By Ken Tucker
Updated August 01, 2010 at 12:00 PM EDT

The fast and furious edition of True Blood this week was directed by one of my favorite Blood directors, John Dahl (Red Rock West, The Last Seduction), and it was a week of death, change, and puzzlement. In the manner of ruthless surprise that suits this series best, Lorena was dispatched before the opening credits, killed by Sookie in an attempt to save Bill. Disappearing in a crimson grizzle-spray, Lorena entered the True Blood Hall of Infamy as Alcide and Tara arrived to rescue Sookie. The werewolves were fast approaching, but she wouldn’t leave without her Bill.

Taking a saw and slitting her arm to let Bill feed on her, Sookie fell prey to Bill’s baser instincts. Beginning to revive, he showed not gratefulness but an uncontrollable desire to suck her even drier, in an appropriately repulsive scene that rendered blood-sucking a metaphor for rape, and which landed Sookie in a coma, in a hospital, with a nurse informing her next of kin (that would be Jason) that Sookie has no blood type, and rejects any transfusion.

It was a reasonably triumphant week for Sam, who confirmed that Tommy was being used as a pit bull in some backwoods dog-fights. Sam freed the dogs and rescued Tommy from a mauling, then chewed out the Mickenses for being such lousy parents.

The two major scenes this week brought revelation and confusion — at least they did for me. The vision Sookie has while in a coma, that glowing glimpse of a paradise that looked like some cross between a commercial for butter and one for an anti-depressant: What the hell was that all about? (Whenever something inexplicably gloppy pops up on this show, I always suspect it’s something taken from Charlaine Harris’ source-books, but maybe I’m wrong.) Claudine warning her not to “go back,” that Bill will “take her light” — was this female figure the source of Sookie’s powers, telling her that death would be better than resuming life in Bill’s “darkness”?

Thank goodness the night’s other big set-piece finally brought resolution to the now-weeks-long torture of Pam. Assembling Eric, the Queen, Russell, and the Magister in Fangtasia was a summit meeting of Evil. After watching Magister get ready to pierce poor chained-down Pam’s eyelids with his silver Tiffany rings, it was satisfying to see Russell take command of the joint. He had Eric and the Queen under his command, and after a lot of gas-baggery about “the Authority,” Russell pulled that nice trick of having Pam and Magister swap places: Pam freed in a flash, Magister in chains.

The night ended with a double scream: Sookie upon emerging from her coma, and Magister just before Russell lopped off his head. Add Cooter, and that made two three characters dead in one hour, and Magister’s thumping skull helped explain the episode’s title, “Hitting the Ground,” as something more than just the rest of our heroes hitting the ground running. (Great use of the PJ Harvey song of the same name over the closing credits.)

It was all tremendously exciting — the pace was amazing. And the episode was something of a gigantic info-dump, with all sorts of new details to savor and unravel in future hours. This season may not be taking the time to limn characters as vividly as it did last season with the lush, languid treatment Maryann received, but it sure has a momentum that’s exhilarating.

Stray silver bullet points:

• So Bill won’t burn to a crisp in sunlight anymore, now that he’s filled with Sookie’s blood. Let’s not let Bill become too normal, shall we?

• Jason’s wooing of Crystal (unseen in this episode) slowed the hour a bit; his interrogation of her jailed cousin was just a dollop of information to keep this sub-plot in readiness for another week.

• Do we care about Hoyt and Summer as a new romantic couple? The show will have to send me a basket of Summer’s biscuits before I’m persuaded this is interesting…

• Jessica, I missed you this week.

• Line of the week, from Jason: “Never thought I was smart enough to be depressed.”

What did you think of this edition of True Blood?

Follow: @kentucker

Episode Recaps

True Blood, Anna Paquin, ... | In the season 3 finale, vampire Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) made Bill confess to Sookie — who can't read vampire minds — that he let her…

True Blood

Sookie, Bill, Eric, Lafayette, Sam and the other residents Bon Temps deal with vampires, werewolves, fairies, and shape-shifters—not to mention romance and drama

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