True Blood 6.04 "At Last" REVIEW

TV REVIEW Governor Burrell adds to his camp collection

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True Blood 6.04 "At Last" TV REVIEW

Episode 6.04
Writer: Alexander Woo
Director: Anthony Hemingway

THE ONE WHERE Sookie and Jason (independently) leap to the conclusion that Ben is Warlow; Andy’s faerie offspring enter their troublesome teens; Eric sires Governor Burrell’s daughter; lots of men strip off to varying degrees.

VERDICT Faeries – or halfling faeries – are front and centre this episode, and you know what? They not only don’t ruin the episode, they’re a good deal of the reason the episode is all kinds of fun. Who’d have thought that of faerie-centric episode of True Blood a year ago?

There’s Bill’s frankly creepy means of securing their blood, and Doctor Takahashi’s subsequent experiments on it; there’s the latest growth spurt for Andy’s girls which leaves them party-seeking teen, joy-riding, alcohol-abusing teen rebels; there’s Jessica’s bonding session with them in the convenience store; and her subsequent horror as her self-restraint goes AWOL and she (possibly) slaughters the lot of them and, of course, there’s Sookie preparing to faerie nuke Ben at the episode’s end with that classic last line: “Get the f**k off me or die Warlow.” Well, it’s classic in context…

The hedonistic fairies are immense fun, even if they are just a teen cliché squared (or cubed, or tesseracted…? Never mind). Shame Andy never had that talk about them not getting in cars with strangers; they don’t come much stranger than Bill at the moment. The real tragedy, though, is Jessica’s descent. Early in the episode she warns Bill, “I trust Bill, but I also know there is a fight going on inside you between Bill and Lilith and I just want to make sure she doesn't win tonight. Those girls are also the same age I was when you turned me. If anything were to happen to them I'd never forgive myself”. Then she bonds with them in the most adorable way, pretending that being nameless is cool (“The truth is I'm a vampire. Please don't freak out because I am really old and I can totally control myself and I have tons of faerie friends. Just think of me as a regular girl looking for a party”) before going off the rails at the smell of their blood (“I was so worried it was going to be you, but it was me! Just tell me that they're not dead!"). How is the poor lass going to come back from this? Presumably she’ll be struck off Andy’s Christmas card list.

Meanwhile, Warlow is revealed… in the teaser! Ben suddenly grows fangs and saves Jason from whatever plot-convenient illness it was that he was suffering (revelation-inducing hysteria or sommat). It’s not really a surprise if you picked up on all the clues last week, which is probably why it happens at the start of the episode rather than being a cliffhanger. But hang on! There’s something odd going on here. He doesn’t seem to be acting in the way we’ve been told Warlow would act. Why all the subterfuge? Why save Jason? Why try to seduce Sookie? And he doesn’t actually ever call himself Warlow or actually say that he was sired by Lilith. It’s all just implied. Are we reading too much into that, or will there be another twist soon?

Whatever the case Ben is turning into a great character. In the scene following Jason and Niall’s botched plan to kill him, when tells Jason he’d better say goodbye to his grandpa now, it’s all oddly touching. And even though we know he’s the baddie (probably, unless there’s another twist coming) he’s doing a great job of turning on the feckless charm. It makes a change from the usual simmering-bestial-sexuality approach or the Jack The Lad charisma approach when it comes to bad boy vampires in seduction mode.

Although Kazinsky proves more than capable of the simmering-bestial-sexuality approach as well, in THAT gay wet dream sequence. The cheekiest example of the show having its cake and gorging on it ever. Yep, let’s have Jason in the most over-the-top slash-bait scene ever in the show… and then give it watertight contextual justification. Genius. The double entendres barely count as double , since they barely seem to have two meanings (“You haven’t done this before, have you? Just relax. Do it like you do it to yourself.”)

The episode’s not totally away with the faeries, though, and the absolute highlight is the Eric/Willa plotline. The sexual frisson from last week is ramped up even further as Eric sires the Governor’s daughter because she “deserves” it. Or rather, because he has a cunning plan; he wants Burrell to see his own child as what repulses him the most.” Willa calls him a monster, but Eric manages to justify himself; he’s doing it for the greater good of vampire kind. Though he also looks a little bit like he enjoyed the whole process, too. If Willa survives being shot by Sarah, then we suspect there could be a future for this girl in Eric’s entourage.

The siring scenes are extraordinary as the show delivers imagery straight out of a Hammer Horror film, complete with blood seeping onto Willa’s virginal white gown and a Danny-Elfman-doing-cod-’50s-horror flavour to the music. At the same time, it’s all very True Blood . Long, lengthy dialogues, intense stares, sexual hormones raging, and a hefty dose of kinkiness. It’s also fun to see that the immediate post-siring Willa acts almost identically to the way Jessica did when she was first sired. Seems that strait-laced, strictly-brought-up virgin girls go a little wild when they’re introduced to a whole new set of heightened senses.

