True Blood, Ep. 7.01, “Jesus Gonna Be Here” is a beautifully-executed season opener

True Blood, Jesus Gonna Be Here, Sookie Stackhouse, Anna Paquin

True Blood, Jesus Gonna Be Here, Anna Paquin, Sookie Stackhouse

True Blood, Season 7, Episode 1, “Jesus Gonna Be Here”
Written by Angela Robinson
Directed by Stephen Moyer
Airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO

On this week’s episode, the Hep-V infected vampires descend on Bon Temps, Sookie confronts the townspeople, Bill and Andy reluctantly team up, Jessica protects Adilyn, and a series regular becomes the final season’s first fatality.

True Blood hasn’t truly been good since its first season–easily the best season–though it’s had its ups and downs. As sad as it is, especially for longtime fans, the show has seen a definite decline in quality with each passing season. Turns out, all True Blood needed to revive itself was an end date because the final season opener, “Jesus Gonna Be Here,” is all kinds of crazy good, even great.

Most of the episode’s action happens in the cold open, and what a beautiful cold open it is. Director Stephen Moyer slays the scene–in only a handful of minutes, he manages to make the intensity of the relatively quick attack translate directly to the audience with a few choice slo-mo moments (so even humans can catch the vampires mid-fight) and a lot of terror. The whole scene is tense and nerve-wracking and genuinely frightening and very, very good. Unfortunately, it’s also fatal for a series regular who’s been around since the pilot. Most shockingly, the death isn’t even seen on camera; the audience–and the characters–only witness the aftermath. In that one moment, True Blood lets the audience know they aren’t messing around this season. The stakes are high, and anyone can die at any moment. Luckily, this kind of threat makes for excellent viewing.

After the rapid-fire pace of the cold open, the episode slows down a bit to showcase the humans, vampires, and supernatural residents of Bon Temps we’ve grown to love (and possibly hate) over the course of six seasons. In the past, True Blood has often gotten so caught up in convoluted storylines that character development came second, but this premiere reassures the audience that character development is once again at the forefront.

Possibly the best character moment of the episode involves Jessica and Andy’s daughter, Adilyn. The relationship between the pair is fraught with a lot of sadness and regret and fear, but surprisingly, not blame or hate. Though Adilyn has every reason to despise and distrust Jessica, the teenage fairy is willing to let the past stay in the past, and this tells us more about the character in five minutes than we learned about her in an entire season. When the pair bond over boys, it’s very sweet and funny. It’s easy to forget sometimes that Jessica was very young when she turned, and is essentially still a teenager; the moment is a nice reminder.

The second best character moment of the episode involves Bill and Andy. Like Jessica and Adilyn, the pair have a very rough and unhappy history, but seeing the two put aside their personal differences and work together to save the people of Bon Temps is especially satisfying. It’s always fun, or at least rewarding, to see characters team up and work together (especially on supernatural dramas), and this episode has several team-ups throughout. The teamwork is doubly nice because it gives characters who haven’t shared a lot of screen time together the chance to interact.

Even though “Jesus Gonna Be Here” is only the premiere of the final season, it features an excellent moment of payoff, especially for longtime fans. Sookie standing up for herself against the judgmental and hateful townspeople of her beloved Bon Temps (though everyone blaming her for the vampire attack feels a little off, mainly because characters like Sam and Alcide agree. It just seems out of character for them) is something that’s been building up since the pilot, really.

Already, season seven feels tighter, both in writing and with the characters, than the past few seasons. Gone are extraneous characters and plotlines that will inevitably be dropped–True Blood has its endgame in sight, and the result is a very streamlined and focused season premiere. After the failures and weaknesses of past seasons, it’s heartening to see True Blood going out strong.

Bonus: The end credits song is “Jesus Gonna Be Here” by Tom Waits.

 

Ashley Laggan

 

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