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True Blood Recap: S04E01: She’s Not There
We open on a tree filled with glowing, golden fruit. A gathering of people stand as if at a cocktail party, but instead of gin and tonics, each guest is holding a fruit in hand. A disturbance causes the party to hush and step back, allowing for the magical entrance of our heroine: Sookie Stackhouse. The crowd parts and she sees her grandfather, a man who disappeared from her life some twenty years before. He seems not to recognize her. To him, only weeks have passed since their last meeting. He has only spent a few hours amongst the fairies in this realm, and he incredulous listens as she tells him of everything that has happened to his family in the interim.
Her fairy godmother has brought her to this beautiful place to escape from the dangers of the real world, but as Sookie looks around, the glittering façade begins to slip and reveal the rottenness beneath. The fairies are collecting their own kin and bringing them to a separate realm to take them away from the threats of vampires who crave the taste of fairy blood. This is a threat that Sookie has allowed to enter their realm with the freely given power of her blood.
Sookie escapes with the help of her grandfather and the fairy Claude, one of a band of fairies that do not wish to break completely from their travels to the human realm. But when she returns it is to find that over a year has elapsed since she has been home.
To get a preview of possible story lines for this season, pick up a copy of the book it is based on. The general arc of the television series has followed those of the books thus far, but the details often differ, leaving some room for surprise. After all, Lafayette and Jessica, key characters in the series, are not present in this book at all.
What happened in Bon Temps while Sookie was gone?
Everyone thought Sookie was dead, except for Eric, who showed up to tell her so at the first opportunity. Bill had been been blamed for her missing status, but still loves her. She, however, is not able to forgive him after discovering last season that their relationship had been an order from Queen Sophie Ann. Jason waited to see if she would come home, but ended up selling her house to a company named AIK.
Jason is a police officer, and Detective Andy Bellefleur has taken up a V addiction. Jason continues to uphold his promise to Crystal by providing for the community at Hot Shot.
Lafayette and Jesus are still going strong, but Jesus has been trying to get Lafayette to experience another vision by taking him to various witchy arenas. Lafayette, now sporting a fierce mohawk, does not believe in his own ability to do magic, but he goes where his boyfriend asks him to go.
Arlene and Terry finally got married. Arlene has had her devil child, named Mikey, who has a penchant for decapitating Barbie dolls. Apparently Terry used to do something similar with squirrels and lizards in his youth. And that is supposed to be comforting?
Tara ran away to New Orleans to become a cage fighter. She goes by the name Toni, and is a relationship with a woman who believes her family is from Atlanta. How did swearing off vampires turn to swearing off men?
Jessica and Hoyt are playing house and fighting like a married couple, but somehow they seem to make it work, even if Jessica has some problems resisting the blood of fangbangers. Hoyt still will not talk about his mother, who has taken Tommy under her wing while he undergoes physical therapy for his wounded knee. Sam has been taking "anger management" classes after being the one to shoot his brother, and he has also fallen in with a small group of shapeshifters with similar impulse control issues.
A Vampire World in Crisis
“The blood is warm and so is the service,” explains Pam in her monotone voice in front of the camera, much to Nan Flanagan's chagrin. With the debacle of a televised execution courtesy of Russell Edgington, the American Vampire League must scramble to repair the popular opinion of their kind. The arrival of Eric saves the interview. Interspersed with this PSA from our favorite vampire bar owner, we see Bill at a ribbon cutting ceremony. During Sookie's absence he has become the poster boy for the vampire image. Personally I’ll take Eric’s spiel to Bill’s public face any day, but they both look to be fine upstanding members of the vampire community, which makes them perfect representatives for the AVL.
On a completely different note, Kristen Bauer's Pam is always a highlight of any episode for me. Best line of the night? Her quip in reference to Jessica's beau, Hoyt: “That tree with the plaid shirt? It has a name?” I hope an increased vampire presence in this season will give her time to shine.
As for the ever present vampiric machinations? In our time away, Bill has become king. And he seems to have spies watching the coven of which Jesus and Lafayette are now a part. On a more personal note, Eric, ever determined to win his way into Sookie's life, is behind the purchase of Sookie's home. In his mind, owning the home, gives him ownership of Sookie as well.
Where will the season go from here?
As an introduction to the season to come, "She's Not There" succeeds in setting up the disparate plot points that will eventually coalesce. Jessica and Hoyt appear to be running into trouble in their relationship. Sam and Tommy may also be on a collision course for a second violent run-in. And Jason, having been captured by those he was protecting in Hot Shot, will now be at the mercy of a pack of werepanthers.
All signs point to the biggest stories of the season being witches and Eric (while Bill will play a large role as always, knowledge of the books leads me to suspect that Eric will be in the forefront with regards to Sookie's world). The coven of witches introduces new characters that have the power to make significant changes in our heroine's world, particularly given the revelation that they can raise the dead, even momentarily as was done with Marnie's familiar in this episode. The inclusion of Jesus and Lafayette in this group make contact between Sookie and the coven more likely, while the division in beliefs between the two make it a possible point of contention in their relationship. And given the difficulty with which vampires interact with other mythical communities, it stands to reason that witches and vampires may have difficulties getting along as well.
As to Eric, he has steadily grown in importance in Sookie's life, and he has frequently proven that he has some sense of morality that may coincide with Sookie's beliefs (his love of his maker, Godric, and his pursuit of the man who killed his family before he was turned, for example). He has maneuvered himself even closer with the purchase of Sookie's home. Will he gain her trust as well now that she is no longer in a relationship with Bill? Only time will tell.
Though this episode was jam-packed with information to be digested, making it feel a little frenetic and random at times, it did a brilliant job of setting the characters at odds in a way that will bring delicious conflict to the forefront quickly. I, for one, cannot wait to see the drama unfold.