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- TV Series: True Blood
- Episode: Release Me
- Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Sam Trammell, Nelsan Ellis, Chris Bauer, Michelle Forbes, Alexander Skarsgård, Deborah Ann Woll, Carrie Preston and William Sanderson
- Written By: Raelle Tucker
- Directed By: Michael Ruscio
- Network: HBO
- Series: True Blood
TRUE BLOOD: Release Me Review
Battle Not With Monsters
By Rob Vaux
August 03, 2009
Mania Review of True Blood: Release Me(2009).
© HBO/Robert Trate
Is anyone else disappointed that the bull-headed creature in the woods turned out to be Maryann (Michelle Forbes) in a mask? On the other hand, she's still the scariest thing on the whole damn show, and with her hypnotic blood orgies getting freakier by the day (premium cable? You're soaking in it!), she doesn't look to relinquish that crown anytime soon.
Seduction and monstrosity play a huge role in "Release Me," and Maryann is only one of the practitioners. Director Michael Ruscio scores his strongest points balancing the evils of vampirism--their deceit, their selfishness, their willingness to use others solely because they can--with the parallel evils of the Brotherhood of the Sun. The former finds its deepest embodiment in Lorena (Mariana Klaveno), Bill's (Stephen Moyer) creator who prevents him from going to help Sookie (Anna Paquin). Recurring flashbacks reveal their lives together in the 1930s, as Bill finally breaks free of her influence: for good he thinks, until she shows up in his present-day hotel room and plays a fairly demonstrable game of Squash the Rookie whenever he tries to leave. It contrasts nicely with Sookie's dilemma: locked in the basement by the increasingly cartoonish Reverend Newlin (Michael McMillan), who's happy to engage in the same bloodlust and head games as the vampires he hates so much. The mirroring helps prop up the whole Fellowship of the Sun subplot--long a weak spot for the season--and give the upcoming showdown between Newlin and the Dallas vamps some real (ahem) bite.
With both Sookie and Bill in need of aid, it falls to the rest of the cast to save the day… and sadly, they don't seem up to the challenge. Oh, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) has the means if he can get his lunky head out of his ass for thirty seconds, and Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) might be able to bail out Bill in between her (very sweet) romance, but frankly, neither of them have yet been able to connect the dots sufficiently. Everyone else is hopelessly enthralled to Maryann, with the exception of Sam (Sam Trammell), whose flop sweat in the face of such a threat has never been more pathetic. "Release Me" does an excellent job of maintaining tension by cross-cutting between everyone, showing us how readily these figures could throw Sookie and/or Bill a lifeline if only they had a little more information.
The stumbling blocks come when the episode veers away from such musings: marking time with figures like Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) and Detective Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) whose subplots move forward at a snail's pace. The Dallas political scene smacks of warmed-over Anne Rice as well--particularly with the Fellowship spy in the vampire's midst, who feels too bush-league to pull off a deception of such magnitude--and though Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) exercises his usual supercool, it's difficult to muster much enthusiasm for his ostensible mission (rescuing the sheriff of Dallas) in the face of so many other narratives. With the ranks of supporting characters growing larger every week and the need to keep them all more or less in play, True Blood runs the risk of bungling some of its threads for good. (Remember the body in the car in the season opener? Are they ever going to get back to that?)
For now, however, the show continues apace. The Fellowship of the Sun business will presumably wrap up in the next week or two, leaving the simpler but infinitely more frightening problem of Maryann to deal with. "Release Me" keeps the season on track with its subtleties and nuance, even as its more overt elements push a little too far into two-dimensionality. Wrapping up a few storylines will provide it with the focus it probably needs at this point, allowing it to finish up the season with the same grace, wit, and blood-soaked appeal which started it.