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Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: True Blood, "The Sun"

Season 6, Episode 2

Grade: D

Verdict: After a mediocre start to its sixth season, True Blood takes a nose dive in easily one of its worst episodes to date.  Only the subplot involving Eric and Governor Burrell was intriguing and well done.  Everything else bordered on either the silly or the flat out stupid.  Bill's story continues to devolve into pure idiocy, with each new revelation proving more dumbfounding than the last.  While it has usually been easy to enjoy Sookie and Jason, the discoveries the two of them make about their heritage takes things to an incredibly foolish place as well as being an obvious resolution for the likely season-long Warlow story.  The things set in motion in this episode are largely so ludicrous that it is unlikely any viewers watching this show for anything other than eye candy will want to continue giving this show second chances.

Going into True Blood's sixth season, there was a small twinge of hope that maybe, just maybe the show would finally be able to get back on track and gain back the viewers it had been losing over the years.  While the show has never been one for incredibly well-written stories, it was at least a show for engaging characters and somewhat intriguing stories.  The fifth season proved, however, that all the writers really cared about was giving the largely female fanbase more and more eye candy, sometimes even when it made no sense, sacrificing any semblance of a solid, coherent plot for softcore pornography.  In the sixth season's opening episode, it seemed like True Blood just might be on the road back to being what it was in the first three seasons.  There were still some incredibly silly and idiotic things in the previous episode, but it was quite obvious that the writers were at least trying harder.  As we move into the season's second episode, however, it would seem that the show has not completely learned its lesson from the previous year.

Beginning to expand on some of the more pressing plot threads for the season, this episode of True Blood splits its primary focus between Sookie and Jason, Bill, and Eric's growing distrust of humanity.  After saving a fellow half-fairy, Sookie runs into Jason and their newly discovered fairy grandfather (Rutger Hauer), who has some information for them which will help them in the coming confrontation with Warlow.  Meanwhile, Bill falls into a trance of sorts, conversing with the vampire god Lilith while also making some discoveries about his new found abilities along the way.  When Eric attempts to stop the coming war with humans, he learns that Governor Burrell may be more prepared than initially anticipated.

Perhaps the biggest question mark regarding this season of True Blood was what exactly Bill had become after consuming all of the blood of Lilith.  Last week's episode attempted to hint at a few answers, but it ultimately ended up causing more questions.  Despite a terrible scene with Bill flying like a blood-soaked Superman and the revelation that Bill now has telekinesis, enough developments were made last week that perhaps Bill has not changed too much.  At the beginning of this episode, we see Bill falling into a coma of sorts after being "attacked" by several spirits resembling Lilith.  Throughout these sequences, we received a few revelations from Lilith herself about Bill's status (apparently he's not a god, but that will not stop people from worshiping him as one).  While these scenes were not terrible, it was what was happening outside of Bill's trance that became stupid.  A desperate Jessica calls a blood prostitute of sorts, thinking that perhaps the zoned out Bill is hungry.  This, obviously, does not work, but it does not stop Bill's body from using that aforementioned telekinesis to contort the woman's body back to him, then sending the blood out of her mouth and into his.  If you are scratching your head while reading this description, don't worry, it looked exactly as stupid as it sounds.  The contortion of the prostitute to the blood flowing between mouths contained CGI that was so cringe-worthy one could almost wonder if this show was filmed in 1999 and not 2013.  After this ridiculousness, we are treated to a decent scene where Jessica, being the first to worship Bill as God, prays for her friends to the non-responsive Bill.  But True Blood could not let this nice character moment pass without something silly.  Immediately after Jessica's prayer we find out that Bill has a brand new super power: he can see the future.  This is confirmed by a news report of humans killing a vampire, which Bill described at the episode's beginning.  Although this revelation was not terrible in and of itself, it's a very easy way for the writer's to hint at what may happen later on, one cannot help but wonder when the random super powers will stop manifesting themselves.  Even more so, one has to wonder if any of these powers will actually be interesting.

