Welcome to Sucker Punch, the only blog post that ranks the gaudiest moments on this week's episode of True Blood.
Before we get started on this week's installment, "I'm Alive and On Fire," I have to revisit last week. In our discussion, some of you pointed out that HBO posted a featurette on the episode in which director David Petrarca and writer-series creator Alan Ball discuss the werepanthers' plot to breed Jason against his will. "He kind of gets his comeuppance here," says Petrarca. "The thing that he's most been proud of becomes the thing that could most possibly endanger him." Ball adds, "It's kind of interesting to see the kind of guy who really gets his sense of worth from his sexual prowess to all of a sudden be kind of objectified and sort of used against his will."
This really disturbs me. As "I'm Alive and On Fire" makes even clearer, the werepanthers aren't just "objectifying" Jason. They're raping him. They've kidnapped him and now they're raping him. This week, Jason at least uses that word, but still, Ryan Kwanten delivers it with his slightly comic "pretty boy" inflection, so it almost becomes a laugh line.
Think how these scenes would play if a female character were tied to the bed as man after man came into to rape her. Would we be amused? If the woman slept around, would Petrarca and Ball call the repeated rapes her "comeuppance?" I appeared on a True Blood radio show last night, and the host pointed out that by saying Jason's promiscuity justifies the rapes, Petrarca and Ball are close to saying a woman "has it coming" when she wears a short skirt. I'm startled Petrarca and Ball could be so tone-deaf. There's no justification for treating Jason's ordeal like retribution or entertainment. It's horrible, and it has resulted in the most stomach-churning arc in the history of the series.
However, I'm not willing to write off the show. For one thing, despite the asinine comments in that video, this week's episode does acknowledge the horror of what's happening. Jason talks to young Becky about how neither of them wants to sleep together, and when Becky frees Jason, we see tense, terrible scenes of him running away through the woods. When Jason kills Felton (who's in pursuit) and then confronts Crystal (who's close behind, yammering on about how she and Jason can finally be together), it's obvious this is not a game, nor is it something he'll recover from quickly. At least, I hope not. If the show charts a sensitive course through Jason's recovery, then it may salvage something thoughtful from what it put him through.
I believe that can happen, considering how complex Jason's attackers are: The Hotshotters are not just Deliverance-style hillbillies assaulting people in the woods. They're a desperate clan on the edge of extinction who have warped their crimes into a creation myth. (Jason's not their victim: He's their beloved Ghost Daddy.) If the attackers can merit such a subtle treatment, then maybe the victim can, too. But that'll mean acknowledging that Jason didn't deserve what he got.
Alright: Let's move on from that unpleasantness, because there is a lot of great stuff in this episode.
The grand theme of this season might be Owning Yourself (or Someone Else). This week, every storyline touches on that idea. For instance, when Bill finds out that Portia Bellefleur (And Andy Bellefleur! And Terry Bellefleur!) are his great-great-great-great grandchildren, he learns that people in Bon Temps have more of a claim on his identity than he realized. (Sidebar: Katherine Helmond plays Grandmother Bellefleur! MONA!)
Oh, and of course we see that Nan exerts ownership over Bill via her bossypants attitude about what kings must do for The Cause. This episode clarifies that he didn't really want to execute Vampire on Film a few weeks ago, but Nan said he had to. (But again: He still did it. Still an evil act.)
Meanwhile, Sookie is trying her best to have a friendship with Memory-Free Eric, but he keeps trying to seduce her (which for a vampire means "owning" her). Since he spends this episode drunk on that faerie blood he drank last week, swimming in the sun for a few blissful hours, there's a real danger that he'll decide he wants to control Sookie forever, just so he can drink from her. That may not happen, but the possibility is there... and it makes Sookie's agency over her identity even more tenuous. Can she embrace her faerie self without getting killed?
And on that score: Can Tommy Mickens regain his autonomy, now that his hateful, hateful parents have recaptured him? We end the episode with Joe Lee throwing a chain around Tommy's neck and saying his son has "breathed his last free breath." Mama Mickens may swear they're forcing him back into dogfighting because they love him, but let's get real. They want to control him as much as the Hotshotters want to control Jason. Tommy's storyline is tearing me up because there's no one who isn't using him for something. Hoyt's mama is using him as a replacement son, his parents are using him to dogfight, and even Sam is using him to work out his own childhood issues. I hope Tommy finds someone who can love him.
But y'all, I hope it's NOT the kind of love that Alcide and Debbie are playacting. Alcide keeps reminding Debbie how much she's changed and Debbie keeps saying, "It's fine! I'm fine! Go hang out with Sookie! No problems here! HAHAHAHAHA!" Both of them have created these nicey-nice personalities as a way of controlling themselves and each other. So... um... what could possibly go wrong?
I love the show for that kind of complexity: As always, we can understand the reasons the characters are screwing themselves up -- I need my son to support me. I need a replacement son. I need Alcide to make me safe -- which usually makes their travails much more than than shock-tactic plot twists.
This pattern makes me even more intrigued by Marnie the witch. For the moment, we don't know much about her. Why is she so desperate to be owned by a dead witch's spirit? Other than power, what does she gain by having her spirit controlled? We learn more this week about the witch who's inhabiting Marnie -- that stake-burning flashback is grueling -- and we see that the witch can literally strip the skin off Pam's face, ending Pam's swaggering threat that the witches had better restore Eric's memory or else. But we also learn that Marnie doesn't know this witch's name. Why is she okay with that? Will that subservience lead her to go too far? Will it convince her to let the witch do awful things? I'm guessing... yes. I'm also guessing that Pam is not going to let her disfigurement go. A woman that interested in leather bodysuits will not benignly accept having her face ripped off.
The Marnie questions lead me to ponder why ownership is such a big theme this season. Could it be a reflection of how no one is truly free, how we're all indebted to or influenced by some person or force? What are your thoughts?
And what are your thoughts about the Evil Babydoll that is somehow possessing Arlene's baby, Mikey? Are you thinking, "That is amazing?" Because that's what I'm thinking. When Evil Baby makes Mikey grab that magic marker? And write "BABY NOT YOURS" on Arlene's wall? And then Terry comes back from folding laundry to find the dreadful message? That is so fabulous I could pass out. But before I hit the deck, I'm naming Evil Baby's Calligraphy School our Sucker Punch of the Week.