Holy Tara And The Unholy Roller: The Racialicious Roundtable For True Blood S5, E3

Michael McMillian as Steve Newlin. All images courtesy of True Blood Wikia.

Meet the new (public) boss. And Steve Newlin sure isn’t the same as the old boss. This week, the Vampire Authority made Steve Newlin the organization’s public face. Meanwhile, we got more insight into Tara’s new powers and their effect on her, and Bill and Eric took part in a particularly clever bit of product placement, albeit one with deadly implications.

Confused? You won’t be after Alea Adigweme, Kendra James, and Joseph Lamour analyze “Whatever I Am, You Made Me.” Spoiler Alert is, of course, on for everything under the cut.

Joe: God I love that kid but every time he speaks some Serious Vampire Businessman talk. I just want to give him a noogie and ask if he wants his Nintendo DS. Not every kid can be Kiernan Shipka I guess.

Alea: Word. He’s confused shrill yelling with nuanced acting.

Kendra: He reminds me of The Anointed One from Buffy S1-2.

Joe: Let’s take bets on how long it’ll be before the Reverend gets turned into a vampire smoothie like Nan. My money is on the season finale.

Alea: I hope it’s before then. He really gets on my nerves.

Joe: I kind of love how hilariously seamless his transition from Jerry Falwell to Ted Haggard occurred. Also, as soon as he came out on the show I instantly developed a low buzzing attraction for him. I’m admittedly boy-crazy this summer so this should come as no shock.

Andy (Chris Bauer) finds out he's Facebook famous.

Kendra: Watching the “previously on”: “There’s that abandoned car that lady called in!,” as spoken out of nowhere by Andy last week, remains the singularly laziest piece of expository writing of the season so far. I hate nothing more on television than expository writing.

Alea: And nice, side-ponytail-wearing white girls are 1) perpetually plagued with car trouble when driving through the woods and 2) unable to manage basic motor repairs or call AAA.

Tara (Rutina Wesley) has a whole new way of seeing things.

Alea: Getting a visual rendering of the change in Tara’s senses was a nice touch. It could foreshadow her eventually thinking that the whole being a vampire thing isn’t too bad.

Kendra: Is religion going to steer Tara straight? That’s not really a direction I’d be interested in seeing this go. Seems lazy on the writers’ parts. Nothing more original for your Black characters than we love us some Jesus, eh?

Joe: Sookie’s a lot less whiny now that she has Jubilee from X-Men’s power. Now that she can protect herself–and her love interest(s) are either out of town or angry at her–she’s becoming more independent, and I fully support that.

Kendra: I like it, but I feel like her power development has been really uneven. I wish they could find a way to focus on her learning to control it. Was her use against Pam a reflex or a sign of control? We don’t know because the Fae storyline was so incredibly wishy-washy.

Alea: It’s that lack of character/plot development that makes it seem less like Sookie is growing a spine because of Debbie’s murder and Tara’s turning and more like lazy writing.

Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bill (Stephen Moyer) and their "iStakes."

Alea: Meloni’s strangely one-note in this scene between the Guardian and Newlin.

Joe: Tina Majorino! Anytime she pops up in something, it’s always so much better! And there’s nothing like a sarcastic slacker vamp (especially with her job) with all these serious ones running around on the show. The Authority have some delightfully awful torture devices. It’s like a writer from Saw is on staff.

Alea: Cosign on both accounts, Joe. Maybe I just watched Corrina, Corrina way too often as a lass–I know, I know–but I’ve got a super soft spot in my heart for her and am thrilled whenever I see her working. Such a pro.

Kendra: HBO actor loyalty is pretty spectacular.

Joe: Man, even Tara has complications beyond the normal “becoming a vampire” drama. Fainting, maker momma drama, birth momma drama. (When Lettie Mae finds out about this. Egad.)

Kendra: We received the Sam/Tara interaction we’ve been hoping for, so that’s nice at least. I’m glad they haven’t forgotten that she interacted with people aside from Sookie and Lafayette. (Though I’m not sure Lettie Mae’ll be back. Re: that spectacular HBO actor loyalty? She’s over on The Newsroom playing Kendra.)

