Review: True Blood S5E11 “Sunset”

For better or worse, the fifth season of True Blood is rapidly drawing to a close.  Tonight’s episode (the last before next week’s season finale) featured a lot blood and it answered at least one big question that True Blood fans have been debating since about halfway through this season.

That question: does Bill actually believe all of this Lilith stuff or is he just pretending in order to manipulate the situation to his own advantage?  A lot of people — myself included — assumed the Bill had to have some sort of secret plan.  Bill, we all assumed, has always been too much of a politician to become a true believer in anything.

Well, it turns out that we were all wrong.  As tonight’s episode proved, Bill is indeed a true believer.  He has drunk from the proverbial kool-aid (or Lilith’s blood, as the case may be).  As Pam explains in one of tonight’s better moments, Bill and the rest of the Authority are nesting.  Essentially, it’s what happens when vampires spend too much time hanging out with each other.

Bill, in fact, has become such a true believer that he’s now having visions of a blood-drenched Lilith telling him that he is the one (and the only one) that she has chosen to lead vampires to their rightful future.  When another chancellor (the bald, black guy whose name I can never remember) confesses to having had the same vision, Bill responds with, “NO, I AM THE CHOSEN ONE!” and then chops off his head. Of course, even before Bill has finished cleaning his hands, Lilith is appearing to Salome and telling her that she’s the chosen one.

In a nice bit of irony, even as former skeptic Bill becomes even more devoted to Lilith, former true believer Nora has lost her faith in Lilith.  After Nora makes up with her “brother” Eric (and thank you, True Blood, for indulging us Alexander Skarsgard fans with that little scene), the two of them start to search for an oppurtunity to escape the bunker.  That opportunity presents itself when a human general shows up, demands to speak to Roman, and then reveals that he has video evidence of Russell and the Rev. Newlin slaughtering a frat house.  Eric responds by killing the general and then volunteering to go (with Nora, of course) to Washington D.C. and take care of the video.  The rightfully suspicious Bill orders a security detail to accompany Eric and Nora but, as soon as they’re out of the bunker, Eric kills both of the guards and he and Nora fly off into the night.  Needless to say, it was nice to see Eric acting like Eric again.

Bill also decided to send a security detail with Jessica after he ordered her to return to Bon Temps and turn Jason into a vampire.  However, Jessica only pretends to turn Jason which gives Jason a chance to kill Jessica’s two guards.  Seriously, the Authority might want to take a look at the training program for the members of their Security Detail because it doesn’t appear to be that effective.

Anyway, Jessica tells Jason what’s going on and then, after Jason runs back to the Faerie nightclub so he can warn Sookie, Jessica ends up hiding out with Pam and Tara.  At first, Pam isn’t all that happy to see Jessica show up because, after all, Pam’s already got her hands full trying to clean up after Tara’s murder of Sheriff Elijah.  Unfortunately, it turns out that Elijah was made by Chancellor Rosalyn and when Rosalyn shows up searching for him, she immediately accuses Tara of killing him.  Pam, who has been incorrectly informed by Jessica that Eric is still at the Authority HQ, confesses and, along with Jessica, is promptly arrested and taken to the bunker.

And you know who else is in the bunker?  Sam and Luna, who are still running around as field mice until they finally manage to track down Emma, who is still in her adorable wolf puppy form.  Unfortunately,  Sam and Luna shift back into human form when they find Emma and are then promptly found by Authority security guards who assume that they’re simply humans who have been imprisoned in order to serve as a food source.  When Sam hears one of the guards mention that it’s time for “Chancellor Compton’s breakfast,” he volunteers to be that meal and, as the episode comes to an end, he is being led out of the jail while Pam’s being led into it.

But that’s not all!

Tara might be falling in love with Pam, or at least that’s the way it seems to Jessica.

Alcide is staying with his dad and apparently spends most of his time chopping wood without a shirt on and that’s perfectly alright with me.  However, when a group of baby vamps show up and start attacking the trailer park, Alcide (and, eventually, his dad) fight them off.

Finally, Sookie is hiding out at the Faerie nightclub and, as part of her efforts to learn why she has been promised to the mysterious Warlow, she talks to the Elder, the oldest faerie in existence.  Unfortunately, the Elder turns out to be a bit of a flake whose mind has been permanently scrambled by the amount of times that she’s jumped through all the various realities.  The Elder assures Sookie that “A dark time is coming,” and it turns out that she’s right as, at the end of tonight’s episode, Russell and the Rev. Newlin manage to track down the fearie night club.  As the terrified faeries watch, Russell drains the Elder dry and then, fangs bared, lunges forward to attack…

This was a bloody episode and, to judge from the previews, next week’s finale is going to be even more bloody.  Will Bill come to his senses?  Will Warlow make an appearance?  And will someone please just go ahead and stake the Rev. Newlin?

Hopefully, we’ll find out next week.

