Anna Paquin and Dennis O'Hare

"When am I not in trouble?" Sookie quips to TV's hottest werewolf, Alcide, when he arrives back on the scene after a long absence. She's not kidding. This damsel is in perpetual distress. But the real trouble in Sunday's season finale of True Blood wasn't just that there was too little Alcide, but that there was so much more that was lacking.

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It's not that the episode was anti-climactic (though it was), more like it was packing in so many quasi-climaxes and kinda-cliffhangers that it felt disjointed and unsatisfying, like much of the third season often seemed to be. Several of the dangling plot strands just stopped, as if the season had run out of time before we'd gotten to the point, if there ever was one.

Not that this wacky monster mash isn't still great fun to watch. (Loved the tiny detail that The End of Days has become Star tabloid cover fodder. Hey, it beats another dose of she-beasts like Kate Gosselin or Snooki.) Most of the hour just seemed to lack that certain je ne sais boo.

The only moment that truly startled me was when Bill blindsides Eric, tossing him into the same sort of messy concrete hole where they had just entombed King Russell, spitting threats of revenge to the last drop — and oh, how Denis O'Hare makes every mad moment sing. (Supporting actor Emmy nomination alert.)

What Bill does to Eric is cold, but Bill sorely needs to sharpen his vendetta skills. Barely has he finished pledging to Sookie, in an affecting scene of twisted chivalry, that he would eradicate all those who had tasted of her fairy blood — including Pam! — then who should appear at the door but a dusty Eric, ready to spill all of Bill's darkest secrets about the circumstances that led to him hooking up with Sookie on the Queen's orders. (Can't keep a good vampire down, I guess, but how did Eric get out of the muck so fast?) Eric's naughty tattling sends Snooki into yet another foul-mouthed snit, once she understands how thoroughly Bill had manipulated her from their very first meeting. First she lets the vamps in, they she doesn't. They're invited in, then they're not, in/out, in/out. Make up your mind, Sookie! Although, to be fair, this latest bad news really does seem like a deal-breaker. (Till the next crisis?)

Happily, the guy Bill sends to get rid of Pam doesn't get very far. And then Bill lures Queen Sophie to his shabby house under a false pretext, and last we see, they're suspended on invisible wires, fangs bared, going for each other's throats.

Next!

Back to Sookie, who unloads all her hurt at Gran's graveside, sobbing, "I've never been so alone." Cue fairy godmother Claudine — could the shirtless hunky fairy who appears be Claude from the books? (Hope so) — and she lures Sookie away to that magical Fairy Theme Park.

Next!

Oh wait, there isn't any more next. Just random, not terribly interesting stuff that happened earlier, like Jason being put in charge of Hotshot after Crystal's ex goes on a killing spree, killing her papa Calvin, then taking the girl and the stash of V before the DEA shows up. Is this his new purpose? As he tells Andy "Sometimes the right thing to do is the wrong thing." I wish the thing were more compelling.

And then there's Lafayette flipping out over his bloody visions, being comforted by Jesus, who reveals himself to be a bruja (brujo?), or witch, which doesn't seem all that shocking a reveal. And Sam giving chase to delinquent Tommy, who's stolen Sam's money, and apparently shooting his brother in the woods, in the back. Anything to bring that dreary subplot to an end. And Tara learning over home-cooked pancakes that Sam's nocturnal barking is due to his shape-shifting, which is one supernatural surprise too many for this traumatized soul, so after cutting her hair and hugging Sookie, Tara drives away, bypassing Merlotte's — and who can blame her? (Plus, she finds her delusional mom sleeping with the reverend, one of several scenes that overreached for low comedy, the other being Hoyt's vamp-intervention by his mom and ex-girlfriend.)

Of course, it wasn't all a shrug. One of the things I most appreciate about True Blood is its willingness to make fun of its excessively nutty self, like when Sookie sees Eric and Bill flashing their fangs at each other and she rolls her eyes, barking, "Oh, for the love of God" as she goes out to fetch Russell. (Eric has a more profane description of Bill and Alcide's staredown.) And loved the nasty glee Sookie takes in taunting CharFace Russell by flushing the Urn of Talbot's Gooey Remains down the disposal while Russell howls. Diabolical. And as always, I'm rooting for my favorite couple, Hoyt and Jessica, now that he's taken his vamp teen sweetheart across the threshold of their new home, unaware that Momma Fortenberry has just bought new vamp-hunting weaponry.

I've heard that next season will pick up almost immediately from where this leaves off. Which is a good thing, since this finale felt pretty much like just another episode, and for the most part, not one of the better ones. Hoping for better luck next season. Which, for all of my disappointment in the finale, can't get here soon enough.

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