing a blues song. The moment is supposed to be touching, but it just comes across as painfully forced instead.
But Wait… It’s Not Over?
At the end of all this, we still have one more episode to go this season. Why? What’s left to wrap up? Do we really need some extra resolution between Sookie and Warlow? Who cares? He should have died when Eric drank his blood. That would have solved all of Sookie’s problems.
Other than that, and a possible last-minute revenge ploy by Sarah Newlin, I can’t think of anything else left that could justify another episode this season. I fear that we’ll get yet another anticlimactic finale episode, as we have so many times in the past. When will this show’s writers get their acts together?