But most of these have already been addressed elsewhere on the web, and with so many worthy and intriguing points of departure for contemplating the new season I think I'll veer off in a different direction altogether, thank you very much!
I want to explore a feeling.
The sucking, vacant, wanting feeling several scenes of "She's Not There" inspired in me - and with such a title, is it any wonder?
Sookie's not the only one who wasn't, or isn't, there.
What happens when one goes away - and stays away - departs the premises, or withdraws emotionally? How do those left behind deal?
Let's plumb this pattern of "not being there" a little deeper, shall we?
Arlene's not there, not really, for her son Mikey. She fears him; what's in him, what he is, how he reminds her of René. The guilt is killing her, and she professes to love Mikey, but she doesn't fully, she can't. How will her emotional distancing impact her baby boy, her new marriage with Terry, her sense of self? Will this darkness leach into her parenting of Coby and Lisa? As Terry (over?)identifies with Mikey, claiming him as his true son, will he begin to drift from Arlene? Will they become isolated in their troubles?
When someone withdraws from, or isn't there - fully present - in a relationship or community, tension and resentment are inevitable, whether the missing party returns or lingers, partly detached, not truly invested.
Conflict breaks out.
Images of sparring or downright pummelling were everywhere in "She's Not There"...
...from Tara (or Toni?!?) the cage fighter, pounding on the woman who is ostensibly her lover:
...to the colliding behemoths both Jessica and Sookie paused on while flipping the TV channels (did you notice that?!?):
And speaking of Jessica flipping through the TV stations, I gotta tell ya, the scene that unfolded between she and Hoyt, with her sitting on the couch - remote and Tru Blood in hand - as he's coming in the door from work really, really got to me. Maybe it's because I'm in a long term, committed, co-habitating relationship that I can feel their pain. Maybe it's because the person I'm in that relationship with - the man I married - is the one and only romantic partner I've had since I was 17, the age at which Jessica was turned and that she will remain for all time. So perhaps I feel a certain sense of kinship with her.
But, man - o -man, did that scene throw me for a loop. As the scene played out, I could hardly believe my eyes and ears. Who was that angry, resentful Hoyt, and where did he come from? How could their happy relationship devolve, dissolve this way? How could they verbally tear at each other so?
Some deeper, more allegorical questions took shape in my mind later.
Alan Ball has repeatedly stated that True Blood delves into the "terrors of intimacy"; here, I see a foray into the "terrors of domesticity" - and what can happen when the shine on a brand-spanking-new relationship dulls with time and apathy.
Hoyt: "You remember I eat, right? Like, food? Be nice to have some in the house".
Jessica: "You remember I don't eat, right?" (referring to human food) "It's all dead, permanently, forever, dead".
What happens when what feeds one partner doesn't feed - or even revolts - the other? When one's hunger is not satiated in the relationship? Where can common ground be found? If one or both of them is looking for something outside of the relationship, are either of them really there?
On their post-fight date night at Fangtasia, Hoyt apologizes to Jessica for losing his temper with her; she says she's sorry too but she can't help staring at another man upon whom she wishes to feed from across the room. The smell of the "O neg with a twist of B pos" cocktail Hoyt buys for her at the bar turns her stomach. We know Tru Blood isn't enough for her; she can subsist on it - barely - but she's not living, not really.
And Pam, in the very special way that only Pam can - points this out to Jessica, remarking that if she's asking Hoyt to bring her to Fangtasia, their relationship probably isn't enough for her. Pam more than alludes to the idea that for Jessica, living with Hoyt is not normal or natural; it's not enough. Is she right? Do Jessica and Hoyt have irreconcilable differences?
Believe me, I totally understand the concept of the honeymoon being over, and that puppy-love doesn't last. But there was just something so sharp and jabbing about Hoyt and Jessica's ways of being towards one another that was totally jarring for me.
I can't help but hear the words to "Losing a Whole Year" by one of my favorite bands, Third Eye Blind, when I think about this scene. Not only is the title appropriate for this episode, but the lyrics are so choked with bitterness that I feel the song captures its emotional tenor, unfortunately, all too well.
I remember you and me used to spend the whole goddamned day in bed
lying in your room we'd lay like dogs
and the phone would ring like a joke that's left unsaid...
...and now I realized that you never heard
one goddamned word I ever said.
It always seemed the juice used to flow
in the car, in the kitchen you were good to go...
...now we're stuck with the tube
a sink full of dishes and some aqualube.
And if it's not the defense then you're on the attack...
