True Blood 6.05 "F**k The Pain Away" TV REVIEW(opens in new tab)
Writer: Angela Robinson
Director: Michael Ruscio
THE ONE WHERE Sookie’s dad possesses Lafayette and tries to drown her; the vamp camp adds to its collection and sends Pam to a shrink; Billith learns of Warlow’s presence and captures him so they can flashback together; some dull stuff with werewolves happens.
VERDICT Finally we get to see the Governor's vamp camp in action, and it's been worth the wait. All the scenes inside the camp are highlights of the episode, especially Pam’s couch session which is packed full of great lines ("Your insignificance to me cannot be underestimated”) delivered with scenery-chewing relish by Kristin Bauer van Straten. Oddly, while we can’t condone the camp’s methods, there is also a ghoulish interest as a viewer in finding out more about what makes vampires tick, both physically and mentally.
Eric meanwhile, tries to play it cool by proving to his captors that he’s the most kick-ass vampirey vampire of all, and strolling through the tests. His best moment is left until the end, though. He’s arrogantly goading the Governor through a one-way mirror, when Burrell reveals to him that he’s incarcerated his own daughter in the camp. The change in Eric’s demeanour is subtle (great acting by Alexander Skarsgard) but shocking (it’s rare to see him realise he’s made such a fatal error of judgement). Then, just as he’s off-balance, Sarah and the shrink deliver the killer punch – Eric and Pam must fight each other to the death. The reveal is a great cliffhanger. Shame it isn’t actually the cliffhanger.
That honour is given to the Sookie plotline. Poor girl, her whole world has been turned upside-down by Warlow’s revelation that he only killed her parents because they were trying to kill her. There’s something of the feel of scriptwriting legerdemain here, and this particular rabbit looks like it’s only been stuffed in the hat a few episodes back. (For one thing, it seems unlikely Sookie’s dad would be quite so naive about vampires and faeries considering who his dad is; it’s not quite a plot hole, just something that can be explained by yet more retconning exposition at a later date).(opens in new tab)
Though this myth-busting new information may feel a little contrived, you can forgive the episode because it leads to another great Lafayette seance scene, and Lafayette seance scenes are always a riot (“Now listen up, dead folk”). Then he’s possessed by Sookie’s dad who wants to do what he failed to do all those years ago – drown Sookie (we know some Eric fans who were cheering him on). So yeah, we do get a decent cliffhanger… it just feels like the two could have been swapped for more impact. There’s something a little too whimsical about a possessed Lafayette trying to drown Sookie as her skirt balloons around her to make it as jaw-dropping as the Pam vs Eric moment.
Warlow is extracted from the Sookie plot by Bill, who compels Warlow to follow him back to his secret lab (Bill being Lilith’s new form and Lilith being Warlow’s maker; it’s a great piece of “What the fu…? Oh yeah, right, that makes sense…” plotting). Here Bill extracts faerie blood from Warlow, using joint flashbacks as an anaesthetic (or so it seems). There’s a lot in this episode about father/child and/or maker/sire relationships and here we go again, as we get the Warlow origin story. The 3500BC scenes are all a bit disappointing and silly-looking to be honest, unless a little bit more nekkidness is all it takes to impress you. They make the wigtastic Vampire Diaries flashbacks looks Oscar worthy. There’s an attempt to stylise them but they just look cheap, and the story they have to tell – boy meets god, god bites boy, boy kills god – is barely any deeper or emotional on screen than that nine-word summary.(opens in new tab)
Elsewhere, Sarah Palin… sorry, Newlin… sorry, she’s not Steve Newlin’s ex-wife, she is her own woman, provides some great entertainment. “When a woman comes to you in black lingerie, you unwrap her!” she rages at Burrell, but blimey, show some sensitivity woman; he’s just learnt his daughter has become the thing he loathes the most. Sarah decides that the lingerie shouldn’t go to waste and sets out to find a surefire shag – Jason. She finds justification in the Lord: “I truly believe God wants me to fuck you." He’s reluctant at first but, hey, she “always seemed like a nice lady, behind the crazy and the hate,” he reasons, and so he dives between her legs.
