Monday, September 21, 2009

True Blood: The Stand Out Episode

Every TV series has that one episode that everyone remembers, that provides mass debate and discussion and that is the authoritative commentary on what the show is about. For True Blood, I think that episode is 2-9 ‘I Will Rise Up.’

What a fantastic episode! I honestly think this the definitive, game-changing episode of the season and possibly the series. There is just so much to say about this episode – the storylines, the cinematography, the characters and the wider implications for the vampire/human world.

OK, while I obviously understand that TV is fiction and purely a method of entertainment, I take TV seriously and am emotionally and mentally invested in the shows I watch and over analyse anything and everything (hence this blog!). So while one could take True Blood at face value as a sexy Southern vampire show and the episode as just part of the ‘story’, I was thinking about why this episode is so revolutionary. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it was the ‘message’ of this episode. I could try to clumsily explain but I think it is best expressed by Jung “The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” This episode has relevance and meaning for not just the world of vampires, but the world of man and the reason for humanity.

But before we delve into the deep end, let’s take a swim in the shallow end of the pool. I have two words for you - Alexsander Skaarsgard. Oh. My. Good. Lord. What a delicious man!*Jumps out pool* So, back on topic *sigh*, the dream sequence between Sookie and Eric. This has stirred up mass debate and conflict. Many were put off by this new ‘schmoopy’ Eric, arguing that it was completely out-of-character for Eric and was honestly just quite cheesy. However, we must remember that this is Sookie’s dream i.e. this is how Sookie imagines Eric in bed. For me the most powerful moment between Sookie and Eric was the moment where they just lightly brush hands when Eric leaves Godric with Sookie. So much was said and unsaid in that tiny touch, in that infinitesimal caress.

Forget Bill and Sookie. Forget Eric and Sookie. The hottest new vampire/human couple in town is Hoyt and Jessica. Their sweetness factor is through.the.roof. It’s just such a cute tale of first love, but it’s not all sugar and spice. They’re going through some real difficulties but what I love about them is they don’t just use it as an excuse to break up and create more drama, they deal with it together and are growing up. In this episode, they are fighting the bigotry and hate of Mrs Foytenberry who is used as a foil to show us the bigotry and hate of the outside world. Their relationship shows us the ‘real’ issues a vampire/human couple face. Through their ‘supernatural’ problems, like Jessica’s hymen growing back, we glimpse into how they are as a couple and people and how together they work to find a solution. Too often with vampires, we assume they are these superior beings, but with Jessica we see she is just a scared teenage girl and through this, we glimpse their humanity.

There was FINALLY delevopment for the storyline of Maryann. If it wasn’t for the phenomenal work done by Michelle Forbes, to be honest I would FF through the Maryann scenes because there has seemed to be such little reason for this arc. You know I thought I would never hear these words out of my mouth but Jeez, am I glad there are no more orgies – seriously they were getting boooorrrrrrriiiiinnnnngggg. Now, this could have been deliberate storytelling by the writers to show us the banality of excess, but I’m slightly sceptical. In this episode, we were actually shown a glimpse into her psyche and what drives her.

However let’s get down to the real nitty-gritty. For me, Godric’s death is the most important event in the True Blood verse. I was struck by how delicately this was handled. I’m not sure how this event can be topped in terms of impact and emotion.

First we have the powerful imagery and cinematography. The sight of this child burning alive in blue flames against the background of the dusky dawn and the unknowing city. The audience were granted a rare chance in seeing someone with the utmost dignity sacrifice himself towards God. We saw this formidable 1000 year old ‘super human’ alight due to the effect of the sun next to this tiny innocent girl who stood by unharmed. It showed the true weakness of vampires – they are ultimately the dark.

This idea of light/dark is highlighted by the use of the Christian message of love and forgiveness. While I don’t want to get too over-involved in the discussion of religion (too many foot/mouth moments), I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions, I will underscore the different ways religion in particular the concept of sacrifice was portrayed. We had the act of war with Luke with the bomb, the frenzy of pagan excess with Maryann and the town; and then we had Godric, truly offering himself, still, willing and the true meaning of awe-some as in awe inspiring, breathtaking act of sacrifice.

One of the ways I think True Blood differentiates itself from other vampire shows, is that it not only tells us what it is to be a vampire, but what it is to be human. Alan Ball explores Life and all it means. Godric says “Why would you be so cruel?” when Eric is trying to convince him to live. For all the vampire benefits, the one that is the most sought after is eternal life. But through that one question, we see that life without end is meaningless and actually ‘cruel.’ We see the ultimate irony of how eternal life is perceived as heaven but in reality is the complete opposite - hell. Godric genuinely longs for mortality, for time with meaning, for life with meaning, for death with meaning. I believe in his last moments, like Pinocchio, Godric was bestowed the girft of life. Maybe not in body, but in soul. Where he expresses surprise in Sookie’s empathy – me=floods of tears. I hate to be all pretentious and slightly lazy by using a quote but Richter expresses eloquently what I am clumsily trying to explain “Humanity is never so beautiful as when praying for forgiveness, or else forgiving another.” Godric and Sookie were truly never so exquisite as that fateful morning.

“I’m scared for you”. This quote shows us why Sookie is the bomb. A lot of people have criticised the character of Sookie, and while she has her faults, I think this episode shows her best nature and why Bill and Eric are so fascinated with her because at her core she is a compassionate soul, which both of them have so little experience of. She is so novel to them in their world of night, ego and cruelty. Particularly to Bill from what we have seen in his flashbacks with Lorena.

Ah, Lorena. Psychopathic bitch that she is, we see a certain, if not love, then bond with Bill. This bond of maker/makee is explored in the episode. We have the contrast of Bill/Lorena and Bill/Jessica compared to Eric/Godric. Bill and Jessica were both unwilling and their ‘turnings’ were violent, dark struggles. However, Eric sees Godric as his personal saviour, as his own god. This is almost reversed at Godric’s death. Godric till the very end is astounded and in awe of Eric’s vitality. The fact that Godric knows Eric still has ‘life’ left in him and so commanded him to leave is testament to their love and loyalty. We see their different outtakes on life - Godric is weighed by the burden of his years, Eric still has his joie de vivre and this ultimate disparity is encapsulated by their exchange: Eric “I would fight you now if I could.” Godric “I know.” It’s beautiful and reminds us of their history as warriors. They were not just brothers-in-arms, they are each others “Father, Brother, Child.” Godric says he’ll be all those things, and at the very end he is all those things to Eric and vice versa. The caress by Godric says it all. Such tenderness and hope. If anyone doubts whether vampires have feelings, this must surely prove otherwise.

And last but certainly not least, I must praise the acting in this episode which was absolutely stellar, in particular by Anna Paquin and Allan Hyde. Their exchange on the roof should be the one they both put in for the Emmys.

So, there you have it, my long, convoluted explanation of why you MUST MUST MUST watch True Blood, if not at least this episode. Cast aside your preconceptions of a vampire show, Twilight this certainly ain’t!!!

2 Responses to “True Blood: The Stand Out Episode”

Candice said...

Great review. This was probably the best episode of True Blood this season. And I'm totally team Eric now. Alexander Skarsgard is AMAZING.

Scarlett Brooke said...

Yes, my god is he just delicious! Yum yum.

Always kinda was team Eric, I felt Bill/Sookie were too shoved down my throat. Eric/Sookie have a smouldering burn tension thing going on which I love.