Tonight’s meh True Blood was proof double-O positive of the Law of Fives. Seriously, if physicists applied themselves, I trust they’d find the Law of Fives almost as immutable as the Law of Gravity, and not nearly as funny.

nullAs much as tonight’s episode sort of amused us it was also reminding us that it was, in this final Alan Ball-written episode of this final Ball-supervised season, one over-repeated riff, theme or trope away from self parody, accidental camp or worse.

What I mean: a troop of rednecks in Obama masks yelling, “Yes we can!” as they blow up a vampire . . . . Well, can’t speak for you, but that’s pretty much what “trying too hard” looks like in True Blood terms.

But back to the Law of Fives: from The Wire to Alias to that other great vamp show, Angel, five seasons is just the perfect amount. Under, say, four seasons, is cruel undernourishment (Deadwood, Firefly, Terriers) and over five seasons, just wears a show down, out or beyond its strengths, even for titans (much of Lost and Buffy’s respective six and seventh seasons, sadly.)

The issues of time and termination are raised right off after Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård) lead the forces of the Authority to the insane asylum where the batty nihilist Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare) is getting ready to wreck havoc on everything he can find.

“Maybe you’re just bored after one thousand years but you not not make that decision for me,” says Bill to Eric, for not playing along/kissing ass with the Authority.

Eric, alas, is being pulled under by some deep seas of ennui now that he’s separated from Pam, the social context of Fangtasia, the love of Sookie (Anna Paquin and hey, remember her?), and now he learns that his sister Nora (Lucy Griffiths) is a crazed member of the blood cult fundamentalist Sanguinista movement. Skarsgård is such a terrific actor—who knew there were so many colorations of “disinterested because of multi-centennial pain”?

Jason, meanwhile, is pulled in the direction of ultimate discovery: a dream brings the vision of his lost father and a possible truth of his death.

Terry (Todd Lowe) is, as psych professionals might say, totally fucked.

He confronts Arlene with getting wasted in Iraq and his unit killing a family and his killing an old woman after she cursed him. “Now I’m being hunted by an evil smoke monster,” he complains, which when we saw them in a flashback looked just like the fire god from Wrath of the Titans but way smaller.  We’ll see what redemption looks like; I’m leery.

The show’s other problematic male, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), did poorly this week as well. He visited his crazy mom at the convalescent home where Jesus used to work, which meant lots of zany sentences where the name “Jesus” was inappropriately placed in sentences.  Please.

At one point in this very randomly structured episode—I find myself writing about it out of sequence to try and enforce a shape on it which the writers didn't supply—Eric and Bill must glamor Sookie—hey, remember her?—lest The Authority have them killed for seeing something they shouldn’t have seen.

Bill goes gallant. He tells her that not only will she not remember this night, she will not recall ever knowing him and furthermore, she will only love those who live in the sun. Oh, Bill.

Eric, meanwhile, tells Alcide (Joe Manganiello and his freakishly well-defined upper body) to forget as well, and to take care of Sookie—and to develop a deep loathing of any physical contact with her forever.

But ten minutes later, Sookie reads Alcide’s mind and undoes all of this glamoring. Back in the day (last season) not remembering important things could power an entire season.

Now, I guess that the only reason the glamor scenes existed was to remind newer viewers what separates Bill (romantic!) from Eric (scamp!).

By the time Russell makes his appearance—"silvered" and bound—for an execution in the Council’s chambers, there’s an electric friction between the forced civil behavior of the council and Russell’s Southern gentleman nihilist nutjob. The performances come alive, but director Daniel Attias’s staging is clumsy.

Russell finds Roman’s notions of “mainstreaming,” of humans living with vampires in peace, to be nonsense. “Peace is for pussies!” he quips, a born politician yelling his first campaign button catch phrase.

Roman pushes the button on his killer I-Stake app but Russell doesn’t die—treachery!—and the episode flames out with Russell stabbing Roman in the chest: cue scratchy old blues record (a favorite, but tired True Blood trick).

Look, this is a not prime rub Blood. Or rather, the show Ball’s presided over for five years is getting some more parts together for the grand finales.

It’s just that Attias, an extremely experienced TV and film director, doesn’t display the needed élan or post-Hammer sleaze panache that Michael Lehmann or Romeo Tirone bring to knottier scripts.

And I worry this problem will leak into next week’s episode. Until then, we have the relationship between newly turned vamp Tara (Rutina Wesley) and maker Pam (Kristin Bauer) continue to complicate. And Hoyt continuing to debase himself to impress Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) or because he really is a skeezy perv in the making while Jessica continues to solidify as the show’s most essentially decent person—whoddathunk?—and poor Sam the shifter (Sam Trammell) finally gets a family together for reals (if the Obama-faced crew doesn’t kill him.)

And Sookie (remember her?) goes with Jason to the fairy nightclub to learn more about their family/vampire issues. Sookie is actually kind of awesome in this episode: she’s discovered the rich world of grown-up self-loathing and Paquin's having hell’s own time not fluttering around that butter-colored set being all distressed and girly. She’s not angry, or sad either, she’s just over this vampire and fairy shit and her part in it. We forget, sometimes, that Paquin is a superlative, not just good, actor.

And that True Blood is, at heart, an incredibly lively, romantic, old school production. The queer hatred it poked fun at way back in 2008 feels way different now after the real Obama’s monumental legal changes, the elegance of Cooper and the acid of Savage changing the lenses but not the disease.

