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- TV Series: True Blood
- Episode: Fresh Blood
- Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Sam Trammell, Nelsan Ellis, Chris Bauer, Alexander Skarsgård, Deborah Ann Woll, Carrie Preston and William Sanderson
- Written By: Nancy Oliver
- Directed By: Daniel Minahan
- Network: HBO
- Series: True Blood
True Blood: Fresh Blood Review
Ending With a Fang
By Rob Vaux
August 30, 2010
When True Blood hits its mark, it’s a thing of beauty. Case in point: the penultimate episode of the third season, which sets a glorious table for the big showstopper in two weeks. While some of the quieter subplots struggle for traction, the primary ones are pure gold: perhaps only the second or third time this year that the show fully reaches its potential.
Ironically, Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Bill (Stephen Moyer) form the episode’s weakest link, as Bill rescues his lady love from Eric’s (Alexander Skarsgard) dungeon and they attempt to make a getaway in her crappy little Honda. It’s modestly sweet, but we all know how much they love each other by now, and their desire for a “fresh start” feels anything but fresh.
Things improve several notches when Eric and Russell (Denis O’Hare) show up and drag them back to Fangtasia. With the secret of Sookie’s blood in their hands, they hope to develop an invincible weapon against their vampire foes: one drink from her and a bloodsucker can walk in the daylight. Russell sees in it a means to conquer the world; Eric’s motives are far more ambiguous, but they play out in a marvelous build-up during the course of the episode, topped by a cliffhanger finale which matches Russell’s on-air spinal surgery several weeks ago.
The thread hinges--again--on Skarsgard’s performance, inscrutable as always but marked by curious moments of tenderness which offset his apparent callousness beautifully. We also get an opportunity to view Pam’s (Kristin Bauer van Straten) devotion to him, perhaps the only genuine relationship either character shares with anyone. When coupled with Eric’s overall power play, it conjures a sense of tragedy and loss, even as we thrill to his terrific sneaky bastard tendencies.
Even more intriguing developments take place over at the Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll)/Hoyt (Jim Parrick) coupling. The two clearly adore each other, and Hoyt shows no hesitation in embracing their relationship, even after Jessica confesses the unfortunate dead trucker business to him. Her character arc remains a palpable pleasure, going from repressed, terrified teenager to power-mad baby vamp to a being who understands and accepts what she has become. Director Daniel Minahan further spices the pot with the revelation that Hoyt’s mother (Dale Raoul) has conspired to pull her son away from Jessica. Manipulating that poor little church girl into falling for Hoyt is bad enough, but Mrs. Fortenberry may be sufficiently crazy to try something really reckless… and in the process give Jessica’s subplot the boost it needs to really take us places.
The remainder of the episode consists largely of busywork: a mad effort to set up loose threads for some kind of resolution during the finale. Sam (Sam Trammell) decides he’s really a dick after all, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) experiences aftereffects from his V trip, and Arlene (Carrie Preston) tries to get rid of her supposedly evil baby. Then there’s Jason (Ryan Kwanten), who learns several secrets he probably shouldn’t and will likely do something really stupid as a result. Nothing new and nothing surprising, though the subplots keep us moderately entertained between “Fresh Blood’s” real raison d’etre.
Thankfully, said raison needs no embellishment to rank this episode among the season’s best. Minahan punctuates the tension with proper amounts of dark humor, while keeping the sex and violence to a surprising minimum. (The bloodshed we do see adopts an imaginative tone, such as Pam’s use of colloidal silver as vampire mace.) The show’s slow start has been forgotten, leaving a ripping good time in its wake. The only regret is that we’ll need to wait two weeks to see how it all comes out… which is at least 13 days too many.