By Ken Tucker
Updated June 22, 2009 at 06:37 AM EDT

The second episode of True Blood was even better than the second-season premiere last week. The series has found a wonderful tone of humor mixed with suspense, with a dollop of eroticism (that is, when it isn’t ladling on big spoonfuls of eroticism). I’m thinking of short but potent scenes last night such as Bill and Eric in the department store, and the way the saleswoman is turned on by Bill — vampires are irresistible. And the bigger, more important scene later on, when Maryann casts a spell over everyone in the restaurant and they all start wiggling sensuously.

The subplot I’m most enjoying is Jason’s time at the Light of Day leadership conference, where he’s charming both leaders, Steve and Sarah (Jason + Sarah = it’s just a matter of time, isn’t it?). That silver “honesty ring” is going to come into play in a pretty dramatic way, I’m guessing. True Blood is avoiding cheap shots about evangelical Christianity in favor of a more nuanced exploration of the way people want to find and follow leaders, whether they’re charismatic spiritual instructors or powerful otherworldly creatures like Bill or Eric.

Last season, Lafayette swanned in and out of scenes with a devil-may-care attitude; now, he’s in league with the devil… or whatever it is Eric represents in his infinite cruelty. As for voluntary cruelty, you can’t beat Jessica trying to get back at her parents for by baring her fangs, can you?

So: what do you think? Oh, and what do you make of new-waitress Daphne?