Review: True Blood S5E12 “Save Yourself”


(BE WARNED!  SPOILERS AND PROFANITY AHEAD)

As I sit here writing this, it’s been about an hour since the 5th season finale of True Blood and I’m still trying to figure out how to start my review of the episode.  Foolishly, I’ve got the finale of that terrible Aaron Sorkin male egofest, The Newsroom, on for background noise and I’m hoping that it ends with the entire cast getting staked and exploding into red goo.  It’s only a distraction though from confronting the issue of what happened during the final five minutes of True Blood tonight.

Seriously — what the fuck was that?

Up until Bill drank what remained of Lilith’s blood, the season finale was playing out in a rather predictable fashion.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was exciting and there were plenty of good scenes but it all felt somewhat familiar and I was fairly sure that Eric and Sookie would confront Bill and Sookie would be able to talk some sense into him.  I knew there would be some sort of macabre twist at the end because it is True Blood and all.  I thought maybe Lafayette’s demon would pop up or maybe Roman would suddenly materialize out of thin air.  What I was not expecting was that Bill would dissolve into a red puddle just to then suddenly rise out of the pool of blood as some sort of male Lilith.  As Sookie so correctly put it, “Fuuuuuuuuuck….”

Though tonight’s finale was dominated by the fall of the Vampire Authority, there were a few other things going on.

First off, dumbass Andy is now a father as Maurella, the faerie he impregnated earlier this season, gave birth to four girls.  Somewhat inconveniently for Andy, she did so at the exact same time that he was trying to explain the situation to Holly.  Even more inconveniently, Maurella then promptly vanished, leaving Andy to raise the four babies.  To be honest, I wasn’t really a huge fan of this plotline when it was introduced last week and I’m still not.  That said, it could be interesting to see, in season 6, how all the show’s vampires react to having four new sources of faerie blood in Bon Temps.  Especially since it now appears that humans, vampires, and practically everyone else is going to be very much at war with each other.

Speaking of war, the war for control the wolfpack was finally resolved during tonight’s episode and, not surprisingly, it was won by Alcide who not only defeated J.D. but killed him as well.  A friend of mine e-mailed me during the show to say, “I know you ladies love this Alcide guy but the werewolves bore me shitless…” I have to say that my friend is right on both counts.  We do love Alcide and yes, the werewolf storylines are never as interesting as whatever’s going on with the vampires.

And, believe me, a lot was going on with the vampires tonight.

Last week ended with Russell, having just feasted on a faerie, now approaching the faerie night club while Sookie and friends vainly tried to hold him back.  Tonight’s episode began with Eric and Nora conveniently showing up and promptly saving the day by killing Russell.  That’s right — Russell exploded into red goo.  He’s dead and you know what?  I’m going to miss him.  Denis O’Hare brought such a wonderfully decadent sense of evil to the show and, to be honest, it was hard not to feel that he (and the character) deserved a better send off than just being killed during the pre-credits sequence.

I was probably not alone in hoping that the Rev. Newlin would be killed right alongside Russell but instead, the sleazy little toadsucker managed to scurry off and was missing for the rest of the episode.  This, however, did prove convenient for Sam and Luna because, with Newlin nowhere to be found, that allowed Luna to shift into Newlin’s form and then try to walk out of the Authority HQ with Emma (who was still in adorable wolf puppy form).  In the past, I’ve often felt that Michael McMillan has gone a bit overboard with his performance as the Rev. Newlin but he deserves all the credit in the world for his performance in tonight’s episode.  Luna-as-Newlin was a wonder to behold.

Unfortunately, right when Luna/Newlin is on the verge of escaping on wolf puppy, she’s grabbed by a very angry Rosalyn.  Apparently, the video tape of Newlin and Russell attacking that frat house has been released by the U.S. Government and Rosalyn drags Luna/Newlin downstairs to the media room so that she can do an interview and practice a little damage control.  However, during the interview, Luna/Newlin starts to have convulsions and shifts back into Luna form.  Before she apparently faints, Luna manages to tell the world that humans are being held captive at the Authority HQ.  I’m not really sure what was happening to Luna, if it was a lingering effect of her having been shot earlier this season or something even worse.  Fortunately, for Luna, she was saved from Rosalyn’s wrath by Sam who, having shifted into a fly earlier, flew into Rosalyn’s mouth and then apparently shifted back to human form inside of her, causing Rosalyn to explode into one big mess.

While this was going on, the Authority HQ was being attacked by Eric, Nora, Sookie, Tara, and Jason (who, oddly enough, is now having hallucinations where his dead, and surprisingly bigoted, parents talk to him).  After killing every vampire that they come across and freeing Jessica and Pam (which leads to a Pam/Tara makeout session), Eric and Sookie go to confront Bill, who has just finished staking the final member of the authority, Salome.

And that, of course, led us to this season’s final scene — Bill being reborn as some sort of blood God.

So, is Bill now truly evil?  Are Pam and Tara a couple?  Is Jason going crazy?  Is Luna dying?  Can a war between humans and vampires be prevented?  And who, in their right mind, would trust dumbass Andy with one baby, let alone four?

