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

True Blood closed out its season on Sunday night with a series of double- and triple-crosses. The series didn’t so much end with a cliffhanger than it left multiple subplots dangling, as though creator Alan Ball decided he’d just clean up this messy season next season.

Let’s focus first on Sookie’s arc in this hour, because it’s a good example of the way True Blood was both extravagantly dramatic and frustratingly foolish in season 3. Sookie stomped around angrily throughout much of the finale… whenever she wasn’t sobbing unhappily. Furious at Bill and the Eric left burning in the sun, pre-opening credits, Sookie listened to Bill tell her, “I pretended to betray you… again.” Then she dragged Eric, dazzled by his Godric vision, back into the house before he turned into a flaked ember and let him feed on her to revive himself.

Sookie also dragged Russell in — why, exactly? Because Eric was wasting time comparing fangs with Bill? To listen to Russell’s hollow promises? To make him suffer as she poured the remains of Talbot down a sink and turned on the disposal. She seemed slightly glad, if still sullenly suspicious, to see the return of Alcide. She announced to anyone listening that, “I’m basically vampire crack,” and was pretty fed up with the whole thing. The next time we saw her she shared a tender scene with Tara, who’d lopped off her hair and seemed to be in a suicidal mood that Sookie didn’t pick up on. Then it was back to Bill, who pledged “the true death to all who have tasted you. This I swear to you.” Which seemed like a pretty good pledge, until Eric zoomed in to point out how many times Bill has betrayed her. Whereupon Sookie ran to the graveyard to talk to her dead grandmother: “I’ve never felt so alone.”

But then she wasn’t alone: The white-clad fairies in their butter-yellow light, led by Claudine, appeared and reached out to Sookie, who disappeared in one big throb of golden glowiness. There endeth the season. And what had been accomplished, other than Sookie’s alienation from every key male character?

Sookie’s tale was broken up by many other story lines. There was a bit of lingering anti-vampire politicking as seen on TV, with more of Rev. Steve exhorting humans to hate vamps. Sam and Tara shared a post-coital meal that was going well (“It’s all in the bacon grease”) until Sam told her he was a shape-shifter. That seemed to be the thing that ultimately drove her to grab her scissors and snip her hair — it was one supernatural creature too many for her to bear.

The overriding problem with the latter half of True Blood‘s season was the way the subplots didn’t converge into a satisfying dramatic whole. Core characters remained stranded in their storylines, many of them unaware of what people dear to them were going through. Jason, for example, had to deal with Crystal’s wacky clan, her murderous fiance Felton, and the invasion of the DEA into the small town. Hoyt and Jessica seemed to be on the verge of a happy ending, with Hoyt bringing her to a house in which they could build a new life… but then we saw his mama buying a vampire-killing rifle. (In fact, that early Hoyt scene, the one in which his mom and Summer and the guidance counselor tried to stage an anti-vamp intervention with him, is a perfect example of how much the tone wobbled in True Blood. The final shot, when Hoyt’s mother pushed the counselor away as he tried to join a group-hug, was such cornball slapstick.)

Lafayette plagued by visions; Jesus’ admission that he’s a witch; Sam reconciling hastily with Terry; Sam tracking down Tommy after the latter stole the former’s money and telling him to get lost — these details zipped by so quickly, they barely registered as drama.

The best moments, as was true throughout the season, involved Russell. Even in burned-charcoal make-up, Denis O’Hare was funny, poignant, and chillingly ruthless. Russell figured prominently in the night’s best moment: When first he, and then Eric, were covered in cement by Bill. By contrast, I almost felt sorry for Stephen Moyer, having to try and make all of Bill’s twists of behavior believable and be obliged to get into some wire harness to do battle with Evan Rachel Wood’s silly Queen.

Buried deep in the hour was what I believe may have been Alan Ball’s theme for the evening, and the season, a drip of wisdom delivered by, of all people, Jason: “Sometimes the right thing to do is the wrong thing.” That could certainly apply to many actions by many characters this season.

Hey, I still enjoy True Blood; I’m already reasonably convinced that this was a season Ball had to get through to introduce new characters and actions that will pay off down the line. But when he appeared on-screen after the finale had finished to promise us more witches, more political vampires, and more craziness next season, it was almost as though he was admitting he had to tack on this thanks to the fans for sticking with him through the bumpy ride that was this season.

I’ll take him at his word and be front and center the next time around. In the meantime, tell me what you thought about this evening’s finale. Was it good for you, or frustrating?

Follow: @kentucker

Episode Recaps

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

  • TV Show
  • 7
  • On Hiatus
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