But the times are right, unfortunately, for the desperate, knowing self-gay-hate and pitiful monsters of desperate abjection and real fear of the terribly beautiful Teen Wolf. Even when it’s working, even when it’s delightful, True Blood already has the feel of a relic. I’m just not sure yet of what.

Ian Grey has written, co-written or been a contributor to books on cinema, fine art, fashion, identity politics, music and tragedy. Magazines and newspapers that have his articles include Detroit Metro Times,, Icon Magazine, International Musician and Recording World, Lacanian Ink, MusicFilmWeb, New York Post, The Perfect Sound, Salon, Smart Money Magazine, Teeth of the Divine, Venuszine, and Time Out New York.



So what’s wrong with this picture: Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) and Alcide (Joe Mangianello), Alcide the werewolf for god’s sakes, somehow manage to band together with Sookie (Anna Paquin), in the search for the psychotic Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare), ex-Vampire King of Mississippi.

nullAnd newbie vamp Tara (Rutina Wesley) not only owning a surrogate mom in her maker Pam but a new BFF in Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) courtesy an adorable scene—which you can watch above—where the latter waxes irresistable about sex, blood, morality, and how tough it is being a vamp, alone. Yes, there's a tiff over rights to Hoyt's neck, but for reals, these girls are made for each other: we just wonder how much . . .
And, after a visit to a fairy nightclub, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and Captain Andy (Chris Bauer) bromance their journeys of personal growth. But Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis)? Bah! Lafayette turns into a demon, looks at the heavens, cries “I just need some fuckin’ help,” and is answered with a vision of his dead lover Jesus (Kevin Alejandro) with his lips sewn up. Which I guess is an improvement over last week, when his grief caused Jesus’ demon-head to cause Sookie’s car to ram into a tree.
In short, it sucks to be Lafayette. It always sucks to be Lafayette. And lately, Ellis’s acting has been suffering as he tries to carry this impossible weight. I think Alan Ball has been over-trying so much to atone for very early Lafayette sins that he’s been forcing poor Ellis into repeated hair shirt moments when all he has to do is one simple thing:  Grieve over the death of Jesus.

But Lafayette has been denied that, just like Lafayette always seems to be denied normal things, from the very dubious beginning, when he started the show as a literal slave to the very, very, very white Eric Northman, a black guy laboring in chains.

This was . . . what’s the phrase? Wait. Got it. This was fucked up. This was Black Snake Moan, but backwards. The idea, I think, was to push an envelope so far the envelope shredded. But instead I feel like maybe it messed Alan Ball up in some way he hasn’t quite worked out.

Whatever the deal, True Blood has had a very skittish way with black characters. Jesus? A Latino? No problem. But black people? It’s just weird. This is, after all, a show that gave Tara a black lover named Eggs who became possessed by a demonic white MILF. Then Tara had to get her brains blown out to become interesting.

Mind—I’m not yelling racist. I’m yelling confuse-ist. Or rather, there’s so much subtext bubbling under any given episode of True Blood that if you started talking about race in this show that takes place in the Deep South, it would just be too much. That the show would be about nothing but race.  And that would just be miserable, and life-like.

Anyway—back to Lafayette and Ellis and fantasy misery. Ellis is such a lovable presence, and the True Blood writing room so dependably comes up with ways for him to suffer so horribly, they could at least allow him some down time to suffer his true love’s death.

I mean, sure. Tonight Sam (Sam Trammell) not only had to deal with his two shifter friends’ mysterious death, he also had to watch impotently as a bunch of apparent Slipknot fans blew away Luna. But Sam has Merlotte’s and friends aplenty.

And sure, Hoyt (Jim Parrack) has taken to dressing like he’s in Love and Rockets and hanging at Fangtasia, but that’s so he can get bitten (make contact.)

But Lafayette? How is it that someone this adorable has not discovered Grindr, or the local gay bar? More to the point, why does he still live in a shit hole like Bon Temps?

This is the weird thing about the Law of Fives, or the concept that shows tend to work for about five seasons and then the internal gravity that makes them cohere starts to fall apart. Which is why I believe Ball is leaving the show before the deadly Season Six rears its woeful head.

Before Ball blows, I hope he does all right by the beleaguered Lafayette; on the flip side, I don’t know what the moral calculus is for Terry (Todd Lowe), because what we learned tonight was unforgivable.

We knew from a previous episode that Terry and Patrick dropped acid and boozed it up in Iraq and accidentally obliterated a couple of innocent Iraqi families. Well, tonight they found another guy from their unit who’s living in an underground room surrounded by paintings of a fire demon.

Reason: At Patrick’s urging, the unit killed a surviving woman who let loose a fire demon on them all, after which the three Marines burned all the innocents. Kee-rist.

So Terry’s a mass murderer who burns women and children. Totally fucks with his adorable goofy PTSD profile. It’ll be interesting seeing where this goes. And it’s fascinating that we’re OK with Eric and Bill and Pam and the rest killing like crazy, but that’s sexy supernatural (TM Maureen Ryan) stuff: this is real Iraq War murder.

Meanwhile, Eric, Bill, Sookie and Alcide are looking for Russell in an old building. This is like Waiting for Godot at this point.

