“Aw, poor Bill, power is so hard.” Season four of True Blood is about change and rebirth. Bill, the compassionate vampire that swept Sookie off her feet in season one, is now the King of Louisiana, ruling with an iron fist. Having just sent a vampire to his True Death for feeding on a human that willingly wanted to be fed on, he sarcastically tells Nan Flanagan of the A.V.L that the execution went “smooth”, “totally justified”. We’ve seen his new transformation take place in the first three episodes of this season. Bill is more cunning, ruthless and do I dare even say villainous? The question to then ask is, is this the real Bill? Is he only acting this way because of pressure from the authority? Bill acting on his own did try to kill Eric at the end of season three. And we know that his past has been filled with both good and evil moments. As season four progresses, the characters of True Blood are having to face who they really are.
Eric of course is the main character caught up in this quandary; the ruthless sheriff who would kill anyone that dared to defy him has lost all recollection of his past life. He is now loving, innocent, compassionate. But at the same time he has nothing to hold onto, except Sookie and his vampire urges. What makes this intriguing is whether the Eric we see now is the actual Eric that was always buried deep down under all the bravado and violence. It’s a question that Sookie ponders, as she is starting to fall for him. And most importantly, Eric himself has to come terms with who he is, and was. In “I’m Alive and on Fire” we finally see some progression in this new Eric. At first, he plays the same blank and childlike man that we’ve enjoyed in the past few episodes. After draining Claudine, Eric becomes drunk off the blood. He then stumbles away into the night, despite Sookie’s protests. The next morning Sookie has to seek the aid of Alcide to go sniff him out, and we find our lovable Viking vampire swimming in the lake naked. The scene comes off as humorous at first, but later on it takes on a much more significant meaning.
Jason and Sam both take on new roles. While being captured by the Hot Shot werepanther clan, Jason is forced to have sex with all the females in the clan. After enduring being repeatedly raped, he has enough when they send in the youngest girl in the clan, who isn’t even a teenager. Talking her out of it, she lets Jason go. After finally escaping he gets chased down by Felton, and he kills him. Crystal is happy that the clan leader is dead. But Jason wants nothing to do with Crystal. “You are the worst thing that has ever happened to me”. No kidding. Despite Crystal’s attempt to lure him in as being the new “ghost daddy” of their clan, Jason takes off running. Passing out by the side of the road, Jessica and Hoyt find him and rescue him. While Jason ran away from the parenting job from hell, Sam Merlott quickly embraces the idea of fatherhood. After spontaneously visiting Luna, he discovers she has a kid. Sam wants to spend time with her, and Luna allows it. It was a pretty touching moment to see Sam be so gentle with Luna and her child. But I must admit, I find his character conflicting. What I originally thought was just a way to flesh out Sam’s character (his past of killing two people and being a criminal), has made me question Sam in general—his motives, and what makes him tick. Underneath his smile, I can’t help but wonder if it’s genuine. Sam’s brother Tommy goes back to live with his mother after she tells him that she has left her deadbeat husband Joe Lee. But this ends up predictably being a trap, and Joe Lee almost chokes Tommy to death with a chain. I don’t particularly care for Tommy, but I found the scene to be unnerving, and I am interested in where they take this.
On the witches’ side of things, we get some more backstory about the spirit that is in contact with Marnie: It’s a young witch that was burnt at the stake in Spain. Continuing the themes I mentioned last week, the writers still portray the witches as the victims. Marnie is horrified at what she sees, as she keeps revisiting the death of this witch in the past. At this point, Lafayette, Jesus and Tara fear for their lives and confront Marnie. They finally convince her that the entire coven will be killed if they don’t fix Eric, so she helps them try to find a way to reverse the spell. This of course leads to the spirit showing her a sign. But it’s important to note that the spirit that is in contact with Marnie was a victim herself. And she too sees Marnie as being victimized. After all, it was the vampires that attacked her coven first. After they call Pam to a meeting so they can reverse the spell, Pam gets angry and is about to attack when there are no results. The spirit inhabits Marnie again and casts a rotting spell on Pam that makes parts of her flesh drip off, turning her into a walking skeleton. What makes Marnie dangerous, at least to the vampires, is that the spirit is starting to see Marnie as a victim and is becoming more active to defend her.
“I’m Alive and On Fire” was another good episode of True Blood, but it was held back by the writers tackling too many plot threads again. Arlene’s evil baby plot is still kind of just there. The incest plot where Bill found out Portia (the girl he was sleeping with) was his great-great-great-great-grandaughter felt unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. These moments were little detours that distracted from the bigger moments. But despite these missteps, the season is moving forward in a good direction. The most poignant moment of the episode came when Sookie visited Eric in his sleeping quarters. She sees how depressed Eric is and talks to him about how the old Eric used to be happy. Desperately, Eric says: “I will never swim in the sun again. Never feel the heat on my skin. Never see the daylight in your hair.” It was an extremely human moment, as someone that has died mourns for what they have lost. Coming from Eric, it was a bit of a revelation not just for his character, but also for the vampires in True Blood. I think back to Godric who tried to tell Eric that love and compassion would be their salvation—not anger and violence. Those words never seemed truer.