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True Blood - Episode 4.01 - She's Not There - Review

Hello there SpoilerTV readers, my name is Karina and I’ll be posting True Blood reviews for this season! I was originally thinking of covering another show this summer, but I have yet to see any other reviews posted yet for TB which is tragic so I decided to go ahead and give it a shot. Some of you may know me already from my Parks and Recreation reviews, if not I’ll fill you in on the basics. I do NOT recap. I find it pretty tedious to spend my time typing up a line by line of what happens, plus TB is such a great show that it deserves better. So expect commentary with a dash of what I attempt to call ‘humor’.  Now I am a bit of an addict here, and have read all of the original books, so I will be including some comparisons in my reviews. I will try to not be TOO spoilery, but please be warned that since this website is called SpoilerTV that my reviews may and probably will contain some spoilers. Now showrunner Alan Ball has not been really sticking to the books, so that may not be an issue for some, but regardless please be aware.

For those of you that have been keeping up with the numerous interviews that have been posted here, Alan Ball has explained that the theme of this season is identity. Every one of our major characters has two different sides of themselves and they need to struggle between them, or maybe choose one over the other. I’m going to run with this theme for as long as I can, and try to structure my reviews around this concept.

If someone was to ask me to summarize the Sookie Stackhouse book that this season of TB is based upon, lets say in one sentence, it would be ‘Eric looses his memory and Jason gets kidnapped.’ Well TB appears to be staying true to this basic concept from the books, but essentially nothing else is the same. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, TB often strays away from the books and does some really amazing things, such as Russell from last season, who was completely different and relatively harmless in the books. They also tend to go of course in some pretty groan-inducing ways, such as the Tara/Voodoo storyline from the very first season. So for my fellow Dead to the World readers we can only hope that the shower scene remains intact and that Bill, who is supposed to be in Peru by the way, doesn’t screw things up too much. But enough back story, onwards to ‘She’s Not There’.

Most people seem to be fairly split on the odd supernatural hippies that are the faeries, but this season’s opener should dispel some of those fears. At the end of last season Sookie teleports away from Bon Temps and into the Magical Lilith Fair that is the Fae Plane. At this point we’ve been led to believe that Claudine and all the other faeries are there to protect Sookie, so it was a nice surprise to hear that they instead want to harvest her and all of the other faerie mudbloods. Yes I just threw some Harry Potter in there; the term just fits so perfectly. The fa├žade melts away and it turns out that the faeries actually look like shriveled gray demons. I like the more badass turn, but I would like a better explanation of what exactly is going on with these faeries. As we saw there were two factions, one group that wanted to harvest the humans and one that wanted to save them? Hopefully we get into this a little bit more later in the season. I also liked the whole campiness and bad special effects battle in Fae, especially the purple glitter bombs, although I’m probably in the minority here. When TB takes itself too seriously it runs into problems, after all this is a show about vampires and faeries, so a little bit of camp evens the tone out.

When we get back to Bon Temps, well something is different. Besides the fact that Sookie brought her hasn’t-aged-in-20-years grandpa back with her from Fae. The quick cuts to Eric and Bill realizing she’s back was a nice touch; pretty sure I got goose bumps. More importantly though is that the roughly 8 minutes that she spends in Fae has translated into a year of earth time. This jump in time is the most brilliant move that the TB writers have done in three seasons. Those past three seasons have spanned about a month in Sookie’s life, which was filled with way too much for any normal person to have to go through. The year jump gave our other characters time to breathe, and for their lives to change, without us as the audience having to deal with the boring parts. As for the interesting plots that we missed in that year, well we have flashbacks for that. The shock of seeing new versions of characters was really refreshing, such as the new Jason. A responsible and intelligent Jason Stackhouse? Yes, please. Dumb as soup Jason was fun, but starting to get old. The jump ahead may be confusing for us and for poor Sookie, but I think it was a very good move for the show and this season.

As soon as the sun goes down the vampires start to show up, leading to an adorable bickering session between Bill and Eric. and Eric to proclaim that he never gave up on her. We find out later that this translates to buying her house and fixing it up. Can’t say that I’d complain, it looks really nice now. Bill explains Sookie’s absence by saying that he sent her away on vampire business, a story that pisses off everyone who tried to look for her thinking that something was wrong, namely Andy and Sam. Although Andy Bellefleur could just be on edge thanks to the V addiction, which has replaced the alcoholism from previous seasons.

