When True Blood premiered on HBO almost six years ago, in 2008, the final Twilight book had just been published, breaking records left and right. The gleam's come off since then, off vampires in general and but especially this show, but I believe it still has some things to tell us. Things about philosophy, America, the existence of faith in a secular world. People fucking all kinds of different ways. Sometimes all of these topics at the same time.
It can be a lonely world, but there is beauty in it. Also there are spoilers in it, from here on out.
You could say that the show has been a story of one chick's sexual awakening, but that wouldn't be accurate. She sexually awoke pretty much immediately and it's been pretty much nonstop since that point.
I think what she has spent seven years awaking to is more the fact that our culture is about knocking your teeth out of your mouth any time you fail your heteronormative performance act. Like okay, if you or I don't have a boyfriend for a bit, no big deal! They come and go. Boyfriends were invented by the Hershey Company of Pennsylvania anyway.
But if Sookie Stackhouse doesn't have a boyfriend, then as soon as the sun goes down armies of super-strong, super-fast rapists will come burn down her house and suck her blood out of her body until she is dead. I would say this makes it more important, objectively, for Sookie Stackhouse to have a boyfriend than most people. (She is what you would call a "Charlotte." Also a "metaphor," but watching people try to discuss the allegory in this show is always very disheartening.)
A big part of the arc in season one was about falling in true love, and how dorky it is...
...but also how amazing! Sometimes it can be like a drug that makes you masturbate on somebody's porch in the middle of the day. Sometimes it can be like a drug that gives you a four-day erection. Sometimes it isn't even like a drug, sometimes it's as simple as the common experience of getting brutally ravished by a creature that crawled out of the ground onto you.
In the end Sookie was abducted by a serial killer and Bill ran into the sun to save her, which set him on fire, and basically without anybody's help besides Sam Merlotte, who smelled a vest, she saved herself. Then she saved Bill by burying him in the dirt so he wouldn't be on fire anymore. And sometimes that's what love is like also.
Is Sookie Cool? Not very cool at this time. Nobody seems to care that she has a debilitating mental disorder, because she is cute with giant boobs. Sic infit.
Is Bill Cool? Super not cool, but way cooler than he will be.
What is up with Eric? He is kind of a Bobby Bottleservice to be honest.
Are Sam or Alcide a factor? Sam is secretly a dog, and we know not yet of werewolves.
Eric enters the picture and Sookie consoles him after the death of his [father slash boyfriend slash little brother], but they are not yet in love. Bill and Sam end up working together again to save Sookie from the crazy-ass GOOP Goddess Maryann Forrester, who is trying to make everybody orgy the Dionysus Apocalypse into happening, using a meat statue and a giant egg.
(Generally this what people are talking about when they say that the show started out super serious and very intellectual, but in later seasons it has become utterly ridiculous: Not enough meat statues and giant eggs making people have ecstatic orgies like in the good old days, where you practically needed a Master's Degree to take yourself seriously.)
By season's end, the question is: Will Sookie marry Bill, now that it's legal to marry a vampire? (No, because he has been kidnapped. Also because then there would be no Ben, and fuck this whole show if there's no Ben.)
Is Sookie Cool? She is pretty cool in this season. She stomps and yells a lot more.
Is Bill Cool? If you like boring things then Bill is very cool.
What is up with Eric? He has a twinkle in his eye and a dead Godric, which even he knows is the best thing about him, and a great best friend named Pam who is also very cool and the second best thing about him. (The third best thing about him is, a lot of the time he talks like Kermit the Frog and doesn't even know he's doing it.)
Is Sam a factor? Sam is never going to be a factor. He is a cutie but he is no fun at all.
Eric and Sookie go to Mississippi to rescue kidnapped Bill, and they meet Alcide, a Mississippi werewolf with almost as much baggage as abs.
Like Sam, Alcide is a non-starter, because Sookie is not into boring people at all. Unless they are boring old Bill, who is now basically out of the picture due to becoming boringly evil and having boring neck-twisting sex with his boring old mom-girlfriend.
Turns out Bill isn't just a little bit evil, he is actually the evilest—and in fact, he has been setting Sookie up since the jump to be in love with him, because of her magical fairy blood. We still don't entirely understand what is going on with him yet, but it's that he is always the Brenda Chenowith. He is always totally sure that he has it all figured out, but really it's just digging underneath to new ways of hating himself and being repressed, because the answer is: The answer is never the answer for longer than it takes you to find it.
