As anticipation for ‘True Blood‘s season three premiere (June 13) grows hotter than the air during a Bon Temps heatwave, we Fancast Fangbangers decided to engage in a friendly debate: Which episode of the beloved HBO series is the best? Team Bill and Team Eric divisions aside, our opinions and arguments, below.
Let’s face facts. ‘True Blood‘ is smut. Yeah, you can make all sorts of arguments about how it is an allegory about homosexuality and a sophisticated satire of contemporary America. (In fact, whether they sparkle, or turn to dust, or run detective agencies, vampires are always, always allegories. It’s right up there with drinking blood on the list of vampire musts. Vamps are versatile enough to serve as stand ins for gays, mormons, and high school angst. Top that, werewolves.) You can talk about the distinctive characters, the humor and the outstanding acting. But almost every episode features at least one explicit sex scene that would probably earn an NC-17 rating if ‘True Blood’ were a movie. It’s a dirty, filthy show you can talk about with your mom. So it is only fitting to select Season 2, Episode 4, Shake and Fingerpop because it features both a full fledged orgy and the most entertaining crappy birthday story since ‘Sixteen Candles.’
The whole episode is about giving in to temptation. Baby Vamp Jessica buys herself a hot guy to drink. Lafayette drinks Eric’s blood to save his leg. Jason joins the Soldiers of the Sun and finds himself dying to do un-Christian things to Reverend Newlin’s wife, Sarah. Bill and Sookie… well, actually they’re the voices of reason, traveling to Dallas to begin their search for Godric.
The stand out scene is Tara’s surprise birthday bacchanalia. After Lafayette boots Tara out of his house, she mopes about how she always has the worst birthday’s ever. Evil maenad Maryann, season 2’s big baddie, rides to the rescue by throwing Tara a surprise party. She uses her powers of mind control to take the party from off the hook to out of control. It’s both sexy and disturbing. Tara and Eggs have birthday sex. Sam and Daphne eat cake and make out. The rest of the town goes crazy. Everyone dances wildly. Strangers have sex. Andy rubs frosting all over his face. Everyone loses their inhibitions and lets their ids take over as the audience sees Maryann’s scary claw hands for the first time. Happy birthday, indeed.
By now, everyone with a TV and a hankering for vampires has gotten around to checking out this crucial episode of ‘True Blood.’ As fans of the show built episode by episode, this was the least watched on it’s original airdate, but it is a beautiful introduction to the all-important characters that call Bon Temps, Louisiana home. It is my favorite episode of all time for two reasons. One, it lays the building blocks for a passionate and caring romance between Sookie Stackhouse and Bill Compton, before other vampires, weres and regular mortals wipe away the figurative and literal innocence of Sookie Stackhouse. Two, because I am a die-hard Charlaine Harris reader and my devotion to the Southern Vampire Series – her collection of novels that ‘True Blood’ is based upon – leads me to prefer the books a smidge more than the TV show, except for this classic episode.
A vampire walks into a bar…and the rest is HBO history. Bill, the 173 year-old vampire, slides into Merlotte’s to get a warm glass of synthetic blood, aptly named, True Blood. Sookie is the telepathic barmaid who can read every mind in the joint BUT Bill’s, and an instant connection develops. A smiling Sookie bubbles over with excitement whispering, “You’re our first vampire!”
Bill watches Sookie, while Sookie listens to the thoughts of the dirty old Rattrays, the couple sitting with Bill who plan to trap, strap him with silver and drain his precious and human-healing vampire blood. Sookie foils their plan in the parking lot of Merlotte’s leading to a silly conversation where Sookie mocks Bill’s simple name as Bill is about to kiss her.
During a dramatic conversation the next night at the bar, Bill acknowledges that he knows Sookie’s secret, “You’re somethin’ more than human. May I come and visit you at your home?” Sookie comedically replies, “My grandmother would love to meet you.” The tone is set for Bill’s old-fashioned smolder and Sookie’s blonde innocence as they plan a first date.
Not to be missed is the introduction of a brilliant character named Nan Flannigan, the spokeswoman for vampires around the world. The televised face of the American Vampire League, Nan appears throughout the series and succeeds in delivering such safe vamp sound bites as, “We never owned slaves or detonated nuclear weapons…there is no reason for anyone to fear us. Every member of our community is now drinking synthetic blood.”
Of course this episode also introduces Lafayette, Sam, Tara, Jason and Arlene among the many other important characters in the Bon Temps population, but Bill and Sookie’s budding desire makes the episode worth watching again and again.
