Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ending On The Anticlimax, The Sixth Season Finale Of True Blood Is Anything But “Radioactive!”

The Good: ? The special effects, Plot movement
The Bad: Creates huge plot holes, Anticlimactic, Nothing spectacular on the acting front, Huge time gap used to explain away dramatic character changes.
The Basics: Ending unremarkably, “Radioactive” caps off True Blood’s sixth season poorly and sets up an immediate bloodbath for Season Seven.

Season finales fascinate me. I love endings and season finales represent the best chance a show has to hook its audience for the future. With (sometimes) years between seasons of premium cable shows, the season finale has a responsibility to create strong consumer desire during the show’s absence. Unfortunately, this year has been marred by rather uninspired finales of some of the most popular cable shows, like Game Of Thrones (Season Three reviewed here!) and The Walking Dead (Season Three reviewed here!). So, as the shortened season of True Blood reached its finale with “Radioactive” after the scene the season had apparently been building to the whole time already been reached, it was somewhat predictable that “Radioactive” would be somewhat anticlimactic.

Unfortunately, the episode becomes ridiculous after further contemplation and is so full of plot holes that it is likely to make even the diehard fans cringe in frustration. “Radioactive” caps off a season where big character deaths were promised and it is impossible to discuss the episode without mentioning the two significant character deaths within the episode (because they open up two huge cans of worms that are worth discussing). But the promised “big deaths” before “Radioactive” have been unfortunately disappointing. After all, the Governor was not around long enough to become a significant character, Terry Bellefleur’s arc had pretty much run its course the prior season, and Steve Newlin had become more of a distraction than an integral character. Oh, and Nora was replaced with Willa this season much the way Data (who was far more important to Star Trek: The Next Generation than Nora ever was to True Blood) was ultimately replaced by B-4, so there’s not a lot to look forward to in that character in the future. So, “Radioactive” claims to pay off the big character death that was promised before the season began.

It fails.

What “Radioactive” does is reestablish Warlow as a villain. Warlow has spent most of the sixth season of True Blood doing anything but menacing Sookie. Instead, he wants to make her his bride and create another vampire/fairy hybrid who will live forever and, presumably, be disgusted by who they are (I’m not sure the writers really thought that one through; Warlow is disgusted by being a vampire, so why would he want to make Sookie one when the fairies seem virtually immortal themselves?!). In “Radioactive,” Warlow has lost his patience and, in the process, reasserts himself as a villain willing to kill, rape and do other unpleasant things to get what he wants.

Opening with a ton more vampires out in the sun following the demise of the Governor’s camp than were seen at the end of “Life Matters” (reviewed here!), the vampire population is celebrating the end of their incarceration. The sheer number of vampires out in the sun makes no sense. Eric had left and Bill was near death from being drained and there was no rational reason to give any more of the vampires who had been imprisoned any of the fairy blood. So, the numbers make no sense right off the bat, but there is a virtual orgy of vampires out in the sun, frolicking and celebrating their freedom.

The orgy comes on the heels of Terry’s funeral, which is how Sookie and Alcide learn of the victory of Eric and Bill at the Governor’s camp. Sookie and Jason are reunited and Sookie forgets to tell Jason that their mutual friend, Terry Bellefleur is dead and half the town just came from his funeral. Given how close Jason is with Andy, Terry’s cousin, this only reinforces the idea that the writers are sloppy and/or Sookie is the most self-centered female protagonist on television today. Sookie goes to visit Warlow on the fairy plane and discovers that he will not date her; he wants to marry her that very night, by force if necessary. Pam tells Tara that she is going after Eric and she flies off to do just that. Bill, who is now largely powerless, is convinced by Jessica to go save Sookie.

Using Adilyn, Bill, Jason, and Violet transfer to the fairy plane where they begin a fight against Warlow. They rescue Sookie and the entire group makes it back to our world where a last-second visitor saves Sookie and gives Jason the ability to stake Warlow. In killing Warlow, his magical blood diminishes and all those who were using his blood to survive suddenly lose the special powers granted by it. This has unfortunate results for one vampire who is out sunning himself at the time, but the others apparently survive unharmed. Six months later, Bill has published a memoir about the creation of Hep-V and the death of the Governor, Sam has been elected mayor of Bon Temps and he and Arlene (who now owns the old Merlotte’s, now Bellefleur’s) hatch a plan to keep the people of Bon Temps safe from roving vampire gangs that have descended upon Lousiana. After pitching the idea of a symbiotic relationship between vampires and humans, they encourage the residents of Bon Temps to pair up with vampires for protection and feeding to their mutual advantage. But, their attempt at peaceful co-existence is immediately threatened . . .

So, why is “Radioactive” so anticlimactic and disappointing? First, there is no genuine character development. The characters continue along being who they are until the six month gap, which is used as an excuse to completely reinvent many of the characters. That’s not development, it’s a course correction.

Second, “Radioactive” includes several continuity problems and implies several huge ones to come. Chief among them is the power of fairy blood. Fairy blood has never been a permanent savior for vampires, though in the sixth season it is treated like it is. When Eric and Russell Edgington used Sookie’s blood in prior seasons, they were only able to spend time in the sun for a few minutes before the effects wore off then they burned to a crisp. While Warlow’s blood is, presumably, much more powerful, there was nothing in the show that indicated it would indefinitely allow vampires to remain in the sun.

