Monday, July 22, 2013

Largely Predictable, “Don’t You Feel Me” Is Still Worth Watching!

The Good: Decent performances, Good special effects, The plot progresses, Moments of character
The Bad: Very predictable, No opportunity for catharsis
The Basics: “Don’t You Feel Me” raises the body count and significantly shifts the direction of True Blood . . . without taking the time to let it resonate.

As the sixth season of True Blood progresses, the show is doing a decent job of making the fantastic world of True Blood seem surprisingly realistic. The show is bending much closer to the scientific, despite being populated by werewolves, fairies, and vampires. So, with the sixth episode, there is a sense that the plot is progressing in a way that will continue that trend – and it does – but for all the good things about True Blood and the surprisingly grounded nature of the show, “Don’t You Feel Me” is painfully predictable. In fact, more than most of the episodes of True Blood, “Don’t You Feel Me” does not leave the viewer guessing or wondering about what is going to happen or where the characters will end up.

Unfortunately, as a standalone episode, talking about “Don’t You Feel Me” is absolutely impossible without mentioning how “Fuck The Pain Away” (reviewed here!), the prior episode, ended. In fact, part of the problem with “Don’t You Feel Me” is not the episode’s fault; the last episode ended up at a point where it was entirely impossible to suspend one’s disbelief for the next episode. This is an issue with both the Sookie and Eric/Pam plots. The savvy television viewer knows long before “Don’t You Feel Me” that Sookie is not going to die (the person with top billing seldom does and True Blood has a poor record of keeping characters dead) and given the popularity of Alex Skarsgard’s character of Eric, if he were to go out, it would be for another reason than simply Pam showing off for the Governor whom she despises. So, just like Pam and Eric finding their way out of their situation, the big death in “Don’t You Feel Me” is seen a mile away and the fact that Jason’s fast-track into the Governor’s camp puts him face to face with Sarah Newlin is similarly predictable.

That said, “Don’t You Feel Me” is not unenjoyable and the episode moves the plot forward in a meaningful way and sets most of the characters up for Bill’s horrific vision from the season premiere.

“Don’t You Feel Me” picks up with Sookie being drowned by the father-possessed Lafayette. She is saved by, of all people, Warlow, who helps Sookie exorcise Sookie’s father from Lafayette. Sookie then saves Warlow from Bill/Lilith’s summoning and spends the rest of the episode in quiet conversation with Warlow about his past and their future. Back at the Governor’s camp, Eric and Pam face off one another, but they team up to kill the guards before they can be stopped. To torment Eric, Governor Burrell has Eric chained up and he brings in Nora, who is injected with what he calls Hepatitis V. Summoning Willa, Eric is able to break out and he discovers the Governor’s plan for the biotoxin.

Meanwhile, Sam and Alcide reconcile their issues when Jackson tells Alcide where Sam is. Terry Bellefluer sets off a warning bell with Lafayette by bringing the cook a key to a safe deposit box that he Terry kept from Arlene. Arlene and Holly conspire to have Terry glamoured in order to forget all of his personal pain. Sadly, they do this without the forethought to ask Terry what his apparently suicidal plan was, which leads to tragedy. After he has a vision of Lilith, Bill heads to the Governor’s camp where he changes the course of the conflict between the humans and vampires!

The sense of menace that comes out of “Don’t You Feel Me” makes one actually care about vampirekind in a way that works well beyond the metaphorical. The vampires in the camp are suffering and the way that Sarah uses Jessica to keep Jason in check makes her the most visibly evil character in the episode. Jason tries so hard to be the white knight, bluffing his way into the vampire-hating organization run by the Governor, only to be trumped by the politically astute and tactically inclined Sarah. Sarah trumping Jason, while upsetting to watch, only enhances the realism of the situation as, sadly, Jason is a bit of an idiot and he gets so far without any real innate talent. With “Don’t You Feel Me” the horror is not in the bloodsuckers or even in the gore, but in the humans who plan and abet the genocide the Governor has organized.

Like most of the sixth season episodes, “Don’t You Feel Me” is crowded by the sheer number of castmembers the show needs to service. The episode features an obligatory scene with Andy and Holly (and the surviving fey child) and the Alcide/Sam plot continues to be very much in the background.

On the acting front, John Fleck gets a great scene as the sadistic doctor working for the Governor. Fleck is a pretty amazing character actor and in “Don’t You Feel Me” he plays the doctor in a loopy way unlike anything else he has ever been in. From the main cast, it is Todd Lowe who delivers the performance of the episode. From the goofy smile to his last scene, Lowe makes Terry Bellefluer – who is one of the last human characters in the main cast! – the man to watch. His character has had a lot of conflict and in “Don’t You Feel Me” is given the opportunity to play Terry at peace and it is a nice stretch for him.

In the end, “Don’t You Feel Me” is good, but it is another bridging episode. Eric has learned the Governor’s plan and Bill has reasoned that his vision is imminent (a situation that comes from one of the worst scenes in the episode! Note to True Blood writers: how about something different from the god characters you write? You know what a nice change of pace would be for writing the divine? A deity who says in simple, clear terms what is going on, what they want and how they want their followers to achieve their goals! The riddle bullshit is getting tiresome!), but the events are moving so fast that characters like Arlene and Andy, who help root the show in some semblance of reality, are glossed over and not given the time to reflect upon their tragedies and traumas. Ultimately, that makes “Don’t You Feel Me” good, but hardly as good as it could be.

[For a much better value, check out True Blood Season 6 on Blu-Ray and DVD. The penultimate season is reviewed here! Check it out!]

For other works with Arliss Howard or Todd Lowe, please visit my reviews of:
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Gilmore Girls
The Princess Diaries


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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