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- TV Series: True Blood
- Episode: Hitting The Ground
- 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: Brian Buckner
- Directed By: John Dahl
- Network: HBO
- Series: True Blood
True Blood: Hitting The Ground Review
By Rob Vaux
August 03, 2010
True Blood Review
© HBO/Bob Trate
For this first time this season, True Blood really steps up to the plate and delivers. Granted, with two significant villains destroyed, it pays a very steep price, and HBO should be chided for its deceptive previews showing Bill (Stephen Moyer) wandering around in the sun. But no matter. The humor flows as readily as the blood and the inferred shake-up to which previous episodes had merely hinted finally bears fruit.
Ostensibly, the big showcase covers Sookie’s (Anna Paquin) escape from Russell’s (Denis O’Hare) mansion, accompanied by Tara (Rutina Wesley), aided by Alcide (Joe Manganiello) and eventually dragging Bill along for the ride. Complications arise, of course, mostly involving Bill’s creator Lorena (Mariana Kalveno) and some of Alcide’s werewolf rivals. Director John Dahl doesn’t skimp on overt audience gratification, as characters screaming for their comeuppance finally receive it in a suitably over-the-top fashion.
More importantly, the episode exhibits a spark of absurdity, coloring the histrionics with tongue-in-cheek witticisms that temper the theatrics. (The best example actually takes place after the credits, as another funny “postmortem” covers the relationship between Bill and Lorena.) Even as Sookie’s friends rally to her side and the emotional levels rise, the clever dialogue remains intact. That tempers the show’s more lurid tendencies, while still allowing us to feel for the characters. In the past, True Blood stuck that chord seemingly without effort. It hasn’t come as easily this season, which makes its presence here most welcome.
Sam’s (Sam Trammel) subplot sports less of a twinkle in his eye, but makes up for it by finally allowing the shapeshifting bartender to grow a pair. He arrives at an illegal dog-fighting compound to rescue Tommy (Marshall Allman) from their abusive parents; Dahl tinges his efforts with the right blend of intelligence and pathos before cutting him loose. It pushes the audiences’ buttons as gratuitously as Sookie’s thread, but given the gore-soaked proceedings elsewhere in the episode, this passage feels decidedly quieter. That allows Trammell to assert himself in a richly satisfying manner, finally elevating his thread into something worth paying attention to.
The remainder of the episode focuses solely on vampire interactions, with Russell formally declaring his ambitions and the remaining bloodsuckers scurrying to take sides. It evinces the same good-but-not-great atmosphere which has dogged True Blood since the beginning of Season Three. Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) and Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) are right in the middle of it to provide a nice jolt of energy, but the remainder consists of peripheral figures and newcomers engaging in fairly typical undead power plays. That prevents us from fully embracing the proceedings, since we’re not really invested in the primary players.
“Hitting the Ground” suffers further by rendering the villainous Magister (Zeljko Ivanek) strangely feckless, eliminating his earlier sense of menace and preventing the mayhem from reaching its full potential. On the other hand, O’Hare picks up the slack quite admirably, and while his confrontation with the vampiric authorities ends on a note of finality, it also paves the way for a larger, more spectacular conflict to come. And like the rest of the episode, it retains its cheeky humor, helping to restore the show’s best weapon against its competition.
“Hitting the Ground” adds a few dollops of the truly weird into the equation, notably an extended fever dream which may shed some light on Sookie’s telepathic powers. It never quite fits in with the rest of the episode, but its surreal atmosphere lends itself to some interesting questions. It also casts further doubt on Bill’s intentions, which have grown increasingly cloudy and which may constitute the season’s most fruitful mystery. We no longer know why exactly he seems so focused on Sookie, and while his heart appears noble, it may hide dark schemes centuries in the making. We’ll see where the notion takes us; for now “Hitting the Ground” has justified our faith in True Blood, and allows us to hope for better things in the second half of the season. It’s never been bad this year, but for once, we’re reminded of how great it’s supposed to be.