"True Blood" was the most human it's been in a long, long time with Season 7, episode 4 "Death Is Not The End."
From calling back old familiar faces -- Jim Parrack as Hoyt Fortenberry, Robert Patrick as Jackson Herveaux, Todd Lowe as Terry Bellefleur and Lindsay Pulsipher as Ginger Norris -- to every character actually showing a sincere amount of empathy and acceptance in the horrible circumstances they find themselves in, this was a truly standout episode in what has started off as a bumpy season.
Sookie might still be the show's requisite damsel in distress, but finally, after saying she was done with that lifestyle, she's actually lived up to it. Maybe it was the death of Alcide or maybe she really did change, but her "Buck up and do this" speeches she gave to Jason, Jessica and Arlene were a fantastic change of pace for her. Sookie might not be a favorite character, but at least it's easier to like her again.
Beyond the very effectively used returns of Hoyt, Jackson, Terry and Ginger in the episode (Pam stole Ginger's idea for Fangtasia! And then she and Eric had an adorable chuckle about it! Amazing!), the best part of "Death Is Not The End" is the return of Fun Pam & Eric (FE&P for short). The flashbacks to their origins in Shreveport helped spice them up in this episode, especially after these two have been lacking their fun dynamic for too many seasons of angst.
It was nice that even in the face of death they could be charming together once again. The return of FE&P meant the return of FE&P lines. Standouts include Eric's " "Pam told me you wrote a book in which you claim not to be an a**hole" to Bill and Pam's "Oh perfect, Sookie's here." But beyond the humor, the episode really knew how to pull the heartstrings.
"Death Is Not The End" was meant to punch longtime fans right in the gut with emotion, so it was incredibly important that it deliver on that. Deliver it did, making scenes like Terry telling Arlene to be happy when she was close to death incredibly touching instead of cheesy. So too with the conversation between Sookie and Jackson about Alcide's death, which was the perfect way to say goodbye to the fan-favorite werewolf -- and resolve his daddy-issues storyline. Seriously, keep this up through the rest of Season 7, writers, and I'll be bawling in the finale.
It helped that "Death Is Not The End" focused back on the core group of "True Blood" characters. Sookie, Eric, Pam, Bill and Jessica were all at the forefront, while Sam, Andy, Jason, Arlene and Lafayette fleshed out the plot. The only new-ish characters who played roles were Willa, James and Nicole, and then in smaller doses than usual, which is likely why the episode was so effective.
The Hep-V vamps are pretty much dead and gone after this episode, it seems, which raises the question of what "True Blood" will do with its final six episodes. If this is the tone the show is going to take going forward, then I'm all on board, because this is exactly the change "True Blood" has been needing to undergo for a while now.
Photo/Video credit: HBO