Ain’t No Fire in This Hole: Deconstructing True Blood Season 7, Episode 3

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!! If you have not yet seen True Blood Season 7, Episode 3 and you don’t want to know, STOP HERE!

 

Today I was supposed to post my installment of the “10 Things You Don’t Know About Me” Blog Tour. In fact, I did start writing that post yesterday. And then I watched last night’s True Blood, and all bets were off.

I came late to the whole Sookie Stackhouse experience, books and TV show both. In truth, vampire fiction is a big yawn to me, and a lot of the standard tropes of the genre give me hives. I can’t even get through a lot of it. But last year, I developed a huge crush on Joe Manganiello, who plays the Were, Alcide. I resisted as long as I could, but in the end I gave in to my fangirl instincts and got the DVDs of the first five seasons of True Blood out of the library. I also read the entire book series last summer, because I write Paranormal fiction and I figured I should.

This is my disclaimer: I only ever watched True Blood for Alcide. I enjoy some of the other characters and the occasional witty bit of dialog. But Sookie is at best annoying and at worst downright moronic. Love interest #1, Bill, is a drag. And I have never, never understood the fan obsession with Eric. So you might understand my distress at the rumours I started hearing around the first of April, of Alcide’s impending death. Well, it happened last night (in episode 3 of season 7, “Fire in the Hole”). I knew in advance of watching, because I live in Mountain Time Zone, and after about eight o’clock here there it was impossible to be on the Internet without being spoiled. What with the speculation and the plain fact that Mr. Manganiello has been everywhere EXCEPT  on the True Blood set this year, it’s not like I didn’t see it coming. So I’m not actually TOO upset that the writers decided to kill off my main reason for watching. The main source of my irritation is the way in which it was done, the rationalizations given for it, and the unmistakable truth that episode–the whole season so far, really–was just badly written. Boring, even.

So. Deconstructing “Fire in the Hole.”

We start off in a Los Angeles ashram, where a previously-unheard-of yoga teacher is conducting a class. After some New Age Speak with focus shifting back and forth between the teacher and various students, we get the big reveal: Here’s Sara Newlin, her hair darker than we’ve seen it, evidently having turned her back on her Christian faith, but with the same ardent Seeker’s smile on her face as ever! Well, that’s okay. Jason let her go at the end of last season. She was a loose end that needed tying up, and I can accept the writers wanting to do something about that.

Cut to main titles, THEN:

Pam confronts Eric in some manor on the Rhône, a place where, according to Pam “he’d never go.” I wondered about that when it first came up, but I figured it had something to do with Eric’s pre-vampiric past and let it go. Turns out Eric–who was revealed in episode 2 as having contracted Hep V–had a love affair with a French vintner’s daughter back in 1986, and, according to Pam, he’s punishing himself for what went down with that. Now we’re treated to a LONG flashback about Eric and Sylvie. As the two of them make sweet love in the vineyard, up pops Nan Flanagan. You remember Nan, the spokes-vamp for the Authority? She has an issue with Eric and Pam being in France without having notified the local sheriff, and living openly as vamps when the secrecy laws are still in effect. Fine. Then there’s some garbled nonsense about an alliance between the Authority and the Japanese Corporation that has begun to manufacture True Blood, and WHAT? I totally did not understand this whole purported conflict, and this is when I started to have major issues with the writing in this episode.

Despite earlier assertions that the writers planned to scale back, they still have a distressing tendency to invent unnecessary new characters instead of letting the stories revolve around the perfectly good characters they already have. In season 6 they took it to extremes with the wacky kids of the Supernatural Rights movement (or whatever they were called), a subplot that brought us the forgettable Nicole, a woman who managed to get discernibly pregnant about five minutes after sleeping with Sam. Oh, and Violet. I’ll have more to say about her later. In season seven, the writers continued the trend with Vince, who apparently ran against Sam for Mayor of Bon Temps, and who is now fulfilling the clichéd Angry Redneck Agitator role. Because there aren’t enough problems in Bon Temps without stirring up the already frightened townspeople. Good one.

Now we get Sylvie, who, to all appearances, was the actual true love of Eric’s life. I suppose it’s not impossible that he had a lot of lovers over the course of 1000 years, but it seems unlikely, given the apparent depth of their attachment, that we would never have heard of her before this. Why do we need to hear about her now, and in a subplot that took up about a quarter of the screen time of the episode? I’m guessing that they may go somewhere with the subplot. But it mostly seems, as my husband put it, “They had to invent Sylvie because no one else was fucking in this episode.” Knowing HBO, I can actually hear that being said at a plotting conference.

