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New 'True Blood': Screaming Sookie, Mad Maryann, Hard-Hearted Hannah, and a peek at the rest of Season Two!

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Well, it took me a while to banish from my mind the image of Bill (‘scuse me: “Guillaume”) sitting at a piano in 1926 Chicago crooning this week’s episode title-song, “Hard-Hearted Hannah” — surely the least sexy/appealing poses we’ve ever seen Bill in, and yes, I remember those stiff Civil War flashbacks. What finally replaced that image (Bill looked sort of like early Billy Joel crossed with Marvin Hamlisch — shudder) was True Blood‘s two climactic scenes this week. (Do I need to write it?: Spoiler alert if you didn’t watch tonight’s episode yet.)

I’m talking about Sookie and Hugo (Isabel’s human boyfriend) being dragged down screaming into Rev. Steve’s basement of terror, and Maryann’s wildest whipped-up orgy yet, which included Tara and Eggs going at it like rabbits, but rabbits with dead-ghoul eyes. Eek and eek, respectively. Yes, the danger is becoming more harrowing with each week, so that now one of True Blood‘s pleasures is its churning suspense, so far kept under an artistic control that’s so confident on the part of Alan Ball and his directors that it hasn’t gone over the top.

What has become a bit of a repetitive drag is the vampirism as metaphor for homosexuality. Or as Luke spelled it out as only Luke can (thick-headedly, in words of mostly one syllable): When a Christian man (and by Luke’s standards therefore a straight dude) “does it to a vampire, or to a dude, or to a vampire-dude, that’s the cream de la cream [sic] of sin!” Okay, okay, we get it: some evangelical Christians are homophobic. And some have hotsy blonde wives who warn muscular guys to whom they gave bathtub-hand-jobs last week that their husbands want to “start a war” against gays — I mean, vampires.

Now back to the more subtle stuff. I liked the clever pairing of Sookie with Hugo to infiltrate the Light of Day camp. Their conversations about the nature of vampire love were sweet and poignant. Loved all the Hoyt-Jessica stuff; I know it’s just there for comic relief, but Hoyt’s squabbling with his mama over cell-phone texting is still funny to me, as was Jessica’s blurted-out “I’m so happy I could cry but I don’t wanna ’cause it’s really gross when I do!”

And more seriously, I really liked the Lafayette scenes, his mental torture at flashing-back to his real torture; his being forced to once again sell “V,” but this time for the vampires’ profit; and the way Terry gently cradled and comforted him.

But the core dangers were cliffhanger doozies. Sam is at once horrified and trapped in Maryann’s Dionysian freak-out. Sookie is going to need all her telepathic powers to get Bill to come help rescue her. (Will Eric help?)

And I’m guessing that, very soon, Jason is going to tumble to the fact that his sister is endangered by an anti-vampire war-in-the-making that will shatter Jason’s faith. The kid’s gonna have to grow up, man-up, fast. Because True Blood can only become more baroquely, violently exciting. Remember the days when the biggest problem in Bon Temps was Tara’s mother drinking too much? How far we have come. Check out this new preview of the rest of the season, shown at Comic-Con:

Did you watch tonight’s True Blood? What do you think is going to happen next?