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'True Blood' Season 7 Episode 1 Recap: 'Jesus Gonna Be Here'

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Welcome to “Last Bites” the weekly recap of the final season of “True Blood” that tells you which of the beloved (or loathed) human and supe residents of Bon Temps got naked, got in a bind or simply got through to the next episode.

In a parallel universe, “True Blood” could have plausibly been called “Everybody Hates Sookie.”

The telepathic heroine of the hit HBO show may have fey blood in her veins (intoxicating and magnetic to vampires) and a “precious fairy vagina” (irresistible to most penises), but mind reading and vampire lovin' makes Sookie otherwise a universally loathed character in her hole-in-the-road home of Bon Temps. That vampires and supes are so smitten with her is a remarkable exception that stands in contrast to how much the everyday folks kinda despise her. It also explains why Sookie has been among the lone humans on the show to so easily embrace the supernatural (and it’s something “True Blood” has slowly forgotten en route to its seventh and final season).

In Sunday night’s season premiere, poor telepathic Sookie is back to where she was when we first met her in Season 1: At Merlotte’s (now called “Bellefleur’s”) and barraged by the town folks’ thoughts of how intolerable they find her. The Hep-V infected vampires (henceforth known as “H-Vamps”) have crashed the human-vampire mixer that now-mayor Sam Merlotte (RIP, Mayor Norris!) and Rev. Daniels have arranged and once again, all hell breaks loose in this tiny, overburdened town.

Though "True Blood" at its heart is supposed to be Sookie's story, interest in her fate was long ago eclipsed by characters like Eric (disappointingly absent this whole episode), Lafayette and Jessica. The show built such a huge fan base with its soapy storylines, mix of fantasy and adventure, brief dalliances into the socio-political implications of a vampire-human world and of course, an abundance of gratuitous sex scenes involving actors with magnificent asses.

The biggest hurdle "True Blood" will have to overcome this season is how to make people invest in the characters again instead of simply wondering how their latest high-stakes (no pun intended) situation will be resolved. It's a high bar to clear for two reasons: One, a bloated cast of characters and their related storyline have bogged down “True Blood” for a few seasons now. Two, last season's 6-month jump into the future presented us with new scenarios we had no chance to invest in, like Sam becoming mayor, Sookie and Alcide cohabitating, Willa and Tara's bond as a vamp family, Jessica and James' relationship.

For that reason, showrunner Brian Buckner has promised to return the final season to the intimate relationships. In other words:

Yet even as "True Blood" looks to return to the relationships and characters of its origins, we're reminded there are at least four new characters (5.5 if you count Nicole and her fetus) from last season that we're supposed to care about: Violet, Jason's "everything-but" Catholic vampire paramour; Willa, Eric's young progeny who's all but been abandoned by her vamp family; James, Jessica's hunky vampire boyfriend; and Adilyn, Andy's fairy daughter whose sisters Jessica devoured in Season 6.

While each of the newish characters have budding storylines in this new season, let's get Violet's out of the way because it's the most troublesome.

The Jason-Violet relationship has been strange from the start. Jason hates most vampires (except Jessica), but ultimately winds up in a monogamous (another surprise) relationship with Violet after becoming "hers." The old-school Catholic has eschewed sex in the Biblical sense with Jason for more than half a year, instead feeding on her lover and enjoying what is implied to be non-reciprocal oral pleasure. That all comes to an end in the premier when the pair finally get in on in a hate-bang, f-bomb laced situation. The angry, aggressive humping was probably meant to be the type of sex scene we've all come to expect from "True Blood" (intense, hot and over-the-top) but Jason's angry demands leading up to the shirt-ripping came off as more than a little gut-churning to me.

The only other love scene viewers get is a brief, vanilla encounter between Alcide and Sookie which is the first we see onscreen since their relationship's romantic progression was excluded in last season's 6-month jump into the future. Epic disappointment.

And though the sex scenes tilted more absurd (either absurdly boring or absurdly icky), the "True Blood" did deliver (more on that in a minute) on the "major death" that was teased leading up till now.

Fresh off a reconciliation with her Tara, Lettie Mae is attacked by an H-Vamp only to be left covered in the goo that was her daughter.

Boom. (Before the opening credits rolled, no less)

This last season is all about coming full circle and returning to the start, so in a sense, Tara’s impossibly crummy death completes her character's miserable arc. Almost from day 1, Sookie’s childhood BFF has been given a raw deal. From bad jobs to a drunk mom to a murdered boyfriend to a vampire rapist, Tara’s never had more than an episode or two of happiness.

Tara was a strong and even admirable character in Season 1, but the show’s never really figured out what to do with her after Season 2 and her character has been limping through one unsatisfying storyline after the next ever since.

However...

We don't actually see Tara’s demise, nor Pam (off hunting for Eric) react as she would if her progeny had met the True Death. Could Tara escape death a second time? Actress Rutina Wesley, who plays Tara, is listed as a series regular for the rest of the season...

Pam, meanwhile, is away on a bizarre continent-hopping mission to find Eric and was last seen not giving a shit during a round of vampire Russian Roulette in Marrakech.

Back in Bon Temps, Bill and Andy for an unlikely search team while Mayor Sam (still seems ridiculous) faces an uprising from the man whom he beat in the mayoral race -- and happens to know Sam's shifter secret.

Tune in next week to see where the Scooby Gang of Bon Temps ends up next.

Random Observations:

  • I almost never enjoy actor swaps, but after learning the backstory of Lafayette's new vampire protector, James (actor Luke Grimes landed a role in the forthcoming "50 Shades Of Grey" film and was replaced after Season 6 with Nathan Parsons formerly of "Bunheads"), my interest is definitely piqued.
  • What happened to Sookie's accent? Few characters -- with the exception of Australian actor Ryan Kwanten who plays Jason -- have ever really committed to their character's accent and speaking style and it's always been annoying.
  • Props to Pam, who managed to have some of the most interesting scenes in the episode despite the gawdawful dialogue ("Your god and my god can go to a motel and have a circle jerk for all I care. I'll be in Hell having a three way with the devil.") UGH.
  • Remember when we all really, really liked Alcide? His grumpy jerk status in this episode does not become him.
  • Big props to music supervisor Gary Calamar (who has continually brought excellent picks to the show) for this episode's title track by Tom Waits -- an artists who is famously protective about licensing his music.
  • One last thought about Tara: As disappointing as I’ve found her character’s arc to be, I recently started reading the “The Southern Vampire Mysteries” — the books on which “True Blood” is based — and must give the writers minor props for teasing a much more interesting and nuanced character out of one that was originally pretty minor. Fun fact: In the source material, while Tara is still considered Sookie’s best friend, she was written as tall white girl who owns an upscale women’s boutique in Bon Temps who is almost as down with vampires as Sookie.

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