Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dividing The Camp Between Those Who Are “Dead Meat” And Those Who Might Survive!

The Good: Decent plot progression, Good character development, Moments of performance
The Bad: Still a little crowded at the expense of coherency.
The Basics: “Dead Meat” continues to progress the True Blood story, enhancing the supernatural plotline with some starkly realistic moments!

One of the consequences of creating heavily-serialized television is that episode by episode, a season might be weaker than the season as a whole. The current season of True Blood has been one of its most erratic, though it is not a bad season. It is, however, virtually impossible to discuss the episodes without revealing some of the details of prior episodes. By the time “Dead Meat” comes up, the show is hip deep in casualties and the season has been leading toward a vampire cataclysm foreseen by Bill in the first episode of the season. Following on the heels of “In The Evening” (reviewed here!), “Dead Meat” brings the viewer closer to the inevitable without leaving the viewer without reason to tune in the next week. In other words, the hand is not tipped yet.

That said, “Dead Meat” effectively moves the plot of True Blood forward and puts the characters where they need to be to either be slaughtered or survive. Given that, the episode smartly redirects the season from conspiracy theories and supernatural moments to present a surprisingly grounded and effective episode.

Following the death of his sister, Eric and Bill verbally duke it out over how Bill failed to save Nora. While Bill implores Eric to join him in trying to save the rest of the vampires still at the Governor’s camp, Eric goads Bill about his failure to bring Warlow to him to save Nora, ostensibly because Sookie was involved. Alcide, having been exposed as a liar, is forced to fight to keep control of the pack and save the life of Nicole. In the Governor’s camp, Jason finds himself as the property of an aggressive medieval Catholic vampire. Sookie rejoins Warlow in the fairy realm where she tries to negotiate with him to help Bill save her friends. Returning to the mortal world, Eric discovers that he can break the spell that has masked Warlow. Jessica and James are recaptured and returned to the general population, where Pam is brought in as well. When True Blood is distributed to the vampires, James saves Steve Newlin’s life.

Alcide decides pack life is not for him and returns Nicole and her mother to Sam. As Violet feeds on Jason, Willa, Pam, Tara, and Jessica work to get him free so they might feed. After Arlene learns the truth about Terry’s death, Adilyn reads her mind and realizes why he might have arranged to be killed. Seeing some of the prisoners are not drinking the TruBlood, Sarah milks Steve Newlin for information and begins rounding up the uninfected vampires in the white room! Back at Merlotte’s, Sookie finally reveals to Sam her fairy power.

“Dead Meat” finally advances the Sam and Alcide plotline in a productive manner. Alcide never seemed like a tool and finally he stands up to the pack and decides he doesn’t want their way of life and that is a refreshing, if predictable, character twist for him. Moreover, San sniffing Nicole when they reunite finally confirms what viewers have reasonably begun to suspect since she was bit; that True Blood is going to finally reveal how werewolves can be created in this universe. The quiet scene between Alcide and Sam as they share a drink is a delightful confirmation that the werewolves and shifters have more in common than divides them. The idea that Sam has gotten Nicole pregnant is an interesting one that foreshadows (if past episodes are any precedent) future potential tragedies.

“Dead Meat” features some of the best acting of the season. The scene between Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin where they confront one another about Bill’s plan has the two exhibiting absolutely no chemistry. Paquin and Moyer, who are married and have had amazing on-screen chemistry in the past, play the scene as it ought to be played; with absolute loathing. By contrast, when Sookie returns to Merlott’s, Paquin and Trammell have decent chemistry. Paquin’s job in the scene has to add realistic conflict to Trammell’s Sam at a time when Sam is struggling to commit to Nicole. Trammell makes the scene work by appearing reasonably conflicted while still embodying love for Nicole.

Arguably one of the most impressive aspects of “Dead Meat” is the realistic aspect of it. Arlene, Holly, and Andy (with the Bellefleur’s) sit planning the funeral of Terry Bellefleur and the scene would be impressive in any series not affiliated with Alan Ball, who was one of the creators and execs of Six Feet Under (reviewed here!). Despite being familiar to Ball’s fans, the scene which eats up about five minutes of “Dead Meat” presents the realistic complications of surviving a death and it makes the characters of Andy and Arlene even more well-rounded. Amid fairies, werewolves, and vampires, the realistic scene reminds viewers that True Blood is intended to be a realistic drama with a few supernatural elements and it works for that.

That scene helps make Sookie’s subsequent scene, which has Anna Paquin delivering an emotional monologue to the graves of Sookie’s parents, feel realistic and deep instead of whiny and girlish. Paquin delivers a powerful and emotional performance opposite no one else and it reaffirms her talent.

“Dead Meat” affirms that Sarah Newlin is the true villain of the sixth season of True Blood and Anna Camp plays the role with gruesome ferocity. Camp transforms Sarah from a coldblooded, but meek tactician into a desperate zealot who is pushed over the edge. It is Camp who rises to the occasion of taking her character on a journey that is predictable, but the end product of years of hatred Sarah Newlin has embodied. The emotionless way Camp watches as Steve Newlin breaks down in the white room is enough to give enlightened viewers the shivers. Despite the fact that Steve Newlin is a spineless sycophant, as Sarah tortures him and shows no remorse or humanity, Camp accelerates the process by which Sarah becomes one of the most frightening villains True Blood has created and horrifies the viewer.

Ultimately, “Dead Meat” crams a lot of great moments into a short space and leaves the True Blood viewers wanting more!

[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 Joe Manganiello, please visit my reviews of:
What To Expect When You're Expecting
How I Met Your Mother - Season 2
Spider-man 3


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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