True Blood 5.12 "Save Yourself" REVIEW

TV REVIEW The end of an era

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Episode 5.11
Writer: Alan Ball
Director: Michael Lehmann

THE ONE WHERE Bill becomes Billith, Andy becomes a dad to fairy quadruplets, Luna does a Steve Newlin impression, Sam does something really disgusting and dull stuff happens involving werewolves.

VERDICT Outgoing showrunner Alan Ball certainly leaves the show on a high, with an episode awash with blood, that delivers scene after scene of audaciously outrageous imagery. You can’t help suspecting that Ball has been saving up some of his more outlandish ideas to make sure his swansong was unforgettable. Hell, like the episode or not, you’ll never forget it.

I mean, how could you forget an episode that features:

• Bill chasing a fly in vampire fast-mo?
• Sam shapeshifting back to normal size inside a vampire, with explosive results?
• A fairy giving birth to sextuplets from a glowing vagina?
• Bill imploding into a bloody puddle then being reborn as Billith?
• Eric staking Edgington?
• Jason apparently changing his surname to Statham and embarking on a two-gun vampire vendetta?
• Reverend Newlin turning into a woman on National TV?
• A fairy necking an entire container of salt in one go?

It was all very, very silly, and deliriously fun at the same time. You certainly couldn’t accuse the show of a lack of guts. Literally in some cases.

And thank God this season has stuck to its guns as far as Bill is concerned. Right up until the moment when a brief expression of doubt crosses Bill’s face as he sees Sookie enter the Authority HQ on a CCTV camera you still think he’s redeemable. But nope. Next thing you know he’s double crossing Salome and knocking back Lilith’s blood all for himself. It‘s a wonderful gift Ball’s left for the new showrunner next season.

Less of a gift are the werewolves. They do something this episode, it’s difficult to recall what, but it just kinda gets in the way of the real action. Unless you’re a fan of Alcide’s nipples there’s nothing to see here. Move along please.

It‘s not just the wolves who stop this episode attaining the coveted full five stars, though. Apart from the substandard effects in places (see below) there’s also the way Edgington is bumped off rather too easily in the first five minutes. It’s not the fact he is bumped off – he’s a character who’s been well and truly mined out by now – but his death just feels so perfunctory. Since being resurrected he’s not really done much more than rant in increasingly creative ways, and his main moment of the season – the killing of the frat boys – happened off screen. It all feels a bit of a waste.

There’s also no mention of Warlow, the mysterious vampire who killed Sookie’s parents, which seems a little odd. This has been such a major thread throughout the season, some kind of resolution or revelation would have been welcome, perhaps even a last minute appearance by the guy himself. Alas no.

On the other hand, Andy’s fairy girlfriend giving birth to multiple little fairies could have been an irritating lightweight distraction from the main plot, but actually provided an entertaining counterpoint to the blood and guts elsewhere. Even Holly‘s world-weary, “Hurumph… men”-style reaction is endearing, and a refreshing change from the screaming histrionics you might expect from a girlfriend who has to deliver the babies of boyfriend’s other lover.

Lafayette and Arlene, meanwhile, take on the role of a warped Shakespearean chorus, commenting laconically in post-modern fashion on the events unfolding. You just know Ball is putting words like, “It’s always the weird stuff that’s the best,” and, “I did not see that shit coming,” into Lafayette’s mouth because that’s exactly what the audience is thinking.

But one the best moments is Eric’s response to Nora’s near-orgasmic demand to know what Sookie is: “What is she?” she gasps. “She’s a waitress,” says Eric, and suddenly we’re transported all the way back to the pilot episode with a twinge of nostalgia.

At least this finale broke the pattern of past finales, which tended to wrap up the season arc halfway through, then give us half an hour of scene-setting for the next season. Mainly by not wrapping anything up. Oddly, this was more satisfying.

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TRUE ROMANCE Anybody else have the exact same reaction to Pam and Tara snogging as Jessica did? Except amongst the dyed-in-the-wool Tara haters, of course. Let’s be honest, Tara was a pretty dismal character in season four, but season five has been the making of her. Or siring of her at the very least.

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NOT SO SPECIAL FX What is happening with the FX on US shows these days? Some utterly brilliant ghoulish moments in concept – especially Sam shapeshifting inside that Sharon Osborne vampire – were nearly ruined by some seriously dodgy execution. Even the new “melting face” vampire deaths looked a bit naff. Luckily the make-up team are still on top form when it comes to piling on the gloop.

Jason: “If I want to be a fool then I will be a fool! That is my God given right as an American!”

True Blood season 5 will air in the UK on FX, starting in September.

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Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.