Aug 31 2011 3:16pm

True Blood Episode Review: “Burning Down the House”

What a vast improvement this week’s episode of True Blood was over the last tepid offering. Things happened. Eric made sarcastic jokes. Tommy and Sam patched up their relationship. Sookie, Jason, Lafayette, and Jesus came up with a plan to save the hostages at Moon Goddess, including Marnie, from the malevolent Antonia and a bunch of pissed off vampires. This totally went off without a hitch.

Hell, we even spent time at the Bellefleur house without getting annoyed.

“Burning Down the House” was the best kind of episode, balancing some solid action with a heavy dose of character. We saw a lot of relationships change this week.

Sookie used her fairy power on Eric, breaking Marnie’s spell and restoring Eric’s memory. Did Sookie’s power really come from her powerful love of Bill? Seems like. But this can’t be the end of Sookie and Eric either. She’s going to be torn between the two vampires for some time, at least until the Antonia threat is handled. But it was damn good to hear Eric mock Bill, just like old times. “Loveable, isn’t he?” If Sookie’s going to consider being with Eric, she needs to be with the real Eric. The loveable, smug jerk.

Loved how emotional Pam was when she found out Eric was back. And her supremely begrudging gratitude to Sookie. But that last look... if Sookie breaks Eric’s heart, I bet she and Pam are gonna have words.

Not quite ready to think about the looming love triangle drama, Bill focused on work. Would you blame Nan for everything that happened with Marnie? She didn’t want to kill a human. For self-serving political reasons, but still. But I’m definitely with Bill in thinking that this back-and-forth war has gone on too long and it’s time to take Antonia out. I like how a few weeks ago Bill saved Tara’s life in the cemetery but this week he just doesn’t give a shit that she could die in his plan to blow up Moon Goddess and everyone inside.

The other human/vampire love triangle petered out this week. Jason and Jessica aren’t meant to be together. And now there’s this huge, hurtful secret they’re both keeping from Hoyt. Jason’s lucky Hoyt’s too depressed to notice Jason’s weird avoidy behavior. Bros before undead, selfish hoes. And yet I still think Jessica’s a great character, if not a great person. I’m eager to see what will come next for her.

In another ending relationship (it’s contagious in Louisiana this week, it seems) Debbie is totally falling into an affair with Marcus. I’ll say it again, they’re a good match. Dangerous, yes. But if they don’t go all Sid n’ Nancy on each other, I like Debbie with Marcus more than Alcide. His reason for not wanting kinds is kind of ridiculous, but it’s his choice. And Debbie’s allowed to have that be a dealbreaker. Sure, she could handle it better. And her choice of new wolf is unlucky, now that Sam and Alcide are both out for the pack leader’s blood.

Way more tragic was the end of the relationship between Tommy and Sam. I still don’t know what to think about Tommy’s death. I feel a bit cheated, having just watched the episode. Surely there was some other way for the two brothers to make peace, right? Tommy wasn’t popular, but that wasn’t the point of Tommy. I felt like there was just more to explore there. And if Ball was listening to fan feedback on hated characters, why the hell is Tara still alive? WHY?

I hate that Jesus has to put himself in danger to save Tara from Moon Goddess, but I love him for volunteering. What a great boyfriend. I got a distinct Whedon-esque vibe when Lala and Jesus were talking about how much they love each other and saying goodbye before Jesus went over to infiltrate Antonia’s side. I felt forebodingly sweet. And without knowing the episodes biggest twist: Antonia is being controlled by Marnie now, instead of the other way around.

I loved the scene with Jesus, when he realized too late what the situation with his former friend Marnie truly was. I really, really thought Jesus was going to die this week. His heartbreak was palpable. I’m not convinced Jesus won’t die next week to give Lala even more pain. At least we’d never have to see that goofy brujo spirit rubber mask again.

And lastly Terry staged a good ol’ boys intervention with Andy. Without Arlene in the mix, I’m a lot more into this storyline. Even though it does still seem to be happening in a giant, pointless bubble. Maybe Andy will now get himself together enough to help Jason get his sister back from Antonia.

My one burning question this week: what the hell was with the cliche action movie freeze-frame at the very end? Hilarious. Jessica looks pretty hot with an RPG launcher.

Only two more episodes to go!


True Blood airs Sundays at 9PM E/PT on HBO.