If an episode’s greatness can be judged on the sheer volume of brilliant one-liners, then “Nobody Needed Towels!” – I mean, “Nothing But The Blood” gets top marks. (Poor Carl.)
By delivering a heavy handed dose of foreshadowing in the season opener, Alan Ball & Co. set the stage for a chaotic arc of Bon Temps bloodbaths and bacchanalia. Lettie May’s cautionary come-to-Jesus warning to Tara accurately sums it up: “Let’s pray for Miss Jeanette. Something evil wanted her soul. If you’re not careful, it’ll get yours too.“ Did that “exorcism” remove Lettie May’s demon, or did it bestow God-like powers of omniscience?
Most satisfying, though, is how the episode immediately answers dangling mysteries from season one’s finale, without dragging them out in an excruciating ‘Lost’-like web of confusion. Want to know whose painted toenails are hanging out of the back of Andy Bellefleur’s car? Done. In the first minute, no less. Want to know the connection between Sam and Maryann? Done. Want to know where the hell Lafayette is? DONE.
The episode-capping Bill & Sookie bloodsucking-and-sexing-on-white-sheets spectacle is arguably the hottest moment, but there are at least 11 more reasons why this episode tops the list: 1. Lafayette is alive! Albeit chained in a basement with a bunch of vamp-offending goons and an even goonier-looking (those hair foils are quite fetching) vampire Eric. 2. Eric’s hair foils (they merit their own number.) 3. Vampires recycle! Or at least Bill does. And they use old-timey terms like “slattern” to describe their newly-turned charges. 4. Andy Bellefleur’s drunken, slurred delivery of “Whuutt tha ffff****kkk” during Tara’s interrogation is comedic gold. (Props to Andy for being 500 times more hilarious than ‘The Wire’s Frank Sobotka). 5. Maryann’s chilly confrontation with Lettie May: “It’s a pleasure to meet someone so devoid of human compassion that they’d abandon their own daughter.” 6. Sam finally manning up and telling Sookie he’s “tired of charring” his ass on her back burner. Atta boy. 7. The discovery that Sam and Maryann know each other in the Biblical sense from days of shapeshifting yore. 8. Carl’s Maryann-administered bitchslap prompted by his interruption of a would-be first kiss between Tara and Eggs. 9. Jason’s conclusion that the Fellowship of the Sun will lead him on the path to righteous salvation. (As if!) 10. Witnessing how easily Sookie caves from all her moral grandstanding when Bill tells her he loves her. And finally, 11. The look of relief on Sookie’s face when she finds out Uncle Bartlett is D-E-A-D, followed by the look of horror when she figures out Bill offed him.
It’s hands-down the hottest small-screen sex scene in recent memory — if not of all time! — so how could it not be one of the best ‘True Blood’ episodes ever? In “Cold Ground,” Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) loses her virginity to 173-year-old vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) amidst sexy fire light, candles, a bloody neck, and that carefully chosen flowing white nightgown. This was the episode, the onscreen hookup, I had been waiting for all first season and the writers (all praise Raelle Tucker!) delivered it in spades.
Before I get to the hot and spicy stuff, the episode rocks on three other counts: 1. When Sookie mopped the pools upon pools of her murdered grandmother’s blood on the floor, it just prepared us for the blood that was to come in the closing sex scene. And, this show is all about blood and sex, right? This episode delivered both deliciously. 2. Sookie’s inability to block out the voices overwhelmed her at gran’s funeral and she blurts out, “Shut up! All of you! JUST SHUT THE F**K UP.” Call me kooky, but I like it when Sookie drops the F bomb. 3. Tara’s alcoholic mom telling her she’s possessed by demons and that’s why she’s hit her. Oh, and she needs money. Classic mom stuff and so appropriate at a funeral, eh?
But onto what makes “Cold Ground” The. Best. True. Blood. Episode. Ever: Bill’s desire for Sookie is simply palpable. Every woman wants a man to desire her as much as Bill wants Sookie. When she put on that flowing gown and ran into the night to meet Bill, that first kiss made me weak in the knees. And, when Bill reveals his fangs to Sookie, she puts her hands around his neck, draws him closer, kisses him more, and then instructs, “Do it. I want you to.” And, boy does he do it. With blood dripping out of his mouth, he laps her up as she writhes in ecstasy. Whew. I’m getting worked up just thinking about it. As they say, sex sells and this steamy scene made me buy into ‘True Blood’ until death do us part.
What do you think? Weigh in with opinions on your favorite episode in the comments!