Tuesday, August 25, 2009

True Blood: WOW.

I'm still a week behind on True Blood, so I'm taking a chance posting on this (and please don't spoil me for this week's episode in your comments!) but I just had to say something after watching that incredible rooftop scene in the August 16 episode, "I Will Rise Up." It was so beautifully done, and paid homage to similar scenes that had come before it.

Long before Joss Whedon humanized vampires, or Cylons made us question whether robots were unfeeling machines or creatures with souls, there were replicants. Whenever anyone asks me if I have a favourite scene in a movie, I probably say this one. At the end of Blade Runner, after Deckard has been chasing the replicants through the entire movie, he corners Roy Batty on a rooftop, and as the replicant "dies," he delivers one of the most incredible and moving speeches I've ever seen in a film, and Deckard immediately begins to question what he'd been doing:

It's one of those scenes that stays with you. In a similar scene (minus the death, thank god), in the season 7 Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, "Beneath You," Buffy tracks a crazy Spike to a church, and through his rambling she realizes that he's managed to get his soul back, in a sense. As she watches him in horror, he becomes more coherent, and tired of everything he's been through, he walks to the altar of the church, drapes himself on the cross, and says, "Can we rest now? Buffy, can we rest?" as smoke begins to rise from his body. I remember meeting James Marsters shortly after this scene had aired, and I told him I thought the scene was Shakespearean. His face lit up and he said, "Really? Because that's what I was going for!" Well, it worked. It's one of the most haunting scenes of any television show I've ever watched.

And now I've seen another. In season 1, True Blood was a campy delight that I enjoyed watching, despite all the naysayers saying it wasn't living up to the cred of other HBO shows. This season has been far, far better, not least because of Eric. Oh, Eric... I'm sorry, Spike, but as much as I love you, my allegiance has suddenly moved to another blonde vampire putting on an accent that isn't really his. Alexander Skarsgard. Oh, where you have you been all my life? Let's just look at him for a second, shall we?:

Mmm. OK, where was I? Oh yes, the August 16 episode. In it we discover -- shockingly -- that when Godric had been captured by the Brotherhood of the Sun, he'd done it on purpose. After 2000 years, he was tired. He was tired of the fighting, the hiding, the distrust, the bloodshed. He'd once been a bloodthirsty vampire, but he no longer even drinks blood, allowing himself to waste away. He was hoping the Fellowship would put a hasty end to his suffering, but his protege, Eric, came to his "rescue" just in time. Now that the PR woman who's touting Vampire Rights on CNN every night asks Godric to step down as sheriff, he gives up his post happily, and asks a distraught Eric to join him on the roof right before sunrise.

Alexander Skarsgard and Alan Hyde, who plays Godric, are both Scandinavian. I don't know if the language they used on the roof was something that they could both speak more easily, but what I did notice was when they switched to it, their already stellar acting reached new heights. Eric falls before his maker, begging him to stay, with blood running down his face (vampires in this world cry blood). He offers to burn with him, but Godric refuses, and asks him to find a safe haven. Sookie, who earlier in the episode had been tricked into drinking Eric's blood, and is now connected to him, is particularly tender and kind to Eric, despite the disgust she feels toward him, assuring him that she'll stay with Godric until the end. And she does.

Godric has clearly been set up as a Christ figure (he even refers to Christ in one episode), one who will die to save the vampire race. If he sacrifices himself, imagine the spin the PR woman could put on it. But that's not his ultimate end game. He's simply... done. Like Roy Batty, in his final moments he's completely humanized, and marvels at it. He stares at Sookie, and says he can't believe that at the very end, he's standing next to a human, who is crying real tears for him. He assures her he's not scared at all, but is in fact filled with joy. And yet, he belies this confidence in one brief moment when he looks at Sookie and asks her how God will punish him. She tells him God doesn't punish, he forgives.

He steps forward, seeing the sun rise for the first time in two millenia, and opens his arms to greet it. He'd already told Sookie that it would be quick, because he's so old. She stands back, sobbing and frightened for him, as a look of peace falls over his face and he is obliterated in a magnificent blue light, leaving nothing behind but the white tunic he'd removed just before stepping forward. This from the man who, centuries before, stood above Eric, about to turn him into a vampire, and answered, "I am" when Eric asked him if he was death. Now Godric knows there are things much worse than death.

In an episode that had its share of laugh-out-loud moments -- Steve and his wife bickering on national television while he sports the giant red bruise from the paintball on his forehead; Sam showing up naked at Andy's hotel room -- this moment was divine. I haven't seen anything like it on television this year, and it brought me to tears in a way that only Buffy used to do.