Theresa DeLucci has been reviewing television on for three years. Her coverage includes Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, Lost, Dexter and, most recently, Game of Thrones.

Gardner Dozois
1. Gardner Dozois
Agree, this episode was a lot better than last week's. My theory remains that they reacted to fan pressure by shitcanning the whole fairies and were-panther arc they had originally planned for the season, and they've been sort of spinning their wheels ever since as a result, which explains why there's been so much filler.

I don't really regret Tommy dying, but I think that a lot more could have been done with the character than they did, especially with his ability to look like anyone he wanted to look like, which could have caused no end of mischief. The writing's been a bit off for the whole season, and this is just one example of missed opportunities. Find it impossible to believe that Sam wouldn't have tried to save Tommy, either by taking him to the hospital, or, a plan that instantly occured to me as well, getting him some vampire blood. I really don't think his wounds were bad enough to kill him, particularly with intervention, and it's very unrealistic that his brother would have just stood by and watched him die without making some attempt to save him. Alcede's sanctimonious "He ought to be able to choose his time to die" annoyed me, especially as, as far as I know, he'd never even met Tommy before.

My guess is that Jesus dies next week. Yes, there was a very Josh Whedon vibe to the whole thing. Not sure who else is going to go. Almost certainly Nan, although calling her a "beloved character" (they've promised that several "beloved characters" will go) is a bit of a stretch. Perhaps Tara, although if they kill off only gay characters, that's going to cause a lot of uproar. Perhaps Holly. Jason and Sookie will almost certainly survive, as will Bill and Eric, but I'm a bit concerned about Jessica. All the rest are spear-carriers, and will go.

I still wonder if the fairies will reappear before the end of the season, oerhaps to set up a cliffhanger for next season. If they're smart, they'll bring Russell back next season, and concentrate on the main characters fighting him. When Sookie and the others disappeared, I had a moment of worry that they'd all gone to faerieland. Not sure why you would cast a powerful repulsion spell and then react to it's being broken by bringing your enemies INSIDE your fortification. Teasers seem to indicate that something significant is going to happen to Andy on his walk home through the woods; I hope it doesn't involve were-panthers.
Gardner Dozois
2. Gardner Dozois
Just possible that they'll kill off Sam. I think that would be a mistake, but they've made plenty of them this season.
Gardner Dozois
3. Hammerlock
Bill's reactions are remarkably in-line with his character and history--and actually walk back the character through his history.
First he sees the witches as a threat and wants to expediently eliminate them to avoid problems--King Beeel in effect.
Then he sees their primary power/leader as having some honest grievances and seeks to treat with her to reach an understanding...or at least a truce. Gentleman Bill of the first few seasons here--who seeks to minimize casualties and offers his prey post-feeding nutrition tips.
Then Jessica nearly burned and the Tolerance fest was attacked. Now he's back as War Bill--the guy who lived through the savagely bloody civil war battlefields and shrugs off collateral damage as a thing that happens.

It'll be interesting to see where he goes from here.
Ashe Armstrong
4. AsheSaoirse
Jessica goes, I'm done. As it is, I haven't even bothered to watch this episode. The season has pretty much lost me.
Pritpaul Bains
5. Kickpuncher
@1 Your fairies/were-panther arc cancellation theory makes a whole lot of sense. Would help explain the previous few episodes, certainly. I was also mostly okay with Tommy dying but it did seem like an easy way out. There was certainly more there.

@3 Bill has been fantastic this season - probably my favorite character overall thus far in the season. It's also nice to have normal Eric back. Spell-ified Eric was getting way annoying.
Theresa DeLucci
6. theresa_delucci
@4 Aw, that's too bad AsheSaoirse! I've been enjoying your comments. (When you watch.) Sometimes I watch a show even when I kind of hate it to mercilessly snark on it. See: my third season episode reviews of Heroes on You can see my hate evolve each week. It was kind of fun.

@1 Yes! There was so much more mayhem Tommy could've done as a skinwalker. And I found it really too much to think that Sam and even Alcide would just stand around going "Yup, let him choose his time of death." It was very out of character. It really felt like the writers just gave up.