The subsequent scene with Willa confronting her dad starts off well, but it’s a shame it has to end with that old tried and trusted True Blood scripting trick – a whiff of blood sending the vampire crazy. It would have been much more interesting to see Burrell make a moral choice (even if that moral choice was to shoot his own daughter) without having an external trigger force the issue.

Presumably, Willa isn’t dead and she’ll be carted off to the Camp, though it may be getting a little cramped in there. Burrell’s camp collection has a big bump this week; Pam, Nora, Ginger. Expect lots of interrogation and torture scenes coming your way soon.

Elsewhere, Tara and Pam bicker more (quelle surprise), the werewolves do something forgettable, and Sam gets over Luna’s death by snogging Nicole. TOO SOON!

YOU’RE FIRED All those shots of Alcide’s dad standing silently in the background, nodding or frowning, are beginning to make Robert Patrick look like True Blood ’s answer to Nick Hewer .

VOGUE! Dressed in some impossibly blue jeans and a freshly washed shirt, Terry strikes a bizarre catalogue pose.

GROWING UP FAST So now we know that Andy’s girls aren’t aging at a steady pace, but instead they’re developing in fits and starts. Thank God we were spared some dodgy morphing, though. The lights-out, lights on reveal was much more effective.

IT’S WOSSISNAME Here’s an unexpected return. Convenience store worker FW (played by Lorin McCraley) last appeared in the show about as far back as you can go: the first scene in the first episode of the first season, when he impersonated a vampire to scare off a young couple.

INTERESTING… Ben spits out Grandpa Niall’s blood. He’s half-faerie so drinking Niall’s blood would be a bit like cannibalism. Not to mention they’re kinda related. But does Ben spit the blood out purely out of respect, or could he be allergic to it? (Presumably the reason he’s draining Niall’s blood is to weaken him, not for his own gratification, anyway.)

SKIN FASHION This episode must hold some kind of record (not just on True Blood but on US TV drama in general) for gratuitous shirtlessness. Five of the lead men show off their chests over the hour; there are three scenes in a row at one point featuring three different shirtless men; and poor old Rob Kazinsky (Ben) spends so much of the episode in states of undress, you have to wonder if the producers we thinking of this as his rite of passage…

CLICK CLICK Niall’s hair was so wild this episode, that by the time he was creeping about in bushes, smoking a pipe spying on Ben, you half expect the theme tune from The Munsters to pop up on the soundtrack.

WHAT’S THE STORY MORNING GLORY? Comedy highlight of the episode has to be Jason checking out the status of his todger after his gay sex dream.

AN UNQUESTIONING MIND Werewolves in the True Blood universe are born, not created by being bitten by another werewolf. However, since Nicole is still gathering facts about supernatural creatures and doesn’t know that for sure, wouldn’t she at least ask someone if the bite she received last episode might turn her into a werewolf, considering the legends? Admittedly this could have happened off-screen, but it seems like an important character beat for her, so it would have been nice to have seen this scene.

FLASHBACKS FOR IDIOTS After praising the show last week for using knowing looks which allowed the audience join the dots, this week we get one of those horrendous flashback montages so beloved of The CW shows, which all seem to think their audiences all have ADHD. When Sookie discovers a drop of blood, we’re sure Anna Paquin’s acting and a brief shot of the blood glowing under faerie UV magic would have sufficed to let us know that she had rumbled Ben. But no, the sledgehammer flashbacks slam right in, a couple of them from barely minutes beforehand. We don’t all have goldfish memories!

WE HAVE A PROBLEM Bill tells Dr Takahashi, “Failure is not an option.” This was a phrase made famous by the film Apollo 13 , and attributed to NASA flight director Gene Kranz, but he never said it in real life. According to Jerry C Bostick, Flight Dynamics Officer of Apollo 13, “Kranz never used that term. In preparation for the movie, the script writers, Al Reinart and Bill Broyles, came down to Clear Lake to interview me on, ‘What are the people in Mission Control really like?’ One of their questions was. ‘Weren't there times when everybody, or at least a few people, just panicked?’ My answer was, ‘No, when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them. We never panicked, and we never gave up on finding a solution.’ I immediately sensed that Bill Broyles wanted to leave and assumed that he was bored with the interview. Only months later did I learn that when they got in their car to leave, he started screaming, ‘That’s it! That’s the tag line for the whole movie – Failure Is Not An Option. Now we just have to figure out who to have say it.’ Of course, they gave it to the Kranz character, and the rest is history.”

Andy: “Come on, time for bed. Anyhow, you ain’t slept since you were three.”

Dave Golder

• Read our previous True Blood reviews

• True Blood season six will air in the UK later in the year on FOX

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.