Sunday night's True Blood opened with a soft-core sex scene (or the beginnings of one, rather) between two of its most drooled-over characters. But of course it turned out to be a fakeout, because that's what True Blood does.
To set the stage: the episode opens with Alexander Skarsgard's Eric Northman — last seen by viewers catching fire in the polar sunlight — at a villa of some kind. What kind? Who cares? He stands by the window when he's joined by Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten), who is there for ... what reason? Again, who cares? He certainly seems like he wants to have sex with Eric, though. It's at this point that anybody watching this episode should know exactly what's going on, if not from the romance-novel aesthetics of the scene (soft lights! warm colors! billowing open shirts!), then certainly from the fact that True Blood has done this very thing before. Sam (Sam Trammell) and Bill (Stephen Moyer) share the same vampire-human connection that Jason and Eric do; theirs was the first time True Blood went for the "hot gay hookup, oops! just a dream" gambit.
So back to Eric and Jason, what follows is an undoubtedly hot scene, particularly if what you're into is tongue-less kissing. And then, just before everybody's pants come off, Jason wakes up, because this was a dream, because of course it was. So ... what was all that for? Even the most casual of TV viewers could glean the fan-service nature of the scene. The show is in its final season, it knows full well that the fan base is in it mostly for the steamy, sexy nature of the show. It also knows that it'll never go broke pandering to those who want to see Eric and Jason naked. Why not just give the fans what they want?
The problem, of course, is that it's monstrously, almost hilariously pandering to its audience of gay men and the women who like the idea of gay men. (The audience, it should be noted, ate it right up, if any glance at Twitter last night was any indication. BuzzFeed sums up the general tenor of the reaction quite nicely.) This isn't a storyline. These aren't real people. There isn't even any expectation that Jason's dreams will ultimately lead him down the road to any kind of sexual awakening. It's just a tossed-off bone (no pun intended) to its audience, in lieu of anything real.
In seven seasons of this extremely sexual show, full of every conceivable type of cross-creature sexualization, there have only been a handful of same-sex relationships, and almost none of them taken at all seriously. ("Seriously" on True Blood is an odd notion, yes, but if there's anything the show believes in, it's the groaning import of its straight characters' love lives.) This despite the fact that True Blood is a show with no bonds to any sense of reality, nor any expectations that its audience would push back against such content. This show has an absolute blank check from its network and its audience when it comes to gay content, and what we get in return is pandering soft-core with zero story weight whatsoever?
This is, sadly, par for the course for True Blood, a show that's constantly praised as being one of TV's gayest, but what do we get? We get winking dream sequences, we get sad gay crushes, we get quickly-forgotten lesbian dalliances. Yes, sure, we got a season of Lafayette and Jesus, ending in tragedy. And the third-season episode where Eric has sex with a rival vampire only to stake him to death mid-orgasm, while perverse, was actually totally in line with the grotesqueness of the show. That worked. That was sexy and violent. That ... wasn't a dream.