By Jeff Stone | Indiewire July 21, 2014 at 12:55AM
Alert the media and call your mama, because "True Blood" just pulled off the best episode of the season, and it did so simply by throwing all the characters together for a night of drunken revelry. Once the party at Sookie's started, it was a surprisingly effective series of emotional scenes with fine work from the actors.
Of course, this episode also features Eric and Pam going undercover at a fancy dress Republican fundraiser like they're on an episode of freaking "Alias." Pam wears purple sequins and Eric winds up basically dressed as the wrestler JBL. It is GLORIOUS.
Oh, and then said fundraiser is interrupted by the CORPORATE KATANA ASSASSINATION SQUAD (now confirmed to be the Yakuza), so you can probably imagine how excited I was about that. Hell, Eric tore a Yakuza guy's jaw off, so even if the rest of this episode had sucked, I still probably would have given it the highest grade of the season.
Honestly, this episode reminded me of one of those cool-down issues of "Uncanny X-Men" that they'd have after a big crossover, where there's very little action and everyone just takes stock. Granted, the last four episodes have hardly been "X-Cutioner's Song," but you get what I mean. (Yes, this means that Sarah Newlin is Stryfe. Think about it!)
Jessica and James's relationship explodes in spectacular fashion, as she blows him off one time too many and he winds up getting plowed by Lafayette in the back of Jessica's car. Jessica has it out with both James and Lafayette, and winds up sleeping with Jason again when he offers her comfort. Oh, and Violet definitely overhears Jason and Jessica having sex. So, a lot going on there! The wonderful thing about all these scenes was that no one acted crazy or out of character, it was all just solid.
Speaking of which, Andy manages to bury the hatchet with Jessica (lots of good Jessica scenes tonight, my hats off to Deborah Ann Woll) and finally proposes to Holly using Grandma Stackhouse's wedding ring. It was all very sweet, and Chris Bauer proves what he can do with this material when the show isn't treating him as a punchline.
VAMPIRE KEITH WATCH: Vampire Keith totally wants to bang Arlene! I was convinced she'd be the one after him because she drank his blood, but he's immediately smitten. It's charming as hell, and Arlene could really use a break by now, so I'm certainly rooting for Vampire Keith.
Naturally, it wouldn't be a "True Blood" party without something kooky happening, so Lettie Mae drugs the Reverend so she can attend the soiree and stab Willa for her sweet vampire blood. This proves to be too much for poor Nicole, who does her best Frank Grimes impression as she basically calls out everyone at the party for being insane. I guess Nicole is the only regular who hasn't committed at least one grisly murder, so you can probably see how she might be feeling left out. It's nice that the show is finally giving Jurnee Smollett-Bell something to do, since I so enjoyed her work when she was on "Friday Night Lights."
(One thing about the Lettie Mae plot I can't let go: Lettie Mae drugs Reverend Daniels by putting a bunch of allergy medicine in the sauce he's mixing up. Only there's a shot of the 3/4 empty pill bottle directly next to the sauce pot where it's impossible to miss, so apparently Reverend Daniels thought it was completely normal for a nearly-empty pill bottle to be stored on the top of the stove. You deserved to be drugged, Reverend Daniels! With that level of vigilance, no wonder Lettie Mae's backsliding.)
This episode's biggest black eye is the series of flashbacks Bill had to his time right before the Civil War, showing how he was opposed to the Civil War and tried to desert before being forced to enlist. I'm assuming these scenes are a bit of character rehabilitation for Bill, since the show seems pretty determined to get him back together with Sookie. That's a hard hill to climb, since the show so thoroughly trounced Bill's likeability in the previous two seasons. Still, Moyer and Paquin had genuine chemistry in their big scene this episode, so maybe there's hope for them yet.
The episode ends with Bill discovering he also has Hep V, which is a pretty limp cliffhanger. Now we definitely know a cure will be found, because I simply can't imagine the show offing both Bill AND Eric. Eric's death is still a distinct possibility, since it's the last season and another major death seems likely. That actually raises the hilarious question of whether Sookie will wind up with Bill only because all of her other possible love interests will have been killed off. Stay tuned!
One complaint I had from last week's review was that I wasn't certain what would be driving the narrative for the rest of the season, and that concern remains. But if anything, this episode proved that what's been missing from this season hasn't been narrative drive: it's been actual emotional stakes.
Jeff Stone loves cartoons, wrestling, and hour-long prestige cable dramas. You can follow him on Twitter @WheelbearGo.
This article originally referred to Vampire Keith as Vampire Kevin. It has been corrected.