Wednesday, July 3, 2013

No Passion, Violence, Gore, Or Action: “You’re No Good” Is One Big Tease.

The Good: Fine performances, Decent direction, Moments of character
The Bad: Not much in the way of plot or compelling character development, Little spark, Many of the characters do remarkably stupid things
The Basics: “You’re No Good” is another bridging episode in which not much happens and the characters barely move from where they were in the prior episode.

Whatever reason one has for watching True Blood, it is hard to see how one would actually get their “fix” from “You’re No Good.” That is not to say that the episode, which follows directly on the heels of “The Sun” (reviewed here!) and requires quite a bit of information from that episode to be entirely sensible, is bad. It is not bad, but – objectively stated – it is not much of anything. “You’re No Good” is a prime example of how many heavily serialized television shows can be much stronger from a holistic approach than when one considers the individual components. If “The Sun” was likened to watching a chess match where only three or four pieces are moved on the board without any immediate consequences, “You’re No Good” is like the same chess match where perhaps two more moves are made and (were it possible) two additional pieces were added to the board (or one of the moves that was made was done by a previously inconsequential pawn).

“You’re No Good” continues to crowd the plot of True Blood with new characters and returning guest stars who had significance in seasons prior. Terry and Arlene do not even appear in the episode and new series regular Robert Patrick pops by for about three shots and only two or three lines, none of which could not have been presented by a performer of significantly lesser stature. Even though very little happens in the episode, “You’re No Good” feels like an essential transition episode as it includes the return of Steve Newlin (and his ex-wife) and the introduction of Willa Burrell (the governor’s daughter who appeared only for a few seconds in “The Sun”), Takahashi, Burrell’s sadistic doctor (who menaces Steve Newlin and one has to guess will continue to recur give how John Fleck was cast for the role), and teases the question of how werewolves in the True Blood universe are created. In addition to providing a complication for Jason, Sookie shares scenes with the new Hunky McGoodlooking and Bill Compton, so “You’re No Good” is not a total wash, even from an objective standpoint.

After Eric glamours his way into Willa Burrell’s bedroom and threatens to kill her, he is surprised when she is forthcoming with revealing some of Governor Burrell’s monstrous plans for vampires. Kidnapping Willa annoys Pam and Tara when Eric shows up at Fangtasia with the girl, but the quartet goes to ground at Ginger’s house to survive the day. Elsewhere, Bill learns – much to Jessica’s horror – that while he might feel invincible, he cannot go out in daylight without bursting into flame still. Jason begins to collapse from headaches as Warlow advances on the Stackhouse house. After discovering the fairy club’s occupants murdered (including one wounded fairy that he has to provide a mercy killing for), Niall Brigant (the Stackhouse fairy grandfather and king of the fairies) returns to the Stackhouse home with a new ally.

After Bill appeals to Sookie for some of her blood and sends Jessica on a dangerous mission to get Dr. Takahashi (the chemist who formulated True Blood), he has a chance encounter with Andy Bellefleur that puts him on a new direction. Elsewhere, Sam works to rescue Emma from the werewolves when the vampire civil rights people arrive and complicate his life. With Jason collapsing and Warlow appearing to get ever closer, Ben arrives as a new ally. And Steve Newlin arrives as a prisoner of Burrell at his alluded-to camp where it is implied he will be tortured to better understand vampire physiology and psychology.

“You’re No Good” has a few issues with the basic intelligence of the characters involved. While it makes some sense on a character level that Bill might have the hubris to believe that he can go in the sun now, unless he truly is a villain who is manipulating events so he can wipe out vampires everywhere, then it makes little sense for him to send Jessica away. After all, his vision revealed to him that Jessica, Pam, Eric, Tara and others would be killed at Burrell’s camp, so the smartest move for him is to keep her far away from any such potential danger to prevent that future from coming true. Instead, he sends her alone into the world to find and bring back Takahashi, a guy that basic reasoning tends to state would be wanted by everyone who wants the True Blood supply to start flowing again. Similarly confounding logic are Sookie (who several times leaves the safety of her house) and Eric, who seems surprised that his “untraceable” phone could be traced when last season the exact same thing happened (or did he really think that the Authority found him so quickly after using his phone with no direct correlation?!).

More importantly, “You’re No Good” lacks a real spark and some element of basic clarity. Warlow knew Sookie had been in her parents’ car by a blood-soaked adhesive medical strip, which he smelled. Bill seems to understand that Andy’s daughters are fey simply by seeing and/or smelling their teddy bear left in his cop car. Outside smelling the fairy on the bear, there is no way for him to know they are fairies yet and it requires the viewer to make a leap that is more the result of poor writing/direction than cleverness.

Similarly dull is the introduction of Ben. Ben is yet another generically good-looking white guy who pops up as a potential romantic interest for Sookie. This dilutes the return of a useful Lafayette in the Sam plotline and minimizes what is happening with Jason. Are his headaches and hallucinations a sign that he is possessed by Warlow? Is he undergoing a complex psychological transformation or is he just on his way to being some powerful supernatural entity’s bitch? It’s hard to care because introducing and building up Ben is robbing him of the focus to actually delve deeper into his character.

At this point in the season, it is hard for viewers not to try to invent reasons to keep watching True Blood as episodes like “You’re No Good” yield few results and very little in the way of enjoyable character growth. Given the pattern of the series so far, viewers are likely in for two to three more construction episodes before something actually happens. While viewers are likely to learn in the next episode or two how werewolves are made in the True Blood universe, whatwith Nicole getting bit during the werewolf conflict (and how stupid are the wolves who are trying to lay low attacking and probably killing a group of young humans?!), the rest seems to be a wash until characters the viewers care about quite a bit more than Steve Newlin end up in the clutches of the governor. (While we wait for that to happen, I’m imagining True Blood has suddenly become much smarter than it ultimately will be and that Niall is actually Warlow with a multiple personality disorder and things like his “mercy kill” of a fairy in “You’re No Good” actually are hints that he is not entirely who he says he is).

While there are no stellar performances in “You’re No Good,” none of them are particularly bad, either. While Ryan Kwanten and Stephen Moyer seem to make the most out of their scenes, Debra Ann Woll and Joe Manganiello sleepwalk through their brief appearances in the episode. Amelia Rose Blaire is utterly unremarkable as Willa, which makes Eric menacing her seem inconsequential because the viewer does not care whether she lives or he rips out her throat.

Ultimately, “You’re No Good” might be a necessary component, but if holds up poorly on its own. It is one of those episodes that, when one sits down to watch a True Blood marathon on DVD, its components will easily blend with other, vastly more interesting episodes. Hopefully, those episodes are right around the corner for fans!

[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 Keone Young, please visit my reviews of:
Men In Black 3
“Vanishing Point” - Star Trek: Enterprise
“If Wishes Were Horses” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


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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