Stars: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Chris Bauer, Nelsan Ellis, Joe Manganiello, Carrie Preston, Deborah Ann Woll, Michael McMillian, Denis O’Hare, Jim Parrack, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Todd Lowe, Lauren Bowles, Valentina Cervi, Janina Gavankar, Lucy Griffiths, Scott Foley, Kevin Alejandro,  Dale Dickey, Anastasia Garias, Lara Pulver
Writer:
Mark Hudis, series created by Alan Ball, based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels
Director:
Stephen Moyer
Network:
HBO, Sundays @ 9 PM
Airdate:
July 29, 2012

TRUE BLOOD doesn’t really have uneventful episodes, but even by this show’s standards of activity, a hell of a lot goes down in “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Sookie (Anna Paquin) gets good advice from the unlikeliest of sources, namely her brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten), while vampires Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) appear to be switching places on the scales of conventional morality. Then there’s poor Sam (Sam Trammell), whose love life leaves him beside himself – literally. Then there are new developments with Alcide (Joe Manganiello), Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), Arlene (Carrie Preston) and Terry (Todd Lowe), Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) and Hoyt (Jim Parrack), Tara (Rutina Wesley) and Pam (Kristen Bauer van Straten). Bon Temps, indeed.

The plot development that seems most likely to effect the largest number of people is the rise of the Sanguinistas, vampires who want to subjugate humanity. Eric resists the lure of the joint vision of Lilith following the bloodbath in the previous episode, but Bill seems to be swayed. Despite (or perhaps because of?) his memories of his daughter pleading to be turned as she lay dying, Bill accepts Salome’s (Valentina Cervi) invitation to drain a human captive who is begging for her life. Later, when the vampires are trying to come up with ideas of how to kill of the “mainstreamers” (vampires who want to coexist with humans), Bill proposes bombing the factories that make TruBlood. Once the blood substitute is gone, the mainstreamers will have to return to regular feeding. Eric asks Bill what he’s doing, and Bill replies, “Evolving.”

Sookie is trying to destroy her faerie nature with a magical power dump. Jason comes upon her and convinces Sookie that her powers may make her life better – for one thing, she got to talk to their beloved Gran after Gran had died. Also, Sookie’s powers may be able to help her find the vampire that killed their parents. With some help from faerie cousin Claude and his sisters, Sookie has a vision of the fatal confrontation on the bridge, with the now-deceased Claudine (Lara Pulver) zapping the vampire after he’d killed Sookie and Jason’s parents. Sookie also sees some of this from the vampire’s point of view, a connection to the undead that (according to Claude) faeries aren’t supposed to be able to make.

At the hospital, Sam takes down an orderly who is one of the hate group targeting supernaturals. Sam’s girlfriend, fellow shapeshifter Luna (Janina Gavankar), is still in her hospital bed, but wants to kill the orderly, who has been arrested by Sheriff Andy (Chris Bauer). When Sam leaves, Luna tries to get out of bed – and turns into Sam. Luna-in-Sam’s-body shows up at the police station while Sam is questioning the suspect, turning into a cobra to scare the man into a cobra. Andy and Sam are both floored by Luna’s appearance.

At Fangtasia,Tarais insulted repeatedly by customer Tracy (Anastasia Garias), a former high school classmate, current upper-middle-class wife and mom and all-round racist jerk.Taranaturally gets hostile. Pam publicly seems to be angry withTarafor insulting a customer. A little later, though, Pam presentsTracyas a tied-up gift toTara. Pam also glamorsTracyinto worshippingTara.Tarais starting to like her maker.

Vampire Jessica is kidnapped by the hate group. The men bind Jessica with silver, then bring in Hoyt, who has said he hates her, so that he can kill his ex. Left alone with Jessica, Hoyt unties her and lets her kill the hate group member who has been left to stand guard. Jessica and Hoyt finally have a conversation about their relationship – Jessica wanted to continue loving Hoyt, but she just couldn’t restart the feeling. Hoyt realizes it’s over. As it’s daylight, Jessica can’t leave, so Hoyt says he’ll send help.

However, when Andy, Sam and Luna-still-stuck-in-Sam’s-shape all arrive to rescue Jessica, it’s because of the information Sam scared out of the hate group member – they haven’t heard from Hoyt. What Sam picks up from smelling the house suggests it belongs to Maxine Fortenberry.

