07/27/2010 05:03 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

True Blood Sucker Punch: Season 3, Ep. 6

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

(Warning: Spoilers Ahead)


What a difference a year makes, you guys. Around this time last season, True Blood and I were in a fight. The turgid Maryann business was driving me crazy, the subplot in Dallas felt disconnected from everything else... it was rough. Now, however, the show and I have more than made up. We're thinking about moving in together. Because seriously... the series is having its best run of episodes ever.

Case in point: "I Got a Right to Sing the Blues." An exceptional hour of television -- written by Alan Ball and directed by John Dahl -- it hurls scene after scene at my gut, my heart, and my brain. In fact, so many moments strike me so deeply that I'm hard-pressed to anoint just one Sucker Punch. But since they don't pay me the big blogger bucks to be wishy-washy, I'll make a choice.

Before I do, however, let me ask you this: Have you noticed that most of the action is unfolding at Russell's Mississippi estate? Every room has its own drama, from Franklin and Tara: Totes in Love in the upstairs bedroom to Stealing Daddy's Crown in the basement. Meanwhile, the slave quarters have become Lorena and Bill's own Grand Guignol theater, and the manicured grounds are being prowled by werewolves.

When I think about this place, which feels removed not just from Bon Temps, Louisiana but from the entire world, I feel a physical sense of dread. Russell's estate looms in my mind like a nightmare world, where passion and violence are physically manifested. I mean, this is a place where the bedrooms have hatchets on the walls, where the basement hides crowns that were stolen from dead kings, and where the kitchen serves nothing but flowers and blood. It's not a "real" place in my mind: It's a place out of time, where terror rustles up behind you in a hoop skirt.

Earlier this season, I was worried that by moving the action to Mississippi, the show was going to feel fragmented like it did when it detoured to Dallas. Now, however, I realize that many of the stories this season need to be happening in Mississippi... or at least not in Bon Temps. The characters are caught in primal struggles that seem bigger than their "real world," and just like I sometimes need to go on vacation to get a fresh perspective on my home, they need to get out of Louisiana to sort through their ordeals.

Take what's happening to Tara. When she artfully seduces Franklin, then bashes his head in, then "think-talks" with Sookie so they can concoct an escape plan, she's doing more than saving herself in the present moment. She's slicing through a season and a half of passivity and victimhood. Forget that scene a few years ago where she stabbed the ghost girl in the woods: This is her week for liberation. I mean, when Sookie insists on staying on the grounds to look for Bill, Tara refuses to help her. Instead, she does what's right for her and keeps on running. Damn right! Way to finally take care of yourself, hooker!

On the nastier side of "getting what you want," there's Eric, who's flowing through Russell's house like poisoned perfume. Alexander Skarsgard's doing a great job playing Eric's shameless seduction of Russell and Talbot, and in his big scene with Sookie, he totally sells the rage that's driving him to abolish his recent relationships (with Sookie, with Queen Sophie) in order to avenge his father's death.

We can read this as more than just a vampire honoring his dead Viking daddy. It's also an evocation of how destructive the past can be, how destructive the family can be, to our present-day lives. Because really... Eric could screw up everything with this little caper, but down at Russell's place, vengeance is always going to defeat common sense.

Oh, and speaking of family? I know that Sam and the Mickens are not in Mississippi, but damn... their stuff this week is slaying me. It's just so awful... this revelation that Joe Lee forces Melinda and Tommy to earn their keep by shifting into dogs and entering illegal dog fights. And Melinda's apparent belief that this is all she's good for, that Joe Lee has done her and Tommy a favor by forcing this life on them... it's heartbreaking. Some of you have been wondering in the comments section if Joe Lee is sexually abusing Tommy, and I've thought you might be right. But this is worse. This is child and spousal abuse extrapolated to Greek proportions. Joe Lee is literally turning his wife and son into beasts so that he can break their spirits and their bodies. What a monster. I want to reach through the screen and pull Tommy and Melinda out of there myself.

Whew. I know you're reading this on a computer screen, but if you were here with me right now, you'd probably notice how much this recap has shaken me up. Russell's place, Joe Lee's nastiness... it's powerful. I think I'm especially moved because the terror in this episode does more than just scare me... it evokes my sympathy, too.

And no one evokes my sympathy like Bill and Lorena. Bill, obviously, because his conflicted nature has turned him into a literal slave, strapped down and bleeding in Russell's slave quarters. But there's an awful majesty in Lorena's suffering, too. As Bill tells us, she's not just maliciously wounding him: She's acting out her own agony over how her Maker stole the light in her eyes, stole her goodness and her soul. As she weeps of tears of blood, I sense that she both loves and hates Bill for his ability to remain decent. She loves him for what he hasn't lost and she hates him for reminding her of what she has.

Or wait... that's not quite right, is it? The whole thing is that deep down, Lorena does have that compassion, but she's clearly been stomped on by a violent Maker and by a community of vampires who keep telling her to her face that they hate her. She wants to be good, but she can't figure out how... and that has created a swirling disaster that's pouring out in the slave quarters. The emotional complexity of this scene is thrilling, and it's matched by Mariana Klaveno's performance. Plus, the lighting in the slave quarters underscores what's happening: We can see slivers of sunlight creeping around the edges of the floor and glinting off Lorena's bloody tears. That's death creeping up on every vampire in the place. That's a visual representation of what Lorena and Bill are doing to each other. Taken together, all these moments in the slave quarters create a serious Sucker Punch.

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