A slightly lower-key installment this week, though in True Blood terms, that simply means that “Frenzy” was slightly less batshit insane than the usual episode. Whilst the episode ran the risk of losing some of the phenomenal momentum that has been built up over the last few weeks, this Alan Ball-scripted pre-finale interlude introduced some fantastic (Yahtzee-playing) new characters and finally explained what Maryann and her master plan are really all about…
We open where we left off last week, with Bill arriving at the palace of the vampire queen of Louisiana, one Sophie-Anne, played with relish by Evan Rachel Wood. Sophie-Anne is happily feeding from the femoral artery of a young woman, leading Bill to ask “Is this a bad time?”. Sophie-Anne’s response is a razor-sharp example of both vampire psychology and Alan Ball’s writing as she licks the blood from her chops and breathlessly drawls “A bad time? There’s no such thing as bad. Or time, for that matter.”
After the titles we pick up on another cliffhanger from last week, with Jessica feasting on zombie-eyed Maxine in front of a horrified Hoyt; he rushes to his mother’s aid and leads her to safety, crying, and telling Jessica that he should have listened to Bill’s warnings about getting involved with a young vampire.
Back at Sophie-Anne’s place Bill has approached the vampire queen for information on maenads, trying to determine how to deal with Maryann. In between flicking through early copies of Vogue and applying make-up, Sophie-Anne explains how everything that exists imagined itself into existence.
“Well, think about it. You’re a wild young girl who’s married to some jerk who treats you like property and is also fucking some 14 year old boy. And along comes this religion which encourages you to get hammered, run naked through the woods, have sex with whoever, whatever, and it’s all part of getting closer to God? (…) So you’re fucking everybody in the dirt; why not kill something and eat it raw? Hey, you’re super-extra-pious and there’s nothing you can’t do, and each time you do it just brings you one step closer to the divine. (…) Never underestimate the power of blind faith. It manifests in ways that bend the laws of physics, or break them entirely.”
Whilst this theory of evolution through imagination may be just Sophie-Anne’s philosophy, I think it’s a particularly intriguing one. Not only does it provide a potential history for Maryann but it also opens the door for absolutely any kind of supernatural nasties to appear on True Blood; if the writers can imagine it and convince the viewers, then it becomes real. This grounding of the supernatural in scientific terms (Sophie-Anne even confirms that evolution created the vampire, and they started out the same as humans) with just a hint of the magical about it precludes any religious or demonic interpretations of the show. Vampires, humans, shifters, werewolves… they’re all just animals. Which, in my eyes at least, is very true to what the show is.
Unfortunately, Sophie-Anne’s history lecture comes at a price, as she insists that Bill spend the day with her rather than returning to Bon Temps. Which actually makes a whole lot of sense, because Bill? You haven’t actually gotten the info you came for yet. You don’t even know how to defeat Maryann yet! After such an interesting scene (with great lines like “I haven’t enjoyed sex with men since the Eisenhower administration”) this exchange between Bill and Sophie-Anne, obviously inserted to try and create some dramatic tension, just makes Bill look at best absent-minded and at worst a complete moron. Maybe all that hair dye is starting to affect him? I can’t be the only person to notice his bizarre maroon-coloured mop suddenly went a lot darker last week.
Rejoice, intervention fans! We’re back in the home of Lafayette where recently de-brainwashed Tara is freaking out and demanding the freedom to go and save Eggs. Presumably because Tara has been so capable in standing up to Maryann before now. Riiiight. While Lettie Mae, Sookie and Lafayette do their best to convince Tara how crazy she’s being (with her cousin even using a pair of purple furry handcuffs to restrain her) Tara unleashes a barrage of bile at each of them in turn. I really hoped that Tara was still mildly under the influence of some maenad mojo to excuse the hate she spews at everyone in this scene but no, turns out she just feels like being an absolute bitch. Lafayette grabs a rifle and takes on guard duty outside, along with Sookie, leaving Tara alone to manipulate Lettie Mae into freeing her. Poor old Lettie Mae. She tricks Lafayette into handing over the rifle then allows Tara to escape in Sookie’s car, but not before firing off a warning shot and triggering Lafeyette’s post-traumatic shock (which, in turn, leads to the particularly odd image of Alexander Skarsgard in a floral blouse.)
Speaking of Eric, he has once again returned to Fangtasia, where Sam has arrived with Arlene’s kids seeking help in dealing with Maryann. It wasn’t until Arlene’s kids popped up that I realised we haven’t seen any children caught up in Maenad Fever. Is it that they’re immune to Maryann’s influence, or are the True Blood producers/HBO a little wary about the potentially very disturbing visage of children engaging in hideous random violence? Either way, Arlene’s kids provide a great scene in Fangtasia as Eric creepily coos over the “miniature humans” and Pam simply expresses absolute disgust, claiming she’ll still be able to smell them for a week.
