From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

True Blood Season 2, Episode 5: “Never Let Me Go.”

“Never Let Me Go” is funny and fun and even sort of thematically clever, but for all that, it feels a bit top-heavy with fanservice. Mileage will vary on whether or not that’s a bad thing, obviously, but consider: in the course of one episode, we see Jason wield a rocket launcher, a lengthy flashback to Eric’s viking days, and multiple consummations of boiling sexual tension. I mean, whew. That’s a lot to handle in one hour.

Many Bon Temps residents meet their doubles this week, and we kick off the double-fest with Daphne and Sam. After revealing that she knows Sam’s lonely secret, Daphne leads him out into the woods, casually discarding her clothes as she walks. (Hilariously, Sam picks up every article that she throws away.) And once she’s down to nothing? She turns into a deer. Crazy! Sam’s thrilled to learn that he’s not alone, but the revelation is interrupted by Arlene (whose open hatred of Daphne is my favorite running joke of this season) and Terry, who are also doing some adorable romancin’ in the woods. Daphne runs off, and Sam makes puppy faces.

At the Newlins’ place, Jason is caught in the middle of some mysterious domestic unpleasantness. In a hissed and bitter living room argument, Sarah accuses Steve of “going too far,” and Steve more or less says that the woman’s place is the kitchen, not the war room. When Jason wanders–in his hapless, oblivious way–into the room, the Newlins put on their biggest fake smiles, and Steve quickly ushers him into the Fellowship of the Sun’s armory. “I almost understand,” he murmurs, “why some people believe in divorce.”

Then he shows Jason the flamethrower.

The Fellowship has developed a stockpile that would make Judge Dredd feel naked and inadequate. Automatic rifles full of wooden bullets, silver throwing stars, flamethrowers, rocket launchers — the list goes on. And the last two people who should ever throw a ninja star survey the equipment with huge, boyish grins. Steve says that the time for all-out war is coming, and Jason hefts a bazooka with an expression of pure, transcendent bliss.

Tara, meanwhile, continues to struggle to establish some personal space. She wakes up the morning after her sexy time with Eggs glowing with peace and satisfaction, but the good vibes quickly draw to a close when she finds that Maryann, Eggs, and Carl have moved in. Wait, she says, don’t y’all have a big ol’ palatial mansion? Maryann responds that they were only housesitting the mansion for a friend, who is unfortunately back from Peru just this morning. They have no place of their own, these three–they’re a tight-knit family of wanderers–and they need somewhere to stay for the time being. And hey, Tara has plenty of space!

Tara is sensibly creeped out by this, and sorrowfully tells Maryann that they cannot stay. After all, she’s only just moved in herself. Needless to say, this does not sit well with Maryann. This sits so poorly with Maryann that she drives by Merlotte’s while Tara is at work and, from the parking lot, magics the entire staff into giving Tara hell. Pissed off and exhausted, she comes home that night to the — aha — open and comforting arms of the maenad. Who is, of course, now allowed to stay over for a couple of days. We already knew that Maryann is a user who paints herself as a giver, but her ruthless advance into Tara’s physical space is a creepy and effective literalization, substantially more troubling and dramatic than last episode’s glimpse of her claws.

In Dallas, Sookie meets her double: a telepathic bellboy at the vampire hotel named Barry. Barry begs her to leave him alone, says that talking about their ability will put them in terrible danger, but Sookie follows and interrogates him at every opportunity, eager both to learn from him and to teach him how to focus his abilities. Finally, Barry quits his job just to escape her.

When not stalking bellboys, Sookie takes part in a tense negotiation with the allegedly crazy vampires of Dallas. They do seem pretty crazy: a dude in black cowboy duds advocates open war on the Fellowship of the Sun. Instead, and against Bill’s objections, the group decides to use Sookie to infiltrate the Fellowship. She’ll sneak in, pretend to be a new initiate, and see what she can hear on the psychic shortwave. Eric, who seems to kind of hate the Dallas vamps, seems very pleased with this plan.

Ever suspicious, Bill demands that Eric explain his intense allegiance to Godric. (Who is, remember, twice as old and twice as powerful as Sheriff Northman). Eric pouts, and we flash back to:

Vikings! A long time ago! Rather Less Fabulous Eric has been mortally wounded in noble Viking battle, and his compatriots gather around him. They praise his singular ferocity on the battlefield, and discuss the alcoholic and sexual wonders that await him in Valhalla. Eric clings to life long enough for his buddies to build him a big ol’ Viking cremation platform. And then, in a blur of gore, all of the other warriors’ necks spurt blood, and they slump over dead. A tattooed boy–he looks maybe fifteen–appears, crouched over dying, groaning Eric.

“Are you Death?” he asks.

“Yes,” says Godric. “I am.”

Godric says that he has seen Eric’s prowess on the battlefield, and would like the Viking to wander the world at his side. “What’s in it for me?” Eric mumbles. Godric’s answer? Life. The vampire leans in and begins to feed; present-day Eric redundantly narrates, “Godric is my maker.”

On a different floor of the vampire hotel, a bored and unhappy Jessica phones Hoyt. I don’t know what unholy rites the writers are performing to conjure this caliber of adorable awesomeness, but they have to be sacrificing a small mammal at minimum. Hoyt proposes that he read to Jessica from a comic book, or that they watch TV together long-distance, and Jessica gleefully agrees.

There’s plenty of less adorable romance, of course. After the end of a hectic night at Merlotte’s, Sam and Daphne are the only folks left in the bar. They discuss how it feels to shapeshift, and then take full advantage of the pool table. In Dallas, Sookie and Bill celebrate the one hour anniversary of their last tango with yet another. And at the Newlins’ house, Sarah interrupts Jason’s bath to tell him that she thinks God wants him to feel some joy.

He wants us all to feel some joy.

Episode Grade: 9 out of 10

Eric Gregory spends too much time writing and hiding from the light. His stories have recently appeared (or are forthcoming) in Interzone, Black Static, Strange Horizons, Apex Book Company’s The Blackness Within, and other cool venues. He blogs semi-regularly about books, writing, food, and sundry.

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