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'True Blood' review: 'I Smell a Rat,' or maybe it was just this episode

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For an episode bursting with revelations, this wasn’t the best True Blood of the season. Lurching from one plot-point to another without much in the way of artful pacing, the hour was like an information-dump that needed to be unloaded so that the series could come to a smashing last-two-episodes conclusion. But I’m forgetting my manners: Congratulations, Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer — happy marriage! Hope all went swimmingly at your hitching this weekend.

Now, then. Let’s begin with some pungent Sookie sentiment: “I’m a fairy? How f—ing lame.” Yes, the source of that gauzy, cotton-candy-land of Claudine’s was finally revealed: Sookie’s part-human, part-fairy/faerie/fae. Her blood is “delectable” to vampires, yet we should not fear that Sookie will shrink, grow wings, and start to flutter around Bill like Tinkerbell. As always, danger looms, and Bill is the bearer of bad news. It was thought that fairies were exterminated by vampires long ago, which means Sookie is much sought after by other supernaturals, though I’m not clear on why she poses a threat worthy of death. I mean, it’s not as though the fairies have a history of wiping out other creatures, right? (Do you ever get the feeling that 95% of the TV you watch involves vast mythologies that are being doled out to you bit by teasing bit?)

Anyway, time to start jumping around the way True Blood did this week. Let’s hit the bullet points:

• Eric is so fearful of Russell’s wrath, he made a will bequeathing everything to Pam.

• Nan Flanagan took to the airwaves to condemn Russell as “an extremist and a terrorist.” Nan increasingly seems like a new breed of Fox News commentator: a non-blonde fulminator.

• Sam used to be a pretty slick jewel thief, via his shape-shifting powers. Also a sucker for a pretty girl. It was all very noir. This was actually my favorite flashback/revelation of the evening.

• Lafayette and Jesus took some V and the result was something like eating mushrooms: one long, sweaty, vivid, but tedious-to-the-outsider set of dual visions in which the guys figured out that they both had ancestors who were expert in “the black arts.”

• Arlene told Terry the baby isn’t his; he still wants to smother evil with love, but Arlene has other ideas, hoping to rid herself of the fetus by consulting with Holly who…

• … is a Wiccan, wouldn’t you know it, with “remedies” for many things.

• Jason and Tara shared a tender moment just before he admitted he killed Eggs, which of course sent Tara into her 864th True Blood emotional tailspin. This I found a bit of a stretch: It wasn’t as though Jason killed Eggs out of malice; couldn’t he and Tara have recalled that they were all a little crazy trying to resist the spell of Maryann?

• Crystal can turn into a panther. I quote a poem by Ogden Nash: “A panther is like a leopard/Except that it hasn’t been peppered/Should you behold a panther crouch/Prepare to say ouch/Better yet: When called by a panther/Don’t anther.”

• Hoyt told Jessica he stills loves her; he was attacked by a jealous Tommy-as-pitbull; Jessica has him drink her blood to revive.

• Russell, still grief-stricken over the death of Talbot, picked up a guy named Tony in a dark alley (I’d call him a chicken-hawk but you might think he was a shape-shifter), and blubbered a lot before staking the poor guy. I far prefer the Russell who was floridly enraged, a vampire Howard Beale, at the end of last week’s episode.

• The cliffhanger: Sookie held prisoner in Eric’s dungeon.

An hour so loaded with developments such as all this should have been thrilling, but too many of these key moments were either too brief or too long. Characters were forever having to fill each other in on what we’d just seen or already knew, because few of the scenes fit together — most of the main characters were sent spinning off into their separate subplots. (How the hell is Lafayette, for example, going to get everyone else up to speed on what he and Jesus saw before the season ends?)

I’ve been enjoying this season of True Blood a lot, so I’ll chalk this slightly wobbly one up to preparation for a couple of terrific season-ending hours. Certainly bringing Sookie firmly into the supernatural world beyond being a mind-reader with cool flashing powers is satisfying for the series’ future storytelling. And the acting on the part of our core trio — Paquin, Moyer, and Alexander Skarsgard — was impressively wide-ranging, fully capable of conveying all the various, rapid emotions each of their characters had to zoom through this week.

What did you think?

Follow: @kentucker

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