The Good: Characters, Good performances
The Bad: Still cluttered, Minor characters get big parts
The Basics: As True Blood nears its end, a number of minor characters gain significance as the storylines begin to converge.
When a television series knows it is going to end, I find myself fascinated by the process the producers go through to bring about resolution to the characters and plots they have established. There are so many television shows that have conclusions that disappoint the fans and regular viewers and I often wonder how so many executive producers and writers could fail when it comes to ending the stories they have begun. True Blood is nearing its conclusion and the third episode from the finale is “Almost Home.” In “Almost Home,” True Blood continues to sheer the sprawling storyline and, in the process, some of the generally insignificant characters are given big roles and characters who have been absent from the narrative return in significant ways.
Chief among the storylines that is concluded in “Almost Home” is Tara Thornton’s character arc. Tara was somewhat artlessly killed off, off camera, in the seventh season premiere, “Jesus Gonna Be Here” (reviewed here!) and since then, there has been wild speculation that Tara’s mother herself killed the vampire Tara. Lettie Mae has never been a popular or even a very interesting character, so the fact that she has picked up airtime that could have been used to focus on Tara (should Tara have survived the first fight of the season) was a pretty lousy choice on the part of the producers. “Almost Home” brings a reasonable conclusion to Tara’s post-death arc and the storyline involving Lettie Mae. Fortunately, much of the episode focuses on more popular characters as “Almost Home” picks where “May Be The Last Time” (reviewed here!) concluded. Perhaps one of the smartest moves from the producers this season has been starting and finishing as many episodes as possible with Eric and Pam. “Almost Home” smartly begins with them and it makes the episode immediately engaging.
After Eric is forced to spare the life of Sarah Newlin, the Yakuza take the cure for Hep-V away to begin synthesizing a cure en masse. Bill finally reveals to Sookie that he was assigned to find her. Sookie and Bill realize that their love for one another was all that caused Bill to turn from Queen Sophie’s plan to breed Sookie and the two find some peace as a result. Meanwhile, LaFayette, Lettie Mae, and Reverend Daniels visit the Thornton childhood house, convinced that Tara has a posthumous message for them. Feeding off James, the trio of humans is led by Tara’s presence into the house. There, they see Tara’s 7th birthday and the conflict between her father and Lettie Mae that quickly turned unspeakably violent. As Jason hangs out with Hoyt and Hoyt’s fiancé, Bridget, he gets a message that Violet torturing is Jessica. Back at Fangtasia, Gus Jr. reveals his New Blood will be intentionally imperfect, in order to keep a market for the product alive. Jason and Bridget come to rescue the others, but Jason is captured by Violet.
Back in the flashback, Tara reveals how she had the chance to kill her abusive father, but did not and her guilt consumed her from that point on. Tara and Lettie Mae forgive each other and Tara ascends to a higher plane at peace. Eric returns to Bon Temp to tell Sookie he is all right and she is shocked that he has been cured. Eric flies off to get the cure to Hep-V for Bill when Sookie tells him she is to blame for his infection. Jessica and Jason reconcile following their ordeal. Sookie stupidly pursues Eric to Fangtasia. Jason and Hoyt sit and talk about Jessica and how Bill is dying, which leads Hoyt to visit Bill. Sookie discovers that Sarah Newlin is alive in the basement of Fangtasia and that she is the cure. Compelled to save Bill, Jason and Jessica bring him to where Sarah is imprisoned.
“Almost Home” is one of the most character-driven episodes of the seventh season and that plays well, despite how much time is devoted to some of the minor characters. Tara Thornton’s character arc is finally resolved in a way that leaves viewers satisfied in a way that her off-camera death did not. The fact that Tara’s death is used to bring about an (apparent) spiritual rebirth for Lettie Mae is somewhat more disappointing in that Lettie Mae was, at best, a supporting character in Tara’s arc. In a similar way, ending Violet’s arc on True Blood seems like fixing a poor decision more than progressing an interesting direction for the characters she was involved with.
Far better executed in “Almost Home” is the tease of a relationship budding between Jessica and Hoyt. Hoyt left Bon Temps glamoured by Jessica after she cheated on him with Jason. Returning to Bon Temps without any memory of his relationship with Jessica, Hoyt starts to find himself thinking of Jessica and that makes for a delightfully compelling twist for both his character and hers. In “Almost Home,” the potential is broached, but the relationship (smartly) does not explode yet. This gives Deborah Ann Woll a chance to play Jessica across a wide range of emotions in “Almost Home” and it’s wonderful to see her given the chance. The embodiment of anticipation she plays in her physical performance as Jessica meets Hoyt at the door to the house is perfect.
Amid all of the minor characters getting resolutions, deaths and screentime, Sookie and Bill manage to forge a rebirth of their relationship (which is pretty good given how they ended up naked in bed in the prior episode). Sookie is given a decent role in “Almost Home” where she is assertive without being whiny. Bill is not given much in the way of depth, save for a dream sequence that seems to foreshadow the episode’s final moment. The focus on Bill and Sookie peppered throughout “Almost Home” is one of the episode’s more satisfying character aspects. While there is some lingering tension between Eric and Sookie, the implication of “Almost Home” is that the relationship that fans have been invested in for the bulk of True Blood is the one that the series will ultimately focus on.
Progressing the plot, making even the uninteresting characters grow and giving actors the chance to shine makes “Almost Home” the best of the seventh season so far!
For other works with Nelsan Ellis, please check out my reviews of:
Veronica Mars - Season 3
[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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