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True Blood Sucker Punch: Episode One

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Ed Note-- This blog contains spoilers

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

Because come on, y'all... gaudiness is True Blood's specialty. Yes, HBO's Southern Gothic vampire drama serves up a variety of delicious moments---ranging from steamy sex scenes to sensitive revelations to scary fights---but everything's infused with trashiness. People don't just die: They get their hearts ripped out. Characters don't just go to church: They join cults. Vampires don't just go to bars: They go to black-leather sin pits with names like Fangtasia. If the show were more over the top, it would under itself.

And frankly, that's why I love it. The series, created by Six Feet Under and American Beauty's Alan Ball, pulses with such reckless, lusty energy that I cannot wait for each new episode.

Which brings me back to Sucker Punch: Instead of simply reviewing each week's installment, I'm going to tease out the moments that best embody True Blood's tawdry heart. I hope you'll join me in my quest!

I'm happy to say that "Nothing But the Blood," the first episode of season two, is just as florid as I'd hoped it would be.

The first scene, for heaven's sake, reveals that the dead body in the back of Deputy Andy Bellefleur's car (discovered at the end of last season, you'll remember), belongs to Miss Jeanette, the voodoo priestess who drove demons from Tara and her mother. Except Miss Jeanette isn't just dead. Her heart has been torn from her body, and her face is frozen in a rictus scream on par with that girl in the opening scene of The Ring. It's a deeply disturbing image that also sets up a potentially season-long conflict between Tara and her mother. Now that Tara doesn't have faith in Miss Jeanette's healing powers and her mom still does, we can see battle lines getting drawn between them. Even though they love each other, it seems like they're pushing each other toward an ultimatum: Choose to see the world like I see it, or choose to live without me.

It seems like Sookie and Jason are headed that way too, doesn't it? What with Sookie continuing her relationship with her vampire boyfriend Bill, and Jason clearly getting ready to go buck wild in this cultish, anti-vamp church of his. So long as they keep giving Jason reasons to take his clothes off, I'll be interested to see where this goes.

Speaking of disrobing: Did you notice the scene where Ryan Kwanten (who plays Jason) reads a book about his new religion but forgets to put a shirt on? It's definitely on this week's Sucker Punch shortlist. Same deal for Bill and Sookie's fangy-bloody sex scene, though it's interesting how tangential both of the series' main characters feel in the season opener. Sure, Sookie discovers that Bill both killed her pedophile uncle and turned young Jessica into a vampire, but all gets forgiven in the aforementioned fang bang. They don't leave the episode with any pressing problems.

You know who does, though? Lafayette. As I've written, he's just about my favorite character in the history of ever, and this week, he is involved in one of the most out there spectacles I can recall seeing on television. You see, Eric and the other meanie vampires aren't just imprisoning the humans who have displeased them (for burning their friends or, in Lafayette's case, selling V). No, they're chaining them to some kind of medieval wagon wheel beneath Fangtasia and forcing them to turn it. For no apparent reason. Maybe to spin a disco ball? Who knows?

Lafayette makes the situation even more outre by keeping up his sass talk. Nelsan Ellis' reaction shots to a fellow prisoner are priceless. Even when Lafayette isn't talking, you can almost hear him say, "This redneck over here needs to shut his mouth before I get crazy."

And yet he still doesn't deliver the Sucker Punch of the week! That's because Tara has been taken in by Maryann Forrester, a woman who clearly has some kind of connection to ancient Greek magic and who has six kinds of crazy lurking behind her eyes. Whenever Maryann's onscreen---whether she's telling off Tara's mother, or seducing a young Sam Merlotte in a flashback---she turns this episode awesomely nasty.

Her best moment? Right after her cabana boy interrupts what would have been Tara and Eggs Benedict's first kiss. The servant brings them more towels, thus cooling their poolside flame, and a few seconds later, Maryann slaps him to the ground, screaming "Nobody needed more towels!" I guarantee you that right after she did that, drag queens across the land quivered with delight at hearing the latest thing they can holler from a cabaret stage.

Maryann's rage is total, surprising, and ludicrous. Why does she want those two together? Why does she hate towels? We'll probably find out in a few weeks, but for now, we can thank her smackdown for giving us the season's first Sucker Punch of the Week.

For more, join me at The Critical Condition