The new nemesis, bands of roving Hep-V infected vampires makes no sense either. Nora was virtually paralyzed by Hep-V and she didn’t live more than two days after being infected. Are we truly to believe that Eric, who has long fought to save vampires, and Bill, who enjoyed godlike powers for the season and attained mythic status among vampires, would not have wiped out every Hep-V infected vampire in the Governor’s camp?! The only way to save the majority would have been to wipe out that infected minority of vampires, so it makes sense. (Come to think of it, where the hell did all those vampires come from at the beginning of the episode – Sarah Newlin had all the vampires that wouldn’t drink the infected True Blood rounded up in the prior episode and Nora’s death clearly established that fairy blood was not a cure for Hep-V?!) That means that for “Radioactive” to work, we have to believe that Eric selfishly flew off to vacation, as opposed to destroying every last infected shipment of True Blood he could find. Because the only shipment of infected True Blood we saw get out went to Honolulu. Sorry, crappy writers, but Hawaii is both incredibly sunny and an island. Hep-V infected vampires would not stand a chance there. Humans, hunker down for two nights and the problem dies out. Seriously, it’s that easy given how fast Hep-V was shown to work for the rest of the season. So, the idea that the U.S. would be terrorized for months by roving bands of young vampires who should die in less than two days and who would be in excruciating pain for the rest of their brief life makes no sense whatsoever. It is a continuity issue of such proportions that it almost dwarfs the other continuity problems in the episode (and beyond).

With the death of Warlow and the subsequent main character death, we are asked to buy a new premise: glamours only work for the duration of the life of the vampire. [Sorry, but I have to spoil it before big problem #3!] Eric’s apparent death is the only reason that Alcide would be able to date Sookie in the six months later sequence. After all, in the fifth season (reviewed here!), Eric punitively glamoured Alcide to make him feel utter sexual revulsion for Sookie following their adventure in recovering Russell. Why is this a problem? It means that for every vampire who dies, all their glamours come undone. If that is true, it becomes virtually impossible for the seventh season to have a more important character than . . . Ginger.


Yup, Ginger. Ginger is the little skeletal bloodsack who has been around Eric and Pam for the worst carnage in Fangtasia and their solution all along has been to simply glamour her. In fact, she has been glamoured so many times that she is virtually an idiot now. But if all of Eric’s glamours come undone, she has a vast supply of intelligence for vampire activities and would, presumably, have the werewithall restored to use it. If Pam, who was out searching the world for Eric at the time of Warlow’s death, died off-camera, at the same time, Ginger would basically become a genius on vampire activities, mannerisms, and crimes.

That leads us to the third huge problem with “Radioactive;” suspension of disbelief. “Radioactive” seems to be following in the tradition of the third season finale of The Walking Dead which made it almost impossible to deny that Andrea was killed. However, almost immediately after the episode aired, people started asking if Laurie Holden was coming back for season four and the actress played it coy. In order for Andrea to come back, the show would require a suspension of disbelief well outside the strongly realistic tone set by the series. “Radioactive” creates an implies suspension of disbelief on two fronts. First, writer Kate Barnow and director Scott Winant ask the viewer to believe that Eric is killed. One second, he is reading high atop a vast mountaintop in Sweden, the next Warlow is killed and he begins to cook. But Winant pans away while Eric is on fire and we are not granted the boon or catharsis of seeing him finished off. So, for “Radioactive,” we are asked to suspend our disbelief that the fan-favorite character of Eric Northman would die an inglorious death that is not shown.

. . .and it leads us to a suspension of disbelief for Season Seven that seems to be far too much to bear. Eric will be found alive or Pam will, against all odds, find his remains. I’m betting on the former. In fact, the setting virtually writes itself. Eric is last seen on a high, snow-covered peak. Place your bets now. My bet is this: if Eric is not actually dead, what happened is simple. Eric begins to burn up high atop the mountain when the heat from his burning body melts the snow. It melts the snow at his feet and he sinks down and – lo and behold! – he is above a cave exit or vent, so his burning corpse falls out of the sunlight and into a dark cave. It is there that Pam will find him (I’m betting he’ll have a long, scraggly beard) in the next season. An even cheaper resolution would be that the second after the camera panned off Eric, a flaming Pam literally falls out of the sky and the force of the two flaming vampires plunging down into the snow puts them at a depth at which they are out of direct sunlight and where they recover after a brief time. Do either of those ideas sound ridiculous? Well, they are. But, they fit the available scenarios based on how the pieces were placed in “Radioactive” and the rather troubling direction from Winant.

If you’re going to kill a character, do it. But don’t chicken out. Today’s audiences are too smart not to notice that the pile of blood and bones that marks the true death is absent from a scene when they are watching intently.

So . . . ridiculous suspensions of belief, poorly constructed villains and set-up, lousy character reinvention, “Radioactive” is a disappointment for the smart audience and almost enough to make one swear off the seventh season.

For other works in the True Blood franchise, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
True Blood - Season 1
True Blood All Together Now
True Blood - Season 2
True Blood - Season 3
True Blood - Season 4
True Blood Where Were You?

[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 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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