I think Jesus and Holly are definitely in danger of death. Nan, too. I don't think I'd count Tara as a "gay character" though. She only had a girlfriend for a few months. I think it was more her trying on a new persona. I do wonder if we'll ever see said girlfriend again. While I've mostly enjoyed this season episode-by-episode, the lack of much structure is pretty apparent. But I'd be very surprised if anyone who has ever made it onto an HBO poster dies (Sookie, Jason, Tara, Lala, Sam, Alcide, Bill, Eric, and Jessica.) Pam's nearly as much of a fan fave as Lafayette. I think she's safe. Will Marnie's death end that rotting spell?

I'm actually on vacation through September. I sure hope my hotel has HBO.
Gardner Dozois
7. cdv102
Someone on another site mentioned that they thought angels were going to be brought into the mix next season. If so, I can see them resurrecting Tommy in that way. After he killed his parents, he went on and on about how he was going to hell. And then in the death scene he insists that there is no heaven. So he might just come back as an angel next season to say, "Holy crap, Sam. You were right!" Of course, he'd have to be some sort of kickass avenging angel to make it interesting.

I agree that Debbie and Marcus make more sense as a couple, but if the kids thing was going to be a deal breaker for her, why did she get back together with him in the first place? That's the whole reason they broke up to begin with. In any case, I can't wait for the line that is surely coming after Sam kills Marcus all kinds of dead. "You killed my Marcus!" Not as funny as "You killed my Cooter!" but still. She's not much for loyalty, is she? "My man didn't come home last night and hasn't called me all day. Instead of worrying about what might have happened to him, I think I'll just start sleeping with our new pack leader." Blegh.

I'm so with Eric in regards to Sookie still loving Bill. "How is that possible??" If Sookie doesn't want him, I'll take him.
Gardner Dozois
8. Gardner Dozois
The writing has been slack in several places this season. The first thing they ought to do if they want the series to survive is hire some new writers for next season, or put the fear of God into the ones that they have. Wasting the potential of the Tommy character, and having Bill and Alcide just stand around watching Tommy die are not the only examples of lazy writing this season, taking the quickest or easiest way out of a situation with more potential than they bothered to realize. The writing, and the hard-edged snarky attitude, are really the only things that have made TRUE BLOOD stand out from other shows, and if the quality of the writing declines, they're in trouble.

How many "beloved characters" do they really have left to kill off, realistically speaking? I think Jesus is toast. Nan certainly is, although I don't think anyone really considers her to be a "beloved character." Alcide's a possibility, since he's sort of peripheral to the main action anyway. Andy? Terry? They're also periphearal, and they don't look as good with their shirts off as hunky Alcide does.
Gardner Dozois
9. Gardner Dozois
@ 7, with the Marnie arc, they've opened a couple of cans of worms they might have been better off not opening, primarially that there IS an Afterlife, and human souls survive and go there after death. If that's true of humans but not vampires, then vampires really are Damned by some overarcing supernatural authority, call it God if you like, in spite of being immune to crosses and Holy Water. Although Godrick has visited Eric as a ghost. So is there an Afterlife for vampires too, where their souls survive death in some other form? For SOME vampires? Or is Eric just nuts? Before, it was easy to say that he was hallucinating Godric, but the demonstrated existence (in the narrative universe of the show) of human souls after death, including Sookie's Grandmother, whose identity has persisted enough that she knows who she is and who Sookie is and wants to protect her, opens the whole religious angle again, something the show has, probably wisely, stayed away from up until now, attributing the existence of vampires to some vague "magic" that they don't even understand.
Ashe Armstrong
10. AsheSaoirse
@4 Aw, that's too bad AsheSaoirse! I've been enjoying your comments. (When you watch.) Sometimes I watch a show even when I kind of hate it to mercilessly snark on it. See: my third season episode reviews of Heroes on You can see my hate evolve each week. It was kind of fun.

D'aw, thanks. I've tried to keep up but it's just been hard to care. First there was everything with Crystal, which, thank the gods of TV, got dropped. And then things with Tommy got worse and Tara got whiny and annoying again and I think maybe Sam and Jessica (I like Sam when he's not being pointlessly aggressive) will get some decent stories but then no and kinda but handled badly (respectively). Eric got too nice sometimes too. I mean, amnesiac, I get it but sometimes it was just too much. Lala also got stripped of some of his super gay chutzpah.
Also, a friend of mine finally got me to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender so that kind of took over. And Doctor Who came back. And I started back to school this week and had to spend time straightening out financial aid.

