Jul 12 2010 5:27pm

True Blood episode review: “9 Crimes”

After a two week hiatus (damn you, Independence Day!) True Blood is back with another tease of an episode that seemed like it was guest directed by Eli Roth. Spoilers ahead.

For real. What happened to all of the women on True Blood this week? Was someone trying to tell us that women are weak and can’t help themselves? I’m hoping that this is only the set-up for all of these girls to get themselves back to their former, stronger glory and beat the tar out of the men making them victims.

Let’s start with Sookie. Poor, poor Sookie. That was probably television’s harshest human-vampire breakup since season two of Buffy. Damn you, Bill. I used to like you! I defended your fuddy-duddy, recycling ways! But you betrayed Sookie and sang to Russell like a canary about Queen Sophie-Ann’s V business. Even though I hate Lorena and want her dead, it was disturbing as hell to see Bill punch a woman in the face. And her to like it.

Sookie has a pass to act like a crybaby this week. She’s understandably crushed and I get her desire to make Bill break it off in person. Whether it’s to find out if he’s lying or to kick him in the nuts. I’m leaning towards Bill playing at evil for the greater, unseen good. And if so, I haven’t seen an evil-vampire-fakeout as convincing as this since season three of Buffy.

But if anyone makes an ideal rebound, it’s Alcide. There he is, all newly-dumped and shirtless (that didn’t take long!) and pitiful. Since Sookie is kind of dumb and impulsive, I was expecting them to hook up immediately. Like when she kicked Bill out that time and kissed Sam. That kind of made me hate Sookie and her fickle ways, just a bit. But I’m glad Sookie and Alcide didn’t do the deed. Not yet. Besides, I don’t know that Alcide has a lasting chance in the face of Eric. Who was completely lovelorn and distracted in a sweet way.

So let’s add Alcide’s ex, the trashtastic Debbie Pelt to the list of damsels in distress. We’re supposed to like Alcide because he still loves Debbie, even though she got herself addicted to V and needs rescuing from her new pack of evil werewolves. And don’t get me wrong, I like Alcide. A lot. He gave Sookie some seriously sage advice on handling her breakup, even though he’s a bit of a hypocrite. But looking at the episode this way, he’s another guy saying women can’t help themselves. They’re weak. But Debbie’s a mess and I can’t wait to see her and Sookie get into many catfights.

Tara is the weakest woman of them all and I’m really hoping she finds a way to free herself from Franklin. Seeing her bitten, bound and gagged, pants-less, on the toilet, and trying to reach for her phone was way too much for me. Seriously twisted. How many times do we have to see Tara mind-raped and abused? I don’t know who Franklin is working for, but his weird obsession with Tara is making me hope she puts a stake in him quick.

Even Pam was tied up and tortured this week. Pam! She just became a cast regular! She can’t get staked! Who will make awesome, chilly one-liners? Eric’s concern for her is so parental.

Rounding out the women, we have Arlene’s pregnancy hormones making her act all overly-emotional and Jessica’s been taken in “like a stray” by Sam, Merlotte’s newest waitress. I actually liked Jessica’s scenes this week, though. I would’ve figured she’d bare her fangs at her old Bible study acquaintance. What’s she got to lose? What’s to be ashamed of? She’s a vampire now. I thought she was embracing her badass nature. It seems like a step backwards for her. Or she’s still guilty over her dead trucker.

Lastly, we have the stripper Bill procured for Russell and Lorena. This scene was a bit too reminiscent of Louis and Lestat’s power struggle in Interview with a Vampire. Bill telling Sookie he made love to Lorena in ways only two vampires can was crueler and more dramatic than watching him take a drink from a human.

I would’ve preferred the episode ending with Sookie in danger at Lou Pine’s bar, where everyone was shifting into werewolves. Even good-guy Alcide! (Was that a little homage to Thriller, when he looked at Sookie with yellow eyes and told her to run?) It felt like not a lot actually happened this week. We knew Russell was supplying V to the bad wolves. We knew Bill renounced his fealty to Sophie-Anne. We still don’t know who exactly Franklin’s working for. Sam’s family are all still jerks. The only progress is Jason is going to somehow be a cop in a storyline that’s pretty predictable thus far and Lafayette, with a little help from Eric, pushed last episode’s meth heads to sell V. I almost listed Lafayette as a another damsel in distress, but meth addicts are scarier than werewolves and that could’ve happened to anyone in that situation.

I thought people were being too hasty saying this season is moving slow, but now I’m going to say it now. Something. New. Happen.

Some things I liked:

Every scene with Lafayette. “Ring-ring, hooker.”

Alcide’s friendly sister and her horoscopes.

The look on Sam’s face when he was told that the Mickens family was grilling in the parking lot.

Sookie in full biker disguise doing shots at the bar.

