Guys, I’ll be level with you: I really, really didn’t like this week’s True Blood. And I know I’ve been going on about how it’s so bad it’s good, and all of that stuff, but this week was actually just straight up bad. More than that, it was extremely narrow-minded and problematic. I’m going to pick a few bones with True Blood, this week.
Here are some cliffnotes to give this analysis a bit of context: Eric has contracted the virus ravaging the vampire community. Sookie goes to Bill in an attempt to use herself as bait for the feral vampires, assuming that they’ll kidnap her and take her to wherever they’re keeping Arlene, Holly, and co. She has a bit of Bill’s blood so that he can sense where she is, and when he fangs out while she’s sucking at his arm, he pops what I like to call a ‘fang-boner.’ “I have a boyfriend,” Sookie tells Bill, even after it’s been established multiple times in the series that sharing blood is incredibly intimate, and this is kind of like if Bill was going down on Sookie and halfway through she reminded him she had a boyfriend. We’re kind of past that.
Oh, and because I’m going to be going on a pretty long discussion of what True Blood got horribly, horribly wrong this episode, let me just say one thing they did absolutely right. When Bill tells Sookie he can’t sense her anymore, he explains that it’s because he was drained when he gave all those vampires his sunlight-immune blood last season. He tells her the Bill Compton she drank from no longer exists. Sookie, who finally gets to be on point, asks if that means that the Bill she’s sitting in the car with is not the same Bill who did all those awful things to her. Her side-eye game is warming up. But Bill does not ask to be absolved, or claim it was someone else. He takes full responsibility for his actions, and tells Sookie he will live with the consequences forever. To which Sookie replies: “Good.”
Anyway, back to our trainwreck.
The townspeople are angry and wandering around with guns, and while you don’t think that’s something that’s going to be important usually, it turns out one of them is a lucky shot and kills Alcide in the middle of the woods, following Sookie’s disastrous ‘live bait,’ idea. Which, also: if it doesn’t work on Scooby Doo, did you really think it was going to work here?
But I’m going to save Alcide’s death for the end of the recap, since it occurred at the end of the episode. Let’s start with the first problem that really kind of disturbed me: Violet’s relationship with Jason Stackhouse.
What started out seemingly as a femdom relationship has rapidly, and I mean in one episode rapidly, dissolved into Violet being a bloodthirsty sociopath who lectures Jason on gender roles and bullies Jessica for petty, jealous reasons. This is not the Violet I fell in love with, and this is not the Violet we were promised last season. And actually, this is not how the only female dominant relationship in True Blood deserves to end.
It starts when Jason mentions that he thinks they should have kids. And my first thought was “Did no one tell Jason Stackhouse how vampires work? Did no one do that for him?” But then, after Violet politely asks if he’s lost his fucking mind, Jason says they could adopt. Turns out, Jason is having a lot of difficultly coping with the death of an entire town, particularly in concerns to the death of an infant girl who’s bedroom he kind of sat in sadly with Sam last week.
One of the three C’s of BDSM is ‘comfort,' as any dominant can tell you. But I suppose a complex relationship with a female dominant is too rich for True Blood’s liking, so instead Violet basically dehumanizes Jason and tells him that he’s pretty much not a man because he has feelings. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found speeches about gender roles to be kind of disgusting, especially in a show that bills itself as queer-friendly. In a more queer-friendly environment, we’d actually get a decent look at what an alternate sexual relationship looks like, which would perhaps involve a reversal of traditional gender roles. I honestly thought that’s where we were headed. I’m sorry I put faith in True Blood, more than anything. We should all know better by now, but me especially.
So on the topic of queer representation missing the mark by several miles, let’s go to our next part. Somewhere in middle to southern France, Eric tells Pam that he’s given up on unliving, or whatever. Pam asks, “is this about Sylvie?” and I’m like “who’s Sylvie?” Eric sighs dramatically. “Godric, Nora, Sylvie,” he says, and I’m still like “wait, seriously, who is Sylvie?” Then, as is the natural procession of things, we go into a flashback, and I instantly regret wondering who Sylvie is. You could’ve just read her diary, or something. It worked last week!
The Sylvie flashback is broken up over several scenes throughout the episode, but I was so bored by it and also so infuriated by Eric and Pam’s later and much more important dialogue that I’m just going to skim it for you. Sylvie is a french human that Eric was in love with in the 80s. Everyone has 80s hair. Nan shows up in black leather and Pam wore a power suit and went down on a girl. Nan tried to talk to Eric about the authority, True Blood (the beverage) and mainstreaming, and Eric sagely tells her to go fuck herself. As it turns out, the company that makes True Blood the beverage has a hit squad, and they come after Eric for pretty much no reason and make him chose between Pam and Sylvie. Naturally, Eric picks Pam, and Sylvie dies and why did we even need this flashback? We already knew Eric was capable of love. We don’t need to add another person to the ‘people Eric Northman loves that have died,’ list. Did I mention the 80s hair?
