The doldrums settle back into True Blood as promised revelations failed to pan out and stunning developments turned chicken at the last minute. Jason’s (Ryan Kwanten) not a panther, Bill (Stephen Moyer) doesn’t kill Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), and the spirit inhabiting Marnie (Fiona Shaw) doesn’t smack down the local vampires like she’s apparently planning to. Yawn.
The entire episode felt like space-filler: getting inevitable plot developments out of the way so that something more interesting could come along in a future episode. In a series built on soap-opera twists and shocking revelations, test-pattern weeks like these are positively lethal. Of course, the real dishy moment is Sookie (Anna Paquin) doing the nasty with Eric at last. It possesses suitable steam – with Paquin providing a rare glimpse of boobage and the pair out in the woods beneath a full moon – but frankly, with Sookie and Bill being driven further and further apart, this was only a matter of time.
Other plot threads cast about for new details to help them limp along to the next episode. Jason, for example, makes an unexpected connection with Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), both to distract us from the fact that he is not, in fact, turning into a panther and to juice up her increasingly tenuous relationship with Hoyt (Jim Parrack). Despite the gimmickry, it actually produces the most touching moment of the hour, as Jessica expounds upon the wonders of vampirism and alludes to the limited human life she lived as the child of right-wing Christians. Be that as it may, the subplot still adheres to one of True Blood’s dirtier tricks: send a new character careening where she doesn’t belong and hope that some sparks will fly.
The remainder of the episode steps onto even slipperier slopes. Jesus (Kevin Alejandro) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) in Mexico? Who cares? Tara (Rutina Wesley) facing the music when her girlfriend shows up? Whatever. Even Bill’s “uneasy lies the head” routine feels stale: less a good man forced to do troubling things for power than a whiner without the fortitude to live with his decisions. The actors remain engaging, but they lack any substantive tasks beyond wringing their hands and rattling off the occasional one-liner.
It’s telling that “I Wish I Was the Moon” finds its best sequences when none of the principals are around. In another set of flashbacks, we see the spirit of the witch Antonia (Paola Turbay), fed upon by vampire priests in the Catholic Church shortly before her execution. She wreaks a terrible vengeance by compelling them to come out in the sunlight while she burns, which helps explain why the lone survivor of her attack is now happy to help a possessed Marnie bust out of Bill’s jail. The witches have officially become a serious threat, one of the few cases of the episode’s timidity that promises great things instead of just leaning on our goodwill.
Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) helps goose up the brewing Wiccan/bloodsucker conflict as well. Every time we catch a glimpse of her rotting face – and the increasingly desperate things she does to hide it – it cranks up the tension another notch. With Eric all touchy feely these days, she really is alone… and her terror points her right back at the ostensibly peaceful witches she blames for it all.
Sadly, we’re being asked to wait for that particular balloon to go up; in the meantime, we’re dining on leftovers. Every series delivers a few episodes like “I Wish I Was the Moon”: placeholders designed solely to keep us from wandering off before the real fireworks start. It’s often necessary – that plot ain’t gonna expose itself – but it doesn’t hide the sense of a letdown. Chalk it up to taking one for the team: hopefully, the remainder of the season will benefit from the sacrifice.