And now my husband's away for a week interviewing a musician for a feature story and I have to wait until he's back at the end of the week to watch the next episode. It's already killing me, but in the meantime, I will continue to be haunted by that scene of Godric giving himself over to fate and disappearing from a world that has only given him pain.


yourblindspot said...

Have I said that I love this show? Because I really love this show.

Oh, and just wait 'til you see what's coming. The finale this season is going to be EPIC.

About that 'Blade Runner' scene: my understanding is that Rutger Hauer apparently took what was a full page of scripted monologue for that sequence, condensed it, and then basically ad-libbed the version we see in the film? Incredible.

claudia said...

hi nikki,

what godric says in this "weird" language is actually german and means "Father - Brother - Son".

Looove the show.. and Eric.

Nikki Stafford said...

joshua: I remember reading a few years ago that Hauer had added in the "Like tears in rain" line, which is the best line in the scene. It wouldn't surprise me if he'd adlibbed the entire thing. I think this is why I'm so disapponted in the lacklustre career that followed.

claudia: German! That's interesting... if Vikings spoke a Germanic language that would make sense. Thanks for the info!

Anonymous said...

Who is your husband interviewing? The singer from Ned's Atomic Dustbin?!

stevenm said...

Strangely, the line 'Father- Brother - Son' was delivered in German, but the dialogue before was definitely not German. Eric is speaking Swedish, and it seems Godric does as well (even though the actor is Danish).

Batcabbage said...

I'm loving this season of True Blood. I've converted quite a few of my friends (who already have a love of Buffy) into True Blood fans, and I'm really happy with the direction that season 2 has taken. Batkitty is with you, Nik. She's gone all (dare I say it) batty for Eric in a big way, so much so that she shouts at the television "Sookie, dump Bill! Go for Eric! Or I will!" I don't take offence, though. I'd really have loved to see Aleksander play Thor, he would have been perfect (even though an Aussie is playing Thor now, apparently). Speaking of Aussies, Ryan Kwanten is brilliant. I crack up every time he's on the screen, and his little apology to Bill at the end of the last ep... man, just brilliant.

Batcabbage said...

Just to clarify, when I say 'apology to Bill in the last ep' I didn't mean the one that aired Sunday just gone (Aug 23), I meant the episode from the Sunday before. I'm an episode behind, too. I don't want to be seen as giving away spoilers - I hate them almost as much as Nik does! :)

Nikki Stafford said...

Anon: Yes, he's interviewing Jon from Ned's Atomic Dustbin. Because they were such a worldwide success the first time, they've decided to reform. It'll be the biggest music event since the Beatles disbanded. ;)

Actually, it's Michael Buble. Who, apparently, was delightful, despite the slight snickering I was doing when he was on his way there.

JennM said...

I have never seen an episode of this show. But it looks awesome, and from what I hear it's something that I would really enjoy. Plus the HBO series that I have watched in the past have never let me down!
As a big nerd, I'm always trying to read the books before the movies come out. When I started catching the buzz around True Blood, I did my research and found that the show is based on a series of 9(!) novels, with a tenth on the way. I wondered if there was any chance I would be able to finish the entire books series before starting to watch the show.
After reading book one, I can safely say that I will have no problem. The book was so good! I am well on my way with number 2! That being said, a few critics have cautioned me that the books and the TV show are pretty different—but both are great.
Once I get up to number 9 (or 10 if it's out soon), I plan to start watching the show. I will probably start the show with the frame of mind that they are different—and then enjoy each for different reasons.
Can't wait to start sloooowly catching up to you guys in a few months time!

PS-The DVD for season 1 is pretty expensive. Does anyone know how many episodes are on it?

Nikki Stafford said...

Jenn: That's really interesting that you're doing that! And I might actually take your recommendation and check these out for myself. A friend of mine was a big fan of the books and watched the first couple of eps and really liked it, but by mid-season said it was so different from the books -- and because she read the books first her allegiance was to those characters and not the altered ones on the show -- that she just couldn't watch it anymore. But others take the two as separate entities and enjoy both for their own merits.

The problem with HBO DVDs is they're SO bloody expensive, and each season has 12 or 13 episodes, half what network shows have. Sopranos DVDs were in the $100 range; The Wire was about $80 per season. The good thing is, they eventually come down to about $30, but it takes a while. I'd recommend renting them -- True Blood is pretty common, and Blockbuster probably has the DVDs. If you rent them for a week, you could get through the 4 or so on a disk no problem. :)

JennM said...

