True Blood‘s Final Season Premiere: “Jesus Gonna Be Here”

No one’s expecting Game of Thrones-level excellence here, but HBO’s True Blood has its own measuring stick. Gooey globs of dead vampires? Check. Strong sexual content and bare breasts? Check. Pam dropping hilarious F-bombs? Check. Baby-vamp Jessica crying and being all Emmy-worthy? Check. Sookie doing something completely stupid? Double check.

By that regard, “Jesus Gonna Be Here” was a pretty great True Blood premiere, setting up Bon Temps for a final confrontation between the supernatural and the human. It helps that last season’s awfulness was pretty much wiped clean in the previous episode. It’s a big ol’ reset on a show literally on its last legs, as this is the final season. For the few remaining die-hards, the tension should be enough to keep things interesting. And for viewers like me, watching more out of nostalgia and curiosity, there’s just enough humor—intentional or not—and sex appeal and even some genuine surprises that I almost feel excited that the show is back. Or maybe I’m just deluding myself into thinking True Blood will come full circle and go out as satisfyingly as it was ushered in.

Tara
No way is there going to be a final season without Tara. My guess is she glamored her mother and went in search of Pam. Or else the True Blood writers really hate Tara so much that even Terry Bellefleur got a longer, more emotional send-off than Sookie’s best friend. For the second time.

Sam
Oh right, Sam’s the mayor of Bon Temps and it was his brilliant idea to host an outdoor vampire-human mixer. There wasn’t a rec hall somewhere in town? Okay, anyways. It was a cool opening clusterfuck. At least vampires kill fast, not like those slow-moving zombies on Walking Dead. Still doesn’t mean the similarities to that other show aren’t glaring here; small town folk are abandoned by the law, human vigilantes are nearly as dangerous as the monsters, deserted trash-strewn streets, etc. Sam’s pregnant girlfriend was one of the kidnapped townsfolk, along with Holly and Arlene. Oh joy, another season of Arlene screaming. Can’t wait!

Sidenote: Sam’s civic-minded vampire protector gave me a weird vibe. Don’t know why. I think Sam’s opponent Vincent will be the Big Annoyance this season.

Jason and Violet
Finally Did It. At least that’s one dumb plotline over with immediately. I want to make a Chekhov’s gun reference here: you don’t introduce Jason Stackhouse’s… gun… in the first season for him not to use it in the last. Beyond that, will we finally get to see Jason be a hero again? Instead of a whiner? Here’s hoping.

Willa
Who? And who cares?

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Lafayette
Okay, True Blood. You’ve got about five seasons of horrible victimization, tragic romance, and ridiculous brujo masks to make up for and do right by this character. Even the witches on American Horror Story: Coven had a better plot than Lafayette last season. So, having him spend the bulk of this episode drunk and high was maybe not the best harbinger of good things to come. What did intrigue was the glimmer of spark between Lala and Jessica’s boyfriend James. I definitely think James was intimating that when he was human, he was more than best friends with the boy next door. The possibility of Jessica and Lafayette fighting over James is just the kind of new love triangle that I’d be interested in seeing. Nelsan Ellis and Deborah Ann Woll are arguably the best actors on the show and they rarely get to share scenes, let alone a love interest.

James 2.0
Sigh. Not as hot as the original James. It’s like Daario all over again. Why does HBO keep downgrading the hot blonds for greasy, stubbly brunettes? This is only one opinion, of course. Also is “smoke out” a phrase? Maybe it’s a regional thing.

New York Times bestselling author Bill Compton
Yup, Bill’s six-month journey from writing a novel to having it hit the Times’ list still cracks me up, months later. Oh please let a fan ask him to sign a copy in the middle of the apocalypse. But I think that’d be too much continuity for True Blood to handle.

While I think it’s no big secret that Sookie will hook up with Bill, there wasn’t much romantic tension between the two this week. Instead, Bill’s doing his part to help Andy and the other humans root out the nest of Hep-V vampires plaguing the South. (And the world at large.) I’m glad Andy was acting true to his character’s complicated history with Bill, given what Bill’s progeny did to his family.

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Jessica

Still loving Jessica’s decision to protect Andy’s family out of guilt. But it doesn’t seem wise to try remaining stalwart in the face of hunger. I was really loving all of the conflicted emotions playing across Woll’s face as she mourned Tara, fought her natural urges, and tried to keep her distance from her charge’s delicious fey blood. The boy-talk was particularly great, a human moment between two young woman who are definitely not.

The vamp at the end of Andy’s driveway was really creepy. While it was so obvious Adilyn would invite Jess in by hour’s end, the vamp-on-vamp standoff was pretty solid. Next time Jess might remember to pack some stakes though.

Pam

Lady Go-Fuck-Yourself, how I missed you. While I’m excited to watch Pam be pissed off in exotic new locales, it’s the “love and pain in her eyes” that makes Pam’s search for Eric so sad. She’s looking for someone who doesn’t want to be found. Will Tara find her before Pam self-destructs?

Sookie

Is Sookie reading the audience’s thoughts, too? Not the slut-shaming, because that is truly awful. I give Sookie a lot of credit for still wanting to help her townsfolk when she can hear every ugly thought. More the blaming Sookie for everything that sucks about Bon Temps and, by extension, True Blood. She really is the weakest link.

It’s so obvious that her relationship with Alcide is doomed, but at least Alcide isn’t going down without a fight. While it wasn’t kind for him to be wishing he and Sookie left town before the bloodbath, everyone’s allowed private thoughts. And if cognitive behavior therapy teaches anything, it’s that sometimes thoughts are just… thoughts. They come, they go. They don’t always paint a full picture and Alcide had every right to defend himself. Anyway, after some offscreen silent contemplation (I assume), Sookie forgives Alcide for having his own thoughts and gets naked and climbs into bed. All is well, for now.

Ending the season premiere with an impassioned speech by Sookie wasn’t the most exciting note, truthfully. The last beat seemed redundant. Of course Sookie’s going to fight to protect her town. I wish we could’ve gotten a little hint about Eric’s fate instead. What fun is True Blood without a little tease?

But kudos to the show for highlighting a great Tom Waits song. Always love True Blood’s end credit choices.

Quote of the week: Pam had some gems in Morocco, but Jason’s “What the fuuuuuck!” as he angrily exited his car had me giggling.

Next week: If Tara and Eric are still alive, the preview for what’s to come this season isn’t giving it away. Instead we see a lot of blood, tears, and some more fairy lights.

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


Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com, covering True Blood, Game of Thrones, and gaming news. She’s also the resident Hannibal fannibal at Boing Boing. Follow her on Twitter @tdelucci

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