True Blood 4.01: "She's Not There" Review

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Danny Djeljosevic , Rafael Gaitan
Because nobody's made a Lestat TV series yet, True Blood is the hottest vampire show on TV because HBO gets to show boobs and gore and stuff. And what do you know -- it' back! In this Season 4 premiere, Cookie Crackhouse and company return to supply more masturbatory fantasies for creepy horsegirls.



Rafael: So we are reviewing True Blood, yes? Let me scrap my NoahWyle.txt file and open WhattheFuckEric.gif and IWillProtectYou.exe

Danny: Mini-reviews of each season: go.

SEASON ONE


Danny: Amusing, but kind of shitty. This is the one that takes the "vampires living in human society" angle the most seriously, treating them like an honest minority.

Rafael: It feels like the right way to start the show, but gives you some wiggle room. Like the "God Hates Fangs" tagline is inspired.

Danny: Yeah, what happened to that subplot?

Rafael: It's still around, but since they dealt with the "Fellowship of the Sun" storyline, it fell by the wayside. Basically they burned one of the most interesting storylines (pun rudely intended) in order to condense this show to "Fucking and Fighting." It's their version of Glee's "No One Cares About Story" stance.

Danny: Was that the season with "AIDS burger?" That was a great moment.



SEASON TWO


Danny: Great. This was when the show became aware that it was trash. Glorious trash. Plus, it had a season-long villain, like Buffy! Good thing to aspire to.

Rafael: So much fun! And each episode built on that. We had so much banging, so much hatred, so much decadence! Like, it became about how Bon Temps reacts to their town being supernaturally inhibited, not just Cookie Crackhouse.

Danny: It was like french fries with bacon on 'em.

Rafael: French fries, sweaty with Crisco, eaten off of Chris Bauer's glistening chest. And aren't you a vegetarian?

Danny: Yes, making bacon the forbidden fruit. Like the Cookie Crackhouse/Bill Condom relationship.

Rafael: Isn't Bill Condom bursting onto the scene with that Twilight shit?

SEASON THREE


Danny: Boooooring. I sleepwalked through that season. Sleepwatched? It sucked.

Rafael: Oh man, seriously. Season 3 started strong, and it has some brilliant moments, but ultimately it was just so fucking tiered. As in, it was so caught up in its bullshit mythology.

Danny: However, it did have the neck-twist sex and the hilarious WTF reveal that Cookie is a fairy.

Rafael: Seriously. No one cared why Cookie was important -- we just wanted to see Bill fuck her until her accent slipped. Which, by my observation, means he must've fucked her every second of filming.



SEASON FOUR: IT BEGINS


Rafael: Wait, wait, wait -- before we begin. I just want to remind everyone reading that Stephen Moyer looks like Jay's friend Jeremy from The Critic.



Danny: After sitting though the amazing first season of Game of Thrones, the opening scene of True Blood Season 4 is a goddamn nightmare.

Danny: The opening fairy purgatory (or something) seriously looks like Mount Olympus in Xena: Warrior Princess.

Rafael: It's literally not the same show. Is it heaven? Is it the gates? Is it Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere?

Danny: Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere looked better than this. Cheapo BBC production over syndicated genre pablum (even though I like Xena). Once the facade slips away, it begins to look even more like an episode of Xena, with an elfin creature shooting fireballs down a canyon.

Rafael: They go from everything faerie all the time to a scene that looks like it was cut from Clash of the Titans.

Danny: It looks like the original Clash of the Titans if they made it today. Or Xanadu for that matter. However... Gary Cole is in this episode, albeit briefly.

Rafael: Gary Cole oughta be ashamed of hisself, being on this show in what amounts to a shitty cameo.

Danny: What a waste.

Rafael: Grodd bless him, he's the hardest working actor in America, selling this pap like he gives a shit about Anna's Paquin's stupid bullshit.

Danny: Worst use of Gary Cole, especially after Pineapple Express and Talladega Nights showed us that Gary Cole is more awesome than Office Space would have us believe.

Rafael: The dude's gotta work, granted, but I guess no one wants to see his abs, so he gets relegated to bit part.