Joe: Hopefully she’ll at least pop over for a classic Thornton screaming session–Oh! Andy’s booty has a multi-episode arc.

Alea: We’re not the only ones who’ve noticed that he’s been working out a bit.

Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and Miss Steeler (Melinda Page Hamilton) share a moment.

Alea: “Crunchy or sweet?” Really, Jason? How do people fall for crap like that?

Joe: ‘Cause he looks like he does. That corny crap wouldn’t work for mere mortals.

Kendra: Dear God, stop the presses. Sookie’s at her place of employment!

Alea: Everyone’s working today (except for Terry.) Magic! Also, Sam, making your brother a vampire would have been a terrrrrrrrrible idea.

Kendra: “It’s like keeping a pet alligator in the bathtub.” Speaking from experience? Not the best thing to do, and one would really think Sam should know better.

Pam (Kristin Bauer) confronts Eric.

Joe: Obligatory two snaps for Pam’s fabulous sleeping face …

Alea: Perfection. Kristin Bauer is a total dreamboat.

Joe: If Twilight were more like this Pam/Eric storyline, I would have gone to see it.

Alea: Bill and Lorena make an appearance in Pam’s origin story. It’s kind of like they’re almost responsible for bringing her and Eric together …?

Alea: There’s something super off about Jason’s former teacher. Prince Charming the cat seems a little too … sinister? Canny? I don’t know … it meowed when Crystal, the werepanther, was mentioned, but maybe a cat is just a cat.

Joe: I noted the meow as well. Maybe the cat and Crystal hung out once … Ah, the Pelt parents make their appearance. And, Mrs. Pelt, that’s quite an accent. She’s serving up some Katharine Hepburn realness.

Kendra: On Bon Temps Pond? The Louisiana Story? Bringing up Sookie? Alcide’s Rib? Guess Who’s Coming to Merlotte’s?

Joe: LOL.

Alea: Kendra, I am slain. [Heart puns so hard.]

Joe: Hmm, without giving too much away, it looks like they’ve changed a big part of the Pelt storyline from the books.

Alea: Jason’s realization about his previous relationship with Ms. Steeler is a rather weighty one. Because his sexuality and its effects on other men have been explicitly problematized multiple times this season–Hoyt calling him “girlfriend-f-cker” and the kid sucker punched him in 5.2–I think we’re going to see an attempt at a “serious” unpacking of Jason’s almost mechanically libidinous nature.

Salome (Valentina Cervi) seduces Bill.

Alea: Hey, US Weekly is the most reliable of the gossip magazines. Equating it with the Bible is a little bit harsh.

Joe: “Dangerous female sexuality.” It looks like one of the writers read Salome’s wiki too …

Alea: Valentina Cervi … was an excellent casting choice. After Pam, she’s maybe the only good thing so far about this season.

Joe: Tracy’s Togs! Well, it looks like they took a few book storylines and shook them up! Without getting spoilery, non-book folks, Charlaine Harris originally named that store Tara’s Togs. (Don’t worry, it has virtually nothing to do with any plot at all, and also, the show Tara would never in a million years use the word “togs”.) The interesting thing about that is now we know there’s a clean break for her character from the books, so Tara could leave the show at any point. I foresee a touching emotional exit at some point a la Godric.

Alea: Does that man really smell that damn good? Jessica just ran off into a field somewhere and started spinning around like she’s Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music? Is he fae?

Joe: Alea, that’s my guess. You would think she would mention him smelling kind of like Sookie if so, though. Maybe at some point.

Joe: As much as I feel like this Tara/Pam/Sookie/Laffy plotline is going to end in my disappointment and Rutina Wesley joining the cast of Grey’s Anatomy, it’s really a engaging narrative. It’s definitely an opportunity for the less fully fleshed characters to show that they don’t have character (“angry” or “sarcastic” or “flighty”) when they arrive on set.