And what about that freaky baby doll? It wasn't shown in "She's Not There" but it came back into play in a subsequent episode...could it represent that gangrenous appendage that infects, insidiously rots a relationship away from the inside out?
You know, the meddlesome in-laws...
Jessica: "I'm cooking for ya. Just like your mama."
Hoyt: "Look, don't bring her into this. That woman's dead to me".
Jessica: "Yeah, and if her aim were any better, I'd be a pile of goo and she'd be making your eggs".
...or money, or sex, or jobs...or just different expectations of what makes for a fulfilling and happy life. Can that diseased element of a relationship - the thing we find ourselves fighting about most - be excised, or at least worked around, or through?
The fact that this disturbing scene ended with both Hoyt and Jessica laughing - being able to find a common ground of humor and caring in spite of their conflict - gave me hope that there is still something of their original connection to build upon and salvage what they've got together. I do believe they love each other, but sometimes love isn't enough.
And what about when the life you've got isn't enough; when it's left you feeling vulnerable, exposed, traumatized?
Tara has responded by leaving it behind. All of it. Her friends. Her family. Her job. Her town. Her look. Her name.
She has taken on a new identity, a new life. But it seems to me that she's not really there for it. She's got a girlfriend, Naomi, who seems to truly care for her, but doesn't know her - anything at all about her, who she really is. I get it that we are all in constant states of flux, that there is no core, base, true self - that our entire lives are journeys of discovery. And not in the sense of a linear trajectory bringing us through a progression of trials and tribulations until we find ourselves; our real, true, selves. We are constantly in the process of becoming, until the day we die.
It was my favorite poet, afterall - the sage Walt Whitman, who wrote in his masterwork Leaves of Grass:
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.We may very well all contain multitudes - but which of her multitudes is Tara revealing to Naomi, what of herself is she sharing? Naomi believes her to be Toni, from Atlanta. And while it's possible that Tara may be bisexual or lesbian - that the Tara we have known throughout True Blood's run thus far, is a front, a facade - honestly, there has never been any hint that Tara might be gay. Is her sexual relationship with Naomi just another part of her escape? How can Tara be present in their relationship, or to herself, for that matter, if the self she shows to Naomi is a fabrication woven as a protecting wrapping against her past?
Now, we know that Tara has been fighting an internal battle for quite some time...
...but now, with all she has done to sever her new self from the old, might she become lost to herself - as amnesia Eric does in subsequent episodes?
Coming back to Bon Temps and rekindling her relationships with Lafayette, Sookie and the rest may be good for her. And what of Naomi's place in her life? We'll see.
Right now, that question's sort of making me think of more "Losing A Whole Year" lyrics:
I kind of get the feeling like I'm being used...
...When you were yourself it was tasting sweet
soured into a routine deceit
well this drama is a bore...
...and I don't wanna play no more.
Sam doesn't want to play anymore, either. With guns, at least. In this episode, he spills to his shifter "anger management" group:
I knew it was wrong, even before I pulled the trigger. It was like some other person fired that gun and there was nothing I could do to stop him.Sam feels like he wasn't there - wasn't in his body. Sam's description of this kind of "out of body experience" sounds an awful lot like dissociation - a disruption of normal psychological functioning in response to stress or trauma - that is often triggered unconsciously as a means for the self to, in essence, protect itself. To or retreat from or insulate the self against something too threatening to face. In Seasons 2 & 3 we saw that Sam does indeed have things in his past that he's running away from, actions he deeply regrets. Now he can add shooting Tommy, his own brother, to that list. Can he get back to himself in Season 4?
As the episode wound down, we found ourselves at Hot Shot with Jason, observing his friendly and good natured rapport with the youth of the town as he doled out foodstuffs from the back of his truck. He has stepped into and more than filled the vacuum left by Crystal, who is also among the missing - she's not there. Jason feels her loss. He's tired. He comments to the kids, "We really need to get your Aunt Crystal back here ASAP. Y'all could use a momma and I could use a break". When Becky asked had he spoken to Crystal, he replied, "not yet, but I can think of one or two things I'd like to tell her when I do find her". His resentment comes through. It doesn't feel good to be abandoned - to be left holding the bag. To be on the hook for other people's responsibilities.
And by the end of the show, we knew that others might soon be feeling the way that Jason felt about Crystal having taken off, disappearing, about him - since people would eventually notice that he was missing, not there, but wouldn't know why - that he was being held against his will.
I'll be interested to see how this theme carries through the rest of Season 4.
Any thoughts? Please share them in the comments space below. Thanks!