But they do find him—along with a clutch of humans he’s mesmerized for future meals. He looks a bit under the weather, but he does have his skin back. There’s a commotion and they cut to a goth classic tune. Kind of a letdown ending, considering that Bill and Eric are wearing I-Stakes (electronic stakes that can kill them from afar.) All in all, the weakest episode this season, the kind that exists to fill in the holes that’ll make the next episode really, really good by comparison.

But even weak Blood can give us Captain Andy, asking with a straight face, “I fucked a fairy?” and Ryan Kwanten swinging his full buttocks for no reason whatsoever except that this is True Blood.  So a fail? Nah, not close. But please, Mr. Ball, cut Lafayette a break, ‘k? We’ll all feel better in the morning.

Ian Grey has written, co-written or been a contributor to books on cinema, fine art, fashion, identity politics, music and tragedy. Magazines and newspapers that have his articles include Detroit Metro Times,, Icon Magazine, International Musician and Recording World, Lacanian Ink, MusicFilmWeb, New York Post, The Perfect Sound, Salon, Smart Money Magazine, Teeth of the Divine, Venuszine, and Time Out New York.



Alan Ball’s a believer. Now on his last season as True Blood’s major domo, he continues to see no reason at all why Big Themes and literary stuff can’t coexist with camp, bodice ripper romance, Hammer gore camp and a Ken Russell-esque free-for-all approach to fantastic filmmaking. This week’s episode added family as a major element and ended up a sweetly, amusingly, and painfully memorable piece of work. 

nullIn genre dress, it playfully explored the pleasures of successful parenting while going very dark on the adjoined subjects of letting go badly, ultimate loss, and the persistent survivor’s guilt.

Pretty heady stuff. Not to worry—there are also state of the art splatter gore and broiling flesh effects. Still, the name of the season’s first episode—“Turn! Turn! Turn!”—continues to define everyone.

Even the non-familial characters were in extreme motion. We finally see the mix of LSD and mass murder in Iraq that caused Terry (Todd Lowe) to lose it. And somehow grief is making Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) a target for Jesus’ demon. And Jason (Ryan Kwanten) is still trying to sever himself from the childhood sexual abuse that’s sentenced him to a life of empty zipless fucks.

Lately the entire show seemed to be bent on deconstructing its hero, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), to the point where the show seemed to have nothing to do with her.

I was missing the point.  With the memory of her grandmother fading, and so many people dying for her or at her hands, what she’s really about is survivor’s guilt. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, she hooks up with Alcide (Joe Manganiello, currently bouncing his wolfie goodness on-screen in Magic Mike). But that bit of oo-la-la is poisoned by Sook’s self-hatred. However, a single sentence at episode’s end changes everything. We’ll talk about that IN a bit.

What rules this episode is family, starting with Pam (Kristin Bauer) mothering Tara, three words I’ll enjoy typing for quite a while, it’s so beyond slash fiction fun.

As you recall, Tara (Rutina Wesley) tried to tanning-bed herself to death. Pam stopped it before Tara totally fried.

"Mothering" pace Pam is still bitchy and, well, Pam-ish, but still, she’s taking care of Tara. The question is, Why?

Easy answer: Eric said it was the right thing to do. And Pam worships Eric. And Eric made it clear last week that when you make someone a vamp, it’s akin to having a child, with all the same responsibilities. 

Interestingly, Pam’s bitchiness fades fast. She may quip of Tara’s reluctance to sink her teeth into a human, “three days and she already has an eating disorder”, but Pam really wants to help. When she finds a willing vamp fetishist at Fangtasia and orders Tara to feed, Pam wraps her arm around her young vampire and whispers encouragement. “This is who you are now . . . the top of the chain.”

Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) is also feeling good about his progeny, Jessica, who’s gone from whiny adolescent to very determined young woman over the span of just four episodes. And unlike your usual overpraised cable TV show where a female character’s “complexity” is defined by her ability to become as cynical and nihilistic as the males she’s secondary to, Jessica, who’s very aware of all the horribleness life (and un-life) has to offer, makes a conscious choice to become more morally centered, supportive, and empathic than the males around her. She’s a born leader as well.

Bill, who always failed at all these things, enjoys a rare happy moment as he regards her and says, “I think I did well.”

And sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, or how hard you work. Because Pam is going to lose Eric and vice versa.

When Eric and Bill first return from their meeting with the vampire Authority—how about we call it the “VA”?—Pam tries a squirt of playful snark regarding Tara: “Congratulations, you’re a grandfather.”

But Eric is not amused. Instead, he grills her about Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare), the 3,000 year-old psycho-vamp who, having somehow broken out of the cement prison Eric and Bill created for him, will not only try to kill Eric, but destroy the VA and its goal of mainstreaming vampires into normal human life, for the sheer hell of it.

Eric tells her that whether it’s because of Russell Edgington or the VA, he’s going to die. And so he sets her free, officially, of all and any bonds to him. “I need you to live when I’m gone…you are my child as I was the child of Godric . . . and you’re a maker now . . . our blood will thrive.”

And then it’s done. He sets her free, ending a century-old relationship, but leaving her with child—Tara.