We were built that way, so we would always keep moving, and it's what makes me love Bill the most, because he tries the hardest, with so little tools and so little result, ever. Bill is like when Ferris Bueller says that Cameron's so anal he craps diamonds, only instead of crapping diamonds Bill eventually turns into God. (Spoiler alert, Bill is such a sadsack it turns him into God. Like, a shitty ineffective God that has comas for no reason all the time. Very Bill.) Anyway, due to all of this lying and Eric being so weird all the time, Sookie breaks up with all of her boyfriends and runs away to live in Actual Faerielande.
Is Sookie Cool? Even when she's taking a stand, she doesn't really seem to be taking a stand. Even though everybody she cares about is having their most sex-slave, horrible, trigger-warning season, she is mostly still just concerned with herself: Not cool. Also she doesn't have sex with Alcide, which demonstrates that she is fucked in the head.
Is Bill Cool? Twists a chick's head all the way around while fucking her, which is baller. The chick is so awful that when she's in flapper times, she is even worse than how flappers are. A thing I didn't even think was possible.
What is up with Eric? Murders a dude while fucking him, which is baller. The guy sucks, and also his husband spends the next season carrying him around in a giant crystal jar and eventually Sookie puts him down a garbage disposal while laughing the hysterical uncanny laughter of the Fae.
Are Sam or Alcide a factor? Alcide is huge, and covered in what are called "muscles" (and in personality he strongly resembles my favorite character from the books, Calvin Norris, who on the show is total garbage), but he's not really a factor. Sam... gets really into bitching at this point, and from here on out what he mostly does is bitch.
This is the halfway point of the series, and it's also when Eric is turned into a giant baby by a witch inside of another witch.
So what does ol' Sookie Stackhouse do? She fucks that baby.
Sadly it is like this, desultory, like a Skyrim handjob from an unpracticed Harry Potter:
Despicable. (Although to be fair, the descriptions of sex with Eric in the books range from "whimsical, if physiologically dubious" to "full-on, unforgettably gross," so maybe don't complain.)
In the end, both Bill and Eric are in love with Sookie because of her magical fairy ways, and they agree to die for her. It is even dumber than it sounds.
It is such actual bullshit that Miss Pam just blows up the witches with a missile launcher to shut everybody up.
Alcide and Sam both try again to be Sookie's boyfriend, and once again they are flatly f-zoned and she Chooses Me. (Herself.) Eric and Bill take over the vampire government I think? But Sookie doesn't care because she's too busy murdering people such as Debbie Pelt, an amazingly gross tragic werewolf lady who even when she is "keeping it together" she makes Sookie seem like she is on top of things.
Is Sookie Cool? This is where she starts getting awesome, because they finally evened out her sarcasm level. Where before she bounced from simpering to caustic, now she's just generally over everybody's shit all the time, which results in some great one-liners. Plus, no more Debbie.
Is Bill Cool? Yeah but not as cool as Pam. Also, they finally fess up about how he's been manipulating Sookie since day one, which is some non-consensual bullshit. However, Bill is struggling with what being evil is, which will soon bear delicious fruit as he becomes great.
What is up with Eric? He becomes a toddler that gets fucked by a grown woman, in Narnia.
Are Sam or Alcide a factor? Maybe for like one second. At this point they are both off in their own shitty adventures that nobody cares about, not even them. Besides Sam's wonderful baby brother Tommy, this is probably the #1 best thing about either of them for most of the series:
That'll just cheer you right up in my experience.
Alcide and Sookie finally hook up, because Eric and Bill are off doing something dumb I don't even remember. Having threesomes with spooky people and rollin' on molly. Season Five isn't really about Sookie for a lot of it, but she does keep following clues about how her parents died that end up with her finding out she is actually married already, to some kind of a Rob Zombie monster that wears a jolly big hat.
But even this is still not as interesting as how the whole season Bill has been working on turning into God.
If Bill Compton was Natalie Portman in the movie Black Swan, and Lilith is Mila Kunis, then Billith is Natalie Portman at the end of Black Swan. (Sookie is, at this point, kinda the Winona Ryder. Ben is, I guess, the five seconds of perfection you get during the one scene where Sebastian Stan is in that club with them.)
Is Sookie Cool? Sookie is pretty cool! She day-drinks peach Schnapps and fucks a werewolf, which I don't know about you but that sounds like a pretty good day. Her main hobby now is just saying fuck it, to everything.
Is Bill Cool? What is cool is how Bill is now a mystery to everyone, even himself. Even when he's killing everybody he knows and this whole cult he has been having sex with, he's still just like, "What is my overall deal?"