What did you like about the episode? Am I being overly-sensitive in my criticism this week? Sound off in the comments.

Theresa DeLucci is a graduate of the 2008 Clarion West Writers’ Worshop. her short fiction has appeared in Chizine, Morbid Outlook, and Tear magazine. She’s also pretty excited about Johnny Lee Miller being cast in the fifth season of Dexter.

Andrew Belmont
1. rosetintdworld
Not overly sensitive at all. I was worried I would have to say it, but I guess I didn't have enough faith in you. Usually True Blood is...egalitarian? its human suffering, but the exclusively female bondage and torture this week just really disgusted me. In a show so satirical, I'm willing to forgive a little, but I still found many scenes this week deeply uncomfortable to watch.

After so watching many women being abused I found myself really missing Maryanne. Shoot me for saying so if you want.

I am holding out hope that the the many, many scenes of women being helpless this week means that next week we can see Tara beat the snot out of Franklin, and (oh please oh please oh please) Pam stake that awful, awful moustache-twirling character actor who ruined the fourth season of Big Love and now had to invade my True Blood. God I loathe him.

That being said, I liked this episode better than the last three. We may not have learned anything new, but I felt like plots were starting to move. And I have to disagree with you about Sookie. She was the ONE female character this episode who put up a good fight. Yes, she also had a good cry, but also some EXCELLENT one-liners, and reminded us that despite her less-than-super strength, she's still competent, intrepid, and savvy. Plus,


next week's preview makes it look like we'll see some resolution to an outstanding mystery from last season that will (hopefully) give Sookie some new weapons in her arsenal.

Again, thanks for these reviews. I'm really enjoying them.
Ashe Armstrong
2. AsheSaoirse
Having just gotten to watch the episode, it's fresh on my mind so I'll take a crack at this.

I mostly agree. Mostly. Bill's "betrayal" was a very obvious source of pain and anger and you could feel the sorrow oozing off him even as he coldly told Sookie that he had fucked Lorena "in ways only two vampires can." I felt bad for him and I think in your sympathy for Sookie, you're forgetting what's going on for Bill. He was kidnapped, drained, burned with silver, he's being manipulated, he's being emotionally besieged by Lorena (who I said in the last episode's review is a rutting psycho and actually had people disagree with me) and he's trying to keep Sookie safe.

Tara is now the show's cat ball. It's actually getting annoying to me on top of being utterly sad to watch. And Frank's a big weirdo but that's not surprising. Not much else to say there except that some resolution for Tara would be nice.

Pam's stuff was harsh but fit in the circumstances. Jessica's reaction actually made perfect sense and I would count it as growth on her part. Instead of just spazzing and fangin out, she just thralled him and sent him on his merry way so as to avoid needless complications. No fuss, no muss.

Arlene being overly hormonal would annoy if she wasn't being overworked and thus probably double the impact from stress. Sam's folks have got to go, that's gonna get old fast. Lafayette is always a pleasant view. I sincerely wish I had a gay friend like him for the combination of hilarity and bad assery. Eric's gettin smitten. Who's surprised?

And Alcide...he's nice but I'm so freaking glad he and Sookie didn't hook up. I was about to scream TWIBLOOD and smash my monitor when Sookie started crying on him. And I think Debbie's line about his "white knight bullshit" is true. She was cheating on you the whole time, got addicted to V and is now marrying the guy she was cheating on who's in a rival pack (so, whatever marriage actually counts for there). Aaaaand screw Sophie-Anne. She's annoying as crap and I'm not surprised at what happened to swerve blame from her.

That's all I got.
Lee VanDyke
3. Cloric
So has anyone counted what the "9 Crimes" were?

We've tried here, but start getting fouled up in "actual crimes v. perceived crimes."

That is, of course, if the episode title is trying to be descriptive, and not just some odd reference we won't get till half way through the season.
Theresa DeLucci
4. theresa_delucci
@1 and 2 Maybe I was a little too unfair re: Sookie in this ep, but she's usually a total damsel in distress. It was in this week's cliffhanger, even. Sookie definitely has some brains and I like when she uses her feminine wiles to cover for her telepathic sleuthing. Last week was great. "Well, there's nothing meaner n' stronger than a vampire! What's not to like?" She's clever and cute, but still something of a Mary Sue.

Bill may be emotionally manipulated by Lorena, but that's just lame. He should be stronger than that - he's kicked her to the curb a bunch of times before. I agree with you that he maybe really is just trying to keep Sookie safe and out of Mississippi. Which, if he knew anything about Sookie, he'd know that's impossible. But he has to try. Hard.

