Monday, July 8, 2013

The Body Count On True Blood Rises “At Last!”

The Good: Decent performances, Good special effects, Things actually happen.
The Bad: Crowded, Does not dwell on the consequences of the most significant acts.
The Basics: In “At Last,” the various pieces in play come to blows, without taking the time to reflect upon what they actually do.

With the sixth season of True Blood being truncated (only ten episodes as opposed to the usual twelve), fans seemed pretty desperate to get hyped for the show. As a fan myself, I try to avoid most of the promotions in order to actually review the work more objectively than my fannish nature might otherwise allow. But, for the fourth episode of the season, “At Last,” I was unable to avoid all of the hype. “At Last” was promoted on the promise that someone would die, which might be an exciting idea in virtually any other television show (or genre other than supernatural horror/science fiction/fantasy) as at least two of the main characters have been killed and resurrected already, usually in the space of under five minutes (or a single scene break between two episodes in the case of Tara). Still, it’s always exciting to be teased with the death of a character and one always hopes it will be a major enough character to actually care about their demise.

Sadly, despite the fact that “At Last” is the bloodbath that was promised to fans, it is hardly the integral characters who bite the dust. In fact, without revealing any spoilers, “At Last” does little but thin the herd of some of the new-to-this-season recurring guest characters, which makes it hard to say that it is truly an extraordinary episode. As well, because there are so many characters and plotlines going at this point, there is so much packed into “At Last” that there is no real chance to give the important characters the opportunity to reflect upon all that happens to them. As a result, “At Last” is plot-heavy, though it does have a few significant moments of character. “At Last” picks up where “You’re No Good” (reviewed here!) ended, but speeds through most of its events without exploring even a sense that the characters understand the magnitude of their actions.

With Jason wounded by Nora, Niall goes hunting Nora and milks her for information on Warlow. In Sookie’s house, Ben reveals his true nature; he is a vampire, as well as a fairy. While Sookie and Niall are surprised at his fast recovery, they do not instantly find it suspicious. Elsewhere, Eric catches up with Tara and learns where she has secreted Willa Burrell. Eric speaks with Willa, who seems genuinely interested in helping vampires and thwarting her father, the Governor. Sam and LaFayette flee with Emma and the wounded social rights activist, with Alcide’s pack hot on their heels.

Back in Bon Temp, Bill sends Jessica to get Andy Bellefleur’s quadruplet fairy babies. The babies, however, are now street legal and Jessica is able to convince them to come home with her and Bill. There, Bill starts getting blood samples for Takahashi, who is kidnapped and working in the basement lab he has set up. Events come to a head as Jason and Niall, having figured out Ben’s nature, attempt to kill him and Jessica finds herself fighting her own bad instincts to keep the half-fairy children in the mansion.

Fundamentally, “At Last” has some of the season’s best moments so far. First, Eric and Willa have an exceptional scene and when Eric resolves to turn Willa, it is a powerful moment for the character. Trying to use Willa as an olive branch to humanize the governor is a surprisingly enlightened strategy and when Eric reminds the viewers that he has only turned one other person in his thousand year history, it speaks volumes to his desperation.

At the other end of the spectrum is Bill. Bill is working to save vampires in a defensive way by getting Takahashi to synthesize a True Blood based upon the fairy blood. His is a cunning strategy based on the idea that vampires need to survive the human’s weapons, as opposed to counting on changing the minds and hearts of the fearful humans. Sadly, Bill’s plan runs into two critical problems in “At Last” and as a character issue, he is beginning to show serious stress about the search for fairy true blood. He is much more desperate and the anger he exhibits toward Takahashi insinuates bad things in the pipeline for the scientist who has no good reason to either help or hinder Bill’s efforts.

Sookie, sadly, does not use her cunning to realize Ben’s true nature. It is magical happenstance that allows her to uncover Ben’s true nature, though the scene where Jason and Niall figure it out themselves is worthwhile. Sookie, however, has a decent plan that she executes well and leads to the climax of the episode.

On the acting front, “At Last” is fine, though because none of the characters are focused on excessively, none of the performers are given a chance to truly dazzle. Ryan Kwanten, though, rivals Alexander Skarsgard for the performance of the episode. Kwanten is passionate and funny as Jason Stackhouse, while Skarsgard is characteristically subtle as Eric. HBO is smart enough to age Andy Bellefleur’s daughters to legal age to make what happens with them somewhat less appalling, though none of the eight young women playing the fairy daughters stand out as anything remarkable (the new crop is little more than t&a). Of course, if any of the 18 year-old versions of his daughters are Rhodes scholars, then they are astonishingly good actresses; they play the daughters as vacuous and pretty, with little else to her.

“At Last” is good, but because it has to continue threads that include Terry and the werewolf pack (those are two separate threads), characters like Lafayette who had previously good roles are relegated to low supporting characters. Still, it is a decent episode and it promises a conflict in the next episode that might be far better in substance than the hype for this episode was.

[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 fairies, please visit my reviews of:
Sleeping Beauty
Once Upon A Time - Season 1
Hellboy II: The Golden Army


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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