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- TV Series: True Blood
- Episode: Scratches
- 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: Scott Winant
- Network: HBO
- Series: True Blood
True Blood: Scratches Review
True Blood's Scratches: Two Fangs Up
By Rob Vaux
June 28, 2009
Mania's review of TRUE BLOOD: Scratches(2009).
© HBO/Robert Trate
One of True Blood's biggest curve balls came with the revelation that Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) periodically spends his nights as a mixed-breed collie. It established that vampires weren't the only supernatural creatures in this particular universe, throwing open a Pandora's box for all kinds of wackiness. If vampires aren't alone in the night, then who knows what other monstrosities may be lurking in wait. One of them--a minotaur? a satyr?--comes barreling out of the woods this week to take a swipe out of Sookie (Anna Paquin) after another of her endless spats with Bill (Stephen Moyer). The incident ends up complicating a number of people's lives… because when freaky things start digging into your spinal column, you apparently go straight to Fangtasia and let Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) find a solution to the problem.
Director Scott Winant strikes a quieter tone for this week's foray into blood-soaked mayhem, as Eric exacts a price for his aid (and a few other favors) and sets the stage for the season's second act. The unsettling attack by… whatever the hell it is… also turns speculation back to Maryann (Michelle Forbes), who spends another episode sinking her fingers a little deeper into Bon Temps' libido. True Blood has enough on its plate to mark time with her for a bit--this week's orgy looks a lot like last week's--but as the depth of her scheming yawns ever wider, it's increasingly clear that the vampires stay away from her for a reason.
The episode's more profound developments (which I won't reveal here) underscore True Blood's usual acerbic irony with a deep sense of sadness. As the title implies, our heroes are dealing with abiding injuries--emotional and physical alike--which Winant reveals without jokiness. Actions have consequences, and "Scratches" devotes itself both to the desires which lead to bad choices and the bill which comes due in the aftermath. That gives Jason's (Ryan Kwanten) sojourn with the Fellowship some much-needed energy, mainly by granting Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp) a little depth beyond her Betty Crocker façade (though she seems increasingly attracted to Jason, and that fundamentalist fornicator routine was old hat when Reagan was in office).
The calm, regretful tone this week allows us to luxuriate in the characters more thoroughly than previous entries, while still displaying the flashes of imagination which keep the series fresh (Eric's never heard of the thing which attacked Sookie, for instance--not a good sign for one as old as he is--while Sam's new waitress Daphne [Ashley Jones] has a few surprises up her sleeve). As with earlier episodes, True Blood's newcomers receive the choicest morsels here. This week, it's Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) stealing the show when she finds a romantic fixation that balances sweetness and violence in equal measure. She's young, and hasn't learned the harsh truths that Bill and his ilk have. How she'll react when her new toy becomes boring is anyone's guess.
As a place-setter episode, "Scratches" holds its own remarkably well, handling the drudgery of preparing for upcoming developments (Maryann's ultimate aims, a trip to Dallas for Sookie and Bill) without losing its own sense of appeal. It reveals new sides to its peripheral figures (though the central couple remains charmingly/exasperatingly unchanged) and lets us spend time with them in ways we haven't before. Sookie Stackhouse's world has plenty of undiscovered corners, permitting both continued social satire and the artful blend of horror and comedy which made this series such a hit. If we couldn't pause to savor the darkness as we do here--and wonder what kind of monsters might come stampeding out of it to slash our heroine wide open--then a large part of its appeal would be lost.