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Review #2997: True Blood 4.11: “Soul of Fire”

Posted on the 06 September 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Every time I write a review of “True Blood”, I have to remind myself that this is a campy show that sometimes likes to pretend it’s not camp. Much of the time, it works, usually when the show feels like a mature-audience version of “Buffy” or even “Angel”. Other times, the camp is so blatant that it’s hard to imagine the show ever taking itself seriously. The trouble comes when those approaches are slapped together into an inelegant mess.

Review #2997: True Blood 4.11: “Soul of Fire”

It’s a matter of construction, in some respects. “Buffy” and “Angel” (and their many spiritual successors) weren’t afraid to display a wide range: horror, comedy, camp, tragedy, and even the occasional musical. The difference is that those tones were either maintained throughout an episode, or one transitioned into the other (mostly, comedy slipping into tragedy or horror). The writers rarely tried to mix and match from scene to scene, and when they did, the results were predictable. (The exception being when intentional counterpoint was employed.)

That’s what always seems to hold “True Blood” back from true greatness. On the one hand, it likes to deliver solid horror/action scenes and super-serious horror elements. Those are the good moments that seem to keep the show afloat. But then there are the character beats that are written and filmed as if the show is an ultra-aware spoof of “Twilight”. Not so much a problem when handled episodically, but “True Blood” is definitely serialized, so the abrupt tonal shifts are jarring.

This episode fares better than most, though I had to keep that constant “camp factor” in the back of my mind, lest I forget when the darker (and better) aspects of the show gave way to something ridiculously silly.

While he hasn’t been declared the new Alpha quite yet, Alcide’s dispatch of Marcus (on the heels of Sam’s most badass moment yet) sets the stage. He even tells Debbie to get out of his life for good, using formal language that I assume has importance among their kind. I doubt this is the last we’ll see of Debbie, since I imagine she’ll be gunning for Sookie; after all, she blames Sookie for getting under Alcide’s skin (so to speak). Regardless, I want to see all of this have some pertinence to the larger goings-on in Bon Temps, instead of just being a relatively good subplot for now-minor characters.

Speaking of minor characters and subplots that better start having some relevance, Sheriff Andy starts to kick the V habit, and gets some unexpected help from a randy faerie by the name of Morella. I’ll go out on a limb and assume this doesn’t have anything to do with the original novel material, so perhaps this is how they intend to pull the faerie conflict back into the show, since Claudine is dead. Considering how the season started, I’m rather wary of the whole faerie thing, but maybe time has given the writers better perspective on how to make it work right for the show.

Now, onto the more interesting plot threads. Jason had some really good moments in this episode, so it only makes sense that he should get a suitable reward. I consider Jessica to be such a reward. Without a doubt, the additional infusion of her blood should help him get over his resistance to the relationship. Since Jason didn’t become a were-panther (perhaps due to fan outcry at the notion of a Jason/Crystal long-term tryst), perhaps he will become Jessica’s first intentional spawn?

I have no idea why Eric and Bill would agree to kill themselves for Sookie’s release, and it makes even less sense when one considers what happened when Sookie finally had enough and unleashed some faerie whoop-ass on the coven. It was designed to facilitate the rift between Eric and Pam, as well as bring Eric and Bill into an understanding regarding Sookie, but it felt forced, to say the least. But the circumstances made no sense; why would the rest of the coven, let alone Sookie, join Marntonia in the circle after all that has happened? (Also, as well-deserved as it was, why would Bill riddle Marnie with bullets?)

Jesus did exactly what I thought he would do, and as I mentioned before, this pays off the long and laborious subplot for him and Lafayette this season. Jesus had to develop in terms of his overall powers, and also had to get to the point where he was willing to do what was necessary. The same applies to Lafayette; his possession earlier in the season made the point that he can’t fight off spirits who want to take him over.

And that leads into the cliffhanger: Marnie has taken over Lafayette for the purposes of finishing what she started. That leaves me a bit concerned for Jesus, because logically, her first act should be to slit his throat, so he can’t interfere. My predictions go generally downhill for the rest of the cast from there, so I imagine the bloodletting isn’t over yet.

Writing: 1/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 2/2
Style: 2/4

Final Rating: 7/10

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