True Blood Sucker Punch: Season 4, Ep. 5

Welcome to Sucker Punch, the only blog post that ranks the gaudiest moments in this week's episode of True Blood.



If the ghost of my grandmother told me not to fall in love with a man -- even a six foot tall, Norse god of a man who was half naked, emotionally available, and lying in my bed -- then I would listen to Grandmama's ghost. And that is why, by the end of "Me and the Devil," I was ready to snatch Sookie bald-headed. Girl, Gran told you from beyond the grave to stay away from Eric. I realize that he's giving you sad-puppy eyes and that his ever-shirtless body only needs a dusting of powdered sugar to be the world's best dessert, but those are diversions. I've spent the entire season insisting that Eric, though I love him, is ultimately a character who thrives on owning, on possessing what he wants, and even with his memory wiped, his impulsive need to havehavehave has already led to the death of your fairy godmother and a very disturbing dream in which Godric's ghost encourages him to eat you. Eric may love your hair in the sunlight and be willing to stain your pillow with his sweet bloody tears, but you need to back away. If you won't listen to me, you should at least listen to Gran.

Or how about Tara? You know, your so-called best friend that you've been lying to, endangering or ignoring for four seasons? When she confesses that she's been lying to her Nawlins girlfriend, you breezily declare that honesty is the best policy, even though you know that Tara is terrified of the very vampire who is currently in your basement. Do you think she might have a point when she sees Eric, tells you you're crazy, and runs away? Does it occur to you that even though you and Eric have barely kissed, you've already started lying to everyone and hurting people? Have you considered that most good relationships don't involve flagrant deceit? Or that you tend to selfishly follow your hormones around at the expense of everyone else?

[Deep breath.]

Okay, okay. I know that Sookie is not actually real and cannot actually hear my sensible advice, but she's just so frustrating as a character that I have to vent. This is exactly the problem I have with Carrie Bradshaw: Their narcissistic, emotionally stunted foolishness makes me want to claw my eyes out, yet something about both women compels me. I still kind of like them, even though I hate their dumb, dumb choices. Welcome to HBO, land of the maddening heroine.

And maybe it's just the mood I'm in, but all of my responses to the episode are like that this week... very character-based. I typically think about this show (and all shows) in larger terms. I want to analyze the ongoing themes of a season or the social resonance of a plotline. This week, however, I wanted to yell at fictional people like they were real, or cheer for them like they could hear me. Maybe its the heat wave.

So whom did I cheer for? That would be Sam and Tommy, the Murderin' Dog Brothers. Just like Breaking Bad makes me root for drug dealers, the writing in this episode has me rooting for a young man who kills his parents and a brother who helps him cover it up. It matters, of course, that the Mickenses were terrible parents who kept their son illiterate and imprisoned so they could force him to be a fighting dog. It matters, too, that Marshall Allman makes Tommy such an obviously wounded soul, clearly looking for love more than revenge.

Still, it's kind of twisted that I whoop when Tommy turns into an alligator, terrifying Sheriff Andy as he opens the back of Sam's van and almost discovers the Mickens' corpses. I'm like, "Yeah! Teamwork! Brothers united!" But that kind of moral grey zone makes this show great.

[Sidebar: It'll be interesting to see Tommy become a skinwalker. Remember that a few episodes back, Luna the Horse revealed that shifters can turn into other people if they kill another shifter, and since Mama Mickens was a shifter...]

And speaking of gray zones: How about Jason's post-hotshot relationship to sex? This warped and unpleasant story is still my least favorite of the year, but I appreciate the complication that Jason, rescued from death by Jessica's blood, is now having the expected sexual dreams about her. He sits in Merlotte's saying that sex only leads him to terrible ends, yet that night, he enjoys a sex dream about Jessica. His new consciousness, however, keeps him from fully enjoying it, because he keeps feeling guilty about what even this fantasy could do to Hoyt. And then, whoops!, Jessica transforms into Hoyt, leaving us with the image of Jason's best buddy, shirtless, writhing on top of his friend. Is this a statement on the blurry lines between love and sex and friendship? I'm dying to know.

I'm also dying to know why every gay man in the world isn't watching this show. I mean, for God's sake. It's like every gay boy's fantasy, watching all these straight characters get intimate and/or naked with each other, while the gorgeous gay men have meaningful relationships. Or at least, it's my fantasy. When Hoyt is suddenly riding Jason, True Blood once again imagines a world in which attraction and desire can be unleashed in every relationship -- in which men are allowed to touch and love and think about each other without fear and in which even straight men can be intimate without endangering their sense of masculinity. That means that there's no need for homophobia because there's nothing to fear. Everyone is likely to embrace both their masculine and feminine sides (hence Tara's new girlfriend) and everyone is free to do what they want.They can feel anything, they can be sensual in many different contexts and they can still be confident in their identities. To me, that's a kind of paradise.

Another great example of this idea... Terry. He's a soulful, sensitive man, and he's undoubtedly straight. In fact, he and Arlene are both so nice that it's cruelly funny to see them beset with a demon baby. I have to laugh as they call in the Reverend (and Tara's Mama!) to exorcise their home, because they are both so genuinely hopeful that they can protect their family. They've got a Boy Scout/Girl Scout earnestness as they sing old spirituals and watch Lettie Mae shoo away demons, and it's charmingly out of touch with the cynical approach of many other characters. Maybe I'm naive, but I feel like this protects them within the world of the show. I can't imagine them being seriously hurt because they're both so gentle and lovely, so I feel free to laugh as the demon baby (or whatever) makes a book of matches magically catch fire in their bedroom. It's all just camp! They'll never really suffer! (Right?)

I don't feel the same confidence about Jesus and Lafayette. As they travel to see Jesus' magical grandpa, they are clearly diving into the unknown. This season is obviously shaping up as a battle between witches and vampires -- hence Bill's capture and interrogation of Marnie, coupled with Pam's ongoing rage about her melted face -- but as everyone's choosing sides, I wonder how many soldiers even understand the war. Fay Fay's mother told him last season that people would try to exploit his "light," and as he stumbles trustingly along with Jesus, I wonder if she was right.

And speaking of witches: This WitchSpirit that's inhabiting Marnie is scary and alluring all at once. No wonder she hates vampires, right? As we learn in flashback, she saw vampires disguised as priests murder her entire coven. That's why, as we learn from other scenes, she cast a spell that forced every vampire in 20 miles to walk into the sun. That could be the prologue to a devastating war, provided she can funnel her power through Marnie and get a few vamps out into the daylight. And learning about the seeds of her fury is one of the most remarkable parts. Watching those priests suddenly become vampires -- and thinking about what that implies for True Blood's vision of faith (last experienced with the anti-vamp Fellowship of Sun) -- provides me with my Sucker Punch of the Week.