Back after the holiday break, True Blood turned in what was probably its finest episode of a still-weak third season. Less scatterbrained and more emotionally resonant (especially early on), “9 Crimes” suggests things might just calm down despite the 1,306 storylines happening right now.
I guess even though I just gave “9 Crimes” some praise, I have to say it was almost like two episodes in one. The first half was a very strong examination of Sookie and Bill’s psyche after their first legitimate break-up, with lots of blank stares, crying and conversations about feelings. And then in the second half, both characters disappeared with the 600 other secondary and tertiary characters taking their place. So even though this wasn’t an amazing hour of television, there are hints that True Blood is willing to examine the emotions of its characters past a few throwaway lines of dialogue and some crying.
About that break-up: Um, it was well-handled. I’ve never been too invested in Bill and Sookie romantically, so I didn’t feel tremendously upset when Bill rang Sookie with the classic “I hurt you too much, this is for your own good” speech. However, I do like both characters when they’re own their own, raising various levels of hell, so even if both Bill and Sookie are pouting around, this isn’t a series that’s going to let that happen for too long and thus, I’m intrigued to see how the continue to develop as individuals. I also appreciated the nuggets of wisdom from both Alcide and his sister, who told Sookie that sometimes a first love is just so blinding that you stick with all the drama, even when you shouldn’t. Sure, it was on the nose, but for True Blood, that’s a subtle as we’re going to get. And more to the point, those speeches (and Bill’s) were all kind of true. The romance has been there sure, but the Bill-Sookie pairing has been full of tumultuous events, deaths, etc. and for both them as characters and us as viewers, it’s time to pursue something new.
Speaking of Alcide, he’s a fine addition to the cast and played with the right mix of brooding charm and vulnerability by Joe Manganiello. It seems like Sookie has a lot of people fawning over her and treating her like such a goddess — heck, even Eric does that — and it’s refreshing to have someone come into the picture with an clean slate opinion who can call it like he sees it. He’s also far less of a douche than any other of the werewolves, but I assume that’s the point.
Despite the major break-up in the first half, the second portion of “9 Crimes” brought us tons of new information about Russell’s plans. He convinces Bill to give up the whole Sophie-Anne-selling-V secret, makes an appearance at the werewolf bar to celebrate the branding of Alcide’s former flame into the Nazi Were clan and is revealed as Franklin’s employer. Of course, this all doesn’t add up to anything substantial yet, but if there is one thing that season three has done right, it’s build up the character of Russell and suggest that his ranting about big plans might actually come to fruition. He uses Bill’s information about the V selling to sick the majester on Eric and Fangtasia — who, of course, turns things back on Bill — and continues to force Bill to do things he doesn’t really want to do (here, procure and feed on a young stripper). We’ve definitely already seen more of Russell than Sophie-Anne, but it seems like his plans to take her down are inevitable.
- Lafayette and Jason continue to be the shining beacons of humor and greatness amid a sea of lame stories. The quick bit with Lafayette leaving Tara a voicemail and Jason’s speech to the nu-him were the two secret highlights of the episode. Also: Jason as a cop is going to end so, so bad.
- Aside from scrambling to cover his V-selling tracks, Eric dreams of Sookie. Okay. He also flies out of the car, which is much cooler.
- Also short-changed this week: Hoyt, Jessica — who glamors an old friend from home — Arlene and Terry. All episodes are better with these four.
- Tara gets tied up, beaten and cries a lot. Yes, I know that describes the character’s plot all the time. Just thought I’d mention it.
- Can we please just cut all the Sam finds his family crap out of the episodes from now on? My lord, is that just awful and boring. So, so boring.
Motives are slowly coming to focus, so that’s nice. I thought “9 Crimes” was much more laid back and didn’t annoy me too often, so I guess True Blood is on the way up!(?)