I would like to interject here that "Strangelove" is one of my favorite Depeche Mode songs, although I don't know that the episode title is alluding to it in any way.
So there's opening credits and they're full of strippers and baptisms and wailing church ladies and decaying fox heads in speed-mo. It's all about life and death and sex and religion, don't you get how deep it is? And yet I forgive it all, because there's a shot of a church marquee that reads GOD HATES FANGS, and I laugh every time I see it.
(The theme song, by the way, is Jace Everett's "Bad Things," and I know because I looked it up after spending four episodes trying to figure out if it was Chris Isaak or not.)
So the first scene is basically to set up the universe of the show, which is that vampires have "come out" (I believe the phrase "come out of the coffin" is used, sigh) and so now we're dealing with a somewhat heavy-handed racial/sexual allegory about vampire civil rights in the background of the show, complete with the vampires' national spokeswoman (hey! It's Gillian from Judging Amy !) debating Bill Maher on TV. An obnoxious young drunk couple staggers into a 7-11 or whatever and asks if they sell "Tru Blood," the new Japanese synthetic blood that has allowed vampires to go public, and the point the show wants to make is that the goth poser behind the counter is just that, a poser, and the tubby good ol' boy in camo is the actual vampire, because THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEE~EEM.
Look, I actually like this show. I just get a little impatient waiting on the She Reads Minds, He Broods Broodsomely, Together They Fight Crime part. This scene does get points from me, however, because Stupid Young Drunk Guy says, "Fuck you, Billy Bob!," and the Camopire outs himself by retorting, "Fuck me? I'll fuck you, boy, and then I'll EAT ya!" And then he tells the goth poser he'll kill him if he ever poses again. I like this guy.
I should mention here that the language and/or sex quotient of any given episode is unusually high (IT'S NOT TV! IT'S HBO!), so... consider yourselves warned.
So. Sookie Stackhouse is a blonde goody-two-shoes Anna Paquin who waitresses at Merlotte's restaurant/bar in the little bayou town of Bon Temps, and Sookie's life is somewhat complicated by the fact that she can hear (and sometimes see) what everyone's thinking as they mentally grumble over their burgers and fries ("Please, Jesus, if you'll just help me say no to Beer Number 2"; "... after what you made me do in the bedroom last night, which was disgusting even though I kinda liked it"), and if that person is a guy, it generally involves what sex act they'd like her to perform right now. Yes, I know we've heard this before. No, Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books predate Twilight. Also, I would just like to note here--has Anna Paquin lost weight? Because she has way less badonkadonk than she had in the X-Men movies. And I remember very clearly going to see X2 and being like WHOA FLORA GREW UP, and now she looks way... younger. I don't know, maybe I'm imagining it.
So here's Sookie's life: she works at Merlotte's for floppy-haired, hangdog Sam Merlotte, who is pitifully in love with her and can't say "cher" properly. Her best friend Tara is angry and bitchy and mouthy all the time and I love her. Look, I can't help it. The first time we see her, she quits her job at a Home Depot clone for no particular reason, shouting, "I'ma get my babydaddy who just got outta prison to come over here and KICK YO TEETH IN!" "Jesus, Tara, don't do that--" "I'm not being SERIOUS, you pathetic racist! I don't HAVE a baby! DAMN." Back in Merlotte's kitchen is Tara's cousin Lafayette, who is fabulous and given to saying things like, "What I know is that every man is terrified... OF THE PUSSY." And here's Dawn, one of the other waitresses (the slutty brunette one): "What are we talkin' about?" "PUSSAY!" And then Dawn slaps her short-shorted ass while Sookie clutches her metaphorical pearls. Consider yourselves properly introduced to the gang, y'all.
Oh, wait, there's also Sookie's brother Jason, who is a gigantic slut and going down on Maudette Pickens (Maudette? Seriously?) the first time we meet him. Until he sees a vampire bite on her thigh, which totally harshes his buzz because "fangbanging" is sick and wrong, y'all, unless she has amateur homemade porn tapes of it, in which case it's kind of hot. Well, it's hot in theory, because in practice, the True Blood vampires move really fast (as movie vampires often do), and the jerky speed-mo the show uses is really dorky (as vampire speed-mo usually is), but it's super dorky when you're watching a bald, tattooed vampire humping some girl. While waggling his tongue and mugging at the camera. In speed-mo. So blah blah, Maudette likes it rough, Jason has vampire inferiority issues, and... things get kind of
Note: We are twelve minutes into the show.