Pointless flashback over, we get to the point of the episode where Pam tries to convince Eric to move forward with his life, and in doing so the show doesn’t even bother veiling the comparison of the vampire virus to HIV/AIDS. For one, we have Eric serving as the metaphor of being the last one of his friends/family group left, because the people he’s loved have all passed. Except, only Nora died of the disease: Goderic chose to meet the sun, and Sylvie was killed by mobsters. “You can’t give up Eric,” Pam says. “With an ample blood supply, vampires are living longer and longer with this disease. And who knows? They’re working on a cure!”
At which point, I had to pause the show. I’ve talked about this in my previous recaps, but this week’s allusion to HIV/AIDS was so in-your-face that I feel like this is an issue that I should talk about more in detail. First of all, we need to consider that the disease has turned a pretty large deal of vampires ravenous packs of feral beasts. We have been told, from this narrative, that these sick vampires are the bad guys. So I supposed now, the writers are trying to garner sympathy for the vampires by giving one of our main characters the disease, but all they’re really proving is how little they seem to understand the weight of what they’re trying to convey.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: True Blood does not give the queer community the representation it deserves. We are starved for any kind of representation at all, and so we latch onto a show that presents itself as queer friendly, as on the side of equality. Even though the primary vampires in the show have by and large been heterosexual. Even though in tonight’s episode, the most we saw of a gay vampire was one of the angry mob members calling him a “fag” before shooting him in the chest. Is True Blood really supposed to be progress when this is what we end up with? Normal humans, as the show has taught us, are quick to become mean and outcast anyone that doesn’t fit their bill, and that would be well and good if True Blood hadn’t made a point of making it impossible to trust vampires. And then, of course, we have this disease, and we’re supposed to believe at first that only bad vampires have it. That it’s something given to our enemies. That it’s something that will kill off the bad vampires, and leave the good ones, the ones that abide by mainstreaming and common society and the status quo.
Now that Eric has the disease, it will be not about finding a cure for vampires as a whole, but finding a cure for only Eric. Because the writers of True Blood have very clearly shown us that humans are the ones in trouble here. The normal, heterosexual humans are the ones who got abandoned by the government. And this disease? Well don’t you know, as dangerous as it is for the people who are actually infected, it’s even more dangerous for nice, normal humans, who are being killed off for being-what? Nice and normal? The issue True Blood has is that it writes a queer narrative, and then sets the narrative very pointedly on characters that are not queer, that are heterosexual, that have always picked the heterosexual option-and then, every once in a while they pop back up with an enormous metaphor for queer life, despite the fact that they have not given us any representation or sympathetic storyline otherwise. “Sookie’s in love with Bill, really,” the show tells us. “Heterosexual love triangles are always fun. Also, here’s an HIV/AIDS metaphor because we care about the queer community!”
I really don’t think that’s how representation works, True Blood.
Okay. Moving on. The big spoiler: Alcide died this week, and oh boy, do we have to talk about Alcide dying. Oh boy.
A couple of not so serious points on Alcide’s demise: first and foremost, the last time a male character ‘died,’ he was naked on a mountaintop, and we got full-frontal. Alcide was already naked, and you couldn’t give us another dose of that full-frontal goodness? I’m not saying it would’ve saved the episode, because it wouldn’t have, but it might’ve helped. And second, Jessica offers to turn Alcide into a vampire, meaning that there was a possibility for Alcide to be a werewolf-vampire hybrid. Apparently, since this is not as mind-bogglingly silly as a fairypire, the writers decided that it wasn’t good enough. I mean, come on. A werewolf-vampire hybrid. It’s the last season, you wouldn’t have even had to explain the mythos of it or anything! Come on! I mean in the grander scale of True Blood things, death has become so contrary that it no longer creates even an inkling of pathos, but that’s what happens when tropes get stale.
Speaking of tropes, actually, I’d like to address a more serious point. It could be argued that True Blood’s ending this week presents us with “reverse-fridging,” as in a male character has been killed to cause pain to a female character. And while that is an interesting trope to look at, I’ve noticed a trend in television shows where a male character will only be killed if the female character has another competing love interest. Alcide was killed less so that Sookie would go through emotional distress, and more so that she would run back to Bill. And it would be unfair for me to say that True Blood is the only show guilty of doing this when Once Upon a Time did something dramatically similar earlier this year, killing off Neil to ensure that Emma would end up with Killain. And here’s the thing: this is really demeaning towards female characters.
But Rachel, you say. It’s reverse-fridging. So shouldn’t the effect be the opposite? Well, reader, here’s the thing: by killing off one love interest to force a female character to end up with a different one, the writers are delivering a one-two punch. First, they’re telling us that as a woman, this character must have a male counterpart. She must always been in a relationship. Grieving periods are not okay. You need to find your next true love. Sorry. Don’t make the rules. And second, it’s telling us that a woman can’t just, oh I don’t know, decide to end a relationship like a normal person. Just saying “hey, I don’t think this is working out, maybe we should see other people” isn’t final enough. It doesn’t create that kind of desperate pain that sends a poor, unwitting female character right into the arms of her true love. Aw, isn’t it romantic? No, no it really isn’t. Women are capable of making their own romantic decisions without death swooping in to make the choice for them. In fact, it happens every day. But that’s not good television, right? It’s better if the writers just shuffle the female character from male to male. Hey, isn’t True Blood supposed to be a queer metaphor? Not in Sookie’s case. But after all, she’s only the main character.
Seven episodes left.