Random Observations:

  1. This episode’s unofficial scene count: 44.
  2. This was an uneven episode but overall, I liked it.  There was a lot about this episode that felt like filler but, at the same time, the idea of the vampires having religious visions as a result of “nesting” is an intriguing one and I hope that it’s one that next week’s finale explores.
  3. Of all the episodes so far this season, this one was probably the most explicit in making the connection between organized religion and the Authority.  It wasn’t subtle but then again, True Blood rarely is.
  4. “Don’t play game with me, you little ginger bitch!”  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard those exact same words…
  5. Pam is like the Lauren Bacall of vampires.

VGM Entry 21: Zelda II and Metroid

VGM Entry 21: Zelda II and Metroid
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)

You’re going to see Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (Nintendo, 1987) on a lot of “best of the NES” soundtrack lists. I considered skipping over it, since I’m not a big fan myself, but I suppose a famous score ought to be addressed whether I care for it or not.

Zelda II brought a completely new soundtrack to the table, sharing nothing in common with the original Legend of Zelda save a passing nod at the beginning of “Hyrule Overworld”. (The track list on this compilation is “The Adventure of Link” (0:00), “Hyrule Overworld” (1:22), “Danger” (2:17), “Village Theme 1” (2:53), “Village Theme 2” (4:07), “Palace” (4:27), and “Ending” (5:57), if you’re curious.) This departure is not a surprise in itself; Nintendo oddly chose to give Akito Nakatsuka rather than Koji Kondo the job, so we’re dealing with a different composer here. Zelda II was also a much more extensive soundtrack than the original, featuring 13 full-length songs if I’m counting correctly.

There is no obvious reason to dislike the soundtrack. “Hyrule Overworld” is catchy, no doubt, and “Palace” is a particularly noteworthy song. Zelda II has a few gems, and more thought went into it than many contemporary video game soundtracks out there. But is it really anything special? The simple fact that it wasn’t bad might have stood for something a few years prior, but by 1987 I expect a bit more. Most of Akito Nakatsuka’s compositions are pretty simplistic, not all that memorable, blandly arranged, and generally fail to capitalize on any of the system’s unique potential. I am rather inclined to believe the music was popular merely due to its having the name “Zelda” attached to it.

Another game which receives, I think, a little more praise than it deserves is Metroid (Nintendo, 1986). My complaint here is not nearly so well founded, especially considering it was, I’ll admit, a great soundtrack, and Hirokazu Tanaka, unlike Akita Nakatsuka, had a long and meritorious career in the video game music industry. (Nakatsuka’s only other claim to fame to the best of my knowledge is Excitebike (Nintendo, 1984).)

But Metroid and Zelda II are remembered in different degrees. If Zelda II makes all the lists, Metroid always seems to top them. The problem here can be seen in which tracks are well remembered. “Brinstar” (1:40) is probably the most famous song in the game, followed by the title theme (0:00). But “Brinstar”, much like “Escape” (4:09) and “Victorious” (5:18) in this video, are pretty standard fair. Catchy songs, better than most; I’ll grant them that. The best on the NES? Well, they’re at least worth considering as candidates. But if these are the songs Metroid is best remembered for, something went wrong here. What you hear at the beginning of the intro, as well as in “Norfair” (2:34) and “Kraid’s Lair” (3:17), is a bit more indicative of what I think Tanaka was aiming for, and the brief “Bridge” (7:33) at the end of this video is probably the most revealing track.

Tanaka was trying to bring the world of Metroid alive through music. He wasn’t just writing background pieces; he was integrating music into the gameplay environment, and that was no easy task on the Nintendo. To quote an interview with Hirokazu Tanaka conducted by Alex Brandon and published in 2002:

“…sound designers in many studios started to compete with each other by creating upbeat melodies for game music. The pop-like, lilting tunes were everywhere. The industry was delighted, but on the contrary, I wasn’t happy with the trend, because those melodies weren’t necessarily matched with the tastes and atmospheres that the games originally had. The sound design for Metroid was, therefore, intended to be the antithesis for that trend. I had a concept that the music for Metroid should be created not as game music, but as music the players feel as if they were encountering a living creature. I wanted to create the sound without any distinctions between music and sound effects.”

The introduction and “Bridge” pull this off wonderfully, and “Norfair” and “Kraid’s Lair” suit the vision admirably as well, but the majority of the more popular tracks from Metroid are nevertheless Tanaka’s poppier pieces. I wish I could write this off as fan failure to appreciate, but the truth is the other more obscure tracks, “Tourian” and “Mother Brain”, are excluded from garudoh’s compilation for a reason. They missed the mark, and they just weren’t all that good. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting Metroid was anything short of a great soundtrack, but it was nevertheless a little short of what it strove to be, and many of its redeeming qualities rest in the residual traces of precisely what Tanaka was trying to weed out.

Metroid deserves an honorable mention on any list of NES soundtrack greats, but it’s not top ten material. I think it has too many faults for that, and Tanaka himself would contribute to a better NES score on Mother a few years later anyway.