What is up with Eric? He is so great this year because even though he is part of the Authority of all Vampires, he still tells them to their face that they are stupid and vampire government is stupid and vampire religion is stupid and Bill is stupid and everything is stupid. Every episode he just tells one to thirty people the secret truth of how they probably should suck it.
Are Sam or Alcide a factor? Alcide is a wrong time/right place kind of guy for sure, but this is where the fans could no longer overlook his suckiness by focusing on his charisma and giant sick body. The suckiness was just too powerful.
We meet Ben Flynn, the all-time greatest of Sookie's boyfriends to me. Everybody runs around being worried about Bill or mad at Bill for being God, but Sookie just wants to date Ben. The reason for this is: He is the greatest. I would go into detail but it's more of a 20 Questions deal where you ask, "Is he the best X?" and the answer is always Yes.
Too bad that he is actually the monster to whom Sookie was promised in faerie matrimony when she was too small to fight back (but old enough that her parents were for sure that they hated her). We don't know if she has figured all this out yet when she cooks him dinner and invites him to investigate her brassiere area, but yes, turns out it's all a honeytrap! Her coolest moment of life.
She is going to nuke her magical fiancé into a fine fairy jelly, probably, right up until Bill shows up and is such a dick he makes Ben seem okay. Ben wants to kill all of the fairies in the whole world, and Bill is trying to save all the vampires in the world from a future threat. (Both of these things happen eventually, but we won't fully understand how until the next season.)
In this picture you see Bill remembering a time four thousand years ago when he was a Goddess and had sex with faerie Ben and turned him into a vampire and so what that means is that Ben is a vampire and a fairy and the son of Lilith, the Goddess that Bill currently is.
What that means—besides that we are living in a Golden Age of Television—is, when Sookie marries Ben, who is Jesus and the Devil, her mother-in-law will be her ex-boyfriend Bill, who is also God.
This causes something of a short-circuit in Sookie's telepathic head and she marches around town trying to make everybody be her boyfriend. Not even Sam will go for it this time, so Sookie stops by her stupid dead parents' stupid graves and tells them to eat some shit: Since nobody else is up for it, she will become a vampire fairy. Fuck it.
Sookie and Ben will suck each other's blood, back and forth forever, which is a metaphor for being married.
But then she pulls a cold/fast one on Ben about how maybe they should date before getting fairy-married, and he gets violent, in both word and deed, and that's it for Ben. He is a little bit of a Bridezilla due to waiting to get married to this chick for like four thousand years and then she can't commit. Sad to see him go—I do tend to find a healthy sense of oblivious entitlement quite the aphrodisiac—but I'm afraid straight-up abuse is a dealbreaker no matter how many nuclear bombs I can shoot out of my body.
After he ties Sookie up and says really mean things to her and threatens to dance her around a maypole without her consent, Sookie teams up with her brother and their fairy grandfather Rutger Hauer, and they get Ben up in the Stackhouse upstairs bathroom/dimensional portal to Fairy World they happen to have, and they murder him.
On his wedding day! You better not try that shit on my wedding day. My wedding day will be perfect.
Is Sookie Cool? This is her coolest season by far. This is really when she takes over as the coolest person on the show (from being the worst), because she does not give a single fuck anymore and because she can shoot lasers out of her fucking body at you if you don't come correct. She yells mean things at her dead parents, tries to bang Sam, and then plans her own death—in about an hour she does all these things—essentially because she's in a crappy mood. Incandescent.
Is Bill Cool? This is when Bill became my favorite character on the entire show, because even when he is God mostly he is still just about fucking everything up. Like one day he randomly decides to be a terrorist and blow up all the True Blood factories, then immediately rethinks what he did and just goes, "Whoops." That's every day, the whole time Bill is God. Everything bad that happens on the entire show is Bill's fault? But most especially this season. "Whoops, I kidnapped a Japanese man and kept him as a pet and then completely forgot about it. Whoops, I killed every vampire on Earth except for the exact ones from our town where everybody knows what a douchebag I am. Whoops!"
What is up with Eric? His stupid fucking sister mostly. To Sookie, Eric is like when you have a college-age boyfriend senior year but then when you yourself get to college you're just like, I was so darling senior year when I thought we were both so grown up, even though that was like, four months ago. "Not falling for that again! Now what do you call this, Jägermeister? Got a little bit of a kick, huh?"
Are Sam or Alcide a factor? Sam is Mayor and having a baby, and (with Bill, of course) comes up with a very fucked up plan for Bon Temps. Alcide ends up with Sookie at the end of the season, and they are quite a healthy looking couple, but he is living in the clouds if he thinks that's going to last. (Soon he will literally be living in the clouds, playing a harp, wearing a giant toga as large and bright as something Christo and Jeanne-Claude might drape against a living landscape.)
