My lord, what in the heck happened to True Blood?
All season, I’ve flipped and flopped in my opinion of the series, mostly because I’ve seen the series start strong and completely run out of gas by the time the season is over. I was also concerned about how in the world the series was going to take an otherworldly amount of separate stories and pull them together to make some sort of coherent narrative point.
As the season three finale, “Evil is Going On,” proved, the writers never had any intention in absolving my second concern and instead went ahead and proved my first concern valid yet again. I don’t mean to be hyperbolic, but this episode is certainly one of the series’ worst and definitely one of the least accomplished season finales I have seen in a long time. It feels like a penultimate episode, and a mediocre one at best. We could sort of see this coming in the aftermath of King Russell’s nationally televised destruction, but it’s now apparent that the writers realized around episode 9 or 10 that they were going to be unable to pull any of these stories together so instead of doing so, they were just going to milk each individual one for some makeshift cliffhangers that no one with critical thinking skills should care about.
We wondered all season what the point of Sam and his family’s story was, or what Jason was really going to have to do or why Tara was being treated like a doormat yet again and after “Evil,” there’s really no answer to those questions and the episode didn’t even attempt to do so. Instead, after spending an inordinate amount of time on these tertiary and lower stories throughout the episode as if the series is absolutely required to do so, all those things are left vague or in a stupid place that couldn’t even be considered a cliffhanger. Tara finally realizes she should leave, Jason loses his weirdo werepanther trash girlfriend and becomes the surrogate father for her low-class crew and Sam may or may not have shot his brother Tommy after spending the whole episode acting like the smart, loving Sam we actually like. If we didn’t care about these stories for 12 episodes (or Tara’s case, 36 episodes), I can’t imagine we’re going to care over the summer or into next season.
Moreover, the main dramatic arc with Bill, Eric, Sookie and King Russell completely falls victim to the series’ season one syndrome of two steps forward, one step back with its narrative. Eric and Russell are burning alive outside, until Sookie wants to bring them inside. But after she saves Eric, she doesn’t ever want to talk to him. Then Eric starts seeing the ghostly visage of Godric and decides that Russell should live. Until he doesn’t, and instead leaves him in a vat of concrete. After Bill apologizes for everything (more on him in a second), Sookie takes him back. Then doesn’t again once Eric reveals that Bill not only came to Bon Temps for her via a directive from the queen, but also let her get her ass kicked in the pilot so she could then have to drink his blood. Then she scampers off with her new fairy buddies at the end of the episode. The series is so set on pulling the rug out from underneath both the characters and us as viewers than major moments rarely stick and thus have no relevance. Bill and Sookie’s 263rd fight (their 181st about Eric) isn’t exciting anymore and Sookie’s faux independence isn’t believable when all Bill has to do is say something along the lines that he was doing it to protect her and boom, they’re back together.
And Bill, oh Bill. He spent nearly the entire season being a bad ass and even acts with some intelligence here by trying to get rid of Russell, Eric and Pam and later the Queen, but his inability to decipher between possible manipulation and love is insufferable at this point. Bill may damn well love Sookie and is certainly sorry for what he did by lying, but the series is doing him no favors by constantly pulling out wild cards that make him look bad. I know the idea is to make the Bill-Sookie relationship more complicated so we’re tricked into thinking that she has other mates in Eric or Alcide (which just makes so much sense it will never work), but my lord, the writers have systematically made Bill into a pretty shady individual in the last few episodes, despite his bad-assery. He’ll surely come back next season, apologize and Sookie will run right back to him, but that points out the biggest flaw in the series’ treatment of relationships.
The same could be said of Jessica, who spent the whole season trying to find her footing as a vampire and ultimately just decides that she doesn’t need to worry about controlling her hunger, defending herself, etc. because she just needs a domesticated lifestyle complete with a new home with Hoyt. I really like the Jessica and Hoyt pairing, but this episode’s conclusion suggests to me that the writers pulled them apart just to pull them apart instead of actually accomplishing anything interesting with either of them separately.
I could really go on longer about certain characters, but the point has been made. True Blood has yet to prove that it can tell a complete story that has a satisfying beginning, middle and end that is even moderately well-paced. The writers know how to pull these characters apart and screw up their lives in gross-out, shocking ways, but they have absolutely no idea how to put them back together. Last season the series attempted to spend its final episode dealing with the aftermath of a major event and it didn’t quite work and this season there was never any attempt to have the characters deal with anything. It’s all experience, all drama, no aftershocks or evaluation of decisions. And at this point, that’s all getting old and frustrating to watch (though Denis O’Hare was so epically awesome all season and couldn’t leave this post without mentioning said awesomeness).