@3 True Blood takes its episode titles from songs, like this demo version of Damien Rice's "9 Crimes." I don't think there were actually nine crimes, but the theme of the song (as I see it) is about betraying your lover. Personally, I like the album version better, but it was cool to hear a Rice song on True Blood either way.
Teresa Jusino
5. TeresaJusino
Cloric @3 - Yes, the ep titles are song titles. You should check out the True Blood website! The soundtrack on this show is awesome, and the website lists all the music used in each episode. They do a great job of tying in the music thematically.

@Theresa - I don't know that I agree re: the damsel in distress stuff. I mean, yes, all the female characters are dealing with something horrible...but how do they REACT to it? Sookie won't take no for an answer, and is risking her neck to go after Bill anyway. Tara isn't "weak!" She's been overpowered by a VAMPIRE, and is still tough enough to reject his crazy advances. Lorena is obsessed with Bill and needs to get over him....but she's also older than him and knows how difficult it is for him to resist her. She "loves" him, but a big part of that is loving the power she has over him. She's his Maker. He's not just emotionally manipulated by her, he is physically beholden to her. In order to get rid of her, he has to kill her. And yes, Arlene's pregnant. Hormones a-raging. And yet, she still can give Sam quality advice. She's been putting up with A LOT with little fuss.

Now let's look at the men in distress, shall we? Bill is pretty much caught between a rock and a hard place. Turn on his Queen, or Sookie dies. He loves Sookie enough to break up with her and keep her safe. That IS a strong, powerful decision. And yet, it forces him to be a pawn for the rest of his life. And then there's Eric. The mushier he gets re: Sookie, the more he loses his handle on his territory! He would have a better grasp on the V situation if he weren't mooning all the time. Hoyt sees Jessica TALKING to a guy, and assumes the worst. *gag* Alcide is just pitiful about Debbie. Lafayette screwed up selling the V and needed Eric to bail him out. That new male vampire is freaking CRAZY. The only guy who really managed to look powerful this week was JASON, and that was only after he wallowed in the memories of his lost youth for a while.

And actually, I didn't find the bondage and torture that offensive or hard to watch. It's all par for the course in this world. Also, it was kinda hot...but that could just be what I'm into. :)

Why is it that when a female character cries or is love-lorn, she's weak, but when a guy does it, it's "sweet?" That seems a bit double-standard-ish...
Andrew Belmont
7. rosetintdworld
Teresa@5: I totally agree with you about Sookie. She can cry AND be a strong heroine (although, Anna Paquin may have a lot to do with that. She may be the best crying actress in any medium right now...)

Regarding the violence, I don't think the torture is "offensive" exactly. (I realized I used the word "disgusting" in my first post, which you might be reacting to--I want to clarify that I mean disgusting as in gruesome, like everything else in the show...just more so. Not offensive.) But in this episode, all the characters unfortunate enough to be subjected to bodily torture happen to be women. I believe this is a first for the show: usually, men get their time in the bondage wheel, too. You might say that I'm deeply, profoundly missing the point (and you might be right, I do wonder sometimes;)). But this episode just reminded me how rampant eroticized violence against women is in the media, and how much I hate it. So watching the episode irritated me for many reasons, including that I'm used to "True Blood" eroticizing violence against EVERYONE, and thus not worrying about my brain reflexively linking the show's gore with gender politics. Of course, I don't think that my experience makes the episode bad or offensive, but I do think this is the source of my discomfort with it.
Theresa DeLucci
8. theresa_delucci
@5 What I like about Eric being lovelorn is that it adds some depth to his character. He's a bad ass, kinda smarmy vampire who we've seen rip a man apart. But he gets all daydream-y over Sookie. It is cute.

I like horror movies and such, so it's not that I found the violence too graphic or anything, just the ideas behind it. I stil think Tara is weak, vampire kidnapper or no. She's written as weak. We had the mind control of Maryann and no we've got Franklin. She has no control over herself. And I'm hoping this is just set-up to show us how Tara's changed from last season, if she stakes the hell out of Franklin.

Everyone on this show is finding themselves caught between a rock and a hard place, I agree. But, like rosetintdworld, I think the episode went a little overboard this week. Or, by some fluke, most of the women just got it so much worse than the guys.

And bondage is only sexy if it's between consenting adults. Miss Estonia trussed up for some fun with Eric? A-okay! The Magistrate tying Pam up in the same contraption for torture and questioning? Not a sex scene. (Even though Pam makes anything look good.)
Cathy Mullican
10. nolly
You seem to be missing the fact that a vampire can be completely controlled by his/her maker. We saw it with Godric and Eric, and we're seeing it with Lorena and Bill. It's not just emotional manipulation; she is forcing him to do these things, for her own twisted power-tripping pleasure. Bill doesn't have a choice in the matter. The more ethical vamps don't do this, except in cases of dire need -- IIRC, Bill did use it to save Jessica's family -- but Lorena is anything but.

Tara and Franklin is one to watch; the dynamic so far is quite different from that described in the character intro video HBO has on YouTube.

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