Danny: So, Cookie escapes the fairy dimension and Gary Cole dies in a manner akin to a Buffy the Vampire Slayer bloodsucker (read: burst of dust). Ho-hum, but this sets up for a really interesting development: because of how time worked in that dimension, Cookie's been away from Bon Temps for like a year!Maybe the best idea the show's had so far.

Rafael: I remember genuinely lacking surprise. He telegraphs it twice. "I swear it's only been an hour." It's standard TV fare -- the requisite amount of time since the last season has passed!

Danny: The reveal is pretty obvious, but I think the plot point puts everything in an interesting place. Except Cookie's life doesn't change all that much. She kind of has to get her house back and she's totally welcome at Merlotte's.

Rafael: Yeah, the shock of having her back lasts 30 seconds screen time, which amounts to about a season in True Blood Real Time.

Danny: Here's the basic problem with True Blood: everyone on this show is more interesting than Cookie and Bill, so the time jump puts a few of them in interesting places.

Rafael: The interesting characters did interesting things, and Bill became the King of Faeries, perfectly suited to Cookie!

Danny: I feel like Bill's hairline should have gone back more in a year's time.

Rafael: "Well Daniel, as my lifeblood ceased to blow, so did my follical surrender."



Danny: If this show were a southern gothic vampire buddy cop thing with Jason Crackhouse and Andy Bellefleur, it'd be a hoot. Bumblers and Bloodsuckers is my title for this show when I imagine it in my head without Cookie.

Rafael: And it could still be called True Blood!

Danny: Jason getting into dumbass trouble is almost always my favorite part of the show. I originally thought, hot damn Andy looks like he's been hitting the gym with Jason. But it turns out he's been downing "vamper blood."

Rafael: I'd pay to see Andy and Jason go Steven Seagal: Lawman on a town of nitwits and assholes. Oh, and vampires.

Danny: Also, in the time Cookie had been gone, Jason had time to steal Jonathan Rhys Myers' facial hair.

Rafael: And Every Sitcom Ever's cop uniform.

Danny: He looks like a CHiP

Rafael: He really looks like he's gonna handcuff his balls. But Andy is such a well-written and deep character.

Danny: He's like the completely unrelated character of Frank Sobotka from The Wire.

Rafael: He has a lot to explore, but because no one wants to see his abs, he gets to yell at Jason.



Danny: Meanwhile, Tara's over in the French Quarter, being a lesbian cage fighter. Which is my new favorite phrase.

Rafael: I'll give you this -- I was won over. Originally when I saw where she was, especially with the s flashback with the short haircut, I thought, "Of course she is."

But as annoying as Rutina Wesley was in the earlier seasons, it's because someone thought Snookie Rackhouse was a character, and not just Charlaine Harris Resplendent.

Danny: Save Tarah's inordinately hot girlfriend and her identity concealing, this subplot isn't all that great. I just kind of find myself waiting for the moment when she returns to Bon Temps. It's not like those episodes of Mad Men where Don Draper is out of the office for like three episodes; there's no immediacy to it yet. But it may be too early to judge.

Rafael: Well, they did set it up nicely. She gets the text that says Puka Shell is back.

Danny: Puka Shell?

Rafael: She's small, white and uninteresting. Plus, only bros wanna give her a necklace. And I think you know what jewels they'd hang on it.



Rafael:Meanwhile, LaFayette and The Guy From Southland are on their coven shit.

Danny: This subplot is a touch more interesting than Tara's because it addresses the world of True Blood a bit more. Plus, Lafayette is one of the best characters on the show, especially now that he looks like Mr. T. More like Mr. Tiara.

Rafael: It delves into a lot of the stuff Lafayette even flirted with in the past. He always talked about his mother being possessed, and the demons and whatnot. So it seems like a natural progression, that he would allow himself to be exposed to the occult. They did it for Tara with her mother's alcoholism, so now it's his turn.

Danny: Though, I gotta be honest here -- I don't buy his skepticism in witchcraft. In a world where vampires exist, how do you not believe other crazy shit? I mean, that's how Charlaine Harris came to include fairies and shit in her novels. Once you open the floodgates...

Rafael: True indeed, but I think it's more fear than skepticism.

Rafael: He disguises it, but being a former prisoner of a vampire, he knows this shit exists.