SEASON SEVEN (NOW)
God, aka Bill, has saved the vampires of the regular cast plus some new vampires, while accidentally turning all the other vampires on earth into zombie vampires. So he both saved the world and also fucked it, but either way he's not God anymore. Just an undead man without a Sookie and so many, many feelings. (My favorite feeling of Bill's feelings is "kidnapper," but he doesn't feel that feeling nearly as often as I would like. Here is a photographical rendering of Bill feeling very kidnapper on a porch.)
Sookie is finally dating Alcide, which is great but also sucks, since he's not a vampire and can't take part in their dumb plan of Everybody Gets A Vampire Boyfriend: The vampires drink your blood, and become your bodyguard. Symbiosis, and everybody's on the level that Sookie has been on the whole time, which is that if you are under a supernatural threat, you better get intimate with a lesser danger.
Sadly, Alcide is no help in the zombie department, so Sookie leaves him naked in the shower and gets Bill to help her get all the zombies in the area to come attack her. (A Very Sookie Plan.) This goes not very well, but luckily Sam and Alcide are there, in animals form, to help Bill save her instead of doing his usual thing of always fucking up all the time.
Alcide is not happy with Bill for endangering their girlfriend Sookie, but before he can kill Bill, he is shot through his magnificent head and now Sookie has no boyfriend. Just another pile of meat.
Is Sookie Cool? So far Sookie is cool, in that she lives a life of compassion and wants to save everybody in town, even though they all think mean slut-shaming thoughts at her knowing full well that she has ESP.
Is Bill Cool? Bill is so cool. Bill is cool as Bruce Lee in my opinion. Like the iceberg of his self-hatred always flipping over to reveal new shitty sides of him and his many problems to solve, my heart has flipped over to being all about Bill Compton, all the time.
What is up with Eric? His wang caught on fire, and now he has zombie disease. Nobody knows what happened between those two events but you would not go broke betting that it involved boobs.
Are Sam or Alcide a factor? Until quite recently Alcide was a very sexy factor. But now he has gone over the Rainbow Bridge forevermore.
Mayor Sam got outed as a dog-person by his hillbilly constituency so now he has zero cultural capital to work with. Also his pregnant child-bride is the captive of zombie vampires and her only defense right now is waitress witches, doing waitress magicks.
What have we learned? It is not very feminist to need a man in this world, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that you need a person in this world, unless you are an emotional John Galt that is broken and inside of you it is only Bitcoins, so either Sookie is a dim bitch that lives in a sexist universe where she always constantly needs multiple boyfriends, like the posters might put in your head, or there is something else going on that's a little tougher to get to. Something kind, but a little too big, I think.
Other people are countries where you don't know the language yet, and you might never find out why you got deported, and without them you will die. That is the scariest thing there is. Before there was even a movie much less a TV show called Catfish, so always, it has been possible for me to tell you that I love you, and for me to be lying.
If everybody in the entire town (which may well be the last town on Earth, thanks to the zombie hordes) is being reset emotionally to Sookie's level—dependent and interdependent on your greatest fear, for your survival, mixing fluids and bodies, swooning and terrified, deeply nourished—of course that is scary.
But it is also the way that what began as the tale of one woman's precious fairy vagina has become a fairytale of our own precious America—perhaps, of all humanity. I mean, I am being a little bit of an asshole about it but I would like to live in a world where we all understood that we are all equally dirty because that would mean we are all equally clean. That everybody gets out alive.
And for a town full of people who use to scream "fangbanger" as a sexual epithet, to have come to inviting these people into their homes and making them an essential part of their family unit, because it is more important that we all survive than it is to make sure the other side burns: No matter what the birth pains are like, that's a world that makes more sense to me than what we have.
Ironically though, Sookie and Alcide were the only people with no vampire boyfriend, which did not work out for anybody. (Except maybe Bill.) But now her spare boyfriends are: Having dog-babies with young girls, rotting giantly in the forest, or off dying of zombie disease. Or they are Ben, who lives only in the dreams of very lucky boys and girls.
So unless almost-perfect Ben Flynn comes back from being a puddle of guts in Faerielande and apologizes for ignoring Sookie's boundaries (my personal preference), I guess it's Bill's turn up. Which is fine, because no matter how we've felt about either of them at any given time, good or ill, at least you could always say Those assholes really deserve each other. The kindest thing you could probably ever say about anyone in love.
[ Images via HBO]