For the majority of its running time, I was convinced that this week’s new ‘True Blood’ was just another filler episode designed to bide time between more important plot-points. Surprisingly, by the end, it comes together better than I’d expected.
The best part of episode ‘Death Is Not the End’ is the flashback storyline with Eric and Pam, which begins in 1986 when the two are shipped to Louisiana by the Vampire Authority as punishment for Eric’s misdeeds in France (seen last week). The Magister (Zeljko Ivanek, last killed off in Season 3) sentences Eric to be the Sheriff of the territory, in order for the Authority to keep close tabs on him. That doesn’t sound too bad, until Eric and Pam learn that their cover identities are to run a sad video store in a strip mall.
The timeline of the flashbacks is a bit muddled by a big continuity error. In one scene, a reference is made to the recent release of Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Cronos‘, which would place it around 1993, maybe 1994. A Laserdisc display in one corner of the store nicely backs this up, but the other shelves are all stocked with DVDs, which wouldn’t be introduced until 1997 at the very earliest (more likely at least 1998 for a rinky-dink store like this), and I didn’t see any VHS tapes in the place at all. I’ll try to forgive the episode this slip-up.
Ginger is introduced as a nerdy college student obsessed with vampire movies. Pam is amused by her and gives her a job behind the counter running the day shift. In 2006, just after vampires have gone public and mainstreamed into society, Ginger comes up with the brilliant idea of turning the store into a vampire-themed nightclub called Fangtasia. Pam glamours her into forgetting so that she can take credit for the idea herself. Poor Ginger will suffer many such indignities.
For a while, this storyline seems to be another non-sequitur, much like the flashbacks in the previous episode. However, it eventually ties in with the main plot. Bill, Sam, Sookie and Jason plan to raid Fangtasia to rescue Arlene and the other kidnap victims from the Hep Vamps. (Andy sits this one out to take care of Holly.) Stupidly, they wait until nighttime to do this, supposedly so that Bill can gather other non-infected vampires to help them. This seems like a bad idea, especially when only a couple of vampires bother to show up. Wouldn’t it be best for the humans (and Sam) to go during the daytime when the Hep Vamps were weakest?
Anyway, Pam and Eric fly in from Europe on their mission to kill Sarah Newlin. They stop by Bill’s looking for Willa (who Eric says he wants to see before he dies). Eric hears about the Fangtasia plan and agrees to join and help. Although he’s weak from the Hep-V, he summons Willa. She’s pretty pissed at him for abandoning her, but has to do what he commands.
Before the attack, Jason hilariously fails at delivering a big inspirational speech. “This is our Normandy!” he triumphantly declares, until reminded that a whole lot of people died during the Normandy invasion.
This all climaxes with a huge, though very confusingly staged, battle at Fangtasia between our heroes and the Hep Vamps. Asshole Vince and his mob ruin Bill’s plan and cause lots of chaos by interfering and tossing Molotov Cocktails into the fray. Eventually, all the Hep Vamps are killed, and Bill stabs Vince in the head. Arlene is very badly wounded and almost dies, until she has a vision of Terry telling her that she needs to stay behind and take care of their kids.
In the midst of all this, the episode also has a number of pretty good character moments, including Sookie notifying Jackson (Robert Patrick) about Alcide’s death and Jason calling Hoyt about his mother. Sookie very frankly tells Jessica that she doesn’t care much about anything or anyone anymore, and can’t even get upset when people close to her die.
While I wouldn’t even remotely classify this as one of the show’s best episodes, it’s a very solid effort for these later seasons, when my standards are perhaps less demanding than they used to be.