After a long day that included burying his brother, Tommy, Sam Merlotte makes sure to tell his lover, Luna, how he feels about her in “And When I Die,” “True Blood’s” Season Four finale. She stops him short of the lovey-dovey talk — he shouldn’t jinx their relationship, she says. But to Sam, there’s nothing to jinx. “I think life is violent and cruel by nature,” he tells her. Life will always be hard, so one might as well enjoy beauty, when he can find it, while he can. Sam’s right: After they say goodbye and Luna drives away, Sam is greeted by an angry werewolf, no doubt looking for payback over Shreveport pack leader Marcus Bozeman’s death. It’s always two steps forward, three steps back for “True Blood’s” characters. Happiness doesn’t last long, and as soon as one enemy appears defeated, more villains emerge — or return — to throw a wrench into everyone’s lives. That’s if they even get to keep their lives. We lost several cast members in “And When I Die,” a blood-spattered and at times heart-wrenching hour filled with probably more cliffhangers (including Sam’s fate) than the series’ previous three season finales combined. For a season that had many fans scratching their head at times, wondering just what Alan Ball and his writers are thinking when it comes to this Southern gothic soap opera, the finale set the series up for even bigger surprises, almost all of which are outside the realm of Charlaine Harris’ novels. Now no one knows what will happen. But for the first time this season, I’m actually excited to find out.
It’s Halloween, or as Holly calls it, Witches’ New Year, the day that “the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest.” Bon Temps residents — already used to their fare share of the supernatural — are in for increased interaction with the spirit world. Sookie can’t shake the feeling that her Gran’s spirit is present at their house, but it’s Arlene who sees the first spirit: Rene (Michael Raymond James), her dead fiance and the father of Mikey. He shows up outside Merlotte’s to warn her about Terry and the ghosts of his past, which perhaps includes Patrick Devins (Scott Foley, “Felicity,” “Grey’s Anatomy”), an old Marine buddy of Terry’s who shows up at the restaurant that day. Sookie stops by Merlotte’s looking to get her job back. Sam, covering his surprise that skinwalking-as-Sam Tommy had fired Sookie days before, welcomes her back, and during her shift she’s visited by Alcide. He tells her he’s given Debbie the boot and asks Sookie to reconsider having a relationship with him. Holly’s only visitor at Merlotte’s is Andy, who comes by at night to apologize for his drug-addled behavior on their first date and to ask for a second chance.
Jason, still battling his guilt, tells Hoyt he slept with Jessica and receives a beatdown from his best friend. Hoyt isn’t buying the “it just happened” line. “It doesn’t just happen. You make choices. You make fucked-up, selfish piece of shit choices!” Hoyt tells Jason he’ll never be able to share with Jessica what he himself did because a part of Jason is “missing,” a dismissal Jason is still contemplating when Jessica stops by his house that night, clad in a Red Riding Hood getup. She tells him she isn’t looking for a serious relationship at the moment, just a fun time, and after sex she leaves to find someone to feed from. She’s not ready to be that intimate with Jason. Soon, Jason gets another visitor: the Rev. Steve Newlin (Michael McMilian), of the anti-vampire church Fellowship of the Sun, who recruited Jason for the cause in Season Two. Jason slept with his wife and helped foil a plot to kill vampires, so Newlin likely isn’t happy with him. But now, Newlin has a surprise: “Trick or treat,” he says, before showing his fangs. He’s a vampire.
It doesn’t take too long for Jesus to realize Lafayette isn’t himself. Marnie is inhabiting Lafayette’s body and plays along with Jesus for a bit in the morning, as Jesus tells his lover he is sorry for bringing him into so much magic so quickly. He even offers to lead a magic-free life, if that’s what Lafayette wants. But it’s his magic that Marnie wants, and soon she has him tied to a chair and demands he give her his abilities. Pleading with Marnie won’t work; she’s become cruel in her rage and immediately threatens to first hurt and then kill Lafayette if Jesus doesn’t do her bidding. Jesus has a choice: It is either his own life, or Lafayette’s. He chooses to sacrifice himself. After he summons his dark magic, his face turning into the tusked demon he channels, Marnie plunges a knife in his stomach and licks the blood from the blade. Her face contorts to the mask and with his magic inside her, she leaves Jesus to die.
