True Blood Review, Season 4, Episode 12: “And When I Die”
Written by Raelle Tucker
Directed by Scott Winant
Airs Sundays at 9pm (ET) on HBO
This week, on True Blood: Marnie gets revenge, Holly summons the dead, Gran saves the day, Terry and Arlene have unexpected visitors, the Sookie love polygon continues, Eric and Bill aren’t puppy dogs, Jason has it out with Hoyt and Jessica, Andy gives a hug, Pam doesn’t want to be touched, Debbie is out of her league, and there are cliffhangers galore.
After a string of successful episodes, and a fantastic lead up last week, the season four finale of True Blood is here and, for the most part, it works. Once again, the PTB subvert expectations, resolving the Marnie storyline halfway through the episode before examining the characters and setting up next season. This makes for about half of a great finale followed by an overly long denouement. The teases for next season are very promising, but the decision to spend so much time on them sacrifices the pacing and strength of the episode itself. That alone would be a concern, but the cliffhangers also box in the writers for next season, and when one considers that all of the weakest elements of this season (Jason the werepanther, Tommy and Sam drama, etc.) were prompted by the cliffhangers used to end season three, it’s particularly troubling.
Several elements do work. One of True Blood’s biggest weaknesses all season has been its overabundance of characters. This is addressed, with several main character deaths thinning the crowd. Jesus and his relationship with Lafayette have been one of the strongest additions to the series in the past two years. Kevin Alejandro does a great job portraying Jesus, making him a well-rounded and fully realized character. In this episode, he gets some fantastic lines (“You can’t trade magic like fucking Pokemon cards!” is particularly memorable) and he goes out as confident and strong as he came in; a fitting end for a character that will definitely be missed. Jesus’s quick realization that Lafayette isn’t himself is a smart call and the final moment between Lafayette and GhostJesus is a nice touch as well. Such scenes can easily become overwrought, but Raelle Tucker’s script hits just the right tone. Debbie and Nan also get off the True Blood carousel in spectacularly bloody, and short, fashion. While both characters have been interesting sources of conflict in the past, they were becoming redundant. Neither felt like legitimate threats, so the quick method of dispatch for both is welcome.
Tara remains in limbo. She appears dead, but who knows what a bit of vampire blood would do for her. The early scene between Sookie and Tara is fantastic, a welcome reminder of their friendship and how far the series has come over the years. Rutina Wesley has been one of the strengths of this season and it would be a mistake to kill her off, if only because Tara remains one of the very few purely human characters. If she does remain dead however, at least she went out a fighter. Another great performance this episode is Nelsan Ellis, as both Marnie and Lafayette. His vocal and physical emulation of Fiona Shaw’s performance is excellent. There is little doubt of who’s who. Lafayette has grown tremendously since the introduction of Jesus and it will be very interesting to see what is coming for him next season. Hopefully he won’t regress to the hardened, untrusting person he was before, but if Tara is indeed dead, it’s anyone’s guess.
Setting this episode at Samhain and bringing back certain Bon Temps residents, however briefly, is yet another welcome touch. The early reminder of Gran’s murder is jolting. It’s easy to forget that it’s been not much more than a year in their timeline since she died, and only a few months for Sookie. Making her the one to shut down Marnie is a great move, as Gran remains one of the few truly good characters in the show’s run, and far too often these characters aren’t shown as powerful. Seeing Rene back, Arlene’s worst fear realized, is equally effective. Michael Raymond-James* oozes charming menace throughout, something we’ve not seen from a human character since Rene’s death.
*Fans of Raymond-James should check out the short-lived Terriers, a one-season gem co-starring him in a completely different, but just as entertaining role.
Not everything here quite comes off, however. The Sookie Love Polygon of Schmoopiness needs to end. It’s no longer interesting and has long ceased to be one of the series’ draws. If the vampire drama wasn’t enough, Sookie and Alcide have no chemistry and every time the writers try to force it, Alcide goes from a likable and intelligent ally to a boring sap. Joe Manganiello was fantastic in last week’s episode. Here he’s a drag. The melodrama of the Bill-or-Eric question is overplayed and, at this point, the only people who care are so entrenched in one camp or the other that they probably can’t be swayed. As for the cliffhangers, we have Russell Edgington back in play, the VLA and Authority out for Bill and Eric, Jason with his former cult leader vamped and at his door, Terry’s mysterious army buddy (always great to see Scott Foley pop up), and a distraught Sookie cradling Tara, part of her face blown off. Oh, and Mab is still looking to cross over from Faerie and wage war. Sounds like Alan Ball and co. have their work cut out for them next season. Season four has been one of True Blood’s best. Here’s hoping next season is at least this strong.
What did you think of the episode and the season? Were you grossed out by Jason’s WoundPopsicle, or too distracted by his and Jess’s adorableness? Anyone else want to give Pam a hug? Post your thoughts below!
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