In this week’s episode, we get more Pam flashbacks, Tara can’t figure out how to handle her second day as a vampire, Lafayette and Sookie continue trying to cover up the whole “dead Debbie” mess, and the specter of sexual abuse rears its head as one of the characters confronts their complicated past.
****Oh, yeah, definitely more spoilers after the jump**** So Jason Stackhouse was sexually molested by a female teacher, thus leading to his years of defining himself through his sexual prowess and promiscuity. Let me unpack this a little, how I believe it’s a good faith revelation about the character on the part of the show’s writers, and how it feels utterly wrong in the context of True Blood.
The first three episodes of the new season seem to be loosely connected by themes of origins (the vampire race, Pam’s “making”), and most importantly here nature (Alcide rejecting the pack, Luna’s daughter). Even Sookie, to a certain extent, is trying to figure out who she is after killing Debbie and feeling bad for not feeling bad about it. And percolating in the background has been Jason’s story as he tries to figure out what his relationship is with Jessica who just wants to be buddies.
I’ve actually appreciated the somewhat awkward but still sweet attempts to flesh out Jason a bit this season beyond who he’s having sex with this year or what goofy storyline he’ll accidentally stumble into. Ryan Kwanten has given the character a surprising amount of depth, bringing the cocky swagger to a place where it’s clear that Jason realizes he can’t be the same old Jason anymore. The thing is, we’ve seen Jason realize he can’t be the same old Jason anymore a few times (joins an anti-vampire cult, becomes a cop, attempts to care for an inbred clan of were-panthers), but it seems like in losing Hoyt, Jason’s maybe hit a wall, and it’s messed him up in some fundamental way.
So presumably a final piece of the Jason puzzle falls into place when he has a chance encounter with his former teacher, Mrs. Stealer (Melinda Page, the first Mrs. Don Draper), who’s moved back to Bon Temps after divorcing her husband. It’s not long before Jason gets himself invited back to Mrs. Stealer’s home for tea, and an attempted apology from his former teacher for what they did. But Jason being Jason sees an invitation from a woman to her home as an invitation for sex and the next thing you know, they’re doing it on her living room floor. And in the post-coital moment, Jason realizes he might have messed up, and that what they did back when he was a teen might have been a mistake.
A later scene sees Jason breaking all of it down for Jessica who’s come over for a booty call, and the moment is actually a sweet one for the two characters, but the context of it all fills jarringly out of place for True Blood.
Again, it all comes down the the general lack of depth to Jason Stackhouse in previous True Blood seasons. He’s effectively been the screw-up comic relief for the series since its start, a boy toy philanderer with about as much depth as a puddle. And while the first two episodes of this season have teased out his frustration with his relationship with Jessica, who wanted to keep things on a strictly sexual basis, this random encounter with the woman who abused him somehow acting as the Rosetta Stone that unlocked the character feels like a cheat. I’m not saying we needed a handful of episodes up to this point teasing out some big revelation about Jason, but it feels like a wildly unexamined element of Kwanten’s character just dropped into the middle of this week’s plot involving vampire conspiracies, Lafayette potentially hulking out into a demon, and Tara’s attempted suicide-by-tanning-bed.
Most problematic for True Blood is where to go with this story. I mean, the immediate and long-term impact for the character will certainly play out through this and subsequent seasons, but are they ever going to bring up the lady who molested Jason ever again? Or do they just sort of move past it and never talk about it like that time Peter Parker admitted he was Spider-Man because a neighbor touched him inappropriately as a child?
I have no idea. But this reveal overshadowed really anything else that happened in this episode, and I’m not sure if it’s a disservice to abuse victims that it was handled in such a pat way by an essentially high camp show like True Blood.
True Blood airs Sunday nights at 9 ET on HBO.