On 'True Blood,' Torturing, Stealing, and Cheating for the Greater Good

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Characters committed a range of atrocities this week, from brainwashing to gang rape—but they did it with the best of intentions

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HBO


This week's episode of True Blood isn't unusual for any of its major motifs: manipulation, addiction, tribalism, lots of sex. In fact, it seemed like all the usual topics were streamed to us in a condensed version, possibly to contrast deliciously with Eric's adorable new-found innocence.

Everybody seemed to be struggling with drug (V) addictions, or trying to steal from little old ladies, or raising the dead, or cheating on and brainwashing their boyfriends, or torturing and gang-raping innocent do-gooders. The creepiest part was that the worst of these actions were well-intentioned—the gang-rape was to save the panther clan from going extinct. Brainwashing Hoyt was to save him from the pain of knowing Jessica had cheated on him. The entrapment video of a vampire biting a human (in what must be an homage to James O'Keefe's ACORN "exposés") was an activist trying to show the truth, even if he has to manipulate it a bit to make it ... truer. And In this paranoid, post-9/11—oh sorry, I mean "post-Russell-Edgington"—world, vampires are ready to throw their own under the bus to protect the group as a whole. Bill orders the entrapped vampire's death, not for the actual biting, but for stupidly putting the safety and structure of all other vampires at risk. Be it drug-hazed enthusiasm or cold-blooded calculation, all lines of thought seem to end up with this logic: This rape, murder, and mayhem is all for the greater good.

The only exception to this spirit of cold-blooded calculation seems to be Eric, and that's only because he's had his mind wiped clean by some sort of spirit of the underworld and isn't up to anything much. Watching Sookie deal with him is like watching a sexier version of Dog Whisperer. (To be clear, Dog Whisperer is not, and shouldn't be, sexy.) You can almost see Eric's metaphorical tail go between his legs when Sookie scolds him for stepping on the carpet with muddy feet, or for draining and killing her fairy godmother. Yes, the amount of shame in both situations seems roughly equal. I'd suggest that Eric's moral hierarchies were wiped out with the rest of his memories, but apologizing at all is actually a step up for him.

Eric has always been the suavest, most manipulative character on the show—he's always had a plan, and usually that plan had him several steps ahead of the other players. Now it seems possible that Bill might have been a step ahead of him, sending him in to break up the necromancer's circle with the intention that Eric would not emerge unscathed (if at all). Bill has already been caught lying to Sookie about how they met, and we know he was involved in some rather complicated vampire espionage to infiltrate the monarchies to which he'd sworn loyalty. We even know he lied about Sookie's powers to the group that put him in power—the American Vampire League. Plus, he's having a lot of sex.

So, now that Eric is sweet, wide-eyed, and fiercely protective of Sookie, and Bill has become the consummate politician, have they basically switched roles? How long will this last? Hopefully at least long enough to see Eric giggle at having his feet tickled once more.

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Clarissa Matthews contributes to TheAtlantic.com, mostly in the form of product management. She is a graduate of Swarthmore College and Columbia University's Publishing Institute and lives in Washington, D.C.

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