By Eric Eidelstein | Indiewire June 19, 2014 at 5:24PM
The past six seasons of HBO's "True Blood" have been eventful -- to say the least. What started off as a dark and sexy series about an innocent Louisiana waitress and her broody, mysterious vampire lover has evolved into a drama with werewolves, fairies, witches and way too many plot lines to count. While the show arguably lost some of the steam (and acclaim) that made it so popular in its first three seasons, we must assume that a mixture of curiosity and nostalgia will bring back original fans for the final season.
Therefore, to catch you all up, we decided to create a list of the five essential episodes you'll need to see before this Sunday's premiere. (HBO subscribers, just remember, you have access to previous seasons thanks to HBO Go.)
[Note: This list is made in conjunction with the first episodes of "True Blood's" seventh season. Minor spoilers for previous seasons below.]
Season 5, Episode 1: "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
Season 4 of "True Blood," although fun and featuring a wonderful performance by Fiona Shaw ("Harry Potter"'s Aunt Petunia), didn't do much to advance the plot of the show. Some new characters were introduced, but the season was otherwise slow -- that is, until its finale. The "True Blood" writers seem to love spoilers, which is probably why they decided to end the season with Sookie Stackhouse's BFF Tara Thornton getting shot in the head. (It all happens in the last couple of minutes, just in case you want to skip through the witch stuff.) "Turn! Turn! Turn!," on the other hand, shows us that Tara doesn't really die. Instead, she's turned into a vampire by Pam, vampire Eric's sidekick. Throughout the season, it takes time for Tara to grow into her vampire skin and abandon the resentment she holds for Sookie (for having her turned), but this episode marks the birth of a new (and much more aggressive) Tara Thornton.
Season 5, Episode 12: "Save Yourself"
Although it begins as a relatively light and humorous side-plot, the appearance of police chief Andy Bellefleur's (Chris Bauer) fairy children is a pretty shocking surprise without any context. After having a one-night stand with a beautiful fairy a while back, Andy is surprised when she reappears in Bon Temps, about to give birth to his children. In "Save Yourself" we see the fairy woman, Maurella, give birth to four fairy daughters. It's a great sequence, full of awkward laughs (Maurella's moaning, for one) and an important introduction to a conflict that will hold greater weight in Season 6. Also, as a side note, fairy children grow at a faster rate than human ones, and to see Andy interact with teenage fairy daughters is a sight to behold.
Season 6, Episode 6: "Don't You Feel Me"
One of the most lovable, albeit damaged characters to appear on "True Blood" is Terry Bellefleur (Todd Lowe), cousin to Andy and wife to waitress Arlene. Throughout the show we've seen Terry go from a timid and paranoid loner to a family man (who is still very much paranoid). To remind you all, Terry served in Iraq, where he was part of a mission that left innocents dead. He's haunted by these demons (sometimes literally), which leads to a pivotal, heartbreaking moment in "Don't You Feel Me." Terry, more depressed than usual, meets with an old army buddy who requests to be killed. Fearing that he's planning something, Arlene has him glamoured (hypnotized) by a vampire, allowing for him to live a life without any of his emotional wounds. At first things go very well and we feel things have resolved for Terry. Nevertheless, "True Blood" pulls the carpet from under our feet at the end of the episode. It's perhaps one of the most tragic moments of the show.
Season 6, Episode 7 "In the Evening"
Much of the conflict of Season 6, at least for the vampires, is a direct result of the shenanigans that occurred during the prior season. In Season 5, the famed, but vague "authority" is revealed to be a radical religious vampire group keen on making humans slaves to vampires. Bill and some other familiar characters fall into this plan and end up not only killing thousands of humans, but destroying the True Blood factories that enabled vampires to "come out of the coffin" in the first place. As a result, much of Season 6 focuses on a new worldwide fear and hatred of vampires. Episode 6 of Season 6, however, marks a huge reveal that follows through to the final season of the show--the invention of Hep-V. Hep-V is a human-created virus that the government puts into the True Blood supply. It's fed to vampires (without them knowing), many who've been forced into internment camps, and is 100% lethal. The episode is must-see because it shows the first truly dangerous weapon humans have against the vampire population. It's also an attempt by the creators/writers, to shift attention away from the seemingly endless presence of fictional creatures, back to the vamps.
Season 6, Episode 10 "Radioactive"
Before delving into the seventh and final season of "True Blood," we need to break down all theaction that went down during the sixth season finale (and there's a lot). Much of the episode is a conclusion to much of the drama that occurred throughout the season.
The important stuff, at least in terms of Season 7, comes in the latter half. "True Blood" does this by pulling a "six months later," where we get a look at the characters, who for once seem to be living drama-free lives. Eric has an interesting (and naked) moment in the middle of nowhere and it's by far the greatest "WTF" moment in the episode. Bill, whose gone from hero to villain and back to hero, has written a book where he speaks about Hep-V, which has spread to 1/8 of the vampire population -- it's a major element that will continue to be explored in season 7. We also learn that humans, although not affected by the virus, can still be carriers -- another added danger for our vampire friends. It's definitely a clear allegory to some of our own epidemic crises, but more importantly, the episode serves as a solid introduction (and focus) for the final season of the show.
All episodes of "True Blood" are available to view on HBO's streaming service HBO GO. Season 7 will premiere on June 22 at 9PM.