More lip trembling moments are provided by Andy and Holly. Andy’s discovery of his slaughtered daughters is actually quite a numb, cold, functional scene, but then a discovery like that might well be. But later, when Holly begs him not to face Bill, because Bill will kill him, and he collapses in a chair, a tear rolling down his face, sobbing, “I can’t do nothing,” it’s one of the show’s increasingly rare genuinely human moments.
TITLE TATTLE You might think it’s quite risque putting the F-word into an episode title, but True Blood is far from the first US drama to do it (though unsurprisingly, it seems a trend restricted to cable channels for the moment). Nurse Jackie had “Fuck The Lemurs” and “Happy Fucking Birthday” (both 2011) while Dexter had “Surprise, Motherfucker!” in 2012 and Californication had “Everybody’s A Fucking Critic” earlier this year. As far as we know, True Blood is the first telefantasy show to get away with it.
TAKING THE REGISTER This is the first episode of season six to feature the entire credited main cast.
MIND YOUR LANGUAGE The language spoken in the Ben’s flashbacks is Arabic, which wasn’t actually in use in 3,500BC.
NAME GAME And talking of anachronisms, neither of the names Ben nor Warlow sounds particularly 3,500BC-ish. Are we ever going to know his real name and why he’s chosen Ben and Warlow as noms de plume ?(opens in new tab)
IT’S WOSSISNAME Gideon Emery, who plays Justin, can also be currently seen as Big Bad Deucalion in Teen Wolf.(opens in new tab)
IT’S WOSSISNAME 2 Pruitt Taylor Vince, who plays vampire shrink Finn, is probably best known for his recurring role as the laconic JJ LaRoche in The Mentalist .(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
NIGHT FELL And it fell with a crash in 3500BC apparently. In one shot, Ben (or Warlow or whatever he was called back then) walks off from the village carrying a couple of urns in broad daylight. In the next, he’s at the river, filling the urns, with the village clearly visible about mile off, and it’s the middle of night !(opens in new tab)
CUTTING ROOM FLOOR? Talking of things happening suddenly, anyone else slightly surprised by the cut from Corbett taking over Lafayette’s body to Corbett bundling a bound-up Sookie into the back of the car? How did he overpower her so easily? It looks like something may have been cut. Either that, or originally there was another scene between these two shots.(opens in new tab)
DESPERATE REMEDIES Andy revives his daughter using vampire blood. Do we know what effect vampire blood has on faeries? Could there be consequences?(opens in new tab)
SOMETHING TO PROVE? After Jason shags Sarah, be notes, “That was pretty damned heterosexual.” But who is he trying to impress? Sarah, because her ex is a gay vampire? Or himself, after his homosexual dream about Ben?(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
LEVEL UP It’s pretty clear from the experiments shown that vampires labelled Level 3 are undergoing physical tests. Though, like Pam, we have to wonder whether studying super-speed shagging is, “All in the name of science” or just pervy?(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
SECOND HAND GRILL The name of the grill where Alcide tells his dad to take a hike has such an unusual name, we knew we’d seen it somewhere before – in the 2006 Will Ferrell film Talladega Nights : The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby. But hang on. That’s exactly the same place. Shot from the same angle , with two of the same cars parked outside. It’s just been graded (ie, colour corrected) a bit differently. Is this stock footage? Or an in-joke? Or both?
Ben: “You are my intended. I wandered this Earth in millennia of misery and solitude waiting for you. Dreaming only of you…”
Sookie: “Fuck you.”
Ben: “It’s our destiny to be together.”
Sookie: “Fuck destiny.”
• Read our previous True Blood reviews
• True Blood season six will air in the UK later in the year on FOX