Back at Merlotte's, Sam is getting his yearnings all over Sookie when suddenly everything goes quiet and the lights go down and sad, old-timey piano and ancient violins of woe (woevolins, if you will) start playing and in walks Bon Temps' first vampire. Sookie: "SQUEE!" She bounces over there to take his order but sadly, Merlotte's is all out of Tru Blood, in the sense that their stock went bad a year ago because no one ever came in to order it, and she stops fangirling her vampire long enough to ask if there's anything else he drinks. "Actually... no," he says regretfully. Because HE'S A VAMPIRE, SOOKIE. So instead he orders a glass of red wine so he can sit and stare at it and "have a reason to be here." Apparently beer just doesn't have the same brooding potential.
Blah blah Maudette vampire porn, unf unf unf.
So back at Merlotte's, the vampire has fallen in with sleazy drug-dealing Mack and Denise Rattray in the five minutes it took Sookie to get a glass of wine from the bar. Sookie is incensed--even more so when she reads the Rattrays' minds and realizes that they intend to drain Sookie's vampire and sell his blood on the black market. Which is one of the things I love about the show (and, by extension, the universe Charlaine Harris has created): it takes this idea of vampires joining the mainstream and goes into how that would trickle down to regular people and everyday life--people doing vampire blood as a drug, taking money to let vampires bite them, and... well, you'll see. Anyway, rather than pull her vampire aside and warn him in a timely fashion, Sookie runs to go get Tara and Sam, neither of whom are willing to help, and so when Sookie turns around, both the Rattrays and the vampire are gone. GO YOU, SOOK. So Sookie runs after the vampire, and Sam makes Tara tend bar so he can run after Sookie and... disappear for the next ten minutes. Huh.
Jason, Maudette, unf unf unf. And then Jason chokes Maudette to death. Maudette is also taping this encounter, by the way. Or... she was, rather.
So out in the parking lot, Sookie's vampire is already sprawled out on the ground getting his dumb self drained, which I love because now the girl has to come save the vampire the first time they meet. So while Mack Rattray is tweaking out about how bad he "needs to get some V inside [him]," Sookie grabs a chain off the back of someone's truck and wallops him with it. Speaking of chains, that is also how they're holding the vampire down--with long silver chains (like, jewelry-quality chains) just kind of lightly draped over his wrists and neck, because... apparently silver is a weakness for these vampires. Look, everybody's vampires are different, that's cool. Anyway, the big gnarly iron chain wrapped itself around Mack Rattray's neck when Sookie whaled on him with it so now he's staggering around choking (HEY A LITTLE HELP BACK HERE?) while Sookie's holding off Denise Rattray with Denise's own knife, and Sookie and Denise Have Words and Denise swears to kill her and seriously, Mack has somehow not asphyxiated yet. In fact, Denise ends up dragging him off without even helping. Blah blah sleazy tweakers, attempted road rage blah.
On the ground, Sookie lifts the silver chains off her vampire and he heals himself in a little puff of mist (steam? I don't know), and she watches this with a gasp of "Shut... up!" Hee! And then, a sympathetic "Oh, bless your heart!" Man, I love how Sookie is like 50% teenage girl and 50% my grandmother.
And then this dog runs up to them--I don't know, maybe a border collie? The collie gives Sookie a good licking upside the face, barks at the vampire for like five minutes, and runs off. "He's checkin' on you," observes Sookie's vampire. "Oh, that's just a dog that hangs around the bar sometimes," says Sookie. I'm just laying the groundwork here, y'all. You'll thank me later.
And then Sookie realizes she can't hear the vampire's thoughts at all. He's thanking her for saving him and she blurts out, "I can't hear you!" "THANK YOU," says the vampire (HA!). Sookie kneels down next to him and grabs his face and gasps, "I can't hear you! Oh my stars!" And Sookie's vampire is all like, what the hell is your deal? Not to mention the fact that he's in need of a refill now, and there she is all alone in a dark empty bayou/parking lot with him. But Sookie's not afraid! She'll wrap the Rattrays' silver chain around her neck, that'll show him! Except that she also has "other, very juicy arteries," he rasps, however, including one "in the groin" that he particularly likes (apparently Sookie's vampire is a leg man). Sookie shoots back, "You just shut your nasty mouth, Mister! You may be a vampire but when you talk to me, you will talk to me like the lady that I am!" God, I love her.