Alea: It’s been nice to see present-day Pam show more emotions than varying shades of contempt. Past Pam’s got effing brass ones. Slitting her own wrists to force Eric to make her was quite the gamble.

Alea: Nora’s interrogator looks like Sharon Osbourne [though that dress is much more fierce than the blue, 1990s-era HRC suit she was wearing during the council meeting].

Joe: Yeah, that hairstyle…Carolyn Hennesy (Authority member Rosalyn) has had that hair color for a while, and I usually love it but for the show they obviously have been styling it a lot more…Republican.

Alea: Jason’s breaking my damn heart. Seriously. I really hope that the writers don’t screw him over again this season.

Alea: Eric and Bill’s brotastic, dick-measuring adventure might be the source of most of this season’s laughs: “You know what they say about gentlemen. They don’t brag about sloppy seconds.”–ice burn.

Joe: I wondered how long it would be before we saw Meloni in all his glory. His career goal should be nudity in every show and movie he’s in. It’s definitely my career goal for him.

Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) encounters a side of himself he doesn't like.

Joe: Brujo sighting!

Alea: Oh, sh-t. Bleach in the gumbo because Arlene was giving him sh-t? That’s what brings the brujo out?

Joe: Oh Pam. You’re two steps from being as good a mother as Patsy on Absolutely Fabulous. I couldn’t be paying a higher compliment, in case everyone was wondering.

Alea: Lol. It’s a little bit silly that this episode ended with the faux-cliffhanger of Tara’s attempted suicide. The flashback to Pam’s turning and the Season 5 previews all point to Tara and Pam developing some sort of tenderness for each other. I understand that the tanning bed scene is supposed to mirror what Pam did to force Eric to make her, but, still, except for Human Pam’s wrist-slitting and Jason’s emotional breakthrough, the whole damn hour was pretty underwhelming.

Joe: There was less Terry/Arlene mishegas, and I thank the hour for that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zachmykelliazaiya.watts Mamie Mooney

    IDK why the huge uproar over the racial slur by Pam it was definitely indicative of the time in which the scene was supposed to have taken place and because she is originally from that time it would surprize me if she kept some of her human prejudices. Meh Im more surprized they are in Louisiana and we havent heard more of the N word to be quite honest with you

  • Oscar_M

    I’m also uncomfortable with the name Sanguinistas for the name of an anti-human murderous sect of vampires. I think it plays off a demonization of 80s Latin American liberation movements, specifically, the Sandinistas.

  • Anonymous

    Still no Meloni booty…or are they waiting to unsheath it like a secret weapon during the season ender?

    Re: Pam’s anti-Asian racism–as much as I enjoy watching Pam, I also have to say that I don’t find her spouting racist things all that shocking, as painful as it is to me to hear her call Rubber Ruby, the Asian sex worker, an anti-Asian slur. As weird as it sounds, her unchecked deep contempt of folks would nurture such sentiments. (And I do remember Pam calling Tara’s former flame an anti-Asian slur.) At the same time, I thought I saw the actor Kristin Bauer flinch for a split second when she recited the line.

    That whole scene was wack: not only Pam talking about her brothel serving “exotic” taste, but how that instantly became wedded to women of color (‘cuz we’re soooooooooo exotic!) with the Pam introducing the Asian sex worker who proceeds to do a contortionist trick. Not only is Pam anti-Asian, that whole scene reeked of anti-Asian, specifically Orientalist, sexualized racism.

    My other beef with this week’s episode–yes, I’ve gone back to watching them–is Salome as a dark-haired white beauty. At first, I thought (OK, hoped) that she was named after the Biblical figure. When she revealed she actually is the Biblical figure, I rolled my eyes because I heard the white-beauty-as-eternal-beauty echo machine again. Interesting explanation of the “Seven Veils” myth, but I’m not impressed with that casting.

