'True Blood' 4.12: 'When I Die' Recap

The dead walk as bodies start to drop in the fourth season finale of True Blood.

***Deep in spoiler territory below!****

It think when we look back a couple of months down the line at this season of True Blood, the word that might come immediately to mind is "scattershot." In spite of a great many clever or shocking elements from the last batch of episodes (the detour down the Mexico with Jesus and Lafayette, Debbie and Alcide's slowly circling the drain relationship, every death in the finale), the pacing of the season seemed off, timelines seemed jumbled (I feel like, with the exception of the last episode, everything was happening in the span of a week--maybe?), and some characters seemed trapped on a treadmill as some of their individual plots failed to manifest into anything interesting for long stretches (Jason and the were-panthers, Lafayette's ghost mama possession, Tommy's inexplicable sacrifice, fairies being a big deal, then no deal, then a tiny plot point last episode).

After the shock of some of the developments from the finale have worn off, you have to look at this season and see that maybe the writers had a major problem of too many plots and side stories, a cast that was steadily becoming unwieldy, and a general lack of focus with so many different supernatural elements flitting around, that it was only fitting that the showrunners opt to cull some of the characters--the only surprise is that they didn't go farther than they did here.

****Again, for the record, spoilers below.****

In last week's episode, Bill and the Black Leather Vampire Gang face Marnie again, this time ending with the wicked witch of Bon Temps getting one to the dome after Jesus exorcises Inquisition-era witch Antonia. In this episode, the we finally get the real payoff to Lafayette's new status as a medium when Marnie possesses the Merlot's Fry cook and tortures, then murders Jesus, which is a damn shame, because Kevin Alejandro should be commended for doing such sympathetic work each week with a character who didn't get a lot of the spotlight on the show. This culminates in Marnie/Antonia strapping Bill and Eric to a stake for a good old fashioned burning before Holly the good Wiccan--with the help of Sookie and Tara--exorcise Marnie and raise the spirits of the dead in Bon Temp to convince her to be at peace and leave this world. But with about 20 minutes of episode to go, the show isn't finished with us: Sookie breaks up with Eric--and Bill, finally putting us out of their relationship's increasing misery. Bill and Eric then face off with and stake Nan, who's been ordered to kill them both by the American Vampire League. Jessica and Jason become a thing, buddies, if you will, although Jason--having confessed to Hoyt--is still wracked with some guilt about what they're doing. Insane former king of the Mississippi vampires, Russell Edgington might be back--at least, the hole where Eric and Bill dumped him is empty. Sam buries his brother, Andy gets his stuff together and approaches Holly drug-free, and oh yeah, Debbie (accidentally) shoots Tara in the head, and subsequently gets a shotgun blast to the face from a distraught Sookie.

If there's an overall theme to this episode (and to the rest of the season) it's about the messed up characters in the show attempting to break out of their cycles of bad choices and worse behavior, and how our baggage always comes back to us. And looking at the rest of the season in that light, it actually elevates True Blood in an unexpected way. Consider Andy: who's spent most of his light trying to get out from under Terry's shadow, finally admitting that he's a mess and that he needs love. We've got Sookie deciding to opt out of her love triangle to maybe try something that might have a lower probability of getting her killed or heartbroken. Then there's Sam, who pretty much tells his new love Luna that the horrible things that follow them always come back, but that he's going to seize the good things in life while he can. And we have the promise of some of Terry's drama coming back to haunt his and Arlene's new life together while Debbie, back on V, unable to let go of Alcide, ends up killing one person and losing her own life in the final scene of the episode.

For all of my grousing about the bloat this season, and any other narrative failings from the last twelve episodes, playing out the theme so cleanly and effectively (with real consequences for the characters) allows me to forgive a lot of sins from this year's True Blood. I especially love the scene between Andy and Holly, a genuine moment of tenderness between two secondary characters who often seem to have currents that run a bit deeper than those of some of the leads.

Next season, I hope with the (slight) thinning of the cast and the threat of the AVL/Authority, the show might have a chance to be a bit more fleet-footed next season, and I hope that we get more episodes like this, more moments that reveal more than just plot--that actually reveal something about the characters.

Ep. 48 - Recap

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