Danny: Excellent point, which speaks to my shortcomings here -- I honestly didn't try to analyze these characters. This show isn't really conducive to that for me.

Rafael: I agree with you, but I just had a moment of lucidity while drinking to get through this second watch.



Danny: One of the subplots I do like on this show, however, involves Arleen thinking that her baby with Terry is evil. Y'know, because Renee was a serial killer or something.

Rafael: Oh, that's such a fun story. Those characters still remain steadfast in their incredulity.

Rafael: For fuck's sake, she thinks her baby will be evil because she fucked Britt from "Terriers."

Danny: This also leads to the most intentionally hilarious line in the episode, when Arleen finds that the baby's ripped off the heads of a bunch of Barbie dolls: "I did that all the time as a kid! I used to put lizard heads on squirrel bodies, trying to invent new animals."

Rafael: I love that line. Terry is such a genuinely sweet character. He's easily the least offensive of these miscreants.



Wait.

Let's address a "post-Russell Edgington world," a.k.a "Not a Thing."

Danny: That bit was like some honest worldbuilding in this show, actually trying to address what society's like after a vampire murdered a human on national television.

Rafael: Very true. I mean, it would be newsworthy as hell.

Danny: Also, it leads to a creative bit of crosscutting between Bill's speech and Eric's speech.

Rafael: It's great how each one of them has an agenda.

Danny: Television is often so non-experimental that any bit of formal play always strikes me as better than it might actually be. But, here it's cute.

Rafael: Though Bill's transformation seems sudden, though Kookie Smackhouse has been gone a year, so the creators thought we wouldn't care what the better written characters were doing. Though it does scrub three years of character building on Bill's end.

Danny: Without a horrible fairy woman to obsess over, Bill has other, better things to do in the span of a year.

Rafael: Same page!

(EDITOR'S NOTE: At this point Raf went in for a high-five.)



Danny: There is one really great scene in this episode: When Hoyt and Jessica are arguing.

Rafael: Oh man, that is the one scene I genuinely enjoyed.

Danny: It's like someone actually tried to write a show here. Hoyt wants food on the table when he comes home, Jessica smashes a bunch of uncooked eggs on a plate, and he eats the yellow muck to prove his point. When the anger dissipates and they start laughing about the ridiculousness of their fight... it just felt so true. And emotional verisimilitude is in short supply on this show.

Rafael: It was so earnest. I love the part where she breaks her fa├žade and says "Don't eat that, you'll get sick." I was rooting for those two all of season three, and Hoyt finally told his horrible mother off.

Danny: Jessica's a character that's really come into her own over the past couple of seasons. Astonishingly different from the whiny brat she was when she first appeared.

Rafael: Indeed. Sexual feelings about Deborah Ann Woll aside, she's a marvelous actress. And her anger to compassion turn never feels forced or like it was called for, unlike Anna "Probably Speaks the Stage Directions" Packitin



Danny:Okay. One last thing, and this bit made me LOL so fucking hard when it came up.

Rafael: Hit me with it.

Danny: That scene where Sam Merlotte's in what you think is an fancy dinner, but it turns out they're all shapeshifters, and THEN THEY TURN INTO HORSES AND RIDE OUT INTO THE NIGHT.

Rafael: I keep telling you, this show is for horsegirls.

Danny: This was like horsegirl porn. Forbidden vampire human love and men transforming into stallions. What's next? Tentacle rape and incest? I'm pretty sure Alan Ball walked into the True Blood writer's room, said, "Please, leave me be, I have much more important things to do" and gave the secretary an address to send his paychecks.

Rafael: That scene was like all of Hector Hammond in "Green Lantern," but with people whose abs you want to see.



THE BIG SCORE

Rafael:

Danny:

Rafael: It's just short of good enough.

Danny: A perfectly cromulent episode of True Blood, embiggened by some choice moments.

Rafael: Alan Ballin's probably wallowing in his own crapulence.



Rafael Gaitan was born in 1985, but he belongs to the '70s. He is a big fan of onomatopoeia, being profane and spelling words right on the first try. Rafael has a hilariously infrequent blog and writes love letters to inanimate objects as well as tweets of whiskey and the mysteries of the heart at @bearsurprise. He ain't got time to bleed.



Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book writer, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter as @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat.

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