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True Blood Season 6 Ep. 9 Recap: ‘Life Matters’

Photo:John P. Johnson/HBO

Apologies for the late recap. I had some personal stuff to take care of, and there were technical issues to deal with. But anyway, on with the show! As always, spoilers lie ahead. Now go forth and kill the humans…

Well that was quite a tearjerker wasn’t it? With one episode left to go, this week’s “Life Matters” continued with the season-long buildup to the great human vs. vampire war with the destruction of Vamp Camp and ended with all of our favorite blood suckers (plus fang cushion Ginger) frolicking in the daytime after Bill offered up himself to save them from the sun. But what promised to be a glorious vampiric retribution in earlier episodes was tempered by an emotional tour de force, a.k.a. Terry Bellefleur’s funeral.

Leave it to True Blood to give a character his best episode after he’s taken a dirt nap. But that’s just what it was, as everyone in Bon Temps gathered around share fond memories of Terry and collectively anoint him to sainthood. As I said in an earlier recap, True Blood has, for the most part, erred on the side of realism when it comes to funerals, showcasing all the bickering, cardiac-inducing comfort food and gossipy, morbid curiosity that accompanies them, while also tapping into the “everybody knows everybody” reality of small-town life.

However, what’s so pleasantly surprising about “Life Matters,” is how well the funeral scene plays out. Terry was always a minor character, and after say, season two’s Mary Ann maenad madness, didn’t have much to do all until last season’s awful Irfit arc. My point being it’s been a long time since Terry truly felt like an organic part of whatever was happening on True Blood at any given moment. Initially, when I got an idea where the episode was going, I found myself tsk-tsking and shaking my head. Fortunately I was wrong. While the writer’s may have hit a break wall in how to make Terry compelling in life, they succeeded in doing in death.

The funeral also gives many of the characters we’ve watched for years a legitimate reason to come together, sharing and reacting to the sorts of mundane, intimate details long-life residents of a town often share with each other. Maxine gives us an update on Hoyt (he’s got an “ugly as sin” girlfriend) with some casual vampire bigotry thrown in (though Terry’s grandmother may have her beat in that department); Tara’s mom Lettie Mae, gags at Lafayette’s eyeshadow while he reminisces on his first memory of Terry. Even ol’ Big John gets up and sings, a decision Arlene rightfully deems as “the shit.” Sookie both comes out to the town about her telepathic abilities (though as she said, it’s not like they didn’t know already), and uses them to help Arlene; she reads her mind and speaks ahead of her when it’s clear she’s not ready to say goodbye, then tells Arlene she knows Terry loved her from the first night he saw her via her powers. All the right emotional notes are hit. Even the usually groan and/or eye-rolling inducing flashbacks work, if only because they genuinely feel like memories these characters would have at a moment like this.

The anchor of it all though is Carrie Preston, who strikes the perfect balance of grief, dignity and inner resolve (not to mention her lace black veil and matching gloves were giving Southern Gothic chic for your nervers). Although the bit with Sookie hearing her thoughts about how the 21-gun salute she fought against actually gave her some solace felt a little too on the nose, it was the perfect sendoff, both for this plot line and for Terry as a character.

The funeral scenes are more jarring when juxtaposed against the violence and bloodshed going down over at Vamp Camp. Eric, pumped up on Warlow’s blood, breaks into the compound, leaving a road of bloody limbs and castrated doctors in his wake (did we really have to see a bloody cock?). He frees the vampires and, true to form, they return cruelty with cruelty, feeding upon and torturing their former captors. Granted, they’ve been starving and living in what basically amounted to one big vamper nest for weeks on end, so I guess I shouldn’t have expected Godric-style mercy.

Bill spends most the of episode stalking Eric, since he’s the reason his everybody-drain-Warlow-dry plan went bust. Finally he comes to an epiphany via a flashback to he and Sookie’s fight at the start of the episode and lets everyone feed on him. Afterwards he’s so weak he starts seeing Lilith’s naked crew, who’ve come to take him home, or where the hell Lilith lives. Somehow, Jessica and James, who was with her at the time, save him from whatever fate Lilith had in store.

It would have been so much more powerful if Bill died after his sacrifice; it would have certainly fit thematically (though you could argue Jessica deciding to look past his all-powerful prick with a messiah complex exterior and rescue him fits in as well), and given the whole Vamp Camp/death vision arc more weight. Oh well, at least we got the consolation prize of watching Steve Newlin utter “I love you Jason Stackhouse!” before frying to a crisp. R.I.P. Steve. May you and Russell Edgington slow dance to “Teenage Dream” and drain housefuls of frat boys in hell.  But back to Bill. Was it just me, or did he look considerably like his gentler, pre-Lilith self as he strolled into the sunlight with everyone else? Perhaps the lasting effect of this turn of events may be that it’s set Eric and Bill on divergent paths. Bill, with his self-sacrifice, sought to preserve life. Eric, with his edict to kill all humans and lust for vengeance, feels the opposite, at least when it’s not vampire life. It’ll  be interesting to see how this potential dynamic could play out in the finale.

Sarah Newlin, who of course was the culprit who tried to barbecue the vampires (all while reciting Psalms 23), narily escaped the massacre, after a pissed off Jason Stackhouse holds a gun to her chin while telling her she a fake Christian with no soul. In the end he lets her go, which may have been the merciful thing to do but may come to bite all vampires and their allies in the ass. As our favorite whore for Christ has made clear, when she’s doing the Lord’s work, she is an unstoppable woman. But for now, the vampires have the upper hand.

One more episode to go, and I can’t wait to see how season six wraps up.

Other Thoughts:

—I know I wasn’t the only one who saw Sookie throwing a few lingering looks Alcide’s way during the funeral. Granted, she was in a fragile state, when has fragility not led Sookie into another man’s arm? Though if I’m right, Alcide is a more serious rival her affections at this point; he’s a supernatural like Warlow, but unlike him, he actually ages and doesn’t gorge on humans. And with Alcide relinquishing his pack master title and exiled from Shreveport, he’ll be around to tempt Sookie a lot more.

–Was it a coincidence Sarah was wearing a white suit as she fled in defeat, just as her now deceased hubby Steve did when Godric put the kibosh on his “meet the sun” ceremony back in season two? Is True Blood trying to make a point that bad guys don’t always wear black, or are they just fond of putting uber religious nutjobs in tacky white ensembles?

–Warlow’s certainly been taking it easy these last few episodes, the attack from Eric notwithstanding. Now that every vampire and their mama can walk in the sun, will his affection for Sookie be as strong, being that he know has other potential partners to choose from?

—No werewolf pack and/or father-son drama this week. Hope this carries over into season seven.

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