'True Blood': Like Romeo and Juliet, but Without Romeo or Juliet

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Two factions gear up for battle in the latest episode

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HBO

Anxiety overtook the usual sources of humor this week on True Blood. The funniest moment is at the beginning, when Sookie and Eric apparently crawl home on all four knees in what somehow manages to seem like an orgy with only two people involved. After that, Bon Temps is split by two rival gangs, each probably not alike in villainy, but each certainly terrified of the other and bent on revenge for past attacks—and bent on extermination to prevent future ones. It all comes to a head rather quickly, considering vampires and humans have been living together in Bon Temps for several years now without this level of upset. PR firms could use this example as a horror story to convince prospective clients of the importance of good public appearances. If only Bill hadn’t gotten so power-happy and had used more subtle methods to push the Wiccan group away from necromancy, maybe they could have staggered along in relative peace. But he did get power-happy, and the Wiccans dragged up a spirit with a score to settle, and now the town is suddenly immersed in gang warfare.

Antonia’s speech about the triumph of the human spirit seems to be hitting notes right on that line where freedom fighters transition into terrorists. It is cut and dry, us or them—great pre-battle rhetoric. She declares human spirits to be immortal, while vampires have only emptiness. As most rallies do, this leaves a lot of questions hanging in the air unasked—does it mean every vampire lost their human spirit at the moment of transformation? Does said spirit just get extinguished or does it float around in the ether the same way the spirits of the dead do? What do spirits DO all the time they’re floating around? Apparently not much, because it certainly didn’t distract Antonia during the last 400 years, but you’d think inquiring minds would want to know, just for future reference. For a small group of people about to take on a bunch of vampires, the situation of the afterlife seems like a pretty urgent question—but they hardly ask any questions at all, swept along by panic and Antonia’s oratory.

The witch’s address to the troops is juxtaposed against Bill’s parental pep talk: He assures Jessica that vampires are human deep at the core, and that falling out of love with one person doesn’t mean she’s lost her humanity (hell, the poor girl can’t even lose her virginity, and it seems like humanity would be a much harder thing to get rid of—Bill kindly doesn’t mention this part). This reclamation of humanity seems somewhat at odds with his words earlier in the season, when he told Portia his heart was just too old to love—perhaps watching Sookie and Eric together changed his mind? (Admittedly, humanity and the ability to love aren’t entirely the same thing, but since Bill is relating them in his argument it is fair to assume some connection.) Bill seems much mollified since earlier in the season—earlier he’d condemned vampires to death for stupidity, but last time we saw him he pardoned Eric, basically sending him off with a pat on the head and his blessing to go sleep with Sookie. Now he’s actually hoping to find a way to reach peace with the witches without killing them.

Bill’s reflections on the subject do not relieve Jessica of the desire to find Antonia and eat her face off, and Antonia clearly reciprocates (but with 400 years extra planning time), so this idea of a truce is probably easier said than done. I’m not sure which side counts as the tiger and which side is the one grabbing the tiger’s tail, but they’re in a writhing figure-8 shape with teeth and claws and whatnot, and no one seems to have compiled any exit plans for this particular wrestling match—except, presumably, Alan Ball, because there are five episodes left in this season that will be pretty dull if Bon Temps is about to turn into one big graveyard.

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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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