Tara, who had stayed at Sookie’s the night before, finds his body and immediately tracks down Sookie at Merlotte’s. Together with Holly, they set out to find Marnie, and as Sookie can’t get a hold of neither Bill nor Eric, they assume Marnie is after the vampires for revenge. Sure enough, she has killed Bill’s guards and somehow captured the two vamps and chained them to a stake to be burned to death on Bill’s lawn. Sookie, Tara and Holly arrive, and Holly pulls out a canister of salt she keeps with her and pours a circle around them and the tied-up vamps. Sookie uses her powers to throw Marnie outside the circle, but Marnie still lights the fire. As Bill and Eric begin to burn, Sookie, Tara and Holly repeat a spell to summon spirits, who appear in the nearby cemetery, including Antonia and Sookie’s Gran, Adele (Lois Smith). Adele pulls Marnie out of Lafayette and Antonia blows out the flames, calling on Marnie to set aside her rage. She’s not ready, Marnie pleads, saying all her life no one has listened to what she wanted. And in a way, it’s the abilities she cherishes that made her such an outcast. “All my life, I’ve been afraid. And who wouldn’t be, with dead people muttering in my ears, making me deliver your messages? Making me into a freak. A creepy, pathetic, terrified mess muttering to herself in the corner.” Life is pain, Antonia tells her, inviting her to join the spirit world and be at peace. “And soon, all you have suffered and feared will be meaningless.” Marnie agrees and retreats back with Antonia, Adele and the other spirits to their world.
After Sookie feeds both Eric and Bill her blood, she decides to confront their love triangle. Bill says he only wants her to be happy, and Eric thinks it’s obvious Sookie should pick him. But Sookie has another plan. “There’s only one way I see this ending, and it’s me walking away with neither of you. This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. But I know it’s the right one for all of us.” She leaves, crying after she shuts Bill’s door, and the surprised vampires later are visited by Nan and a batch of “gay stormtroopers.” She’s left the American Vampire League and was fired from The Authority, and now she wants to recruit Bill and Eric for her mutiny. There’s an order of both of their heads, Nan says, and she had been told to give them the true death. But now she wants to fight back. “I have been alive for 816 years. I refuse to be retired like a fat first wife.” She even tries to use Sookie as leverage, letting them know she knows what Sookie is: “Oh come on, the mind reading, the microwave fingers? You didn’t think I knew what she was?” Bill and Eric try to bluff her, downplaying Sookie’s importance, but when that doesn’t work and she continues to taunt them, Eric quickly beheads all of Nan’s guards and Bill stakes her.
At Sookie’s house, Tara tries to comfort Lafayette, telling him it isn’t his fault Jesus is dead. Later, Lafayette is visited by the spirit of Jesus, who tells him not to be upset about his death and how things played out. “Don’t worry about it,” Jesus says. “Everything’s temporary.” Just keep breathing, Jesus says, and don’t worry — this isn’t a final goodbye. “Dude, I’m dead. You’re a medium. I’ll always be with you.” Later downstairs, when Sookie returns home, she calls out to Tara but is greeted in the kitchen by a gun-wielding Debbie. As Debbie takes aim at Sookie, Tara rushes in and pushes Sookie out of the way. A bullet clips Tara’s head, and Sookie tackles Debbie and wrestles the gun from her. As Debbie begs for her life, Sookie places the barrel under Debbie’s chin and fires. Then, she rushes to Tara, unconscious, and cries out for help. “Please, somebody help! Somebody please help us! Oh God, Oh God, somebody!”
Is Tara dead? She certainly would be the highest-profile character to be killed off on the show, but it’s hard to believe Alan Ball and the writers would get rid of her. But following the words they put in Sam’s mouth in the episode, there’s little that is fair in this violent and cruel world. Tara’s fate isn’t the only cliffhanger fans have to deal with. Alcide was called by a worker in his construction company to a parking garage that now has a gaping hole in its ground floor. The worker has been glamored and Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare), the King of Mississippi who was chained and buried alive in concrete at the site at the end of Season Three, has been dug up. The only person aside from Bill, Eric and Alcide who knew of Russell’s resting place is Pam, and spurned by Eric, she has plenty of motive — not to attack him, but to get rid of Sookie. “Fuck Sookie!” Pam says Halloween night as she wonders where her maker is and the ever-faithful Ginger tells her Sookie called Fangtasia wondering the same. “How can someone named Sookie take him away from me?” She’s upset and desperate, but is she crazy enough to bring the equally crazy Russell back into the picture? Eric and Bill have enough to worry about now that they know The Authority wants them truly dead.
Season Four stumbled a bit with viewers, starting out on a weird note with B movie-level effects and fairy plotlines and slowing down perhaps a bit too much in the middle with the love story of Sookie and addled Eric. But “And When I Die” was nothing short of bold, surprising and even a little upsetting, and it reminded fans why they are fans in the first place: Tara possibly dead, Sam facing a werewolf, Jason facing a vampire, Sookie having murdered someone, Arlene wondering about Terry’s past, a crazed vampire king out for blood. Now, we have a year to wait for answers. Too bad waiting sucks.
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.