Stars: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Chris Bauer, Nelsan Ellis, Joe Manganiello, Carrie Preston, Deborah Ann Woll, Jim Parrack, Kristin Bauer Von Straten, Todd Lowe, Kevin Alejandro, Fiona Shaw, Lindsay Pulsipher, Marshall Allman, Jessica Tuck, Dale Raoul, Janina Gavander, Courtney Ford, Allan Hyde,  Adina Porter
Mark Hodis, based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels
Daniel Minahan
HBO, Sundays @ 9 PM
July 24, 2011

While last week’s episode of TRUE BLOOD felt every so slightly disjointed, as though it was (pardon the expression) vamping for time, “Me and the Devil” feels far more unified. Yes, the thread involving shape-shifting Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) and his ne’er-do-well younger brother Tommy (Marshall Allman) still seems divorced from the rest of what’s going on, but the vampire/witch conflict is considerably more intense this week – as is the relationship between Sookie (Anna Paquin) and the amnesiac Eric (Alexander Skarsgard).


Tricked by his mother and trapped by his father, who wants him to return to being a pit bull fighting in the ring, Tommy breaks free. He beats his father to death and accidentally kills his mother, who has leapt to her husband’s defense. Tommy turns to Sam. Sam not only helps Tommy get rid of the bodies, but actually provides words of comfort – and admits that he’s killed two people himself (albeit not his parents).

After seeing the words “Baby Not Yours” scrawled on the wall in red crayon, Arlene (Carrie Preston) is convinced that the ghost of her baby’s birth father Rene Lenier is haunting the house. Husband Terry (Todd Lowe) calls in the local minister, who brings along his new wife Lettie Mae (Adina Porter), mother of Tara (Rutina Wesley). They conducted a tuneful exorcism that leave Arlene and Terry feeling safer – because they don’t notice a matchbook that spontaneously catches fire.

After rescuing Jason (Ryan Kwanten) from bleeding to death on the side of the road, Jessica (Deborah Woll) is skittish with Hoyt (Jim Parrack), perhaps as a result of drinking Jason’s blood. Jason has a sexual dream about both Jessica and Hoyt that leaves him very disturbed.

Bill (Stephen Moyer) has broken off his sexual relationship with Portia (Courtney Ford) on learning she’s his descendant. When Portia presses the issue, going on about how incest is no longer a big deal in most states, Bill glamours her into not only being disinterested in him, but into becoming terrifying and running screaming at the sight of him (want to bet this is going to come back to bite him?).

At Sookie’s house, Eric has a nightmare in which his maker Godric (Allan Hyde) tells him that he is damned and should feed on Sookie. Eric finds himself in Sookie’s bedroom, but when Sookie wakes, she prevents Eric from attacking her. She comforts him, says she has always felt there is good in him, and lets him cry in her lap.

Completely unaware of Eric’s current state, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), Jesus (Kevin Alejandro) and Tara leave Wiccan leader Marnie (Fiona Shaw) in the woods after determining she’s useless. Jesus persuades Lafayette that Jesus’ powerful – if disliked – sorcerer grandfather in Mexico can protect them. Tara at first thinks to return to her lover in New Orleans, but since the woman has just found out that Tara has lied to her about many things (including identity), Tara instead turns to Sookie – until Eric walks into the room, causing Tara to bolt.

Sookie tries to find out exactly what has happened to Eric and gets information from one of her co-workers about Marnie. Sookie poses as an innocent walk-in customer, but while Marnie is giving Sookie a reading, Sookie hears the voice of her late grandmother (Lois Smith) telling her Marnie is dangerous. Marnie hears this too and protests, but Sookie takes Grandma’s advice and runs. Eric worries that he’ll harm Sookie, but Sookie asks Eric to stay with her and kisses him. Not surprisingly, Eric stays.

Eric’s progeny Pam (Kristin Bauer Von Straten) is rotting after being cursed by Marnie while Marnie – possessed by an ancient witch at that moment – was defending herself (and Tara, Lafayette and Jesus). Pam, her face falling off in bits, wants permission from Louisiana’s new vampire king Bill to kill the witch, but Bill is mindful of the command of the vampire authority that no humans be killed by vampires. Instead, Bill has his soldiers collect Marnie and put her in a cell. Marnie insists she has no memory of the spells she performed on Eric or Pam; Bill glamours Marnie and finds she is telling the truth. One of Bill’s sheriffs tells of a witch in 1600s Spain (from Marnie’s visions, this is the woman who is helping/possessing her) who used necromancy to drag vampires within a twenty-mile radius into the sun, so they have a serious problem. In the chaos, Pam inadvertently blurts out that Marnie gave Eric amnesia – after she’s previously insisted to Bill she has no idea where Eric is. Bill forces Pam to tell him that Eric is in fact at Sookie’s. Bill doesn’t take this especially well.

This is all pretty breathless stuff and we can now see ways in which all of this is starting to come together. While it is still hard to figure out how (if at all) it fits into the main plot, it’s certainly shocking when Tommy actually kills his human monster of a father, and this opens the door for the rest of the episode’s great stuff.

Paquin brings a renewed sense of wonder to Sookie, though her greatest moment here may be when she explains to Marnie why she’s heading out the door. Skarsgard playing Eric as abashed and concerned about his actions shows an entirely new side to both actor and character – he plays innocence well, even if he doesn’t seem to be having as much fun as when Eric is his usual badass self. At the same time, Moyer is settling into Bill’s sense of power very well. It’s delightful to see Hyde back, if only in a dream sequence, and it’s a kick to see him and Skarsgard baring their fangs together.

Having Jason get into a triangle with best friend Hoyt and vampire Jessica has definite possibilities, especially because we surmise that Jessica’s sudden interest in Jason is likely due to his panther blood, which she as yet doesn’t know about.

As for Shaw’s portrayal of Marnie, it is glorious to behold. She is good-hearted yet open to wildness, full of conviction and full of fear, and whatever the script doesn’t provide in terms of information is there in the actress’ eyes.

Then there are tantalizing questions, such as will Arlene and Terry’s “haunting” interact with the actual powerful witch ghost that takes over Marnie from time to time, and exactly what last season’s premonitions about Jesus’ grandfather portend.

Finally, four seasons into a show set in the bayous of Louisiana, we get alligators. “Me and the Devil” is an episode that has just about everything.


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