Jumping The Zombie, or: The Literal Ghost In The Machine: True Blood, Season Six Finale Reviewon August 19, 2013 at 10:10 am
About two-thirds of the way through the sixth season finale of True Blood, Amanda asked me what I thought the Big Bad for next year’s season seven would be. “We haven’t see zombies yet,” Amanda said sarcastically.
“Oh, it’s zombies,” I said. “They’re talking about gangs of vampires loaded up with Hepatitis V, mindlessly picking off the entire populations of small towns? They can call them anything they want, but that’s zombies.”
“Jesus… there are literal volumes and volumes of monsters they could choose from and they had to ape The Walking Dead? I mean, if they wanted to go with a George Romero riff, they could go with some poor deluded fucker like Martin, but they gotta go with zombies? What does that mean?”
“It means that they are out of ideas.”
True Blood has learned one thing from Breaking Bad: how to bring everything up to a big climax, and then set everything back to almost normal so they have to start everything all over again. At the start of this episode, Bill was a god whose blood allowed the vampires to daywalk, vampires were enjoying daylight games of volleyball, croquet and other sports favored by nudist magazines of the 1940s, and Warlow was ready to take Sookie as his vampire bride into fairyland where she could live eternally and irritate a whole new set of people for a while. By the end of the episode, all of that was undone; Bill was just a gentleman douchebag again, Sookie was safely back in Gramma’s house and fucking the most supernatural dude she could get her hands on, and vampires were back in the shadows again. Sure, there were a few changes, like Sam is the mayor now, and people are afraid of the upcoming vampire zombie hoards (but not so afraid that they can’t spend the night recklessly drinking outside at the local dive bar), but in general, things are just the same as they’ve always been…
..what? Don’t look at me like that. Sure, I’ve never written about True Blood before, but I watch it. Yeah, it’s not high art, but it has monsters and superpowers and tits and ass, and is generally big, stupid summer fun. It’s usually nice, easy genre watching to catch with a beer buzz and close out the weekend, but not worth getting worked up over… right up until this episode, where they not only went to a place to try and catch the relevance wave of The Walking Dead, and did it with a plot device so old and crusty that even an original Greek playwright would say, “Zeus almighty… the only thing more hackneyed would be if they went with, ‘And then she woke up.’”
So let’s start with the Warlow / Bill-As-Vampire-God (I will not use the word “Billith” seriously, as I am a grown fucking man) situation and its resolution: Are you fucking kidding me? Don’t get me wrong, a lot of it rang true, particularly from the standpoint of characterization, which actually was kind of a relief; Sookie would be attracted to the biggest, baddest supernatural dude on the block, no matter whether or not he killed her parents or not. I believe I heard someone call her a “danger whore” in this episode, and that’s Sookie down to two words. And that’s something that was an important thing to remember when in a two-episode span, she want from preparing to kill Warlow to banging him in a cemetery, six feet above some poor dead guy who didn’t ask for any of this shit.
That same characterization was in place for Jason, who finally had a hard-on to kill a vampire again. Sure, it happened while he was still busy calling himself beholden to Violet and trying desperately to bang her, but stupid, blustery Jason is fun, and it was good to see him again… even just for a couple of minutes.
But the actual resolution to the Warlow / daywalking vampires situation was so Goddamned weak and hack that it almost boggled my mind. It was a real and legitimate intervention by an honest to God Ghost In The Machine, with the only thing saving it from being a horrible and desperate move from out of nowhere was the vague setup of the possible return of Rutger Hauer several episodes back. Seeing an ethereal figure come from nowhere to save Sookie from Warlow was almost too much to bear. What’s it gonna be next time? Jesus comes back and blows vampires up with his Holy Blunderbuss of Pain?
And even all that ridiculous conclusion took was having Warlow suddenly shift character from a 5,000-year mooning lovesick half-fairy into a dude – any dude – from a Lifetime Original Movie, but what the hell; we’ve seen people shift their characterization on a dime for no reason at all more than once in this season. Like Bill, who in about 20 programming minutes went from imperious God right back to mooning over Sookie like some 15-year-old with priapism and far too many viewings of Say Anything under his belt. Having spent nine and a half episode with Bill as an unforgivable cocksucker, to have him literally magically be a good ol’ boy again felt less like a natural plot development and more like Anna Paquin told the showrunners that if they killed her husband’s character, they’d need to find some other geek movie star to show her tits in every other episode.
And for the love of God: zombies? Why did it have to be zombies?
That’s actually a purely rhetorical question; of course it was gonna be zombies. Only a Goddamned fool would have a show about various supernatural monsters, see the weekly numbers in that magical 18 – 35-year-old male demographic coming out of AMC’s The Walking Dead and not find a way to bring zombies into the show. And while I’m sure there’s a good story to be had in the idea of vampires vs. zombies, it is currently being told by Max Brooks in the Avatar Comics series The Extinction Parade. And at least in that story, there’s a real concept behind it: as alpha predators, vampires have never needed to fight for their lives as they watch their food source being polluted by actual zombies. Here? It feels more like a rating grab, which is a hell of a thing to say about a show that promises six-pack abs for the ladies and boobs-a-plenty for the fellas every week. Particularly considering that the alleged cause, Hep-V, was shown just a couple of weeks ago to turn vampires into crippled, wheezing sacks of goo in just a day or two.
Look, the season finale of True Blood wrapped everything up as well as can be expected, and as usual, left a couple of cliffhangers in the form of marauding vampire zombies and the fate of Eric (Of course, the shot of him on fire in the mountains panned back to show that he was about 30 feet away from shade and fire extinguishing snow in any direction. So as cliffhangers go, well, I guess it is one). But it did it by using plot devices that went out of style with togas and birth control in the form of buggery, and by introducing the one form of monster that is well-covered in other television shows, movies and video games. It felt abrupt, almost like the showrunners were saying, “Okay, okay; we’ll get this shit out of the way for you. But hey! You like The Walking Dead, right?”
Sure, the season as a whole wasn’t as bad as some others, but this wasn’t a particularly good note to end things on. It was rough enough that, after two seasons where this Web site has existed while this show has been on, one of us finally had to comment on an episode.
And considering that it meant that I, a guy, had to go on record as actually watching True Blood? That’s a hell of a rough episode.