Well. To say that the beginning of the end of True Blood got off to a deflating start would be an understatement, but then again, True Blood has been treating its characters like living, bleeding pincushions from the get-go. It’s only a matter of time before one of your favorite characters gets picked off, via stake, bullet, crazy bull-headed demon claw or some other infernal device. We get enthralling love stories, incredible friendships and real moments of intimacy and joy, but the good stuff comes at a gushing, pulsing price as far as Sookie and her nearest and dearest are concerned. We don’t get to take a breather or pause for a sec for fear of losing someone, and the final season of True Blood wasted no time in taking a beloved member of the Bon Temps crew away from us.
Before diving into the premiere, here’s a brief, chaotic refresher, as True Blood threw a lot at its audience in the final moments of Season Six and left Bon Temps on the cusp of yet another bloodbath. There’s still a serious shortage of Tru Blood, a growing number of vampires infected with Hep V, and thus a bunch of very, very hungry vampires taking to the streets in search of anything to feed on with a pulse, and they’re making their way towards Bon Temps. The evil machinations of Lilith have long since relieved themselves of Bill Compton, as have Warlow’s charms and charmed faerie blood, which had allowed him to walk in broad daylight. Bill writes a book about a life full of turmoil and tragedy and becomes the face of the good part of the vampire population. Terry’s dead, but we have no idea where Eric is (or if he’s even alive, considering how the last time we saw him he was burning to a crisp on a snowy mountaintop).
Sam’s now the mayor of Bon Temps and expecting a baby with Nicole; Merlotte’s is now Bellefleur’s Bar and Grille. Lettie Mae offers up a meal from her own veins to Tara in the dim hopes of patching up her relationship with her eternally furious daughter. The people of Bon Temps flocked to a shindig at Bellefleur’s in the name of togetherness, but with a somber purpose. Bill and Sam both thought it’d be a good idea to have the town not only get tested for Hep V, but to launch a buddy system of sorts between humans and vampires for the sake of securing protection against the bonkers and deadly Hep V-infected vamps, and they figured a party bringing everyone together would be a good call. And finally, Sookie wound up with Alcide, the only guy who’s ever loved her and done so wholeheartedly without an ulterior motive. (Plenty want Bill and Sookie to reconcile and put the last three seasons of absolute insanity and barely tolerable plot lines behind them for the sake of their love. Your faithful viewer here is 100 percent Team Alcide, so if it sounds like I’m pushing that storyline in this review, it’s because I am.)
Dizzy? Cool, because True Blood only continues to spiral from here on out. The final shot of Season Six has a small army of Hep V-infected vampires sauntering towards the barbecue at Bellefleur’s, while the first of Season Seven spares no one, with chaos erupting across the picnic tables of Bellefleur’s and familiar faces going missing. Arlene, Holly and Nicole (and Sam’s unborn baby) have been taken hostage by the bad vamps. Jason and Lafayette make it out of the mess alive. Bill and Alcide bring their machismo-off to a halt and keep Sookie from getting served up to the infected vamps in the process. And then—after the bad vamps flee and the carnage has subsided—Sookie, Jason and the gang stumble upon Lettie Mae, who’s sitting, distraught, in a bloody, viscous pile of sinew and meat that used to be Tara.
As if it weren’t bad enough that her lifelong best friend has met the true death, Sookie heads into the restaurant only to face a barrage of enraged, frightened thoughts dripping with accusations and resentment. Bon Temps’ surviving population blames Sookie for the plight of vampires upon them—even if they’re keeping their thoughts to themselves, despite the fact that they know she can read their minds—and all she can hear is a room full of people thinking “THIS IS YOUR FAULT!” as aggressively as they can while they try to slap Band-aids on and keep from bleeding out. When Sookie catches Alcide’s eye, she realizes that he’s not entirely disagreeing with the panicked peanut gallery: “I’ll never understand how she can love the dead. If she would’ve only walked away, we wouldn’t be in this mess right now.” She’s had enough. She walks home alone, even though it’s clearly more dangerous out there than ever, and trips over the cold, blue body of a woman who looks alarmingly like her.
Meanwhile, in Marrakesh, Pam is looking for Eric and playing games of Russian Roulette as she gathers information about his whereabouts. Lafayette and James have a helpless heart-to-heart: Lafayette is numbed by grief, and it turns out James is a Vietnam War vet (though still a draft dodger, a pacifist) and he’s used to mourning the loss of his friends. Jason is fending off the angry, self-arming members of Reverend Skinner’s congregation, who are taking matters into their own hands against the vamps as the government has seemingly turned their back on the small bayou town. He’s also dealing with a totally selfish girlfriend, in that Violet feeds on Jason and he goes down on her every night, but refuses to sleep with him until they finally get so frustrated with the chaos erupting around them that they finally screw on the hood of his cop car. Some things will never change, and the libido of Jason Stackhouse is one that remains a comforting constant as the world burns around them.
Jess is camped out at Andy’s house protecting Adilyn and her faerie blood from the zombie-like Hep V, vamps while Andy heads out with Bill in hopes of finding (and saving) Holly, Arlene and Nicole. They stumble upon a warehouse that vampires had been nesting in—and the drained humans they’d been feeding on—and run into the Reverend and crew, who are also searching for the missing folks from the barbecue. The Reverend wants Bill dead, but Andy fends them off, and it’s clear that these two may hate each other but work just fine as a team fighting on behalf of the law. In the basement of Fangtasia, Arlene, Holly and Nicole are terrified as their captors begin to pick off their spoil one quivering, screaming human at a time. Alcide is furious when he eventually returns to the house and finds Sookie sitting, frustrated and devastated, at the kitchen table. She tells him she wants to be alone after she reveals that the blame is too much to bear, and that hearing his thoughts was the tipping point for her. Eventually, Alcide and Sookie make up, and the following morning—when the Hep V vamps are nesting, Jessica’s taking a nap after staying up all night with Adilyn, Andy and Bill are plotting their next move and the people of Bon Temps takes a deep breath while they still can—Sookie approaches Reverend Daniels’ sermon and makes a solid point. No one knows vampires in Bon Temps better than Sookie Stackhouse. And Bon Temps may blame her for the coming armaggedon, but she is there to help, and quite honestly, she might be the only hope they’ve got.
Even though it started with a feeding frenzy and splintered off into a series of independent storylines, “Jesus Gonna Be Here” did a brilliant job of uniting Sookie, Bill, Alcide, Jason, Pam and the rest of Bon Temps in a haze of fearful determination. They’ve been to hell and back so many times they’ve practically paved the road themselves, but Sookie and company have proven time and time again that they can face deadly adversity and come out intact, if only slightly, on the other side. The abrupt, unsatisfying dismissal of Tara and the open-ended question regarding Eric’s fate are frustrating threads to leave untied, but hopefully we see some resolution—at least in Eric’s case—sooner rather than later. (Given the show’s propensity for reviving the dead, here’s hoping there’s a way to work Tara back into True Blood, even if it’s only through a series of flashbacks.) The end is nigh, and they can feel it, but that doesn’t mean they’re running from it. If anything, they’re running into the mayhem, and Season Seven looks like it’s going to be a merciless—and mesmerizing—ride.