Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More Anna Paquin Nudity And Another Death “In The Evening!”

The Good: Plot progression, Moments of character
The Bad: Nothing stellar on the performance front, Somewhat predictable plot
The Basics: A startlingly average episode of True Blood, “In The Evening” returns to the tried and true formula of nudity and gore for a (mostly) satisfying episode.

Given how (apparently) harshly I review everything I encounter, I suppose it might be easy to be confused about what I actually like. The truth is, I like True Blood. However, it has become far more soap operatic and surprisingly droll, usually undermining its own principles (fairy realm is supposed to move at a vastly different pace than the real world, so if Sookie spends the night with Warlow in the fairy realm, how is it not, like three years later when she comes back this time?!) and belaboring servicing its bloated cast of characters as opposed to telling a coherent narrative. True Blood is rapidly devolving from a smart social commentary show into a “guilty pleasure;” “guilty” only if one does not accept their enjoyment of something simplistic for what it is. In fact, with the latest episode, “In The Evening,” True Blood feels vastly more like an episode of Angel (reviewed here!) with uncharacteristic nudity than something that the supposedly sophisticated HBO audience might gravitate toward.

At the heart of my issue with “In The Evening” is that the episode has only two superlative aspects (and one is not even all that incredible). “In The Evening” is a one-hour journey of Eric Northman whereby the character gains and loses his faith (not terribly extraordinary as the result is that he ends the episode exactly where he began it) and the performance by Carrie Preston. It is impossible to discuss “In The Evening” without revealing some spoilers that I omitted from my review of the prior episode, “Don’t You Feel Me” (reviewed here!), so do not read on if you want to be able to watch the sixth season and actually be surprised by which characters live and die! Beyond those two things, though, “In The Evening” is somewhat mundane and it is hampered by splintering off in so many directions that none of the characters actually get the chance to truly reflect on the magnitude of what is happening around them.

Case in point is Andy Bellefleur. Andy might have been saddled with children for only a few days, but to lose three of his four daughters and then his cousin within a few days, to already be at a point where he could forgive Bill and accept him seemed more plot convenient than character realistic (character realistic might have had Andy working toward the same goals as Bill, but refusing to do so side by side with him). The dialogue between Bill and Andy is memorable and well-written, but it happens so quickly relative to the carnage both characters have witnessed that it is very hard to accept as realistic for human psychology.

“In The Evening” picks up almost immediately after “Don’t You Feel Me” left off. Nora is dying of Hep-V, which the Governor has infected her with and Eric is working to get Nora out of the Camp. Eric puts his faith and hope in Bill Compton and after alerting Willa to the tainted TruBlood the governor has produced, he escapes with his sister and arrives at Bill’s, begging for the godlike vampire to save Nora. In an act of compassion, Bill tries to save Nora and when his blood fails to do so, he rushes out into the day in search of Warlow. Warlow and Sookie, meanwhile, have a discussion about how having sex does not mean they are married before Sookie senses the distraught Arlene in the graveyard. After returning Arlene home, Sookie and Lafayette go in search of Terry’s safe deposit box where they discover the cook had taken out a life insurance policy only days before his death to provide for Arlene and their children.

In the camp, Willa lets Tara and Jessica know about the tainted TruBlood and Pam delays any chance for contamination by seducing the psychologist who has a crush on her. When Sarah Newlin discover’s the Governor’s body, she hatches a scheme to keep the appearance of the Governor in place while she executes his plans against the vampire population. Unfortunately, her return to the camp puts Jason in serious jeopardy as he was doing Jessica a favor when he is exposed by Sarah and thrown in with the female vampire population. When Bill and Sookie reunite to find Warlow, Eric is left to tend to Nora.

And elsewhere in the True Blood universe, Jackson tries to share a decent moment with his son, Alcide, before Alcide once again shoves him away and Sam and Nicole have their inevitable sex scene before they go their separate ways. The Alcide and Sam storylines (which are intertwined) are a great example of how the show suffers as a whole because it has so many characters to service. If nothing happened with the characters, viewers would whine, “What about Sam or Alcide?” But, as it is, giving them about four minutes of airtime in a 56 minute episode does not truly advance their characters in any meaningful way (it’s not even enough time for Alcide to get his shirt off!).

While I want to say that “In The Evening” is a great example of the performance abilities of the cast of True Blood, it is not. Alexander Skarsgard plays Eric as more distraught in the episode’s climax than Eric was when Godrick died and Stephen Moyer has long had the ability to play Bill with subtlety and nuance down pat. Is Bill’s compassion for Nora realistic because of Moyer’s performance? Absolutely. Is it a surprise that he could emote so well while still making Bill seem like a vampire? Not at all. After Chris Bauer and Stephen Moyer play a scene loaded with subtext, there is a more refreshing sense that the performers have lived back up to the high expectations we’ve had for them as opposed to them reaching a new height.

The exception to the actors meeting performance expectations comes from Carrie Preston in “In The Evening.” Preston plays Arlene and Arlene has usually been relegated to a supporting character with one or two good quips per season (noting early in the season that Sookie seldom actually works at Merlotte’s anymore might have been all she got had it not been for Terry’s demise). However, in “In The Evening,” Preston has to play Arlene as emotionally shattered and truly despondent and she rises to the occasion admirably. In fact, given how many disappointments Arlene has face, that she put so much faith in Terry (despite him being always on the edge of sanity), that Preston is able to present a new depth of loss to Arlene gives her the performance of the episode.

Ultimately, even Preston’s few scenes and the moments where Eric comes back to where the viewer expects him to be are not enough to be enthusiastic about “In The Evening.” It’s nice, as are Anna Paquin’s breasts, which we see plenty of in the episode. The problem is, like so much of True Blood at this point, it’s nothing we haven’t seen in the series already.

[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 Carrie Preston, please check out my reviews of:
A Bag Of Hammers
Cradle Will Rock
My Best Friend’s Wedding


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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