Oh and Alcide. I really like Alcide. He's good people. Why is he used the way he's used? Why you make Ashe sad this season, True Blood?

All that being said, I was waiting on your review to see if going ahead and watching was even worth it this week. You seem to have covered the important points. Tommy's finally dead, yay. Although, I will say that I'm more glad he's dead after the skinwalker stuff came out due to, as some of the above have said, wasted potential. Tommy is a study in wasted potential though. They could've given him an amazing character arc but no, he has to continually be a dumbass redneck. Sigh. Even a year after being shot by Sam.

PS- Still mad at Jason too. I knew she didn't glamor him.

Gardner Dozois
11. Iamme
I too found this to be the better of this season's episodes. More grit, less fluff.

If I remember correctly, Sam mentioned getting Tommy some vampire blood to heal, but Tommy refused. After the physical beating he took and then the bone shifting to turn back from Sam to Tommy, it may have been too late; too much internal damage. I think the Tommy character had run his course and Ball eased him out.

I like Jessica, therefore I want her to stick around although I'm not sure where she'll go from here. Nan? Wouldn't miss her a bit. I look for Jesus to go into the light.

I've enjoyed Bill a lot more this season as well. I think he makes a good King ... so desperate for his kind to blend in with with humans, but unable to deny their true nature.
Gardner Dozois
12. Gardner Dozois
I think Bill makes a better King than Old Eric would have, since Old Eric clearly couldn't care less whether vampires co-exist peacefully with humans or not.
Gardner Dozois
13. Asfandancer
I have never disliked Bill's character, I even defended him when he attacked Sookie in the back of Alcide's truck because he had no idea what he was doing. My problem with Bill from the very beginning and it still holds true, he bores me to tears and he is really inconsistent. Up to this season he has whined and bemoaned his vampire existence, but now that he is king we are suppose to believe he would do anything to defend the race. I think not. Early on in his sojourn with Lorana he really seemed to relish his viscous feeding frenzy self yet he did a complete 160. I kinda liked Tommy, at least he was honest with himself as to who he was. I have always loved Sam and really hated him being portrayed in such a bad light by killing his girlfriend and her lover then drinking so much he turned on his employees. This season he has returned to his good self, but I agree he would not have stood by and just let Tommy die. I have also always loved Terry and enjoyed his intervention with Andy. The only character I really want gone is Alcide. The cast are all such good actors and then there is Alcide. Good body sure but no personality, nothing of substance.
Gardner Dozois
14. Gardner Dozois
Alcide has really become irrelevant to the main plotline, so they could eliminate him without losing much. However, he's enough of a hunk, that I don't really think they will--whether you stay or go on this show, I think, has as much or more to do with your value as eye-candy than with any other factor.

As somebody pointed out elsewhere, you have to wonder how MERLOTTE'S stays open. This episode, EVERYONE who works there, with the exception of Arlene, was either imprisoned, fighting witches, performing an intervention, or off seeking vengence. How do they keep the place open?
marian moore
15. mariesdaughter
Well, there is who I would like to see leave and who is likely to leave.
I would love to see Tara released because I like the character. I hate seeing her tortured every week so that Sookie can be filled with guilt for 5 minutes as she falls in love with the torturer. Unless they find a new "best friend" for Sookie, she will probably remain in the show.

Alas, Jesus. You are the object of a major character's love. Unless you get promoted to major character over Lafayette, you are toast.

However, don't I wish that that Southern gentleman Bill had was on the Kill-Bill list. He's a true example of his era. With honey tones, he orders the death of any one not of his blood.
Gardner Dozois
16. Gardner Dozois
SPOILERS **************

A spoiler trailer preview reel on another site shows Bill fighting another vampire, Sam firing a gun (or brandishing it, anyway), Tara screaming (what else?), Jason lying on the ground with his face horribly burnt, Andy firing a shotgun, Marcus (I think, could be Alcide) lying on the ground, Sookie firing a shotgun, and what seems to be Eric being burned at the stake.

Of course, even if Jason is badly burned, they've got a couple of built-in saves--giving him vampire blood (maybe Jessica does?) or having Lafyette channel his healing ghost for him. Anybody want to bet that Sookie is firing her shotgun at Debbie?

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