So... then her vampire offers her the bags of blood the Rattrays left behind. To... make up for insulting her, I guess? I don't know. It may just be an excuse to explain that vampire blood makes humans feel great (and horny). Sookie's all like, "Yeah... you can keep that." Seriously, why doesn't he? Can't he drink it himself? He needs it, after all. Is it weird to drink your own blood? Am I thinking about this too much? So anyway, Sookie's vampire says that she could sell it if she didn't want to keep it. "I wouldn't touch it," she says, very seriously. So then he speed-mos over to sit by her and it's less dorky than Sexxor the Bald up there. But not by much. "What are you?" he demands huskily. (I should mention here that Sookie's vampire has this particularly sultry, husky-rough, broodsome tone that he uses off and on. It's pretty much got flashing neon lights reading SEXY VOICE, I AM USING IT NOW over it. What makes it really funny is that you sit there and go, "Hee! He's using the SEXY VOICE again! How obvious can you get? It's like... a parody of... omg it's working.") And I love how now he wants to know what her deal is. Not when she grabbed a hungry vampire's face and babbled about not being able to hear him. No, turning down black market goods, that shit is weird. So now Sookie's freaked out by the SEXY VOICE and she's like, "Well--I--I'm a waitress. What's your name?" "Bill," he says, and Sookie's like, "Bill? Your name is Bill? Bill the vampire? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA." And that was when I knew I was going to love this show. And Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin have crazy chemistry (awkward), so the show can afford to be funny about it.
(Okay, look, I know I've seen Stephen Moyer somewhere before. Seriously, I know I have, there's no way he hasn't been in some... oh my God, Princess of Thieves with Keira Knightley. That's what it was. You have got to be shitting me.)
So... anyway, Bill the Vampire disappears in time for Sam to FINALLY arrive and make sure that Sookie's okay. So... where was he all this time? He ran outside at the same time that Sookie did, but he only now just got here. Interesting.
Then, back inside the restaurant, Tara convinces Sam to give her a permanent bartending job by appealing to his Sookie-protecting instincts. But is she qualified? "Sam, I was mixin' whiskey sours for my mom when I was in first grade." "That's fucked up." "Ya think?" I don't know--she's not the best actress ever and she's still settling into the character, but something just about Rutina Wesley's line readings has just won me over.
And here's Jason dropping by the bar at quitting time. Jason is really hot and built and dumb as a rock, and so for some reason I just can't bring myself to be interested in him. Like, the later Jason hijinx are really funny, but... well, I'm really weird this way, but people actually get more or less attractive in my mind based on their personalities. If someone turns out to be a jerk or an idiot, that's all I can see on their face, even if I can recognize that objectively they're pretty hot. So Jason and his constant nude scenes are kind of wasted on me at the moment. But--and here's another example of what I'm talking about--if the actor playing him turned out to be a fantastic guy, the switch would be flipped the other way, and I would think that he was even more awesome than before. It's weird, I know. Anyway, Tara is still in love with Rock-Stupid Jason. He macks on Dawn instead. Tara seethes.
Chez Stackhouse: Gran is waiting up for Sookie to get off work, and then they squee together over her vampire. Hee.
Then Sookie wakes up in the middle of the night and looks out the window and there's Bill lurking in the Stackhouse front yard. (Edward, there's someone I'd like to introduce you to. I think y'all will have a lot in common...) So she puts on a tiny robe and goes out to meet him, because she's too dumb to live. Bill takes off his shirt, and she stammers, "I never thought I would be having sex with you.... at least, not so fast"--and in the front yard at that--and he rasps, "Who said anything about sex?" FANGS! And then Sookie wakes up with a gasp.
So the next day Sookie's getting her sunbath Lolita on in the yard when Jason arrives to tell her off for tangling with the Rattrays, at which point he finds out what they were doing out in the parking lot of Merlotte's in the first place, and his vampire issues rear up again. "They could have killed him!" cries Sookie. "HE'S ALREADY DEAD!" shouts Jason. Sookie: "THAT'S NOT HIS FAULT!" Wait, wait, what did Bill look like? "Handsome in a sort of old-fashioned way, like from a movie on TCM," says Sookie (hee!). BUT WAS HE BALD OR TATTOOED? This is important, because if Sexxor the Bald has been with his sister, JASON WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO UNSEE THAT.