Lafayette is still with Jesus, and is rocking one amazing Mohawk, and it’s with him that we start to see the first identity crisis. We’ve seen many sides to Lafayette, the survivor, the capitalist, and of course the hooker is dead last. But what’s new is the witch side, and it’s clear that he’s struggling with it. I’d say that being a witch is more of a lifestyle, and Jesus is clearly trying to push him into it, which is how they ended up at Moon Goddess Emporium, which I’m assuming is going to be an important set piece this season. Lafayette is resisting, so far, but it’s pretty clear once he joins in on the bird revival circle that there is something powerful inside him that probably needs to come out.

Which brings us to the new character of Marnie, played by the fabulous Fiona Shaw. In case you haven’t guessed yet, as of now she’s the primary candidate for the main villain this season. I really have to step back and admire the brilliant casting for the villains over the past few seasons; both Maryann and Russell were amazing, and it looks like Marnie is going to continue the tradition. Here she literally has identity crises by channeling Eddie, who if you don’t remember was the vampire friend of Lafayette’s who Jason and Amy kidnapped. That was a nice throwback touch, and a fantastically creepy way to introduce Marnie. Later she tries to bring a bird back to life, which as we find out doesn’t bode well for our other undead friends.

In two quick scenes we catch up with Arlene and Tara. Arlene has had her evil baby and named him Mike, and he likes to tear heads off of Barbie dolls. Tara on the other hand has completely changed, and for the better I think. She found a way to funnel out all that frustration and anger and turn it into a career as an MMA fighter named Toni, who is also a lesbian with a girlfriend. She has completely changed her identity, down to her name, and it has done her a world of good. She seems genuinely happy, for the first time in a long time. I’m guessing when she meets back up with the tornado of trouble that is Sookie this might change, but for now I like this new identity. Tara is normally my least favorite character on the show, but she’s starting to move up a bit.

When we last let Jessica and Hoyt they were moving in together, and everything seemed to be perfect. After a year that dynamic has changed, at least for Jessica who seems to be torn between her human self and her vampiric urges. She’s never really gotten a chance to be a true vampire, so I guess it’s harder for her then say for Bill to resist.

Of course a lot has changed in the vampire-human dynamic over the year, and it seems as if the vampires have engaged in a public relations campaign to try to win back the publics trust. In a brilliantly juxtaposed scene we see Eric filming a commercial, while Bill attends a ribbon cutting ceremony for a retirement home he donated. Two different tactics, but I particularly liked Eric’s pseudo political speech about being a tax-paying American citizen and small business owner. If you remove the vampire bits it’s something I could imagine seeing on TV as a commercial for some political campaign. TB always does the political parody angle well, and I’m glad to see that they’re keeping it up this season.

Back at Merlotte’s we find out that both Sam and Tommy are alive, although Tommy is still hurt from being shot in the leg. A nice twist is that Hoyt’s overbearing mother has taken Tommy under her wing and under her influence he has apparently straightened out into, well less of a piece of shit. Sam has found a group of new friends, all shifters, and the exercise and bonding appears to be doing some good for calming down the more evil side to him that we saw in the last season.

Out of all the characters that have changed in the year that Sookie lost, probably Bill has undergone the most radical transformation. We don’t see very much of him, but we do learn that he is apparently now the King of Louisiana, not to mention banging every piece of hot ass left in Bon Temps after Sookie left. We’ll see more of this in the next episode, specifically how he got to be King, but we can see a noticeable difference in his personality in the little time we spend with him in this episode. It’s an interesting development, I’m not a Bill fan so I can’t exactly say I’m happy for him, but I do think that this will play out in an interesting way for the rest of the season. In the books Sophie-Ann makes it through the seventh, and there’s quite a bit that she was involved in that directly related to Sookie, so if they did kill her off I’m not sure what would happen to those storylines in the future.

True Blood is known for it’s shocking endings, and this episode was no exception. In this episode we end up with a showdown between a naked Sookie and her new landlord Eric, who believes that through the transitive property of owning Sookie’s house that he also now owns her. The ‘mine’ concept also comes back, which hasn’t really been an issue since the first season. Vampires sure are possessive undead bastards, aren’t they?

I wouldn’t say that the fourth season has started out with a bang, it was a relatively quiet episode according to TB standards, but enough new plot lines and conflicts have been introduced that I am very excited for this upcoming season. I’ve already seen the second episode thanks to HBOGO, and will try to get that review out to you guys by Monday. If any of the extremely kind and generous folks at HBO are reading this and would like to send me screener copies ahead of time so that I can have my reviews ready to go after the episode airs, that would be amazing. Not holding my breath though! As always, please post comments below, I really do enjoy reading them!

Special Extras

Favorite Quotes:

  • “You owe me a plaque!”
  • “Who would you rather trust, a vampire or a politician?”
  • “And if I owned the house, well then I would own you.”