    And now, to Tara. I get it: Tara may be disabled due to her gunshot-produced head wound, and she’s a baby vampire (not out of her volition) abandoned by her maker (for now). But her unchecked rage/growing pains…watching her tear up Sookie’s house and everyone cowering from her reminded that quite a few people think we Black women (regardless of our physical and mental abilities and especially if we’re dark-skinned like Rutina Wesley) function like that all. the. time. (And it’s also a stereotype of disabled people, especially those living with mental conditions.) It’s just a matter of time and the “proper” circumstance for our “natural rage” to manifest where we go off on others and/or ourselves. What’s rarely understood is that, like everyone else, sometimes there’s a reason behind our rage. (That were quite a few TB fans lose me with their critiques of Tara by using tired-ass stereotypes of Black women.) So, it’s fascinating to watch Tara struggle to pull all of this together, as rightfully pissed off as she is about it.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/sossajes sossajes mcfakon

    the eric/bill comedy duo in their matching tracksuits is just so hilarious.

    i really hope pam and tara cement a bond and become a power couple, however the relationship is structured. they are my two favorite characters, but yeah the cliffhanger was just lazy.

    this episode gave me some hope for a good storyline with jason. there was a hint of an actual internal world for jason, for once, and i want more of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Steven.Michael.Hastings Steven Michael Hastings

    This is the biggest Racialicious fail in the history of this blog. You guys talk up Pam, but make no mention of the fact that she used a racial slur word? This site has gone so far down hill since Carmen left it’s not even funny. I no longer consider you allies. This isn’t a safe space for all poc, only some.

    • Anonymous

      When was that?

      • https://twitter.com/#!/sossajes sossajes mcfakon

        she uses a slur to refer to one of her employees.

        • Anonymous

          Do you remember roughly when and where? I’m asking so we can bring it up in the next roundtable. Was it this season or another?

          • https://twitter.com/#!/sossajes sossajes mcfakon

            yup, eric comes in to her brothel, and she describes rubber ruby, the only POC (as far as i can recall) in her employ using an anti-Chinese slur.

          • Anonymous

            Gotcha. Will rewatch, screengrab, and discuss in the next RT.

    • Mickey

      I actually forgot to mention that in my post. When she said that I was like, “Huh!?” But then again, she used a similar slur against Tara’s girlfriend in the previous season (“yellow tail”)Does Pam have something against Asians?

  • Anonymous

    Finally caught up!  The new season is really uneven, but it is so worth it for the Jason revelations.  They are actually going to do something with Stackhouse outside of being a playboy.  And he’s handling it well.  (Also, props to Jessica for chilling out and listening.) Sexual assault is hard to deal with, and they took it to major gray area – I really hope they don’t drop the ball on this plot.

    I’m finding vamp Tara to be awesome and enjoyable to watch.  As well as upgraded Sookie – it’s about time she learned to wield that power (though shocked if that stays around).  Surprisingly uninvested in the authority plot – the internal vamp politics part feel like a distraction.  And I like Terry’s new quest to resolve his past, but I could do without all the Arlene screams.  

    Joe, Alea, Kendra, thanks for holding it down.  See y’all Sunday night!

  • Bob Gordon

    A-a-and the quote of the night goes to Alea Adigweme for this:

    “Hey, *US Weekly* is the most reliable of the gossip magazines. Equating it with the Bible is a little bit harsh.”

  • Mickey

    Well, I liked this episode MUCH MORE than the previous one, which I found to be underwhelming. We see how Pam manipulated Eric into turning her, but she did give a heartfelt reason why.

    Tara is not too crazy about being turned into a vamp, but I’m glad that she let the cat out of the bag when she let Sookie have it in front of Alcide.

    The iStakes were hilarious. “Too cute to be goo.”

    Loved Salome’s black lace dress. ;)

    Jason is maturing. It’s about damn time. His being a dunce would eventually get old.

    Hoyt is becoming more bad boy-like. And we’ve got a new fairy in town. The guy that Jessica smelled is Claude. Just read about him on a website.

    Can’t wait to see Lafayette rip Sookie a new one. It’s LONG overdue.