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True Blood Sucker Punch: Season 4, Ep. 9

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

SPOILERS AHEAD

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True Blood needs to put up or shut up. Either let Bill and Sookie get hurt, or stop trotting out "dangerous" situations that they will obviously escape from. It's cool if the main characters are invincible... just stop pretending they might die at any second. It sucks the life out of supposedly tense moments, and it distracts from other, more interesting stories.

Dumb fake-outs abound in "Let's Get Out Of Here." We start with the aftermath of the battle in the graveyard, where Sookie got shot. For one hot second, Bill and Alcide are worried because Sookie won't drink Bill's blood. Since we're not stupid, though, we know she'll drink it eventually, so the entire scene becomes an irritating delay of the inevitable.

Same deal with the climactic battle at the Festival of Tolerance. Martonia plans to kill Bill in front of all those reporters, but we know that's an empty threat. Of course Sookie's going to learn about the plan, and of course she's going to help Bill get away. Yet the episode drags on for an hour, pretending something bad might happen.

What's worse, in order to justify Bill's inevitable rescue, the episode constructs convoluted, unsatisfying plot twists. Like... Debbie. What's going on there? One minute, she's back on V and hating Sookie. In the next, Sookie reads her thoughts and realizes Debbie wants to help rescue Bill. That conveniently allows Debbie and Sookie to bust into the Moon Goddess Emporium, learn where Bill's hiding, and haul ass to save him.

And sure: It's suggested that Debbie is just putting Sookie on... that she's really using some kind a double cross to put Sookie in danger. But the storytelling is so muddy that it's hard to know for sure. Either way, the end result is that Sookie gets to save Bill. Again. No consequences.

In the midst of all this, we also get more of Tara's endless song and dance. She loves something, then she hates it. She's tough, then she's scared. She's kicking ass, then she's taken prisoner. Over and over with this swinging pendulum. This week, Tara turns against Martonia and starts helping Sookie save vampires, giving Sook the key information about how to find Bill. Sure, it makes sense that Tara would turn on Martonia, since the witch punishes all of her followers who question her desire to murder every vampire in the world. If I were being held captive in Moon Goddess emporium, which doesn't even have a visible TV, I'd be pissed. But wouldn't it be more interesting and less obnoxiously predictable if Tara actually stuck to a conviction? What if she were the one who stayed by Martonia's side, instead of this third-tier hippie dude who's suddenly the witch's lackey? After all, the series has spent weeks explaining why Tara hates vampires. What if she actually maintained that belief system for a second? What if she became a true antagonist to Sookie and Bill and tried her best to destroy all the vamps? What if we got a villain from within the main community of the show, instead of a villain who was airlifted in for a single season? What if the group dynamic of the central characters actually changed and Tara held fast to her anti-vampire position, even though it made Sookie and Bill and everyone else uncomfortable? What if?

I don't think the writers have the guts to deliver that kind of story. For all its sex and gore and complexity, True Blood can be awfully provincial, coddling the audience by never surprising us too much and by never letting consequences last more than two episodes. Someone's shot? Vampire blood will heal them! Vampires rape and torture a character? She immediately gets over it after Bill saves her life in a graveyard!

That's also why I'm disappointed that Jessica and Jason sleep together this week. Last week, it seemed like Jason had the maturity not to succumb to his desire, since he realized how much it would hurt Hoyt. But in the world of Neverchange, Jason is always going to sleep with the girl. Despite being repeatedly raped a few episodes ago. Despite knowing it will kill his friend. It would challenge our expectations if Jason took the high road and, say, Sookie had sex without love. But again, I don't expect that to happen.

This is another reason I love Sam and Tommy: Their stories keep surprising me. Tommy keeps making irrational decisions that piss people off, but deep down, he loves his brother and wants his brother to love him.

When Tommy shifted into Sam a few weeks ago, it was a reckless gesture, but when he shifts into Sam this week, it's a selfless one. This isn't the same as Tara going back and forth between extremes. It's an example of honest-to-god growth in Tommy's character: He's learning from his mistakes and trying (in his way) to atone for them. He shifts into Sam and goes to confront Marcus, who is furious that Sam is with Luna. He's trying to protect his brother, to keep him safe. But he's also trying to protect Sam's relationship with Luna, which Tommy himself almost destroyed when he shifted into Sam last time. There's a wild nobility there. Tommy's not being thoughtful, but he is trying to be loyal.

And it matters that while Tommy's getting his ass kicked by werewolves, we cross-cut to Sam and Luna making love for the first time. Tommy is sacrificing himself so that Sam and Luna can connect. He's taking the consequences and letting those two have the reward. It's violent and lovely all at once.

Similarly, there's violence when LaMavis threatens people with a gun as she tries to care for Mikey, but there's loveliness in her ghostly devotion to her long-dead child. It's also touching to see Jesus, Terry, Jason, and the rest stop and listen to LaMavis and give her what she needs to move on.

And yes, it's treacly when Mavis' ghost leaves Lafayette's body and floats nearby holding the ghost of her dead child. Because it mostly unfolds in a single episode, the story feels a little pat, but there's still enough emotion there to keep it interesting. Besides, we haven't see another "ghost mommy needs ghost baby" story on this show, so at least it's fresh.

Oh, and this story creates an interesting contrast to what's happening with Martonia. Mavis entered Lafayette on a mission of love, yet Antonia entered Marnie on a mission of hate. I appreciate that. Still, I've got to give sucker punch honors to that cross-cut scene between Tommy's beatdown and Sam and Luna's lovemaking. It's rich and compelling, and I've been thinking about it for days.

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