This is an episode of rekindling old familial bonds, and finding new. It is a hissing calm before the oncoming storm, starting strong with questions posed and subtly used special effects.
A tear is ripped in time and space, as the magics make themselves evident on the fairy document. Borne through the portal is a vampire steeped in gloomy threat; hat lowered, face unseen, a stranger with dark promise.
In Fangtasia, a field medicine scene is set against an unlikely backdrop; made from the wet dreams of a million goths.
Tara (Rutina Wesley) is liberated of the bullet which troubled her at the close of the previous episode, and as Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) examines his freshly dug treasure, he quickly ascertains that it’s made from silver, and emits UV light.
It seems the humans have engineered weapons which target the vampiric community specifically, and war brims closer to the surface with each passing discovery.
Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) still suffers with visions; here, the torture of vampires not yet met.
As Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) is distraught at the panic ruffling his usual calm exterior he is blissfully absent, communing with Lilith (Jessica Clark) in a dreamscape referred to as No Place.
The drip-fed explanations as to his change, seen solely as he experiences them, is skillfully handled, and delivered well by Moyer.
Saved from the deathly kiss of an oncoming tree, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) is the first Stackhouse to meet Niall (Rutger Hauer), his fae grandfather.
Though he has only appeared in two episodes, Hauer does a typically fantastic job, stealing every scene he blesses.
Jason Stackhouse is one of the most well-drawn bumbling fools ever created, and it’s always a joy to watch his misadventures.
Played with a cocksure arrogance at times, but always with charm, by Kwanten; his softly rounded edges are what help us so readily excuse the willful idiocy of a man “dumber than a box of hair”.
Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), blissfully unaware of the surprise to come, is making a valiant effort to mind her own business for once. When she happens upon a man bitten by a vampire and lying wounded in the woods, however, she cannot help but answer his moans of torment, and finds a fairy of her own; albeit a halfling like herself.
Paquin plaited through with sparkling wit. Her story arc from local curiosity to world saving heroine has been perfectly plotted. In this meeting with Ben (Robert Kazinsky), there is a neatly observed chemistry between the pair, though we find them skirting the issue until some unappreciated telepathy puts the brakes on with swift finality.
Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) is keeping up the pretense of business as usual, when he is approached by a representative of an underground known as the VUS (Vampire Unity Society), who seek to persuade him to come out as a shifter, with the goal of sparking a supernatural civil rights movement.
This is dangerous knowledge for an unknown to possess, especially when harbouring a child fugitive, and it’s written large across Merlotte’s face. Sam’s character, an outsider becoming enveloped into the heart of the small town, has been lovely to see progress, and Trammell has always done it justice.
One of the most striking scenes in this episode focuses on the mysterious changes within Bill. In clutching at straws at how to fix his catatonic state, Jessica orders walking food, in the form of a Human Edibles delivery (an escort service filling a niche in the market given the absence of synthetic blood), with no idea she will witness a death too gruesome even for her to bear.
In a mesmeric use of the whole tableau of visual trickery, Bill telekinetically bends and twists the unfortunate woman in question into an invisible submission. Dragging her through untaken steps towards his still figure, with a sickening ratcheting of limbs into untenable shapes. Once fixed before him, free to witness what’s to come, she is the very image of fear in totality, as he floats the blood from her open mouth, exsanguinating her to a shrunken husk, eyes bulging in a deathly mask.
While Bill struggles with his internal issues, Eric Northman tries an altogether more head on approach to stem the brewing war. As Northman swaps identities with an unlikely candidate (a man much nerdier, and considerably less magnetically handsome than himself) to gain a meeting with Governor Burrell ?, Skarsgard is magnificent as he transforms totally in bearing and stature, playing his alter ego to stoop-shouldered perfection.
When this plan fails and he is summarily escorted from the room to be sent to a place known only by the sinister euphemism ‘camp’, he unleashes possibly the most pedestrian parting shot in the show (“Well, that’s not very nice.”), before swooping into the sky; something the team of heavily armed men were woefully unprepared for.
The lighting is once more the star of the show, in a painterly scene with Jessica making plaintive pleas with the almighty. As she offers stilted, hopeful prayers, the montage of the players behind is a litany of longing looks and gazes, speaking far more than mere words.
Given that the series is rapidly opening up in scope, with new organisations coming to our attention, and the plays of local government, there is a feeling of a canvas being stretched to suit the growing picture. That the painting may survive the process is an edifying thought, which promises much, and postulates more.