SPOILERS: True Blood reflection
If you haven’t seen the fifth season finale of True Blood, don’t read this. There will be much with the spoilers.
I haven’t been able to get the events of the fifth season finale of True Blood out of my head since last Sunday night. Aside from being one of the funniest, goriest, and most emotionally devastating/fulfilling episodes of the series, it’s left me mulling over and reconsidering moments earlier in the season that, upon initial viewing, I thought were simple.
I’m talking about Bill’s flashback. After he takes the Lilith Blood and gets all drugged up with the other vamps, he seemed to be in the same place as Eric. That “What the fuck did we just do?” place. He’d been living as a mainstreamer, refusing to look at humans as food, for years. But now, with the Authority usurped and a bloody vampyric apparition that might be a goddamn deity appearing to him, Bill… well, he still seemed conflicted when Salome asked him to feed on a young girl.
On his “I can’t do this” face, we saw one of those classic True Blood flashbacks. Bill is a new vampire, visiting his sick, dying daughter. She begs to be made like him, and he gives the line he’s been giving and believing for the entirety of True Blood.
"Immortality is a curse."
Here’s that scene:
Upon first viewing it, when Bill stares off with a face ripped with anguish after the flashback, I thought he was continuing on hating himself. Hating himself for making the decision to feed on this girl - not because he knew it was right, but because if he didn’t do it, Salome would kill him for forsaking Lilith. Even at the end of the episode, when Bill suggested blowing up the True Blood factory… even then, I thought he had a plan. That he was playing along, waiting for the opportune moment to subvert this rebellion from the inside.
Then the factory was bombed.
I still hoped.
And then, Russell Edgington left the Authority. Then everyone else bit it… and Bill was left alone. And yet, he still was spouting off Vampire Bible verse, still praising Lilith, still killing. The hope was gone; Bill was sippin’ the Kool Aide, but I was left with one lingering doubt. It didn’t make sense… we didn’t see the moment where Bill decided to believe. And his turn doesn’t flow naturally from his flashback.
But then, after watching the finale, I realized that it does. Everything was set up so beautifully that the writer in me nearly fucking choked. It was Bill’s speech to Sookie in the finale that did it for me:
"I have spent my entire life as a vampire apologizing. Believing that I was inherently wrong somehow. Living in fear. Fear that God had forsaken me. That I was damned. But Lilith grants us freedom from fear."
Looking back, the moment after the flashback wasn’t Bill’s regret that he’d have to kill the girl on the bed to appease Salome. It was regret that he hadn’t turned his own daughter into a vampire years before as he quietly accepted that he had been wrong - that immortality isn’t a curse.
I love that True Blood didn’t spell that out - that it took deep thought and mulling over to realize that Bill’s decision to believe (and it was very much a decision, not an epiphany) happened in a single moment. A wordless moment. That was powerful for me, because I’ve had those moments where I realized that I either believed or didn’t believe in something… and maybe we all have.
And it was personal for me, because I’ve had friends completely lose themselves in a cause as futile and… well, nearly evil as Bill’s obsession with Lilith as a deity. I won’t get into it, but I found it to be a realistic and devastating portrayal about how the kindest people are the ones most susceptible to the dangers of fanaticism and obsession.
The true horror of this season was not the vampires exploding in gore or resurrecting from their own puddles of blood, but it was in the subtleties. The theme that obsession leads to blindness, and blindness can lead to death (explaining why Eric was finally able to easily stake the all powerful Russell Edgington) and the even scarier theme that what happened to Bill can happen to anyone.
Here’s the final scene of Season Five. Watch at 1:44, when Bill says “Fear that God had forsaken me.”
They cut to Eric, and he positively deflates. That’s the moment when he realizes that Sookie is not going to be able to save Bill. His expression doesn’t read, “Bill is a fucking fanatic,” though. It reads, “I can relate to that. I’ve felt that. Bill is gone, and I understand why he chose this. Fuck.”
And that ability, for a vampire who has never given much of a shit about mainstreaming and would kill a human for getting in his way, to relate to the closest thing this show has to a softie becoming the Big Bad… that’s the scariest thing True Blood has ever done.
The horror isn’t in the monsters; it’s in how closely they resemble people.
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