Monday, June 23, 2014

Entering The Final Season, True Blood Declares That “Jesus Gonna Be Here” . . . But It’s Not Gonna Be Good!

The Good: Not much . . . Hints of character and plot development?
The Bad: A lot of stiff acting, Flooded with characters viewers are unlikely to care about, Fundamentally altered characters, Nonsensical anticlimaxes
The Basics: The final season of True Blood starts as one of the worst episodes of the series with “Jesus Gonna Be Here” . . . which is a fractured start.

Happy True Blood Finale Premiere Night! The seventh and final season of True Blood has begun and the hype surrounding the season premiere was that a major character would be biting the dust early in the episode. To be honest, it was tough for me – even as a True Blood fan – to get excited about “Jesus Gonna Be Here.” The reason for my lack of excitement is simple: the sixth season ended on an odd downbeat that seemed to further shift the show away from characters I actually care about and set the television series on a more violent than romantic course for its final season.

Picking up where “Radioactive” (reviewed here!) left off, “Jesus Gonna Be Here” starts the seventh season off with violence, carnage and death and those who got into True Blood for the raw, exotic eroticism of True Blood will find it completely mortgaged by the opening of the new season. For those who have not seen the sixth season finale, it is absolutely impossible to discuss “Jesus Gonna Be Here” without revealing how the prior episode ended. In concert with the imprisoned vampires getting their freedom, the sixth season climaxed with several characters going their own separate ways and a gap in the narrative that leaped the story ahead several months. In the reordered alliances, Sookie and Alcide are romantically involved and the new mayor of Bon Temps, Sam Merlott, has a plan to save the human townspeople of Bon Temps: pair with vampires who will feed upon, but not turn, their human companions. “Jesus Gonna Be Here” begins at the same moment the sixth season ended, with Bellefleur’s (formerly Merlotte’s) surrounded by Hep-V infected vampires, which seemed akin to True Blood adding psychotic zombie vampires to their supernatural mix.

“Jesus Gonna Be Here” opens with the attack on Bellefleur’s, which results in a number of deaths and the Hep-V vampires abducting Arlene, Holly, and the pregnant Nicole. In the scuffle, Tara is (apparently) killed, which leaves Sookie shocked enough to walk home unprotected. With the Hep-V infected vampires leaving as abruptly as they came, Bon Temp’s new “one vampire, one human” program is put to its first test. That arrangement is compromised when Sam’s political rival sees him revert to human form from dog form when he chased after Nicole. As Bill Compton and Sheriff Andy look for the kidnapped humans, Sookie complains to Alcide about how her mental defenses are down and she can hear the entire town’s hateful thoughts against her. She pushes Alcide away.

Elsewhere, Pam hunts for her maker, who was last seen bursting into flames on a snowy European mountaintop and Jessica stands guard for Adilyn Bellefleur. Jessica’s guard duty quickly leads to a standoff between herself and a Hep-V vampire who wants the fairy’s blood. In shock, Lafayette gets to know Jessica’s boyfriend and Jason consummates his relationship with the old vampire Violet. As dawn breaks, Bill and Andy find a vampire nest, but the prisoners of the Hep-V vampires find themselves in dire peril in the old Fangtasia building.

“Anticlimactic” is the word that best describes “Jesus Gonna Be Here.” “Jesus Gonna Be Here” is loaded with moments that make very little dramatic sense and while there are problems with the script, this episode is a real black mark on Stephen Moyer’s directing career. Moyer misses a ton of important opportunities and it is impossible to believe that true True Blood fans will not feel cheated by his decisions. Chief among them is Tara’s death, which occurs off-camera. Tara is seen defending her mother, then her blood-covered mother declares Tara died in the fight. This senseless act of killing off a character the producers bothered to save after a pretty gruesome on-camera death in a prior season is made worse by how Pam shows no reaction to the alleged death (or the supposed death of Eric).

At this point, True Blood is overloaded with characters and, like the last few seasons of Glee, those new characters are not adding anything compelling to the mix. So, time devoted in “Jesus Gonna Be Here” to Jessica’s boyfriend, Jason Stackhouse and Violet (who bears almost no resemblance to the pious, cocktease, vampire introduced last season, and the introduction of Sam’s new adversary are all a waste of time. The time devoted to glossing over these new minor characters diminishes what little time is given to Sookie Stackhouse, which seems troublesome considering that True Blood is based upon the Sookie Stackhouse novel series.

The result on the character front is that Sookie is given little to do that does not seem like she is presenting her emotional conflict in a melodramatic, soap operatic way. Anna Paquin cries to camera and is stiff in her presentation, which robs the episode of most of the episode’s emotional resonance to Tara’s death. While Paquin might flub her presentation, at least she is given the moments to try to emote. Sam Trammell is not given the chance to truly react to Nicole’s capture and why Sam (the character) does not chase after his abducted lover with a fast, powerful animal is one of the many moments that makes the episode seem like the producers are phoning the show in.

Reflecting on “Jesus Gonna Be Here,” the episode has elements that are “necessary evil” moments of plot movement, but there is a bright moment of entertainment in the episode. That scene features Pam playing Russian roulette and Kristin Bauer Van Straten nails the scene with her character’s typical dark humor. Even Jessica’s scenes with Adilyn seem more stiff than emotionally conflicted.

“Jesus Gonna Be Here” does not do what a good season premiere ought to; it leaves the viewer entirely ambivalent as to whether or not they might want to tune into True Blood again and the sense that best days for the show are far, far behind.

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?
True Blood The French Quarter
True Blood - Season 5
True Blood - Season 6

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into True Blood - The Complete Sevent Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the final season of the supernatural show here!


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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