Thanks for the advice Nikki. Maybe by the time I done the novels, the DVD will have come down in price. If not, I will probably rent them as you've suggested.

Yes, I plan to watch the show as something entirely different—and yet related—to the books. Hopefully both the TV and the novel series will prove to be enjoyable for their own reasons.

Ashlie Hawkins said...

Jenn - I've read the first three books and really enjoyed them. I read the first two before watching the first season of TB and was definitely able to appreciate them separately. It just ruins a few of the surprises for you if you've already read the books, but other than that, it's not a big deal. I got my season of TB on Blu-Ray and it was $64.99, the regular DVD's were like $49.99 I think. Still expensive for 12 episodes, but they're definitely awesome.

Anonymous said...

You can keep Eric and I'll take Bill. I would have said Godric, but he's a baby of 19. Eek.

I'm so not an Eric fan. He has to go a long way to win me over. But I said that about Sawyer and I like him now (but not in that way.)

fb said...

oh, eric. *swoons* it's ALL about eric. not eric with sookie, just eric by himself. (or with pam. those two together kill me.) i'm now all caught up on season 2 and just love it. i find myself marvelling each week that most of the main cast are not even american but english, australian, kiwi and scandinavian, yet their accents sound so convincing (to these ears, anyway). but yeah, when alexander--er, eric--speaks swedish ... *swoons*

(on a semi-unrelated side note: when i was in uni, i was the music editor of our campus paper and i got to interview ... ned's atomic dustbin in a pub in toronto. jon was a sweetheart and actually asked me to dinner afterwards. heh.)

Jazzygirl said...

I HEART ERIC NORTHMAN!! (sigh, swoon, and everything in between!) I even had a dream about him the other night. How bad is that!!? LOL Nikki, I just watched the Aug. 23 one today since I was away, so I won't say anything. That being said, HOW HOW HOW could you not mention the dream Sookie has about Eric??? OMG it really has to be one of THE most beautiful sex scenes I've ever seen. When they panned down Eric's body, I swear I did a Nikki "SQUEE!!!" My heart skips a beat just thinking about it!
Here's my two cents on the books. I just finished the 8th and ordered the 9th, "Dead and Gone". I am completely obsessed. As a devout Anne Rice fan, I find these books to fulfill the void I had when she stopped writing.
I started reading them this summer after I saw S1. I usually get pretty pissed off when a movie or show deviates A LOT from the book. However I don't feel that way about this. The core stuff is there but they've made some changes, both major and minor. But I like the changes! It's almost like experiencing your favorite story with an alternative timeline or ending and you like them both. I find myself knowing in general where the story is going, but simultaneously having no idea because they change it up.
Now, for this episode. Nikki, I agree about the beauty of the roof top scene. And it was pretty damn close to the scene in the book. I cried both times (reading and watching). It was brilliantly done and acted. I am only sad that we won't get to see more of Godric as I felt the actor was great. But it was nice to see a softer side of Eric. This week's episode (I won't spoil) has nothing to do with the books so it was pretty F'd up to watch. I am very much looking forward to the last two episodes. But then we'll have to wait to see Eric again. I wonder when S3 will start. But don't you Eric fans worry...if they follow the books, we'll be seeing a LOT more of our Viking friend and Pam too! :)

Pedro said...

Good post, Nikki. I loved that scene, too, but really, every scene between Eric and Godric was pure gold. Godric making Eric c.1000 AD, the scene in Godric's nest when Eric offers Godric an "AB Negative, very rare," and of course the rooftop scene.

I was very sad to see Godric go; the most compelling parts of the show (for me) are the older vampires.

Ankhorite said...

@Nikki, Claudia, and StevenM: the language is Swedish, which the actor playing Eric speaks as a native. The actor playing Godric is a Dane, and Swedish is not much of a stretch for him.

The father-brother-son phrase is not in German, in which it would be vater-bruder-sohn. It is in Swedish also: fader-bror-son. And it's a repeat of the promise Godric made to Eric the night he turned him a thousand years ago, which we saw in flashback in an earlier episode.

Perhaps the director asked Alan Hyde, as Godric, to anglicize it a little bit to make it easier for U.S. viewers to understand. I also thought it was German, which I speak, when I first heard it, but apparently not.

Hope this helps. I found Eric's breakdown the most moving part of a heartwrenching episode.

Ankhorite said...

Aw, heck. The correct spelling is Allan Hyde, two L's.


Director Alan Ball has suggested that perhaps there will be more flashbacks of Eric and Godric in future seasons.

And Nikki, I also loved Hauer's delivery of "Time to die" in Blade Runner, and I'm glad you made the comparison.