Trust me, True Blood is not my go-to destination for deep emotional experiences but, yeah, I got choked up. But this wasn’t TV-melodrama choked up. This was stranger, more like I felt when seeing, say, Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast when I was 15. Is Ball mining similar subconscious monster archetype energies? Without going full-out Jungian on you, I do think that we don’t care about beauties, and beasts, and bitchy vampires named Pam, and their sudden ‘familial’ feelings towards African American girls who’ve suddenly turned vampire just because. I think there’s always something they represent in a grand passion play happening beneath every surface—and if you’re a grand fantasy master, as Ball has proved himself to be (with the help of with his writer’s room), you know how to work the under-surface stuff.

But onward.

You’d think the cold, 007-ish underground world of the VA would be the last place for anything domestic, but the show’s on a family roll, so here we go.

When VA head Roman and his . . . whatever she is, Salome (Valentina Cervi), are unable to torture ex-chancellor Nora into spilling info on who else is up to anti-mainstreaming, fundamentalist no good, she only cracks because it will save the life of her brother Eric, with whom she’s sleeping. (Ah, incest, what would cable TV dramas do without it?) And after Salome reminds her that for centuries she’s been like a sister to her.  

Meanwhile, out in a grassy field somewhere, Andy (Chris Bauer) and Jason are in a limousine with the obsequious Judge Clemmons (Conor O'Farrell).  The Judge is taking them somewhere really deluxe for serving Bon Temps so damned well. And with a flash of light they’re magically teleported to a Moulin Rouge-y fairy nightclub because in True Blood,a fairy nightclub is always a light-flash away. And frankly, that sort of gleeful disinterest in how the show “logically” gets characters from point A to B is one of its many charms.

Captain Andy runs into Maurella (Kristina Anapau), the spacy girl he had fairy sex with at the end of last season. Jason runs into a girl he knows from some time ago who says he and Sookie are in great danger from the vampires—worse, she tells him that vampires killed Sookie and Jason’s family and will soon kill them all!

Before he can find out anything more, some guards throw Andy and Jason out the cosmic portal—big burst of light!—and they’re on their asses in that grassy field. Run credits to a cover version of Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again.”

So there it is. A smoking gun, why Sook’s been almost predestined to be involved with vamps from the git-go. Or—Ball’s just screwing around with us until something else entirely happens. This is one of the joys of tuning in. But what I’m mostly taking from this is Pam and Eric, the look on both their faces when they realize there’s nothing they can do no matter what they want. Such beautiful flowers are sprouting up in True Blood to soil this fine fifth season.

Ian Grey has written, co-written or been a contributor to books on cinema, fine art, fashion, identity politics, music and tragedy. Magazines and newspapers that have his articles include Detroit Metro Times,, Icon Magazine, International Musician and Recording World, Lacanian Ink, MusicFilmWeb, New York Post, The Perfect Sound, Salon, Smart Money Magazine, Teeth of the Divine, Venuszine, and Time Out New York.



This week’s True Blood suffered a bit from Game of Thrones syndrome—too many people, parts, and ideas for all of them to properly register—but boy howdy were they mostly fine, fun and full of portent of freaky things to come.

nullAlthough the Season Five hot topic is vampire politics, the stories that gave off the most emotional heat belonged to Tara (Rutina Wesley), Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and Pam (Kristin Bauer).

““Whatever I Am, You Made Me” opens with Tara doing the full Terrence Mallick (!) as her enhanced vamp sense connects her to nature, the stars and the galaxies beyond–before hunger guts her.

Enraged with Sookie and Lafayette for not letting her rest in peace, she turns to Merlotte’s and Sam (Sam Trammell) who feeds her a six-pack of True Blood before she passes out.

Vampire Tara is all about wonder and rage, confusion and hyper vigilance. Wesley is killing false accusations of limited thespian skills. Pre-vamp Tara was two notes: terse and bitchy. I’m loving how she does nothing eerily, how she’ll perch on a table and not watch Sookie so much as scan her.

Ryan Kwanten is also developing as an actor as Jason slowly learns why he’s Bon Temp’s automatic sex machine.

This isn't a pretty process. It starts when he meets his old high school teacher at the grocery store. In a disturbing child's voice, he says, “I remember everything you taught me.”

They have sex. But with the phrase “statutory rape” in my mind, I watched Jason realize his high school teacher’s prior predatory acts have left him scarred and left with a sad brand of compulsive sexuality, with “a hole inside I fill with sex.”

But then Jason meets up with Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) who, in a lovely, soft scene, realizes that the last thing Jason needs is bodily intimacy. So Jessica flips off her sexy supernatural energies, and insists, strongly and intuitively that what’ll fix what’s ailing him is that he stay puts while she throws on a sweatshirt and grabs them both a beer. That is, even as an eternally teenage vampire, Jessica still has killer native nurturing skills to spare and we’re remanded that True Blood is mostly about one thing: female power.

In just this episode, we’ll see Sook use her fairy light burst to kick Pam’s ass when she fails to perform her maker’s duties with Tara.

We’ll imagine the portent of the powers of Salome (Valentina Cervi) which are literally Biblical. And see Tara’s unguided powers screw her up. The focus on female power both natural and supernatural is more repetitive than an old house beat and has been going on in endless iterations for four years now, enough to where you’d think Rolling Stone and other mass organs would have regular “Women of True Blood" issues.

Oh, how we dream. Anyway. Down in the chambers of the vampire Authority, Roman is dealing with the problem of what to do with Bill (Stephen Moyer) and (Alexander Skarsgård) and the news that Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare) has somehow broken out of his cement grave.  

