Southern Gothic Sundays Return

Were it an actual town, Bon Temps may not be the kind of place you’d want to visit, what with the humidity, poorly-kept roads and rednecks with shotguns, but thanks to HBO, it’s a delightful little imaginary backwater burg filled with half-clothed people to spend an hour with each Sunday night. Take that, real life!

For those of you new to the show, go stream the first three seasons and come back to us. It’s okay. We’ll wait. Are they gone? Okay, now that we’re alone we, the faithful viewers of the show can freely admit that we sort-of-but-not-exactly remember what happened last year without losing True-bie cred with the newbies. So, before they get back, here’s what you need to remember from last season:

When we left the gang, Tara gave herself a sassy new post-trauma/pre-summer ‘do and left town. Sam may have shot his cute brother. Jason was about to play Jim Jones to a bunch of toothless redneck werepanthers. Lafayette and Jesus (not the son of God one, the other one) entered into a new phase of their chef/nurse-witch relationship. Sookie came out of the closet as a fairy. Alcide, Eric and Bill buried Russell in concrete, and then Bill buried Eric in concrete, as well. Now, Bill’s old enough to have lived through the height of 80s primetime soaps, so he should have remembered that episode of Knots Landing when Donna Mills buried a dead Hunt Block under a concrete playground. Didn’t work for Donna, and her eye makeup was a hell of a lot better than Bill’s, so we weren’t that surprised when Eric reappeared dripping in wet concrete, but alive (well, as alive as a vampire can be). Did I mention he was dripping? Dripping. Here’s hoping that unlike Hunt Block, who never quite clawed out of his tomb of obscurity, Denis O’Hare, a really cool actor, pops up again soon. Time will tell, I gue—hey! Welcome back! Okay, now that the first three seasons are as fresh in your mind as your boyfriend’s entrails in a crystal carafe, let’s talk about “She’s Not There,” the fourth season opener of True Blood.

Fairyland. (Filmed on location at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas.)

So, the season opens with Sookie surrounded by a bunch of fairies eating “light fruit.” I assume it would be LiteFruit were Mott’s packaging it, but this stuff is fresh. The nice thing is the fruit’s being plucked from trees that are a lot more generous than the ones in Oz. The nicer thing is that a good number of the boy fairies don’t believe in buttoning their shirts all the way. And walking around with one of these fairyboys (I can call them that; I can also tell Jewish jokes, but that’s another story) is Barry, the psychic bellboy. Remember him? Actually, Barry’s probably Jewish, so I guess I could try to make a joke about that, too. Next time. Among the glistening fruit, fruits and abdominals is Gary Cole, who plays Sookie’s grandfather. This is kind of weird, because he’s been assumed dead for twenty years, but even weirder because this makes the second star of Office Space to appear on True Blood (Remember the vamp Jason killed in the first season? Put a red stapler in his hand, and you’ll recognize him as Milton!). But instead of Ron Livingston showing up as a werewolf, we get Mab, the Fairy Queen. Mab’s a poor man’s Borg Queen. Great cheekbones, but her Alice Krige impersonation needs a lot of work. Turns out the whole thing’s a sham, and fairyland isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The fairies are more like trolls (real trolls, not the To Catch a Predator kind), and they’re bent on harvesting humans for one reason or another. Which is a real pity, and not just because it means more buttoned-up shirts. So all hell breaks loose as Sookie and Mr. Brady escape. All of these fairies going ballistic was, I think, a wonderful ode to the Stonewall Riots on this, Pride Weekend. Grampy Stackhouse gives Sookie a pocketwatch to give to Jason. She starts to cry. I’m pretty sure it’s because he didn’t go to Jared.

Ok, so get this: we learn that they totally Desperate Housewived us and skipped ahead in time. What? Yes. If you look closely, you can see Eva Longoria in the corner shaking her head in disbelief as Jason tells Sookie she’s been gone for twelve and a half months.

It’s at this point we realize that the rest of the episode is going to be all about exposition. Not thrilled about that, especially because that means that this recap is going to be a little more bullet-pointy than intended, but we learn that since Sookie went missing Jason’s become a cop, and it’s regulation that he has to wear a uniform that’s just a little too tight. His sleeves are rolled up just enough to show off the guns, which serve as a nice counterbalance to the weird chin hair he’s now sporting. All is forgiven.

New job. Same old stupid.

Major highlights:

Eric says that while others gave up on Sookie, he…never…did. And we’re reminded that we want him to say everything…that…slowly.

Lafayette, who followed Tara’s lead and done got his hair did, and Jesus (again, not the son of God, the other one) frequent the Moon Goddess Emporium which is not some sort of lesbian book collective, but rather a backdoor coven. Potato/po-tah-to, I know, but still, we’re okay with it because they have a Rhoda Morgenstern-beaded curtain. Aunt Petunia’s there, calling herself Marnie, and she’s a big ol’ witch. Harry Potter’s going to be really pissed about this. Aunt Petunia does some sort of Vulcan mind meld thing and sees Lafayette kissing that guy from Office Space, which totally validates my previous point. Seriously, Alan Ball, Ron Livingston can’t be doing all that much these days, give him a call!

Arlene finds her half-serial killer baby surrounded by Barbie heads. She’s concerned that he’s decapitating them because he’s evil, but I think it’s just because it’s hard for babies to perfect French braiding on doll hair. I mean, have you tried it? Not easy, my friends. Not easy.

In New Orleans, Tara’s let her hair grow back, which seems counterintuitive to her participation in cage fighting. Oh, wait, once the fight’s over, she’s smooching her opponent. Got it. Next…

Sam participates in some sort of civilized anger management/shape shifter support group with a guy whose bowtie makes me hopeful that Amy Pond is going to pop out of the kitchen with fish fingers and custard. That doesn’t happen, but everyone shifts, and we now have visual proof that Sam is hung like a horse.

Tommy, looking Tiny Tim-cute with his bum leg has now inexplicably taken up with Hoyt’s mama. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Who am I kidding? There is. There’s a lot wrong with that.

Oh, and Bill has a new girlfriend who’s given him some tips on how not to look so sallow at press conferences announcing the opening of community centers named in honor of his dead wife. You know, the usual rebound thing.

Show me your teeth.

All in all, not a bad first episode. Heavy on the catch-up, but that’s to be expected when you Growing Pains an audience into the future and have to explain what the hell happened. No Alcide at all, which is, I’m pretty sure, a crime worthy of FCC investigation. I’ll get back to you on that.

The previews feel like the exposition is out of the way and, in episode two, we can get back to finding out why Jason’s locked in a freezer, how Bill became King, and whether or not Eric took advantage of the University of Phoenix’s online night classes to get his real estate license.

Robb Pearlman is an editor of pop culture and entertainment titles, including the upcoming The Joker and The Syfy Book of SciFi. He is the author of The Q Guide to Sex and the City, as well as upcoming adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh.  He is known by name in comic book stores in such wide ranging locales as New York, Gotham City, Brigadoon and Seti Alpha Six. An only child in constant need of validation, he promises to accept your Facebook friend request.

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