For answers to all of those questions, we’re going to have to wait until season 6…

Random Observations

  • Tonight’s unofficial scene count: 60.
  • I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed with tonight’s finale.  It’s not that it was a bad episode as much as it just really annoyed me that, after taking so long to reach this point, tonight’s finale still didn’t resolve or explain much of anything.  Nor did it even really attempt to.  That said, I’ll still return to watch season 6 so, obviously, tonight’s episode must have done something right.
  • Again, I was disappointed with how easily Russell was finally dispatched.  I also wish that Rosalyn and Salome hadn’t been killed off as they were both interesting characters and I think the series could have done more with them.
  • I also felt bad for Chelsea, the receptionist.  My sympathy is always with the receptionists.
  • Does Lafayette still have that demon inside of him?
  • Is Emma going to be in Wolf Puppy form forever?
  • I have mixed feelings about season 5 on True Blood.  It definitely was not a season to use to introduce someone to True Blood for the first time.  That said, I also think that this season featured a lot of really good moments and I’m looking forward to Season 6.
  • Hopefully, Season 6 will not feature any Iraqi fire demons.
  • I also had a lot of fun recapping each episode here on the Shattered Lens and thank you to everyone who read them!  It was fun!
  • By the way, The Newsroom did not end with Jeff Daniels getting a stake driven through his heart and that’s a shame.

VGM Entry 28: Altered Beast


VGM Entry 28: Altered Beast
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)

The Sega Genesis/Mega Drive was launched in Japan on October 29th, 1988. By the end of the year, only four titles had been released on it. Three of them did not have very impressive music. Space Harrier II (Sega) and Super Thunder Blade (Sega) were designed more to showcase the system’s visual capabilities, presenting for perhaps the first time serious three dimensional gameplay outside of the arcade. In regards to audio, they both exploited the system’s sound capabilities towards the end of excessive and rather tasteless sound effects. Osomatsu-kun: Hachamecha Gekijō (Sega) was a bizarre, very Japanese side-scrolling cartoon game which might best be forgotten altogether. But the fourth game, Altered Beast (Sega), was an altogether different matter.

Toshio Kai will forever hold the honor of having composed the first excellent fourth generation gaming soundtrack. Altered Beast might not have been on par with the sound quality achieved by Hisayoshi Ogura on Darius in 1986, but it was getting pretty close, and you could enjoy it in your bedroom.

Or perhaps I am going too far here. It is easy to forget what Takahito Abe, with a little help from Yuzo Koshiro, accomplished on the PC-8801, especially since the computer was only ever marketed in Japan. Xanadu Scenario II, Ys I, and plenty of other titles completely obscure to American audiences, like Taiyou no Shinden (Nihon Falcom, 1988), were all just gorgeous, and the sound quality does not appear to be any poorer than Altered Beast. The brilliant stretch of compositions Takahito Abe crafted in 1987/88 were consistently subtle, however, and his genius may well have extended into writing music which catered to the system. Toshio Kai did not have to worry about being subtle.

Altered Beast has a bass track that actually sounds like a bass, a piano which can at least be identified as such, fuller drumming, and synthier tones which sound so by choice, not out of necessity. It really feels as though the artist was not restricted in any critical sense, and in 1988 that was something of a novelty, or at least a luxury held exclusively by arcade composers.

“Gaum-Hermer” might not be the most exciting track in the game, but it merges with the gameplay in a sort of manner that you just don’t hear on the NES or Master System. It sounds like the sort of thing Hirokazu Tanaka just couldn’t quite pull off on Metroid. It is of course because Toshio Kai does such an excellent job that the ambiance of the song hits home, but I question whether such a track was even possible before.

Altered Beast did appear first as an arcade game. It was not necessarily composed with the Genesis in mind. But the fact that it could be ported without major alterations is something of a first. Developers of ports for the Nintendo had long been in the habit of commissioning entirely new soundtracks, or else altering the arcade music in extraordinary ways, such as in Double Dragon. Decisions to simply replicate the original as closely as possibly, such as in the eventual NES port of Altered Beast, tended to fall flat. You can hear subtle changes between the arcade and Genesis versions, but the NES version sounds terrible, and some of the songs are barely recognizable. Besides, most of the differences feel more like efforts to improve the song than failures to replicate it. The ruthlessly obnoxious drum line plaguing this arcade soundtrack from start to finish, for instance, is drastically subdued.

It’s pretty hard to argue with the “Game Over” song. A lot, perhaps even the majority, of the best gaming music ever written appears on 4th generation platforms. It was an era that offered the best of both worlds. Here the sound is still electronic enough to form a distinct style. You couldn’t say, go hire a symphony orchestra and carry the recording straight away into the game. Musicians still had to work with limitations. But the technology had finally reached a point where those limitations did not deny the possibility of reproducing the same aesthetic appeal as say, an orchestra or a jazz band. The creativity and ingenuity required for good third generation song writing unabated, it was now given a medium in which to reach its full potential. The Mega Drive got a slower start than you might expect, and it wasn’t until well into the SNES era that a large collection of good Mega Drive soundtracks begin to appear, but by 1988 the possibilities were there.