Nan leaves Eric and Pam with an ultimatum: Straighten up and fly right or the evil Corporation WILL GET YOU (Again, WHY? Is Eric the only straying vampire on their radar?) Pam suggests that she and Eric get the hell out of Dodge. He refuses because Sylvie wants to finish University. Because that makes so much sense for Eric to say.

Cut to: Alcide has finished the shower he started last week. You remember, when Sookie, like the complete idiot she is, left him without any explanation to go off and hatch a moronic scheme with Bill. So, Alcide finishes his shower, discovers Sookie had flown the coop, and tracks her to Bill’s house. Not finding her there either, he shifts to wolf shape and runs off to hunt her.

Alcides buttt
We do, however, get some nice footage of the ass the gods spoke of.

 

MEANWHILE: Bill and Sookie are driving somewhere to put Sookie’s moronic plan into motion. Sookie wonders if Alcide will be able to track her. He assures her he took care of all their scent traces. Yeah, that worked. Bill also tells Sookie that he can no longer sense her because he was totally drained when he gave the Lilith blood to the imprisoned vamps last season, so the “Vampire Bill you knew no longer exists.” This declaration caused me to give my computer the finger. Bill goes on to say that he’ll always remember and pay for the abuse he put Sookie through. Sookie says, “Good,” and then sucks some more Bill juice, declaring “I have a boyfriend!” So don’t get any ideas, Bill.

NEXT we see Adilynn and Wade sharing a tender moment in a jail cell. Just as they start to kiss, Jessica appears, along with a justifiably pissed-off Andy. Adilynn explains about the mob of angry townspeople, and the four of them take off to get reinforcements.

SAM and the Reverend are having a heavy discussion about matters of faith in the church. When Sam asks what good it does to have faith, the Reverend asks him what good it does NOT to have it, and adds, “Death is a dark and blinding motherfucker, whether you see if coming or not.” This is actually a great line, and the Reverend is one of the newer characters I like. But I half-expected a giant, pointing finger labeled FORESHADOWING to descend from the ceiling at that moment. At that moment, a tripping Lettie Mae bursts into the church, along with a remarkably ineffective Willa. Girl, you’re a vampire. Couldn’t you have restrained the crazy woman, or glamoured her, or something? Anyway, the Rev asks everyone to leave. Sam and his vamp escort head off, only to be met by the aforementioned crowd of angry villagers townspeople. After the requisite gloating, during which rival Vince announces that he’s the mayor now, someone splatters Sam’s escort on the pavement. Sam turns into an owl and flies away.

Technically, the Angry Mob should have torches and pitchforks, but whatever.
Technically, the Angry Mob should have torches and pitchforks, but whatever.

BACK AT JASON’S PLACE, Jason tells Violet he wants to have kids, because “a man is nothing without a family.” Because Andy said the exact same thing last episode, and Jason has never had an original thought. Violet launches into an angry tirade about how “in her day” men were goddam MEN, and warriors trampled the dismembered bodies of their fallen enemies without feeling. Because, in case you missed it, REAL MEN DON’T HAVE FEELINGS. This was another moment when I flipped the bird at the screen. I freaking hate Violet. Not quite as much as I hate Sookie, but she’s a close second. I hated her when she showed up last season, because WHY? Then it turned out that she was denying sex to Jason because she wanted him to prove his macho by raping her on the hood of a car, an action she evidently found a turn on. And now this Real Men (TM) bullshit. Honestly, this little speech pissed me off more than about anything in the episode. I guess Violet’s been around 600-odd years and the entire Women’s Rights movement completely bypassed her. Someone stake that bitch, please. Fortunately, before the argument takes off, Andy and Company show up. They leave the kids at Jason’s place, and the two law officers and the two vamps run to rescue Sookie, whom the believe to be in danger from the angry mob. Because we MUST RESCUE SOOKIE. It’s the Law!

TIME to check in with Lafayette! He’s dancing around and shit, when James shows up, trying to score some weed because Jessica doesn’t know he’s alive. Or undead. Or whatever. Anyway, it makes sense that she doesn’t, because they haven’t has a scene together since he changed bodies, so maybe she doesn’t recognize him anymore. Lafayette only has pills, which he kindly takes so that James can get off by drinking his blood. The two of them trip off into Happy Land, but when Lafayette assumes James is coming on to him, James declares that he’s with Jessica. Because that’s believable.

They're really cute together. Pity.
They’re really cute together. Pity.

AFTER a brief check-in with the Hep V-infected Vamps at Fangtasia (remember them?), during which they decide to go hunting and take Holly along for munchies, it’s back to Bill and Sookie. They’re filling the time waiting for the infected vamps, whom Sookie hopes to lure with her glittery fairy blood, with reminiscence. For Bill, this includes a long and COMPLETELY POINTLESS flashback about getting photographs of his family takes before he goes off to The War. Because it totally made sense to waste our time on that.