Russell Edgington, who as we all recall, is the 3,000 year old psycho-vamp who once ripped someone’s heart out on live TV, and has now somehow escaped from being buried in a few tons of cement by Bill and Eric.

In the first iteration of something we’ll hear several times, Roman explains that the only thing that will help vampires beat the insane Fundamentalism of a “Sanguinista” movement that believes in a future where all humans are farmed for food is ‘mainstreaming’, or simple co-existence with humans.

Russell Edgington, he bellows, is “the poster boy of the anti-mainstream movement . . . it’s Osama Bin laden.”

Bill promises that he is a firm anti-fundamentalist. Eric, who’s totally not into politics, kind of shrugs his agreement.

After this little chat, fans of Veronica Mars get to see Tina Majorino again playing a techie who in this case straps harnesses on Bill and Eric that are like GPS’s that blow you up. Eric: “How’s this work?” Tina Majorino: “There’s an app for that.”

What’s remarkable about this season so far is how peripheral Sookie’s been. Later, after she admits to Alcide that she did indeed kill his ex-wife—which as you’d expect, pisses him off a bit—you could have extracted Sook from the episode and lost nothing.

Especially when we get a whole lotta Pam circa 1905, San Francisco. As a whorehouse madam reaching the twilight of her years as a viable sex industry product. And yes, Bauer adds just enough vulnerability for us to buy the idea that this is Pam from over a century ago and not so much as to ruin the character’s flinty credibility.

The scene also shows Eric meeting Bill for the first time, and of course Bill’s being impossibly, annoyingly gallant.

When Bill’s gone, she explains the uselessness of an aging woman, and begs Eric to change her into a vamp.

In one of the episode’s best lines, Eric says that ‘making’ a vampire is an eternal responsibility. “Would you toss a new born baby in the gutter?” he asks, and we can’t help but think of Pam and Tara.

Pam ends the conversation by slashing her wrists—vertically, of course. “Let me walk the world with you, Mister Northman,” she says, “Or watch me die.”

America swoons as Eric’s fangs pop.

Meanwhile, back at vampire Authority HQ, Salome takes Bill for a seductive walk. She is the Salome, Daughter of Herodias, the Seven Veils, all that, and “from a seriously fucked up family,” she quips.

Of course, lost girl stories are catnip for our Bill. When she practically begs for a reason to trust him, he finds it under his zipper.

Then, after taking a shower, one hopes, she plays Eric.

The best way to Eric’s heart is through his maker, Godric. So she goes there before seducing him.

Bill and Eric meet later and realize they’ve been played but why . . . why?

We get another good teaser from the kitchen at Merlotte’s. It’s Lafayette, suddenly pouring bleach into the gumbo, looking into the mirror and he’s wearing Jesus’ demon-face. (Which freaks him out but cheers me up: Jesus will return!)

Then we’re back to Authority HQ, but a deluxe bedroom that looks like the swankest W Hotel room ever. It’s Roman’s private chambers, and Salome, who’s been a very busy girl today, is very naked because this is HBO.

Salome assures him that neither Bill nor Eric is Sanguinista.

And then Roman goes through the mainstreaming vs. Fundamentalism discourse as if this were broadcast TV before the Internet and major plot points had to be repeated endlessly.

The up side is Mr. Meloni sans shirt is a pumped and ripped side of quality beefcake.

He purrs to Salome, “You’re my secret weapon” which, when purred to someone out of the freakin’ Bible, is worth considering—or not. At this point, we don’t know just how far Ball is willing to go with his trashing of the Christian Bible’s power and so we can’t extrapolate how badass Salome might be. Still, if she’s worthy of Roman’s attention, one imagines her destructive powers must be at least above the average Biblical icon’s.

And then we see poor lost Tara, who started the episode with her mind in the stars, breaking into a tanning salon and sliding into a tanning bed. As her body fries and she screams, we cut to Pam who, as Tara’s maker, can sense this and sighs “stupid bitch” but it’s the sighed “stupid bitch” of an exasperated mom, which is, after all, what Pam’s become.

In every way that matters, in teaching her how to take care of herself, how to feed herself, when to go to ground, when to rise, everything in her new life, Pam is Tara’s new mom. Many a drinking game was played based on what would happen to Tara after she was shot in the head last season. Nobody got drunk enough to see “Pam’s a mom” coming.

Ian Grey has written, co-written or been a contributor to books on cinema, fine art, fashion, identity politics, music and tragedy. Magazines and newspapers that have his articles include Detroit Metro Times,, Icon Magazine, International Musician and Recording World, Lacanian Ink, MusicFilmWeb, New York Post, The Perfect Sound, Salon, Smart Money Magazine, Teeth of the Divine, Venuszine, and Time Out New York.



You know the endlessly self-amused Nazi prick Christoph Waltz played in Inglourious Basterds? Well, someone over at True Blood casting found a prim-o Waltz-alike in the actor Christopher Heyerdahl.

nullHeyerdahl plays Dieter, a sociable sadist and Vampire Authority operative. His vampire theology monologue—shared while torturing Bill (Stephen Moyer), no less–finally gives Alan Ball, who's leaving the show this season, a chance to actually offend people.

Dieter asks Bill if he recalls what’s special about the Vampire Bible.

And we learn that what’s special about this Bible isn’t that it predates The Old and New Testament. Or that it’s the original Testament, telling how God created Adam and Eve as food for vampires and for God’s greatest creation—Lilith. 

