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It’s Too Late to Say You’re Sorry: “True Blood” S4:E1, “She’s Not There”

By Sarah Carlson | TV | June 27, 2011 |

By Sarah Carlson | TV | June 27, 2011 |

(Note: Episode 2 of “True Blood” Season Four is now live on HBO GO, but it won’t be recapped here until next Monday.)

“It’s a post-Russell Edgington world,” to be sure, as the American Vampire League’s Nan Flanagan (Jessica Tuck) told us in “True Blood’s” Season Four premiere. But did Edgington take all the fun to his concrete grave in the Season Three finale? Judging from previews of this season, I think not, but Sunday’s episode, “She’s Not There,” was more focused on tricks than treats. Alan Ball and Co. must have been in the mood for a gamble: They jumped in time a year. This device has been deployed plenty on TV, to both great and detrimental ends (“Battlestar Galactica” may have done it best in recent fare). It’s a big risk for “True Blood” because the time from of its first three seasons has only been a few months, with each season picking up exactly where the other left off. Only one episode into Season Four, it’s tough to tell if “True Blood” made a smart or a cheap choice by having telepathic heroine Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) visit Fairyland with her godmother, Claudine (Lara Pulver), for what seemed to her a few minutes but in actuality was a year. But now we’re just as out of the loop on the goings-on of Bon Temps as she is. It’s both intriguing and frustrating, and at least for this season’s opener, not quite as fun. Because in this world, everyone is a bit darker, a bit colder, and none of us has our bearings.

Sookie wasn’t fooled into eating “light fruit” along with the other humans present during her brief trip to Fairyland, and seeing her grandfather, Earl Stackhouse (Gary Cole), dead 20 years, present furthered her suspicions. Being part fae herself, Sookie has brought on a world of trouble to the fairies through her run-ins with vampires, who crave fairy blood and its ability to let them walk in the sun. Vampire Bill’s (Stephen Moyer) visit set them off, and soon Sookie realizes the fruit is being used as a sort of reaping to disable humans with fae blood from leaving Fairyland. The fae don’t want any more vamps or humans knowing about them, and this includes Barry the bellboy (Chris Coy) from Season Two. Sookie and Earl escape, though not before the fairies let down their beautiful facades and resemble a cross between Orcs and Anjelica Huston a la “The Witches” and provide a chase scene straight out of B-movie heaven.

Because he ate the fruit, Earl dies again back in Bon Temps, and Sookie is alone. And from that point, the hits just keep on coming as she learns what happened during the past 12 1/2 months. To move the plot along, “She’s Not There” has to catch viewers up instead of flesh stories out, whether it’s by showing Arlene (Carrie Preston) had her potentially-evil child, Mikey, or that Tara (Rutina Wesley) is now living in New Orleans and … working as an ultimate fighter? Sookie herself kind of gets the shaft.

Because everyone is in a different place from where we left them, here’s a brief rundown of how things stand:

  • Sookie’s brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), is a sheriff now and had put the family house (now painted and revamped) on the market, assuming Sookie was dead. He seems almost good at his job, too, while Detective Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) has become addicted to V (vampire blood).
  • Both Bill and Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) felt Sookie’s presence when she returned, but Eric claimed he was the only one who believed she wasn’t dead. In fact, he revealed at the end of the episode that he was the mysterious buyer of the house, meaning he can come and go as he likes and tells her at the end of the episode that she, too, is his. Bill seemed happy to see her but has also moved on, though he covered for Sookie with Andy and said he had sent her on “secret vampire business” for the past year. That vampire business excuse is a flimsy one, considering the worry her loved ones went through, but it can’t be helped.
  • Tara is now going by Tony, has created a backstory that includes having a family in Atlanta and now, most interestingly, likes the ladies. She’s dating the woman, Naomi (Vedette Lim), we see her fighting with in New Orleans, and though she probably has decided never to go back home, a text from her cousin, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), about Sookie’s return may change her mind.
  • Lafayette is still dating Jesus (Kevin Alejandro), who convinces him to visit the Moon Goddess Emporium for a Wiccan meeting to explore their magical sides. There, we meet Marnie (Fiona Shaw), a mild-mannered witch who has her mind set on bring the dead back to life, starting with her pet bird. This surprises everyone gathered for a little Wiccan fun, including Merlotte’s waitress Holly Cleary (Lauren Bowles) and a woman named Katerina, or Katie (Alexandra Breckinridge).
  • Sam Merlotte did in fact shoot his brother, Tommy Mickens (Marshall Allman), in the Season Three finale for stealing his money, and now Tommy, with a leg still injured, is dining with Maxine Fortenberry (Dale Raoul) at Merlotte’s. No doubt Maxine is using him as a replacement for her son, Hoyt (Jim Parrack), who she has given up on thanks to his love for the vampire Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll). Those two are still living together, although their domestic bliss comes straight out of a Franzen novel. They love each other, but it’s obvious that the arrangement can’t be enough for the young Jessica, a fact Pam (Kristin Bauer) calls her on when they visit Fangtasia.
  • Sam tells Tommy he is taking anger management classes, although the meeting we see him attend is a gathering of three other shapeshifters who drink together, commiserate together, and then turn into horses and go running together. This is not the sweet Sam we met in Season One (or fans of the books know and love).
  • Jason appears to be the only one who has improved for the better, and he still is taking care of the poor residents of Hotshot. Although now, his beloved Crystal Norris (Lindsay Pulsipher) is nowhere to be found. His generosity for bringing groceries to the compound gets him locked in a cooler at the end, though, but someone unseen.
  • The aforementioned Katie, from the coven, apparently is a vampire spy. Once she saw Marnie’s goal of bringing the dead back to life, she went to alert the vampire king — Bill. I’m assuming he defeated the queen, Sophie-Anne (Evan Rachel Wood), in last season’s finale, and Bill turned politician makes some sense. But that twist may have been the most shocking of the premiere. (Side note: Was he giving romantic looks to the pretty lawyer and Andy’s sister, Portia Bellefleur (Courtney Ford)? Because technically, she is his descendent. Let’s hope not.)
  • “Everyone who claims to love you, they all gave up on you. I. Never. Did.” That’s how Eric welcomed Sookie back to the land of the living, a rude awakening for a woman who, in her time frame, had just had her heart broken about an hour previously by Bill. While all are surprised to find she’s returned, none really deliver the kind of breakdown the situation deserves. They’ve mostly moved on. Sookie seems as alone as ever now, but she’s grown stronger during her supernatural shenanigans. She’s handling the I-missed-a-year-of-my-life discovery rather well, and viewers don’t have much option but to also take it in stride. “She’s Not There” was a reintroduction both for her and viewers on the Bon Temps world — engaging, but not thrilling. Just a necessary study session for a season that promises more twists. Here’s hoping they pay off.

    Sarah Carlson has a front-row seat to the decline of the newspaper industry and lives in Alabama with her overly excitable Pembroke Welsh Corgi.

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