ANDY and company find Sam’s abandoned truck, as well as the angry villagers. There’s a confrontation. Maxine shoots at Jessica, and Violet rips Maxine’s heart out, which was admittedly gratifying. I guess Violet’s good for something. The mob scatters, and the good guys continue to search for Sookie.

INSERT over-long, pointless scene of the Rev tossing Willa out on her ear because Lettie Mae is a drug addict.

NOW, without warning, we’re back in 1986, where a group of Japanese businessmen force Eric to choose between Sylvie and Pam for no apparent reason. Eric, also for no apparent reason, chooses Pam, and Sylvie is unceremoniously killed. To which my husband said, “They invented her for nudity value, so they had to invent a reason to get rid of her. Thus the Japanese assassins without apparent purpose.” EXCEPT! Pam manages to get Eric to rise from his bed of pain with the mention of one name: Sara Newlin. Finding out she’s alive is just the tonic he needs. The two of them leave to hunt down Sara and give her what for. Meanwhile, Sara and her guru are finishing up some spiritual practice when the SAME Japanese assassins arrive. With Sara conveniently hiding in the wine cellar, they kill the guru and proceed to search the ashram. Guess they aren’t too chuffed about the Hep V thing.

Just leave me here to die, please.
Just leave me here to die, please.

AND NOW the climactic scene: The Hep V Vamps back in Bon Temps FINALLY locate Sookie. Before they can make off with her, however, Alcide and Sam, in animal form, attack. At the same moment, Andy and company show up to splatter the Vamps all over the scenery. Alcide morphs back into human form, makes sure Sookie is okay, and starts to read Bil the riot act for not being able to protect the girl. Before he can get going, one of the stray angry townspeople shoots Alcide through the head.

THE END

I can understand killing Alcide, I really can. But the justifications for doing it in the way they did at the moment they did don’t fly with me. It may be, from a story point of view, that “the fairy has to end up with the vampire.” I can play that either way. As a writer, I can see the appeal to wrapping everything up into a neat package. However, as a writer, I also kn0w that no story HAS to do anything. My personal preference would have been to have Sookie grow a brain and backbone and discover she can be an independent person. Since I recently saw a tweet from Anna Paquin stating that “part of Sookie’s character is that she doesn’t learn from her mistakes,” I doubt this is ever going to happen.

As far as Alcide being an outsider and thus the character the series can do without: You know, that didn’t have to be. The WRITERS MADE THAT. They made it by separating the vampire and were storylines so far in season 6, and they continued it by asking the audience to swallow the absurd notion that Alcide is still an outsider after living with Sookie for six months that we never saw. Now, I never bought the whole Sookie/Alcide romance in the first place. It didn’t sell in the books, and it didn’t sell in the show. It seemed to me as if Alcide fell for Sookie for no other reason than that every male character has to fall for Sookie at some point. If I try really hard, I can believe that he might have become infatuated with her because he was on the rebound from Debbie–whom Sookie killed. Great basis for love, that. But Alcide was no dummy. I think it would have been far more realistic for him to become disenchanted with Sookie on closer inspection, and for him to leave her. But, you know, that would have taken an effort.

But it’s the final justification that sticks in my craw the most. Alcide had to die because if Sookie dumped the good guy everyone would hate her. I MEAN, REALLY? Because we’re totally going to love her now that her stupidity and refusal to communicate honestly GOT HIM KILLED! Granted, I run in a particular circle of fans–Alcide Fans, that is. But from what I saw last night, it looked to me as if this brilliant move might have lost True Blood two-thirds of its viewers. At the very least, I would have liked to see Alcide continue a couple more episodes and go down in a blaze of glory. The random shot in the dark from an irate hick wasn’t dramatic. It was lame, lame, lame.

You know, I did get one thing out of this poor excuse for an episode. I never understood the brou-ha-ha over the end of the book series, or why people were so upset that it didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Mostly because I’ve never shipped Eric. So the rants I read about it didn’t make any sense to me. When I read the books, I thought the way Harris ended the series made perfect sense.

Now I understand where those people were coming from.

I expected all along that Alcide wouldn’t make it through all ten episodes. And I fully intended to keep watching after his death, because I don’t like leaving things and I like knowing what happens. But after last night’s travesty, I have no desire to continue. I might pick up the series at some later date if I have nothing to do. But I won’t be waiting for it to air every Sunday night.

#NOTTrueToTheEnd

 

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