I can understand the brutal sex scene that closes this week's episode as an antidote to the chaste romance of Twilight, or as the rape subtext of vampire fiction brought alarmingly to the surface. But that doesn't make it any less difficult to watch.
I hesitate to describe the encounter between Bill and Lorena as "shocking," given that this is, after all, True Blood, a series that revels in its flirtation with nudity, sex and violence. (Yet for all of its killings, sex, and bare breasts and butts, True Blood doesn't come close to HBO's Rome in that regard. Has a penis made an appearance in two-plus seasons?) But this scene went well beyond what we're accustomed to seeing, even in steamy Bon Temps. In my notes I scribbled "grudge fuck," but what took place on-screen was more than that; it was angry, vengeful sex. Lorena wanted to be hurt as much as Bill wanted to hurt her. Both got what they asked for, with an out-of-control Bill twisting Lorena's neck as if he were wringing a washcloth.
But how did we get to that point? Somewhat more slowly than the previous two episodes, which maintained a frenetic pace as the writers unpacked this season's many storylines. With much of the hard work out of the way, "It Hurts Me Too" eases into what appears to be the three central plotlines -- King Russell Edgington's nebulous scheme to marry Queen Sophie-Anne Leclerq, Sookie's search for Bill, and Franklin Mott's investigation -- while seemingly introducing another subplot with the discovery of a headless and handless body and the subsequent resignation of Sheriff Bud Dearborn. ("Forty-three years and what do I have to show for it? Gaps in my brain and polyps in my ass.") I may be undercounting plotlines, though, because I can't figure out where Sam's reunion with his dysfunctional biological family falls in the greater scheme of the season. Frankly, I don't care. The less we see of the Mickens clan, the better. Seriously, who could've guessed that hard-drinking shapeshifters would be so boring?
Far more interesting is the introduction of Joe Manganiello as Alcide, the werewolf who agrees to be Sookie's guide and bodyguard in Mississippi, but only because his father owes Eric Northman money. A brooding outsider who's nursing a broken heart -- his ex-girlfriend Debbie is engaged to Cooter, leader of the pack that he despises -- Alcide takes Sookie to Lou Pines, "the oldest were-bar in Mississippi." As much as I enjoy watching Sookie as a telepathic Nancy Drew, I don't see that the visit to the werewolf answer to Fangtasia accomplishes anything more than set up Alcide's emotional investment in her search (after all, Cooter orchestrated Bill's kidnapping under orders of the vampire king of Mississippi). But maybe that's reason enough.
Bill, meanwhile, remains a "guest" of Russell and his hilarious husband Talbot, who treat him well -- nice clothing, warm blood bisque, Elizabeth Bathory's bed -- while subjecting him to the insufferable presence of his maker and ex-lover Lorena. I like the idea of Lorena as a lonely, manipulative vampire who, over the years, develops into a psychopath who would rather make Bill miserable and destroy everyone around him than let him go. But I just don't get Mariana Klaveno's portrayal of the character. Her performance is flat and boring in a series that usually errs on the side of melodrama; it's as if Lorena is in a drug-induced haze the entire time she's on camera. Except, of course, when she's on fire.
As if her strutting around the mansion weren't enough torture, Lorena also plays a prominent role in Bill's flashback, which finds him in 1868 Bon Temps, unwisely revealing himself to his wife and learning that his young son has died from smallpox. Their reunion goes horribly wrong when poor Caroline discovers the husband she thought had died three years earlier isn't really alive, providing Lorena with an I-told-you-so moment: "I warned you, there's only our world and their. Between lives only sufferin'." Those words echo across the years, as in the present Bill suddenly pledges his loyalty to the king of Mississippi, which means, much to Lorena's dismay, that Sookie won't be harmed. But while Russell may be overjoyed by Bill's change of heart, Lorena doesn't buy it.
Things are going no better in Bon Temps, where the entertaining yet menacing Franklin first sleeps with Tara and then, after discovering her connection to Sookie -- thanks, Jessica! -- uses glamor on her to secure an invitation into Sookie's house. Maybe next time Sookie will leave her to climb the walls at Lafayette's "strange plywood hut." (But, hey, it sure was nice of Sookie to pay for Eggs' burial.)
Aside from Hoyt's discovery of the rotting corpse in the culvert, there's also Jason's misguided effort to become a police officer, fueled entirely by the rush he received from tackling the meth dealer in the previous episode. I'm all for Jason's harebrained schemes, especially if they mean an end to the guilt-induced hallucinations he's experiencing. However, the preview for next week's episode -- I usually try not to consider those when writing recaps -- hints that Jason's fixation may take a dark turn as he attempts to blackmail Andy into appointing him to the sheriff's department. Let's hope it doesn't go in that direction.
Much better than the Jason thread is the revelation that Arlene's pregnancy is too far along for the baby to be Terry's -- a product of MaryAnn's orgies, presumably -- and the unexpected scene with Eric giving a new convertible to a suspicious Lafayette. "What's the catch?" "You'll have to pay the insurance. I'm not an idiot." I'm not sure what to make of the development, but if it signals a new direction in the Eric-Lafayette relationship -- one that doesn't involve Lafayette cowering in a corner -- it can only be a good thing.
Scattered thoughts and quotes
• Pam didn't get much screen time, but she was hilarious in her telephone conversation with the frantic Jessica: "Did you call the hypothetical hardware store and buy the theoretical chainsaw?"
• Pam to Fangtasia's new dancer: "Lie back, sweetheart, and think of Estonia."
• Now that Jessica had discovered Franklin removed the corpse, and has told him everything she knows about Bill Compton, what is there for her to do? Reconcile with Hoyt, I guess?
• Eric after killing the werewolf in Sookie's house: "I got your rug all wet."
• Before the werewolf had his throat ripped open, Sookie picked out a reference to "Jackson" in his thoughts. She presumed it was the name of a person, but Eric set her straight. "Jackson is where he lives. ... He had a Mississippi accent. Can't you people tell the difference?"
• Sam, upon returning to Merlotte's and learning about the killing of Eggs in the parking lot: "Good thing this town doesn't have many other bar options."
• Jason, while rattling his qualifications to be a police officer: "I'm like a ninja-level marksman."
• Talbot, discussing werewolves: "They're all dumber than a box of rocks."
Cooter: "That's unfair."
Talbot: "To boxes, perhaps. Or to rocks."
• Jason: "I've got a lot on my mind lately."
Lafayette: "That must be somethin' new."
• Tommy Mickens after Sam exchanges words with his drunken biological father: "Dude, you throw a punch and you are one of us."
• Eric, waving to Lafayette from the convertible: "Hello, sweetheart. Hop in."
• Eric, after giving the car to Lafayette: "It might look a little out of place parked outside of that strange plywood hut you live in."
• Jessica discovers one more thing she doesn't know about vampires when Franklin strolls into Bill's house.
Jessica: "Vampires can't enter a home without an invitation."
Franklin: "Human home -- and the last human who owned this home died a year ago."
Jessica: "Fuck! Why don't anyone tell me any of this?"