True Blood: “Fire in the Hole” Season 7 Episode 3 Review

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This week’s episode makes up for its tonal unevenness with a few surprise twists.

If you’ve ever taken a high school English class, then you probably know what happens at the end of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. After Lennie causes a whole mess of trouble on the farm, George meets him in a private neck of the woods to retell the story of the bright future they have ahead of them. Then he shoots Lennie in the back of the head—a violent act done out of compassion.

In the otherwise engaging 1992 film adaptation of the novel, George (Gary Sinise) meets Lennie (John Malkovich) in the same spot to commit the same harrowing deed. This time, however, George quickly cuts his friend off mid-sentence and shoots him before there’s any chance for the moment to have emotional resonance. It’s shocking, for sure, but there’s no mounting tension to really allow the scene to have the same effect as its book counterpart.

That’s pretty much how it felt when Alcide was abruptly shot at the end of this week’s episode. It was sudden and outrageous, but after the initial shock wore off, there wasn’t really much to feel for. I’m not saying that every show with major character deaths has to have the same gut-wrenching quality of, say, Game of Thrones‘ Red Wedding episode, but they could certainly look to the fantasy series for how to make these dark moments feel meaningful. It’s fitting that Alcide died saving Sookie, especially since she previously admitted to Bill that she didn’t love him as much as he loved her. The whole of their relationship, however, took place during an unseen time jump, making it difficult to really feel the weight of her loss. Oh well, at least Alcide didn’t die at the hands of his terrible werewolf pack.

Lest you think True Blood is one of those shows that keeps all its surprises for the final few minutes, “Fire in the Hole” has a few other tricks up its sleeve to build excitement along the way. Back in France, Pam confronts Eric about his Hep-V and he states that the war is over. He’s seen way too many people die because of him. His flashback to his romance with a French girl named Sylvie is interesting—and not just because of Pam’s amazing 80s hairdo. Having thugs from the Yakumono organization force him to make a Sophie’s Choice further strengthened the bond between him and Pam, and introduced us to far more compelling villains than the rabid H-Vamps attacking Bon Temps.

Also, not that it’s a competition or anything, but Eric’s flashback > Bill’s flashback. Seriously, I’m all for him bonding with Sookie again, but I don’t see the necessity of watching him take a wartime photo with his family. It seemed like a waste of potential character development.

Then there was the reemergence of Sarah Newlin (the always entertaining Anna Camp). Her character has always been a hilarious foil to the more serious villainy the show presented, so I’m excited to see her return to the storyline. Having her plot intersect with the Yakumono agents means she’ll soon be reunited with Eric, and the show will be another step closer to making its world more focused.

Back in Bon Temps, the town mob grows more rowdy by the second, leading to some tense confrontations with Sam, Alcide, Andy, Jessica, Jason, and Jason’s obnoxious vampire girlfriend who has a weird 1800s view of gender norms. (Quick Aside: on a show as progressive as True Blood, her character makes no sense. Would anyone else not mind if she got staked pretty soon, or is it just me? End of Aside.)

Watching the townspeople finally act out against the supernatural state of their surroundings makes for an exciting conflict, and I’m curious as to what the state of Bon Temps will be by the series’ end. Additionally, one of the confrontations led to the death of Mrs. Fortenberry, who I’m sure no one will miss too much. You should’ve been nicer to Hoyt, Mrs. F.

Perhaps the strangest thing about this episode, though, is that amongst all the thrills and twists, there were some slow-burning, intimate character moments. Lafayette and James grew closer together in some scenes that pretty much confirmed they’re soon going to be more than friends. Meanwhile, the Reverend delivers a heartfelt speech to Willa before reluctantly resending her invitation to his home in an attempt to save Lettie Mae from herself.

The strange part is, these scenes really worked. Yet, they feel like they’re part of an entirely different show. Willa and the Reverend are perhaps two of True Blood‘s most minor characters, but his goodbye to her felt perfectly nuanced. I’m not sure what the show is getting at by interspersing these scenes with the show’s more typical heightened action sequences, but I do wonder if the same sort of substance could’ve been placed on Alcide’s death instead. It certainly would make a whole lot more sense.

This is an episode that represents what’s been both good and bad about the show up to this point. A lot of the scenes offered the same intriguing, classically scary entertainment that fans have always been drawn to. Yet other moments felt very misplaced in their efforts to make a connection with the viewers. I’m not really sure what to expect for next week, so all I’ll say is, WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE CHECK THE ONLY KNOWN VAMPIRE BAR FOR THE HOSTAGES? SERIOUSLY, HOW WAS THAT NOT THE FIRST PLACE YOU SEARCHED? Sorry, I’ll calm down now. Grade: B

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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