True Blood Recap: Tempted by the Glowing Fruit of Another

Guess who’s back in the vampire-loving, motherblooding house? True Blood! That televisual dreamworld on HBO in which the men are good-looking and the women are good actresses. Where small towns in the South are pansexual oases that look deceptively like backlots in Malibu. Where everything is lit like soft-core pornography and also written like soft-core pornography. Yes, the supernatural soap is back to match Game Of Thrones round for round in gratuitous sexual content.

When we last left Sookie Stackhouse she’d been delivered to an alternate world resembling a Maxfield Parrish painting of the Olive Garden, which turned out to be the fairy (sorry, faerie) realm. If you made it past that last sentence, you probably already watch True Blood. But if not, welcome to True Blood. I’ll go gentle on you first-timers. Just kidding. There is no going gentle.

After figuring out that the fairy realm is a matte-painted death trap, re-meeting her long-lost grandfather (Gary Cole, reprising his role from Talladega Nights in a less bastardly key), and generally reacquainting us with the Lil’ Abner-meets-Debbie Does Dallas milieu of True Blood, Sookie is finally returned to the mundanity of the real world where, of course, her vampire boyfriend and her other vampire boyfriend await. No sign of her werewolf boyfriend yet. He’s probably still at the gym.

Bill and Eric have apparently been waiting with boom boxes on Sookie’s steps for 12-plus months in a “Who Can Be The Creepiest Boyfriend?” contest (YOU BOTH WIN). It’s funny how what’s considered ideal gentlemanly behavior in romance novels so neatly overlaps with what’s considered stalking in real life. That’s what icks everyone out so much about the Twilight books, but it’s also fun to think about how people will tolerate more or less any behavior in someone they’re sexually attracted to.

Meanwhile, vampire Jessica, who spent the past season yearning for a normal relationship with Hoyt, is dealing with the reality of what a “normal” hetero-human sexual relationship entails: a big, boring baby who expects her to cook meals for him even though she herself doesn’t eat. Hoyt also expects Jessica to stay at home even though she is a horny teenage ginger baby vampire, and when he lets her out for the night at S&M club Fangtasia, bad-girl enabler Pam encourages her to follow her true instincts and kill and screw everything in sight.

In True Blood‘s universe, a vampire’s biggest enemies are monogamy and a sense of humor. Bill is an exile in his community because of his boring husbandly love for Sookie. Everyone’s a swinger. Sookie is the ultimate ethical slut. The plot contorts all sorts of ways so she can keep Bill as her no. 1 vampire lover but then also cheat on him with other hot guys for reasons that are super necessary to the plot.

Like X-Men, True Blood is often accused of using mutation (vampirism) as a heavy-handed metaphor for homosexuality. But in both worlds it’s more like anything but Ken-and-Barbie/Real Housewives heterosexuality goes, and that’s much more similar to the real world than the fictional worlds that are depicted in film most of the time, in which superheroes still date their secretaries. C’mon Iron Man, get on your own level. Date the girl who can blow shit up with her mind.

Sookie is a consummate Mary Sue, the term in fandom for a hypergeneric stand-in through which the author lives out fantasies. Her biggest characteristic is pluckiness and her second-biggest quality is sundresses. Her third-biggest quality is the ability to mind-read, which is what makes her unique and supposedly why she attracts so many supernatural love interests. She embodies the romance-novel heroine, breaking down every man in town with an innate super specialness that is often alluded to and occasionally displayed.

In other “I forgot about this over the summer” plot developments, Jason Stackhouse is now both badged up with the Bon Temps police department and the reticent lovable caretaker of a bushel of orphans straight out of central casting for the Willow Smith Annie reboot. And rather than deal with another round of resolving Tara’s victimization in every single plot line they have given her until now, True Blood has allowed her to live the American dream of re-upping and restarting her life as a lesbian cage fighter in New Orleans. Her new fight partner/girlfriend seems, uh, emotionally supportive.

Lafayette is still with his Santeria-doing boyfriend, although he always seems to lead Lafayette toward his darkest impulses and into library covens. Like Omar on The Wire, Lafayette is often excessively praised for being a non-swishy gay character, the sort of backhandedly homophobic comment that reveals an unfortunate truth about its teller. The desire to label people is strongest in those who are sure that their own label will never get them pulled over or run out of town.

The days of being able to “tell” a person’s sexuality just by looking at them are over. They never really existed to begin with. This is the utopia that True Blood presents. Bon Temps is a world where it doesn’t matter whom you love or how. A fantasy world that we are getting closer to all the time.

Filed Under: Recaps, True Blood, TV

Photo on 2014-01-10 at 12.58 #3

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ mollylambert