Sam’s request for help doesn’t fall on deaf ears, however, and Eric has the same bright idea as Bill; turn to Sophie-Anne for advice. Which he does, by flying away. Yes. Flying. He whooshes up into the air, Petrelli-style. While this does come as a little bit of a WTF moment, it does at least explain the glaring plot hole of how Eric travelled so quickly from the Hotel Carmilla to the Fellowship of the Sun a few weeks ago. It does raise the question of whether all vampires can fly, or just those sufficiently old/experienced enough. Guess we’ll find out one day.
While Sam plays babysitter, Jason and Andy leap into action and head to the police station to stock up on weapons before heading towards Sookie’s house to confront Maryann. The pair share a very gung-ho scene in the truck which, to my ears (and sensibilities) I found pretty cringe-worthy. Jason’s line of “This town may be full of crazy rednecks and dumbasses, but they’re still Americans Andy.” feels a leetle jingoistic to me. I expected something to happen which would subvert the flag-waving crotch-grabbery of this scene, but it just never came.
It seems everyone is making a beeline to Sookie’s house, as Tara arrives to try and convince Eggs to flee, only to be cornered by Maryann who reveals that Tara is responsible for all of this mess thanks to her Ms. Jeanette sponsored exorcism last season. The young girl that Tara killed was apparently Maryann in another form, and this act brought the maenad to power. At this point I think we all have to just nod and accept this very flimsy-sounding logic as both a nifty callback to something from Season 1 that went largely forgotten as well as a way to make Tara even more integral to this storyline. Maryann swiftly right-hooks Tara back into zombiehood, and she staggers up the stairs with Eggs to presumably perform predictably unspeakable acts.
At Casa de Queenie, Bill has seemingly resigned himself to spending some time in Sophie-Anne’s court and enjoys a quick snack of Latvian and a round of Yahtzee before the Queen finally gets down to details in how to destroy Maryann; which, basically, amounts to letting the maenad do whatever the hell she wants. Since there’s no way to kill Maryann, Sophie-Anne suggests letting her complete her ritual, involving the sacrifice of a supernatural entity. Maenads have apparently been unsuccessfully trying to summon The God Who Comes for thousands of years, tweaking the recipe each time. When it inevitably fails they move on to try something new. Does this raise alarm bells for anyone else when they recall Maryann’s very pleased reaction to Sookie’s supernaturalness last week? Could Maryann believe she’s found that unique new ingredient? Either way Sophie-Anne doesn’t believe it’s an issue, since The God Who Comes doesn’t actually exist. Or her might do. Or just in Maryann’s head. The Queen isn’t exactly clear on this part, but I guess it all goes back to the imagination-evolution theory; if Maryann can convince a whole town that the god is real, could he pop into existence?
Before leaving, Bill has a brief chat with one of Sophie-Anne’s human minions, who turns out to be Sookie’s cousin Hadley. I’m a little confused at this point, to be honest; we’ve never met this character before, right? She’s only been mentioned briefly in passing? I can’t help but feel some content was cut in this episode surrounding Hadley, which is a shame, as I get the feeling the character is going to pop up again. One person who Bill has seen more than enough of lately is Eric, who touches down outside the palace, much to Bill’s frustration and Sophie-Anne’s amusement, who suggests the two of them “really should just fuck each other and get it over with.” The pair share a snarky little bitching session over which of them was the most devious in forcing their blood into Sookie before Bill makes a threat; leave Sookie alone or he’ll expose Eric’s (apparently highly illegal in vampire society) V-peddling operations to the queen.
Another duo heading into the fray are Lafayette and Sookie who, having brained Lettie Mae with a piece of pottery, have arrived at Sookie’s house; Lafayette stays outside to distract Arlene and Terry from their guard duties with drug baggies (always be prepared eh, Lafayette?) while Sookie sneaks inside. After some gentle spooning and saucepan-whacking with everyone’s favourite tree-humping coroner Sookie finally makes it up to the bedroom where Tara and Eggs are smashing up the place to find material for their “nest” which, surely enough, houses a giant egg. Before Sookie can do much about this she’s cornered by Lafayette who, having tried and failed to kill Maryann with a shot to the head (which she simply deflects with the palm of her hand, unwittingly killing Carl) has become the maenads latest zombie minion.
This episode had the curious feel of containing way too much, and also too little. The focus was split between so many characters and scenes that some moments felt very rushed, whilst others felt like filler. Still, it was a nice set-up for next week, which I hope will be sufficiently crazy. True Blood is one of those shows that, thanks to the mix of camp and horror, benefits from being over the top (and quite often the more outlandish the better).