But then Gran gets off the phone and reveals that Maudette's been found strangled in her apartment, and Jason starts acting really shady about it. And then when he goes back to work--he and Lafayette and their Cajun friend Rene all work on a construction crew, apparently--Jason gets picked up by the sheriff after hemming and hawing about what he does and doesn't know, continually messing up his story about whether he did or did not know that Maudette was dead, or know her personally, or ever sleep with her, particularly on the night in question, which he didn't. By which he means that he did. Because he really is too dumb to live (at least his sister's only a dumbass in her sleep). Also, it doesn't help that the sheriff and the detective have already seen Maudette's secret Jasonsex tape and have just been letting Jason spool out plenty of rope to hang himself with.
Meanwhile, Gran wants to know if Bill the Vampire might have lived through the Civil War, and if Sookie could possibly get him to come speak to the Descendants of the Glorious Dead. Bless.
Let's go back to Merlotte's and watch Tara be sassy some more! She's toying with a nice plump redneck. "Idn't," she says--I don't know how to spell it, but it's pretty much how we all say "isn't" around here, too--"Idn't that funny, a black girl being named after a plantation? [Redneck laughs politely.] NO, I DON'T THINK IT'S FUNNY AT ALL." Apparently Tara isn't black in the books, which may be the reason for this scene, I don't know. Meanwhile, I can't tell whether Lafayette is hitting on the redneck for fun or for serious ("He can be my Santa Claus"). And everyone knew about Jason getting carted away to the pokey before Sookie even found out and they all assumed she "just knew," because she always "just knows," and Sookie shouts, "I AM NOT PSYCHIC!" before storming off. It's a complicated workplace, Merlotte's.
Oh, look! The woevolins have ushered Bill the Vampire back in. Sam mentally seethes, and I quote, "He's got her in his sights. I NEED TO PROTECT HER." All the customers' disapproving voices swirl around Sookie as she slowly walks over to Bill's table, and then he takes her hand, and everything goes quiet. Yeah. I'm thinking that Bill is Sookie's new best friend. "Your hand is cool," she marvels. Yes, Sookie, BECAUSE HE'S DEAD. Bill says he must not be like the men she's accustomed to, but then, Sookie doesn't date (and there's a great scene in the next episode where we find out why). "What are you?" Bill sexyvoices again. "You're something more... than human." Which is an odd way of looking at it, and probably exactly the way Sookie wouldn't want him to look at it. "Sookie," by the way, is not short for anything, she tells him; it's just her name. (Although, technically, "Sukie" originated as a nickname for Susanna.) How her brother got off with "Jason" and she got saddled with "Sookie," I don't know.
So then Bill asks if he may call on her sometime. No, really: "May I call on you sometime?" That is just adorable, y'all. Sookie has no idea what he means. "May I come and visit you at your home?" he says, enunciating carefully, not sure exactly how slow Sookie might be. I mean, she's been whaling on drug dealers and flirting with vampires and turning down black-market goods, the girl clearly ain't right. Oh, at her home! Sure, that'd be awesome! "My grandmother would love to meet you!" And Bill kind of squints at her like, what? But he's lonely and she's crazy, so sure, he'll meet her after her shift's over, that'll work. "Do you realize that every person in this establishment is staring at us right now?" he growls. Really, they seriously are, everyone in the entire bar. Like they're watching TV or something. Oh, but see, that's just because Sookie's brother got hauled in by the police and everyone's talking and-- "THEY ARE STARING AT US BECAUSE I AM A VAMPIRE," says Bill. MY SEXY VOICE, IT IS RASPING OVERTIME. And he can't have the staring because he wants to make Bon Temps his home and be a good little mainstream vampire. And then he lets go of her hand and all the voices flood back.
And then Sam drags Sookie away and shoves her into his office. Sookie: "Am I fired?" "NO!" he shouts, which made me laugh for some reason. And then he yells at her for being a stupid vampire-saving vigilante until she starts crying. "Oh,
So Merlotte's closes for the night. Sam, contrite, offers to wait with her until Bill gets there, and Sookie says no, because her ass, it is dumb.
Aw, Sam lives in a trailer out behind the bar, y'all. Now I just feel sad.
Hey, is that Bill down the way there? No, it's the Rattrays kicking Sookie's guts in. Somewhere, Edward Cullen is very disappointed in Bill the Vampire's stalking skills.
(Continue: 1x02 "The First Taste.")
(All True Blood recaps.)