True Blood Review, Season 4, Episode 11: “Soul of Fire”
Written by Mark Hudis
Directed by Michael Lehmann
Airs Sundays at 9pm (ET) on HBO
This week, on True Blood: Sam, Marcus, and Alcide show their character, Debbie pokes the bear, Andy has an encounter in the woods, Eric and Bill make sacrifices, Pam decides she’s had enough, Marnie goes off the deep end, Jesus demonstrates utter badassery, Sookie breaks the circle, Jason and Jessica talk, and Lafayette smiles.
This episode was an absolute blast from beginning to end. There are a few issues that don’t quite work, but overall, this is True Blood at its crazy, campy best. Let’s start the love-fest off with the subplots. Chris Bauer is always fun and this episode featured just the right amount of Andy; enough to give a needed respite from all the drama elsewhere and not enough to skew the overall tone or slow down the pacing. The return of fairies to Bon Temps is a welcome one, as that plotline has been dangling, seemingly forgotten, all season, but didn’t Mab’s say in the premiere that they were done breeding with humans? Either way, Andy’s promise will undoubtedly come back next season and this seems like a great way to incorporate him into what will presumably be the year-long arc for season 5.
The other subplot is less interesting, if only due to its predictability, but while Sam’s arc isn’t holding any interest, the developments shown here with Alcide and Debbie make it worthwhile. Once again, Debbie surprises, choosing Alcide even after cheating on him, a decision she wouldn’t have last year. Though she’s backslid on V, she hasn’t spun out of control (yet) and Brit Morgan shows us a woman full of doubt and self-loathing struggling against her self-destructive tendencies. Another side of Alcide is shown here- not in his reaction to Marcus, but in the easy, almost practiced, shove he gives Debbie and the utter fear in her eyes when he confronts her. She sees the rage within him and though he doesn’t raise a hand against her, she is utterly powerless. We have never seen such fury from Alcide and it will be interesting to see if the writers keep this edge to the character or have him turn back into the soft-spoken goodie we’ve seen until now.
The meat of the episode, however, lies in the showdown between Marnie and the vampires. This confrontation has felt a bit stretched in the past few weeks and the prospect of two more episodes with most of the characters held hostage was less than inspiring, so, in a brilliant move, the writers bring everything to a head an episode earlier than expected. Fiona Shaw is good here, incorporating a few of Marnie’s early season tics to her performance, reminding the audience of where the character started and just who’s in control. The attempted sacrifice of Bill and Eric is over the top, though completely keeping in character, but just as the audience is beginning to disengage, Pam calls bullshit and pulls it right back. We haven’t seen a split between Eric and Pam before, so this development should be interesting. It would be nice if Eric’s anger had more to do with Pam’s disobedience than with the risk to Sookie, as Eric’s seeming disregard for the unceasingly loyal Pam is disheartening.
Particularly impressive in this episode is the handling of Jesus’ storyline. It would have been very easy for it to fall completely flat, to feel cheesy or heightened or just plain stupid, but Kevin Alejandro sells the spell like it’s going out of business. The struggle and pain of the process is clear from his body language and movements and our first solid look at his brujo face is intense and terrifying. Also important is the naturalism from Nelsan Ellis. The audience is absolutely in Lafayette’s shoes, watching Jesus transform, demonstrating power far beyond anything we’ve seen to this point. Jesus’ arc over the past two seasons has been creaky at times, but here it absolutely works and the intensity of his scenes add context to his previous wariness and hesitancy, particularly concerning his grandfather. The episode is very well paced, winding down nicely to the final scene with Jesus and Lafayette. All of the loose ends seem tied together, leaving the audience scouring their brains for what could possibly be coming in the finale. Once again, “Soul of Fire” delivers, ending on a fantastic cliffhanger, one that seems obvious in retrospect, with Ellis giving the camera perhaps one of the creepiest smiles ever.
That being said, it isn’t a perfect episode. Though the resolution to the Antonia storyline makes sense, it feels slightly bungled, given this episode’s retread of last week’s back and forth. If Antonia had seemed more wary or distrusting last week perhaps it would have worked better, but to have violence against innocents be the final straw only one week after Antonia accepted potential collateral damage feels incredibly false. Marnie’s motivation is also rather weak, along with the reveal that, as with Jesus, Holly has known Marnie for years. Considering Holly hasn’t lived in Bon Temps for more than a year and a half, that’s a bit difficult to swallow. Besides, this again comes out of the blue when it should have been mentioned early in the season, as we were just getting to know Marnie. Changing the context of her relationships with the primary and secondary characters this late in the game feels lazy. It’s also utterly unbelievable that Sookie or Tara, or even Holly, would join hands with Marnie after the events of the day.
This has been by all accounts an uneven season, but the last few episodes have been strong and after this fantastic episode, next week’s finale can’t come soon enough!
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