After receiving a very passive role in the season opener, this episode gave us a bit more focus on Sookie.  Unfortunately, for this episode, it means a focus on perhaps Sookie's least interesting character trait: her fairy side.  Unsurprisingly, after declaring that she would attempt to make her life go back to normal as much as possible, Sookie finds an injured man on the side of the road while walking to work (yes, this is an episode that randomly remembers Sookie is a waitress).  The man, of course, ends up being half fairy and Sookie immediately develops a bit of a connection to the guy, named Ben.  Not much is done with this aside from Ben being brought back to semi-health at Sookie's house, but it becomes more than obvious that Ben will be the rebound guy after Sookie's assorted affairs with vampires.  Once this plot is dealt with and thrown away, however, we are then thrust into some exposition about Warlow and Rutger Hauer's mysterious character from the previous episode.  Hauer is playing Jason and Sookie's fairy grandfather, and it sounds just as dumb coming out of their mouths as it does to type it.  But this is not where the revelations end.  We also find out that the Stackhouse family isn't just connected to fairies, but their family is fairy royalty, explaining why Warlow is so desperate to have Sookie for his own.  An excited Jason yells that it makes Sookie a "fairy princess!" in a moment that will likely cause more groans than laughs.  While this was a moment which was completely in line with Jason's character, it still seems like too convenient of an explanation for the writers.  Why does Sookie have to be royalty in order to be important on this show?  We have been fine for the past few seasons knowing that Sookie's fairy nature makes her a magnet for vampires, so what is the point in this superfluous exposition?  But, just like with Bill's story, the writers were not done being silly with this one.  Sookie's fairy grandfather shows her a new way to use her abilities which, if utilized fully, will be a convenient way of killing vampires, planting the seeds for exactly how this whole Warlow (maybe Bill) story will end.  This entire Sookie storyline involving the fairies has devolved from being somewhat interesting to outright lunacy very quickly and this show undoubtedly has more idiotic moves up its sleeves.  

The only remotely interesting subplot involved with this episode was Eric's first move in the war against humans.  As mentioned in the previous review, it seemed that this entire story with Governor Burrell, played excellently again by Arliss Howard here, would perhaps be the most engaging for the season.  Things became intriguing when Eric digs a bullet out of Tara's body, finding that it is not only silver, but emits UV radiation.  There is no way these bullets are cheap, but it definitely adds a new level of threat on the human side of things as wooden bullets were beginning to lose their stakes in this story (pun intended).  Eric realizes that the humans are not going to be backing down from their threats any time soon, so he must take action if vampires are to survive.  Over the seasons, Eric is easily the only main character to not feel like a ridiculous caricature of their former self, so it is a great thing that he is the lead character of this plot thread.  Easily the best written scene of the entire episode is Eric's confrontation with Governor Burrell.  Skarsgard and Howard do an excellent job of acting in a scene where we learn that Burrell is prepared to do battle with the vampires in ways no one could have anticipated.  This scene is so odd to watch because it is the only revelation the entire episode that does not feel outright stupid, and it is so well-written that one almost wonders if the same person had a hand in scripting it.  In a season where there appears to be no true primary antagonist, but multiple antagonists, the Governor Burrell story in this episode is more than enough to make one hope he becomes this season's big bad.  Looking at how bad the rest of the episode is, however, this excitement is already wavering as these writers cannot be trusted to let a main plot miss its train to silly town.

Ultimately, all we can do at this point is hope that, as this is clearly the worst episode of the season thus far, the only way to go is up.  While, in theory, some of the ideas brought about aren't D material, it is completely in their practice that the episode becomes stupid.  Much of the episode is written in a way that is lazy, too convenient, and flat out sloppy.  Angela Robinson, the writer of this episode, should be in danger of losing her job after scripting an episode that will likely cause the series to lose viewers.  Eric's story in this episode is interesting, and the small use of some of the side character isn't awful, but each of these aspects are completely over-shadowed by how bad this episode really is.  No one will blame you for not watching True Blood any more after this episode, but those of you who stick around are very strong for holding out hope the floundering series will ever improve.
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