No, what’s remarkable in this time of election year Fundamentalist fever is that God created Lilith in his image, as God is a vampire.

As Dieter editorializes, “Powerful stuff indeed!” (To view this scene, please click on the video above.)

If this episode is any indication, Season Five will indeed be powerful stuff. I’m just not even certain what genre it is anymore.

I mean, sure, there are vamps and shifters and werewolves. But Ball is also fusing the zero sum war between Fundamentalism and sanity inside large institutions, with allusions to splintering U.S. conservatism in an election year. And making no bones about it.

But there’s much more. There’s an ongoing, Andrew Sullivan-style "death of gay culture" subtext argument, an import of the main theme of Buffy’s Season Six necro-existential crankiness, courtesy the turning of Tara (Rutina Wesley) into a vampire—or as I’ll call her from now on, the Tarapire.

And at least half the show is finally showing us the Vampire Authority. Damned if their underground realm, all chrome, sleek curving plastics amid a mid-century futurism that never happened doesn’t evoke a Swingin’ 60s spy film, equal parts Phillipe Starck and Ken Adam (the master designer behind Thunderball, Dr. No, and The Ipcress File), 

At the center is Roman, the Authority himself, played by Christopher Meloni with the a brand of hyper-intense, top-dog, apocalyptic Type A times Pi machismo imported from an edgy production of Glengarry Glen Ross.

Roman, the ultimate sanguine super CEO, who loves to toss off non sequiturs like “Do you think that the whole concept of the common good is hopelessly naïve?”—which allows Eric the drollery of “I try to stay away from politics.”

But True Blood certainly doesn't.

But on to recapping. Much of this week is devoted to the Tarapire’s freak out, when she tears down down Sookie’s house.

Dying has been a really positive thing for the Tarapire—she’s very assertive (bam, there goes the fridge), has a killer deathly stare, and most of all, she doesn’t complain.

When she does snarl to Sook and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) that “I will neither forgive either of you,” there’s the delicious possibility that she’ll be promoted to full-blown bad guy. (To watch Tara in vampire form, please click on the video below.)

Things are going from bad to incredibly terrible for Bill and Eric (Alexander Skarsgård).

An Authority operative new to the show named Salome (Valentina Cervi) escorts them to the 60s design extravaganza I mentioned earlier, and jails them in a facility where they’re tortured with artificial sunlight and liquid silver and interrogated by sophisticated sociopaths like the aforementioned Dieter.

Over in our werewolf subplot, Alcide (Joe Manganiello) is refusing to join the pack in eating the corpse of ex-pack leader Marcus. Among the ritual diners is Marcus’s mom, Martha (Dale Dickey).

Clearly signed up for her gnarly, white thrash outlaw Sons of Anarchy appeal, and this impressively gross scene aside, Martha is a terrific addition to the cast, a gravel-voiced biker chick in her deep fifties with a worn regal vibe that fascinates.

Martha insists in several scenes that her daughter Emma, child of Marcus and Luna (Janina Gavankar), has more in common with her werewolf father than with her. This is a teaser for a scene that is astonishing, that demands you not drink fluids for you may gag or spit them up.

But right now, we’re talking Terry flashing back to Iraq and saying, “It’s coming for us.”

Will this show ever tire of crazed Iraq storylines? Can’t Terry get possessed by fairy lemurs or something, just once?

Then, a sweet cookie of a backstory is tossed to Pam (Kristin Bauer) fans. It’s a bawdy house in San Francisco, 1905. After a Campari, she hits the street. A creep tries to kill her, but in a flash Eric, in full Victorian eveningwear, kills the guy, licks the blood off his fingers and gives Pam his charm-face. There’s something oddly tentative about the show’s depiction of pre-vamp Pam, like Ball isn’t certain what he think of her quite yet. Still, that dress is a keeper. (Pam meets her maker, Eric, below.)

Sam (Sam Trammell), meanwhile, is recovering from his own wounds when Martha shows up, again insisting that Luna and Marcus’s toddler has supernatural canine blood in her veins. “She’s wolf—I can feel it!”

Are you sitting down? If not, do.

You’ll next see a scene where Jason goes to Hoyt’s mom’s, only to be rebuffed as by Hoyt (Jim Parrack) yet again as a girlfriend-fucker. And then we’re back at Luna’s house.

Suddenly, director Michael Lehmann cuts to a puppy in pajamas.

No CG, no make-up. Just a puppy in jammies. Only on True Blood.

There’s no way to follow that, but the show must go on. We end up deep in vampire Authority HQ, where Dieter is explicating that theology we started with, ending with what I assume will be the crux of this season’s drama:

That there are Vampire Bible fundamentalists who believe in a utopia where humans are farmed for food and human/vampire intimacy is blasphemy.

And there’s the Authority and Roman, who believe in “mainstreaming” and peaceful co-existence with humans.

In their secret chambers, the congress of the Authority lorded over by Meloni, dressed in the ultimate Hugo Boss-style pinstripe power suit.

Roman considers Bill and Eric, and says, “I’m in a real pickle here, boys.”

The pickle is—he needs to mete out justice to the killer of Authority member Nan Flanagan. Who Bill and Eric did kill.

