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True Blood Sucker Punch: Season 4, Ep. 6

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

SPOILERS AHEAD

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You guys? I am considering launching a blog called Evil Baby Watch, where I can just theorize and obsess over Evil Baby as much as I like. At this point, I'd say 14% of my waking consciousness is dedicated to this doll and the havoc it's wreaking on little Mikey, kooky-lovely Arlene, and world's-greatest-person Terry. And now in "I Wish I Was the Moon," we learn that Evil Baby is being controlled by the ghost of a woman who waves at Mikey and makes him smile while Mikey's houses goes up in flames. What are her intentions? On one hand... "Baby Not Yours" is a creepy thing to have the kid scrawl on the wall, and magically igniting a matchbook to burn the house down is messed up. But on the other, Mystery Lady gets Mikey out of the house before it burns down. Is she saving him only because she wants to possess him later, or does she have a streak of goodness? Aaaah! I have to stop. I could go on all day.

But speaking of demon possession and such, this season's theme of identity ownership takes another leap forward when Antonia the witch leaps into Marnie's body while Marnie sits in Bill's prison. After gruesomely clawing at bits of her skin in order to make a blood sacrifice, Marnie apparently convinces Antonia that she's an acceptably supplicant host, so Antonia shows her the final pieces of her backstory.

Most importantly, we actually see what we only heard about last week: The moment when Antonia forces the vampire clergy into the sun, causing them to burn as she is burning. As we knew, the vampire Luis is one of the faux-clergy who's torturing Antonia, yet he narrowly escapes her sunny revenge. Therefore, when he stalks down to Bill's prison in the present day and confronts Marnie/Antonia, there's a shiver of danger and excitment. This is a grudge match that's been brewing for centuries. Both sides have been responsible for burnings. Who will be snuffed out?

Granted, this whole thing would be a little more enjoyable if, yet again, rape were not so integral to the plot. We are meant to root for Antonia because we see Luis raping her as another clergy vampire cheers him on, but you know what? I was already on Antonia's side. I'd already seen how the vampires had imprisoned and tortured her and her coven. Adding a rape is cheap -- an easy grab for the audience's outrage that becomes especially hoary when you remember that Jason's rape was already a plot point this year. Sigh.

The issue of identity is still fascinating, though, and no matter how much I sympathize with Antonia, I can't shake the discomfort of seeing Marnie become totally possessed. What happens to us when we give up ourselves? Or when our selves are forcefully taken from us? Even if we think we're serving a greater good through sublimation, aren't we also endangering our souls and our ability to choose between right and wrong?

Obviously, I've brought this up with regard to Bill's troubled allegiance to the Authority and with Eric's memory-wiped "new self." The idea resonates strongly with Antonia/Marnie and with what's happening between Alcide and Debbie. Alcide is hesitant to give himself over to yet another wolf pack, but Debbie wants a pack, needs a pack. And while I'm not saying that it's wrong to belong to a group, the groups on this show often lead to problems. Will the new wolf pack send Debbie spiraling back out of control? Will she lose herself again?

What do I mean when I say "lose yourself" in the context of this show? Most simply, I mean that characters lose their agency to make fully informed moral decisions. Some people willfully give up that agency (i.e. Marnie), some seem to lose more agency than they bargained for (i.e. Bill), and some people have that agency stripped away from them (i.e. Eric, but I'll get back to that) And while the pack mentality is certainly one place where people "lose themselves," this season shows that happening in all sorts of configurations. After all, when Lafayette has to give himself over to a spirit in order to cast a spell that will save Jesus from a deadly snake bite, he's not doing that because a group told him to. He's doing that because Jesus' dark-magic grandfather forced the situation by throwing the snake at his grandson. Personal relationships can rob you of agency, too. And isn't that the undercurrent in the plotlines about vampires being "inside" someone if that person drinks their blood? One-on-one intimacy also leads to an abnegation of self, an inability to make free choices.

So what does that mean? Is there any way for someone on this show to be in full possession of themselves? (Arlene and Terry, once again, remain my touchstones for this. They have a relationship that's intimate and honest, yet they don't seem to be controlling each other.)

Whoa! It's getting deep in here! So take off all your clothes!

Anyway: I'm laying all this out because I love how complex it is. There are no simple answers to the questions of mastering your identity, and this season keeps showing us method after method by which we can lose ourselves. Perhaps some of these characters will lose their grip entirely. Perhaps some of them will prevail. At this point, I can't predict who will end up where.

Take Tommy and Sam: Now that Tommy's a skin-walker, he shifts into Sam and steals his identity for a while, sleeping with Luna then blowing her off. That hurts both brothers. If you become someone else, then you lose a part of yourself. If someone else becomes you, then you lose a part of yourself. I have no idea what's going to happen to these two. (Though Sam Trammell does a great job of playing "Tommy-as-Sam," right? He really puts the scared-rabbit essence of Marshall Allman's performance into his own work.)

Meanwhile, if, like Tara, you try to become someone else in order to escape your past, you lose a certain freedom. Your girlfriend eventually figures out who you are, you get cornered, and then you have to face what you've been running from. I don't know what's going to happen to Tara, either, but I hope she doesn't backslide into the spineless whininess of seasons 2 and 3.

Moving on, I am intrigued that Jason cannot become a werepanther. He gets to hold on to his humanity after all: He gets a little agency back. Only now Jessica's got a blood claim on him. At least for a while. So... sigh. The mind reels.

I'm also reeling about what's happening with Bill and Eric, but in a good way. It looks like I've been too hard on Eric, especially. This episode convinces me that he really is a safe haven for Sookie and that his love for her is truly real. As he nearly sacrifices his life for her at the hands of Bill's True Death, I am convinced that even when his memory comes back, he won't be the same creature he was before. You just don't go through this kind of crucible and come out unchanged. So kiss on, Eric and Sookie! Now I think you have a shot!

I'm reserving judgment on Bill, though. Yes, it's noble that he doesn't kill Eric for what are ultimately trumped-up and self-serving reasons, and yes, he is clearly conflicted about his feelings for Sookie and his obvious desire to do the right thing by her. But as we see in his conversation with Nan, he can also succumb to pettiness. (Though I do love that it's pettiness via Skype.) Like I've said, though, I prefer Bill when he's obviously conflicted, so vacillate on, my pasty brother!

Oh, and as for this week's Sucker Punch? It's not anything thematic or deep: It's the sight of Pam's rapidly decomposing face. That is nasty, y'all.

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