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True Blood Sucker Punch: Episode 10

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Note: This post contains spoilers

Welcome to Sucker Punch, the only blog post that ranks the gaudiest moments on this week's episode of True Blood.

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Hey everyone! Before we begin, I want to thank you for the great discussion about last week's episode, "I Will Rise Up." Many of you disagreed with my assessment of Godric as a half-finished character who is more intellectually intriguing than emotionally involving, and you defended your positions with elegant analysis. I'm proud to be part of our ongoing conversation about True Blood, because week after week, it produces comments that make me think.

But no matter how we feel about Godric, can we agree that Episode 10, "New World in My View," serves up a flaky batch of awesomeness biscuits?

I mean, as someone who loves this season for its wild action and surprising character development, I can't ask for more. There are so many Sucker Punch moments in Episode 10 that I scarcely know where to begin...

... so let's start with the first scene. Sookie's naughty dream about Eric is striking because it's so tender. Before he bites her, Eric lets Sookie kiss his face. We see them interacting with kind-hearted concern, suggesting that Eric (whom I assume is manipulating this dream) wants an actual connectionwith Sookie, and not just a scromp-fest. Every revelation about his emotional life just deepens our understanding of what vampires can be. Is it possible that, given the proper conditions, they could all be as thoughtful and gentle as Godric?

Maybe... but lest we get too sentimental, this episode counters Eric's sensitivity with Jessica's rage. I'll bet some of us cheer when Jessica, tired of being called a slut, goes crazy on Hoyt's mama's neck. It's like watching a mother-in-law revenge fantasy.

Even better, writers Kate Barnow and Elisabeth Finch let Hoyt's mother act like a hateful cow without quite reducing her to a stereotype. Since she has black eyes, you see, we know she isn't really herself. She's a puppet, designed to say things that will stoke the basest urges in everyone around her. So when Jessica attacks, it's more like she attacking the worst parts of Hoyt's mom... and not so much assaulting the woman herself.

Here's the way I see it: Maryann makes people act on their nastiest impulses, and since they're controlled by their ids, they recklessly provoke the people around them. Hoyt's mama, for instance, says nasty things when she's normal, but even she has limits. Under Maryann's spell, however, she not only unleashes her most vicious thoughts, but also uses them like weapons. She intentionally pushes Jessica's buttons until the poor vampire snaps. That adds to the chaos that Maryann loves. (Tara tries to do the same thing to Sookie when she tells her that she ought to commit suicide. Tara probably has thought such a thing in a hidden part of her mind, but Maryann's influence brings that cruelty to the surface.)

With that perspective in mind, I have a new respect for Maryann's presence on the show. More than just a movie-of-the-week monster, she's the engine for a sweeping allegory about a person's secret corners. She's both a positive message and a cautionary tale.

Because there are parts of Maryann's influence that are good, you know? She inspires confidence. She eliminates sexual shame. She gives people permission to be themselves.

But she also demonstrates that liberation can lead to catastrophe.

So what do we do with that? How do we read a character that does terrible things, but also has wisdom to share?

In this episode, part of the answer comes from Sam, who tells Andy that killing the black-eyed people would be wrong, because they are still the citizens of Bon Temps. In other words, we can't destroy people just for having wild streaks. When they succumb to vice, we can't cast them aside.

Lafayette embodies part of the answer, too. He's a great example of someone who celebrates his id, but who knows how to keep it in check. He sees the boundary that Maryann wants people to miss.

This is a big idea I'm working through, and it's possible that the last two episodes will upend it altogether. But right now, I'm liking the notion that Season Two is an allegory for learning to balance all the parts of ourselves. Let's table this for now, though.

In other news, Sookie rocks when she discovers her new "magic hands" power. That's a strong Sucker Punch candidate, since her ability is so surprising and cool.

Another front-runner? The revelation that Nintendo Wii controls Hoyt's mama. How awesome that in True Blood, violent video games make life better.

This week's runner-up spot goes to Maryann's meat tree, because... eww. It's bad enough that she wants to sacrifice Sam. Sacrificing him on a tree full of rotting cold cuts is just gross.

This week's winner is Jason's crazy appearance as Fake Bacchus. First, he chooses to trick Maryann's followers into believing he's their god... but before he does it, he takes off his shirt. Then, he gets tongue-tied while he's praising his followers for bringing him Sam Merlotte. Then, he gets some broke-down horns, courtesy of Andy Bellfleur, and realizes he can't hear what Sam is saying because of his gas-mask headpiece. It's all just... awesomely ridiculous.

This scene truly becomes our Sucker Punch, though, after Sam disappears... then returns wielding a fire extinguisher and wearing nothing but an apron. When we see his bare butt, the show gets so trashy that you have to bow down.

Next week... Evan Rachel Wood as the vampire queen. Delicious!

For more, please join me at The Critical Condition.