Tuesday, August 26, 2014

True Blood Finally Reaches Its End: “Thank You!”

The Good: Decent-enough acting
The Bad: Dull plot, Light on character, Entirely contrived
The Basics: “Thank You” sees the end of True Blood and the conclusion does not keep the focus on Bill and Sookie enough to be a truly satisfying end for fans.

This is a big week for television! With the Emmys come and gone (was I the only one who didn’t know it was last night until the event passed?!), my focus is turning to the ends and the beginnings that are the highlights of this week in television. Chief among the endings (for me and other genre fans) is the series finale of True Blood. True Blood has had a rough seventh season and the shortened ten-episode season saw its end with “Thank You.” It is worth noting that because True Blood is a heavily serialized show and “Thank You” is its series finale, that some spoilers might be contained within this review, if for no other reason than that all that comes before led to “Thank You.”

Given the rocky nature of the seventh season of True Blood, I was not heartened by the trending topic relating to “Thank You” was that True Blood ended with a “wacky” finale. “Wacky” is not a word I would use to describe the sometimes-erotic, sometimes nauseatingly-gory supernatural soap opera. So, with lowered expectations, I rewatched “Love Is To Die” (reviewed here!) before tuning into “Thank You.” And

With Bill Compton having refused treatment for his Hep-V, he tries to explain his decision to Sookie. Having felt more alive since meeting Sookie, Bill does not want to live beyond Sookie, so he asks her to use her fairy light on him to bring him the true death. Faced with the choice of outliving Bill and having vampires interested in her and her fairy blood, Sookie seriously considers giving up her fairy light to kill Bill. Back at Fangtasia, Eric decides to betray Gus Jr. by setting Sarah Newlin free, stealing Gus Jr.’s New Blood (cure for Hep-V) and eradicating the human and his goons. Sarah begs Pam to vamp her and while Pam refuses, she does use the human for a Hep-V vaccination.

With Bill indelicately pushing the issue between Hoyt and Jessica, all of Bon Temps leaps to make arrangements for the abrupt wedding of the human and vampire. Those arrangements take the form of the predictable – Hoyt asks Jason to be his best man, Jessica scrambles to get a wedding dress – and the painfully mundane (Bill sits Andy down and asks him to “rent” his mansion to Hoyt and Jessica after his death because Bill cannot will the property to Jessica). During the wedding, Sookie is surprised that she can hear Bill’s thoughts. As Sookie debates putting Bill out of his misery, she talks to Jason, Reverend Daniels and Bill himself. After Sookie and Bill get closure, the episode flashes forward to show some resolution on how Eric and Pam’s business venture into New Blood went and then how everyone in Bon Temps is doing years later.

Starting “Thank You” out heavy with Bill Compton, Sookie, Eric and Pam sets the finale up for a satisfying conclusion. With the main – and most popular – enduring characters of the show getting the spotlight, fans are given some hope that the show might end on a high note. For as much as I might love the weird love story of Jessica and Hoyt, when “Thank You” shifts focus to them and the relationship between Jessica and Bill and then flashbacks with Sookie, Gran, and Tara, the episode takes a turn for the plodding and melodramatic. When “Thank You” seems like it might become an abrupt and somewhat ridiculous wedding episode, it seems like True Blood’s finale was going to be one of the least satisfying endings of television history. And it is, largely, unremarkable and unsatisfying.

In addition to completely contrived character moments – Hoyt has no memories of his friendship with Jason, so that he leaps to asking him to be his best man seems more satisfying for the viewers than honestly an organic plot/character development – “Thank You” is mired in trying to service the large cast (which is a pretty consistent problem the show has faced as it has gone on). Arlene and Holly being a part of the wedding is not entirely inorganic, but it does seem forced the way Arlene runs around prior to the wedding.

The idea of ending with a wedding is a pretty ridiculous one for a story that has been much more action-based and gory than it has been a relationship story in its later years. More than that, by focusing on Jessica and Hoyt, “Thank You” is mired in preaching to the choir. True Blood fans are by and large, smart and liberal. From the first episode, True Blood made a strong allegory between vampirism and homosexuality. So, the concept that the marriage of Hoyt and Jessica might not be legal, but it is loving and sanctified by god, seems to be beating the metaphor home for the people who already get the point.

In a similar way, Sookie turning to Reverend Daniels makes for a weird scene that makes very little sense for the character. Given the telepathic nature of Sookie Stackhouse, a crowded church seems like it would have hardly been a place of refuge for young Sookie. Turning to Daniels this late in the story seems forced and like Sookie is just taking advice from anybody in the world, regardless of their perspective and personal relationship with her. In fact, in the supernatural realm in which True Blood and Sookie Stackhouse exist, “Thank You” would have been the ideal time to bring in angels as a final supernatural creature, but the show does not. Instead, viewers are asked to believe that Sookie would turn to Daniels.

On the positive side, Anna Paquin’s performance of the episode’s pivotal scene sells the emotional depth of the moment. Whether this is great acting or not is debatable as Paquin having to contemplate a mercy killing for her real-life husband Stephen Moyer seems like it would be a wrenching experience. Paquin plays the scene with all of the intensity one expects from such a moment.

But fans of True Blood are rightfully unsatisfied and part of the reason has to be the final scene of “Thank You.” While some might wonder who the man Sookie is with is or why she is pregnant (if there had been no man at the head of the table, fans could easily have made the leap that Sookie was acting as a surrogate for Jessica and Hoyt, an idea that would have made their otherwise pointless wedding in the episode far more compelling), the real kick in the nads to fans is the conceptual shift that the final scene implies. Fans of True Blood have sat through seven seasons of partner-swapping, complex relationships mixed in with supernatural entities and monsters. Four years after the wedding of Hoyt and Jessica, EVERYBODY is still together with the partner they were with at the time.


“Thank You” makes that assertion. So, between Sarah Newlin getting the penultimate scene, in a moment entirely reminiscent of how Alias concluded the Sloane/Rambaldi arc and a contrived happy ending where monogamy and traditional family values wins out, “Thank You” closes True Blood on a downbeat and leaves us uninterested in rewatching the season, much less the series.

For other notable series finales, please visit my reviews of:
“Goodbyeee” - Blackadder Goes Forth
“What You Leave Behind” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale

[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 episode and movie reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page!

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