Episode Title: "She's Not There"
Writer: Alexander Woo
Director: Michael Lehmann
Previously on "True Blood":
The Vampire King of Mississippi , Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare) went insane with grief after Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) killed Russell's husband to avenge his family. Russell flipped out on live TV and murdered an anchorman, setting human and vampire relations back several years. To ward off Russell's threat, Pam (Kristen Bauer) convinced Eric to hand Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) over to Russell, so that her blood could allow him to walk in the daylight. To Sookie's surprise, even her lover Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) went along with the plan and vouched for Sookie's powers.
But it was a trap laid out by Eric, since Sookie's blood only protected vampires for a short time. Incapacitated and injured by the sunlight, Russell was encased in concrete by Eric and Bill, who soon turned on Eric and trapped him as well. However, when Bill returned to Sookie to proclaim his devotion to her, Eric broke free and told Sookie that Bill had been sent years ago to spy on her. Incensed, Sookie uninvited both vampires from her home and threw them out of her life. Meanwhile, Sookie's best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley) left Bon Temps after years of heartbreak. Sookie's brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) also found himself as the unofficial protector of a group of were-creatures.
As for Sookie herself, her fairy god-mother Claudine (Lara Pulver) sought her out and offered to take her to the Fae Realm. Sookie accepted her invitation and disappeared.
In the Fae Realm, Sookie is momentarily shaken by her arrival. As Sookie acquaints herself to her new surroundings, she tells Claudine that she was a terrible fairy godmother. Claudine fires back that Sookie never made things easy for her. Sookie soon becomes suspicious of the glowing fruit being consumed by the human guests and she even spots her grandfather, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole)… who seems relatively young and healthy considering that Sookie hasn't seen him in 20 years. Between the two of them, they realize that the Fae Realm isn't what it seems. Queen Mab (Rebecca Wisocky) arrives and tries to force Sookie to eat the Fairy fruit, but Sookie's powers manifest and reveal the Realm to be a wasteland.
Fleeing the Realm with the help of some sympathetic fairies, Sookie and her grandfather arrive in the Bon Temps graveyard. Eric and Bill sense her arrival immediately. Shortly thereafter, Bill dies from eating the Fairy fruit and gives Sookie a watch meant for her brother before he crumbles to dust. Overcome by her loss, Sookie returns to her home and finds workers repairing it for the new owner. She challenges the workers to call the police, and when they do, Jason shows up dressed as a deputy. He then tells Sookie that she's been gone for over a year.
Bill and Eric soon arrive outside Sookie's home and tell her how much they missed her. Bill is somehow able to order Eric away, but he still gets in some parting shots on Bill. Sheriff Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) also races over and he wants to know where Sookie has been. Bill covers for her and says that she was away on vampire business and offers to reimburse the county for the money they spent searching for Sookie if Andy publicly clears Bill of murdering Sookie. In the police car on the way back, Jason confronts Andy about his ongoing addiction to V. In Bon Temps, Jesus (Kevin Alejandro) convinces Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) to sit in on a coven, but he freaks out when the lead witch, Marnie (Fiona Shaw) actually displays magical powers.
For some reason, we cut to Tara, who is now an MMA fighter, of all things. And she's apparently dating her female opponent. At Merlot's, Sam (Sam Trammell) is happy to see Sookie again, but he chides her for not telling him where she went. We also see that Sam's brother, Tommy (Marshall Allman) survived being shot by Sam last season… and that Sam is unhappily paying his physical therapy bills. Sam also attends an anger management group that is made up exclusively of shapeshifters. Meanwhile, Jesus convinces Lafayette to return to the coven, where Lafayette himself is instrumental to briefly resurrecting a dead bird.
Later, one of the female coven members reports directly to the new Vampire King of Louisiana, Bill himself! Sookie also meets with a lawyer about getting her house back from the new owner, but she learns that the owner is difficult to reach. That night, Sookie takes a shower and she's shocked to find Eric waiting for her when she gets out. She wonders if it is a dream and he tells her that not only is this real, but he's the new owner of her house. Eric says that through the house, he will own her as well. He pops his fangs as Sookie gulps nervously about what he intends to do.
As season openers go, this episode didn't do a lot to set the new storylines in motion.
There were a few seeds planted for the coven of witches and Bill's new status quo, but for the most part the writer seemed content with slowly trotting out the cast to see what everyone is doing now. For the main characters, that's fine. But how many times are we going to see Arlene freaking out about her possibly evil baby? Seriously, every time we cut to her or most of the human cast, the show begins to drag and it takes valuable screentime away from other, more interesting characters.
Take Tara for example. Her story was pretty much over last season and there wasn't really a compelling reason to bring her back. In her reappearance here, she's now dating a woman and she's apparently a semi-pro fighter. And the lesbian angle is far more believable than the idea that Tara can suddenly kick ass after only12 months. I just don't buy it. Jesus and Lafayette had a nearly unwatchable subplot last season; which can be overlooked if it was actually paving the way for the current witches storyline. From the events in this episode, it seems like Lafayette is the key to Marnie's power. I don't think that she can do much without him.
Which finally brings us back to Sookie and her circle of vamps. The first eight minutes or so were filled with some hilarious what-the-f***ery in the Fae Realm. As a vehicle for the time jump, it works. But that entire sequence may have been the most ridiculous thing on the show to date. It would have been nice to keep Gary Cole around for a little longer, but his performance and the subsequent demise of his character gave the episode its most moving moments.
It's interesting that both Bill and Eric sensed Sookie's return at the same time. I still get the impression that Alan Ball would rather pair up Bill and Sookie again rather than the inevitable Sookie and Eric coupling. But at least he's playing the connection between them and Sookie as if it was equal between them. Going into the season, I guessed that Bill was going to be a new vampire enforcer. Seeing him as the new Vampire King could be even more promising than that, if we get to see what powers the King can wield when he isn't bats*** crazy.
Eric's effortless vampire PSA was the comedic highlight of the episode. And it was a nice twist that he's the new owner of Sookie's house. I still don't think he's going to attack Sookie, so the cliffhanger didn't really work for me. But he's still the best character on the show.
Surprisingly, the time jump did a lot to rehabilitate Jason, who used to be the King of all Idiots on television. (On a side note, Jason lost his idiotic crown to Tyler Evans on "V" before that show crashed and burned in its second season). But the new deputy Jason seems to have actual dramatic potential and even half a brain. Which is of course, more than he ever had before. Of course, he falls for a relatively simple ruse at the end of the episode, so Jason may still be kind of stupid. However, Ryan Kwanten had one of the episode's best moments when Jason got choked up over seeing his grandfather's watch.
While I would have preferred that the fourth season opened with a stronger episode, there's still enough here to hold my interest for the upcoming storylines. Just no more fairy stuff, please.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.