Hoyt is walking along the road. He recognizes someone driving a pick-up truck, who pulls a gun on Hoyt. Alone, Sam comforts Luna until she returns to her own shape. Then she convulses.

Alcide has a sexual interlude with fellow werewolf Nikki (Kelly Overton) that turns flirtatious midway through (hey, they’re wolves, if they want to mate and have romance afterward, maybe that’s just the nature of the beast). Alcide is ready to challenge J.D. (Louis Herthum) for pack leadership, but steps down when J.D. decides the competition will consist of hunting and killing a frightened college track star. However, when Louis insists on hunting the young man anyway, Alcide attacks Louis. Louis wins the ensuing fight, but thanks to the intervention of werewolf traditionalist Martha (Dale Dickey), Alcide is allowed to live.

Driving back from Mexico, Lafayette fingers the wounds around his mouth where his lips were stitched together. He finds Jesus’ (Kevin Alejandro) first aid kit, applies balm to his lips, and the scars magically disappear. When Lafayette looks over to the next seat, Jesus’ ghost is there. They hold hands.

When Lafayette gets home, Arlene and her Wiccan friend Holly (Lauren Bowles) are waiting for him. They want him to tell Arlene’s husband Terry (Todd Lowe) that he’s not really cursed, so that he’ll come home.Lafayette agrees, for a fee, but when Terry and his old military buddy Patrick (Scott Foley) show up for the séance, Lafayette is in fact visited by the ghost of the woman that Terry and Patrick killed in Iraq. The ghost is angry and refuses to life the curse unless Terry kills Patrick or vice-versa.

Apart from that, nothing much happens.

Where to start? Actor Moyer makes a strong directorial debut with the episode, rising to the technical and emotional challenge of having two Sams not only in the same frame, but interacting physically. On first viewing, at least, the shots are seamless, and Trammell gives an affecting performance as real Sam. If he doesn’t precisely replicate Garza’s performance as Luna-in-Sam, he certainly seems womanly and in love. TRUE BLOOD being what it is, there is a tender interlude between real Sam and Luna-in-Sam, which Trammell does beautifully in both roles and Moyer shoots so that we can appreciate the peculiarity of the moment without it turning into parody. Kudos to all involved, including episode writer Mark Hudis.

It’s intriguing trying to figure out where all the vampire war plot points are going, especially as it’s hard to know if Bill is truly giving in to his bloodthirsty nature or just playing an oblique long game. This isn’t exactly new turf for him – he was a full-on monster for most of his time with Lorena – but the writing and Moyer’s performance suggest there’s something on Bill’s mind here, though of course it could simply be renunciation of his old beliefs.

Meanwhile, this leaves Eric in the unlikely role of savior of humanity. Skarsgard’s performance suggests this is a duty that makes Eric deeply irritated beneath that intentionally dry exterior.

Speaking of dry, it’s a joy to hear Pam get some good zingers again and scary fun to see her slowly but surely taking a maker’s interest in progeny Tara. As for Wesley, vamp hater or no, she shows us that her Tara was born for this existence.

While this may or may not turn into a subplot, it’s also a hoot to see Denis O’Hare as wily Russell Edgington and Michael McMillian as smarmy Steve Newlin bonding in their shared newfound love of Lilith. The actors have great symbiotic chemistry, making their lines sound spontaneous.

It’s touching and gratifying to see Jesus with Lafayette after Lafayette’s awful ordeal (and doubtless a relief to actor Ellis and the makeup department that Lafayette’s lips heal fully). Seeing Lafayette pretend briefly to be running a séance is very funny before the real thing kicks in and Ellis’ handling of Lafayette experiencing the live-wire current of the wronged, vengeful ghost is both funny and scary.

It’s unclear exactly where the werewolf pack plotline is going, but it’s commendably unpredictable and Manganiello’s steadfastly decent Alcide is always good company.

The scene between Jessica and Hoyt is simply truthful and human, played as quiet, straight drama.

As for Sookie, we can thank the Powers That Be (in this case, the writing staff) that Jason sets her straight, at least for now. In a world as magical as TRUE BLOOD, whether it’s Sookie pining to be “normal,”Tara being miserable with her vamp status or even Luna insisting that her little girl won’t be a werewolf like dad was, we just want them to face their reality, weird as that may be, and get on with it. “Somebody That I Used to Know” gets on with it and then some.

AGREE? DISAGREE? LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD. COMMENT BELOW!

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Article: TV Review – TRUE BLOOD – Season 5 – “Somebody That I Used To Know”

 

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