Roman is the king of the mainstreaming cause, and he tells about it in detail, which is cool: I’ll listen to Meloni yell at me about a Google search for superior celery, he’s that violently entrancing.

Meloni wants to stake Eric and Bill. Bill has something to trade: the news that psycho-vamp Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare) is alive.

Russell the anarchist psycho-vamp who would love nothing more than to destroy the Authority’s mainstreaming initiative for the sheer fun of it.  

As Meloni considers the import of this news, Lehmann cuts to Russell in a cart, his skin cracked into a thousand bloody fissures.

In true Edgington style, he licks his ruined lips. Gross! (Awesome.)

This week’s vestigial subplots:


She falls victim to Bon Temps’ most prevalent illness: unmotivated Sudden Character Reversal Syndrome. Last year, Sam became a murderous asshole for no apparent reason. Now Luna’s becoming a mean jerk, apropos of nothing.

Steve Nawlins

Steve Nawlins claims vampires for Christ. Will this dovetail with the Authority’s interests?

Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll)

Nawlins tries to buy Jason from her. Jessica says she does not sell her friends. Like, ever.

But mainly this week is owned by  Meloni’s Roman, the Tarapire, and the puppy. Good times.

Ian Grey has written, co-written or been a contributor to books on cinema, fine art, fashion, identity politics, music and tragedy. Magazines and newspapers that have his articles include Detroit Metro Times,, Icon Magazine, International Musician and Recording World, Lacanian Ink, MusicFilmWeb, New York Post, The Perfect Sound, Salon, Smart Money Magazine, Teeth of the Divine, Venuszine, and Time Out/New York.



I love True Blood, and I pray this is the end of it. The tea leaves all read "buh-bye," but in this first episode, we’re mainly talking mop-up from last season’s remarkably messy—even by Blood  standards—finale. But before we get into the particulars, some thoughts from this devoted Trubie.

I know there are people who feel the show was great when it was an elegant, fleet, and witty anti-intolerance fable. And feel that, as early as Season Two, when Maryanne the cannibalistic Maenad (Michelle Forbes) started having psychedelic Southern-style Burning Man-ish parties on Sookie's impeccably well-maintained lawn, the chronicles of everyone’s favorite fairy telepath—Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin)—had already fallen into their shark-jumping phase.

Me? I always said that, like that lawn or the improbably ever-fresh pitcher of lemonade in Sookie’s fridge, there were things about True Blood you just accepted. I said, “Cannibalistic Burning Man run by a Mad Maenad? I’ve waited my whole life for this!”

And then when Seasons Three and Four gave us the batty-beyond-belief Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare), Vampire King of Mississippi, a white trash were-panther named Crystal Beth, the lounging vampire Queen Sophie-Anne Leclerq (Evan Rachel Wood), who loved nothing more than to play Yahtzee (!), the revelation that Sookie was a fairy, that Jesus (Kevin Alejandro), the love of darling Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), was in fact a powerful Mexican bruja, and a curse caused Pam (Kristin Bauer) to embark on the holy grail of finding the right foundation—Smashbox? MAC? Maybelline?—to cover her rotting face, some called foul.

But me, I was in seventh heaven as the show gave up even the slightest lip service to realism on the road to becoming the most faux Southern fried nü-Hammer, blood-Romantic, were-vamp gore-show, splat-palooza of all time,and it became clear that Blood creator Alan Ball would not drive 55, and the only way he’d stop was if he were six feet under.

And now it must end. It must not be allowed to become an undead parody of a parody of itself, like Dexter.

My sense of Season Five, from its tagline—“Everything is at Stake”—onwards points towards end games from which the show will not be able to renew itself without becoming a faint Xerox of past bloody wonders.

So with the prayer of “I love you—now die,” some highlights:

The episode opens one minute before the very end of last season’s finale, whipsawing from Sookie accidentally shooting Tara—whose fate will have to remain a secret for a spell, sorry—to a hilarious frenzy of tidying as, a few miles away, Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) clean up the sticky remains of Nan Flanagan (Jessica Tuck) who’d just outed herself as anti-Authority before meeting the True Death at Bill’s hands when he learned she desired some of Sookie’s fairy power.  

Alas, a pack of ninjas (or is that a flock, a murder or a bushel?) bag them in silver netting and stick them in a limo trunk. Eric’s shout of “That’s the Authority we’re up against!” not only IDs their attackers, it suggests a more epic storyline that would render any little tales from humble Bon Temps, LA passé.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian), ex-head of the Fellowship of the Sun, shows up gay and glamouring himself into Jason’s apartment, availing himself of that law of physics that says for every standing body of flesh there is a correlative moment when that body WILL fuck Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten).

But then the door slams open, Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) declares herself “the progeny of the king of Louisiana!” and Newlin’s old news for now, as Jessica mounts Jason.

Shock cut to: A spy-movie-style male and female pair listening to Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs” in a limousine. In the trunk, Bill and Eric are bound in silver netting (take note, slash fiction folks—this will be a good year for you).

One of the show’s more casually ridiculous escapes transpires: Bill finds an umbrella and stabs the car’s gas tank, which, after he asks Eric for some fire, blows up. Seriously. Bite this, believable solutions!

Crawling from the wreckage, the McCartney fan, whose name is Nora (Lucy Griffiths) finds Eric, and the two embrace and smooch deeply.

Nora is Eric’s sister and yeah—more TV incest. Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Bored to Death, Dexter, Supernatural, WTF?

