Season Finale review — True Blood, “And When I Die”

This is the best season of True Blood ever. Sure, there were maybe two truly enjoyable episodes and most of the storylines were underdeveloped, stupid, poorly-plotted or some combination of all three. And sure, the series continued its terrible trend of crafting dreadful finales that are trapped somewhere between concluding old, bad stories and starting new, bad stories. But the moment that sweet, idiotic, jealous Debbie Pelt blew Tara’s brains all over Sookie’s sink, none of that other stuff like “good writing” or “interesting characters” matters. The greatness of the final 30 seconds can never be topped. It’s fitting that on the 10th anniversary of one of the worst moments in our culture’s history, True Blood provided us with one of the most celebratory ones.

There’s no way that the death* of Tara Thornton will lead True Blood down a more logical, better road in season five. There have been other moments in the series’ run – the Dallas arc, Russell’s broadcast declaration – that suggested True Blood could become something more and we all know how that turned out. This is a series of sizeable highs and unbelievably laughable lows. Even combined with the probable return of the former king Russell, I still don’t have faith that True Blood will be any better next season than it was this season or last season.

*Of course, this interview really terrifies me. I’m a bit worried that the series becomes all about zombies next season and in that way, Tara stays around for all 12 episodes, tormenting everyone who hates her (which is everyone). This would be so awful.

But you know what? I don’t care. I don’t care how awful next season or the next three seasons of True Blood are. As long as Tara stays dead, I can’t be mad at the series ever, ever again. And I hate to be vicious or offend any Rutina Wesley fans, but Tara has definitely been the worst character on television for multiple years now and it’s just time for her to go away. Wesley seems like a genuinely nice woman and she was super-charming during the Comic-Con panel I attended in 2010, so this is for her too. She needs to get out.

In other news, “And When I Die” provided the typical True Blood good and bad. The few times I’ve written about True Blood this season, I’ve called for deaths. Many of them. This finale delivered them to me, at least somewhat. If we include the last few episodes, the series has done a nice job of getting rid of the dead weight (Tara, Jesus, Tommie, Debbie, Nan) and making sure there won’t be anything more from the season’s big bad Marnie. In total, six quasi-significant deaths are enough to declare victory, I think. I would obviously hope that the series would let other characters just leave alive (Sam most notably), but a half-dozen dead people that I didn’t care about is a damn good start.

And weirdly, most of these deaths make sense. Right in the moment where Sookie decides she needs to get her single girl on and presumably needs her “best friend” the most, she’s even more alone. Now she will have to handle murdering someone in cold blood as well, so that’s fun. Lafayette having to deal with killing Jesus should also be worth a few episodes of grief. Finally, my fingers are crossed that next season will dive back deep into the political inner-workings of the vampires, so Nan’s death could have a major impact on how Bill and Eric operate. With Sookie alone, Bill and Eric in trouble with The Authority, Russell out there waiting to attack and no witches around to make things terrible, True Blood did a nice job of cleaning the table and resetting it with clean dishes that could be filled with good stuff next season. This is all hopeful and speculative of course, but I’m very willing to look at the bright-side here folks.

Unfortunately, the 50 minutes (and previous 11 episodes) that we had to get through before the series kicked it into “reset” mode were not very good. Despite Fiona Shaw’s best efforts – including somewhere around 19 different accents – Marnie had very little depth or shading to her, which made her “return” mostly worthless. The previous two episodes had a few fun showdowns, but it felt like the writing staff ran out of good ideas for how to have Sookie and company confront Marnie. Plus, I’m not entirely sold on how the character transformed as the season went along. She was at first just the vessel for a more ominous, evil witch and yet by the end, the roles were reversed. “Dead” tried to explain this all away by having Marnie be more petulant and angry about her lame life prior to the possession, but it didn’t really take with me. Antonia teaching Marnie how to let go and lecturing her on right and wrong was just dumb. The series appears to be best when it lets the vampires be the biggest threat. The writers don’t know how to write interesting characters with any other supernatural skill.

There are always too many stories happening at once on True Blood, but it never feels more obvious and problematic than in the finales. Certain OK stories, from the Jessica/Hoyt/Jason triangle to Arlene and Terry’s possible issues, were trapped in this weird holding pattern than True Blood likes to do in its finales. I understand that not every story needs resolution or conclusion; however, it is always a bit awkward to watch certain stories come to a bloody end or a shocking beginning while others are just checking off time because the actors are under contract to be in the episode. This approach messes up the flow and pacing of the episode and tends to exacerbate the finale/premiere tension the series likes to screw with – leading to disastrous results.

True Blood is never going to be the series I want it to be. This finale was relatively terrible. But Tara, Tommie, Marnie, Debbie and Jesus are dead. I can’t complain, I guess.

Other thoughts:

  • This feels like the only good place to mention that Debra Ann Woll had her first full-fledged nude scene in this episode. Probably also helps this one’s case, just a bit.
  • Eric and Bill teaming up to take on a bunch of vampires sounds like an excellent storyline – I’d watch that spin-off – which means that the series will most certainly abandon it next season so that the two of them can fight with Alcide over Sookie.
  • Every time Sookie and Tara have a conversation in the kitchen about how screwed up their life is, I want to gouge my eyes out with a blunt object.
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2 thoughts on “Season Finale review — True Blood, “And When I Die”

  1. I certainly agree that Tara staying off the show is a positive. I find all the character relationships to be bittersweet, with some a lot better than the others. I can’t wait to see Eric and Bill team up, hopefully it plays out to be a really neat story line. I actually found a great site that goes more in-depth with character relationships: http://www.hbomax.tv/hbo-la/true-blood Thanks for the great review, hopefully the next season is a good one!

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