At first I had no idea. But then a seeming cop-out, Eric’s revelation to Bill that he and Nora are “only connected through our maker” had me thinking. Because their “maker” is Godric (Allan Hyde), who died, or ascended heavenwards in a swirl of light and ecstatic disintegration season two’s “I Will Rise Up”.

With “everything at stake,” why would the show bring on someone who is Eric’s only living connection to the person he loved more than anyone or anything in his life, Godric?

Okay, before I mull myself into a coma, back to what Nora was actually doing. She’d planned to save Bill and Nora before their umbrella-gas-tank maneuver because, hot taboo sex aside, she’s a ruling member of the Authority working to tear the damned thing down from the inside.

So, Vive la révolution! Except Nora, Bill and Eric get caught by more Authority ninjas and there’s something about the way one of them bullhorns “Do not fucking move!” that makes me think Bill and Eric are screwed for quite a while.

Otherwise, here are the updates you need:

Captain Andy. An APD to all you Wire fans desirous of Chris Bauer nudity—your prayers are answered. Captain Andy is seen consorting with witch Holly (Lauren Bowles). Nice butt, Chris—who knew?

Terry. Terry (Todd Lowe) is now playing guest to his old Iraq war pal Patrick (Scott Foley). Flashbacks, fistfights, hallucinations occur—within, like, five minutes of screen time. How do you ratchet things up from there? A: Terry has kids, a wife, a life, oh dear.

Lafayette. Is this horrible? I want him to die so he can be with Jesus (boyfriend Jesus). Of everyone on True Blood, nobody has suffered more and gained less than Lafayette. So when he and Sook look for Jesus’ body and it’s not there, I’m thinking that if my end game theorem is true, maybe there’s a way Lafayette can peaceably slip this mortal coil and be forever with his beloved Jesus.


Jason. This whole episode is like a Stations of the Cross redemption trip for Sookie's older brother.

He tries to apologize to Hoyt (Jim Parrack), but Hoyt just calls him a girlfriend-fucker, accurate but hardly sporting.

He goes to Bill’s house, where Jessica is having a party with college kids her own age in a kind of adorable/pitiful simulation of what her life would have been like if the whole vampire thing hadn’t happened. After Rock Banding The Runaway’s “Cherry Bomb” (one of those True Blood moments sure to become a viral animated GIF), Jason leaves with some hottie but gives her an impassioned speech on how he wants be a better man instead of having sex with her, and still the space/time continuum did not collapse. Which leaves . . .

Alcide (Joe Manganiello). Who saves Sam (Sam Trammell)—whose problems with Luna (Janina Gavankar) are just confusing at this point—from becoming puppy chow for the werewolf pack that thinks he killed Marcus (Dan Buran). Alcide tells the pack that he’s a lone wolf now, and then he hightails it to Sookie’s to offer his protection from Russell, who, despite being buried under a few thousand tons of concrete the last time we saw him, is somehow back!

Russell. The only American vampire willing and able to punch his fist through someone’s chest on national TV and gloat about it. Russell (Denis O'Hare)—the one-vamp/one-man guarantor of True Blood quality!

Me, I’m going out on a limb here and predicting a terrific, apocalyptically satisfying season of over-the-topper-most True Blood. May it be its last.

Ian Grey has written, co-written or been a contributor to books on cinema, fine art, fashion, identity politics, music and tragedy. Magazines and newspapers that have his articles include Detroit Metro Times,, Icon Magazine, International Musician and Recording World, Lacanian Ink, MusicFilmWeb, New York Post, The Perfect Sound, Salon, Smart Money Magazine, Teeth of the Divine, Venuszine, and Time Out/New York.

VIDEO ESSAY: A Drop of BLOOD Through the Heart – A TRUE BLOOD Tribute

VIDEO ESSAY: A Drop of BLOOD Through the Heart

It's perhaps either a fitting coincidence or a realization of my own 20-something existential crisis that the making of this True Blood montage came shortly after I completed my video contemplation of the world of Mad Men's Don Draper. The similarities might not be obvious, but they are there: While Don Draper struggles to conceal his true identity as Dick Whitman as others around him try in vain to scratch beneath the surface, Sookie Stackhouse is still on a journey to reconcile her supernatural fairy blood with her human existence.

The essays contrast the question "Who is Don Draper?" with "What are you?" At its heart, True Blood is exactly about how we cope when we realize our constant, our humanity, is taken from us—new vampire Jessica's relationship with human Hoyt, shapeshifter Sam's investigation into the lives of his birth parents, and Bill's flashbacks to his first few decades as a vampire with Lorena are all examples. As the dearly departed Queen Sophie-Anne reminds Bill, "we started out [as humans] too." And when we left off in the Season 4 finale, mortality had never been more pressing than when Debbie and Tara had seemingly died—and perhaps even more shocking was Sookie's pulling of the trigger on Debbie in cold blood. I have a feeling that humanity, in addition to Tara's mortal life and Sookie's redemption, will be a huge theme in Season 5. And wild werewolves couldn't drag me away from seeing what happens next.

Serena Bramble is a rookie film editor whose montage skills are an end result of accumulated years of movie-watching and loving. Serena is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Teledramatic Arts and Technology from Cal State Monterey Bay. In addition to editing, she also writes on her blog Brief Encounters of the Cinematic Kind.