The witching hour is upon us, folks! In the second-season finale of True Blood, Maryann's plan comes to a surprising conclusion, as both Bill and Sam make serious sacrifices to try to thwart her. But wait, there's a whole lot more, as the residents of Bon Temps, specifically Eggs, have much difficulty dealing with the messy, memory-challenged aftermath, during which Jason and Andy will make life-changing decisions.
The Queen reveals that she's the source of Eric's V-dealing operations, and she is none too pleased that Bill knows about it. Even with Maxine back to "normal," Hoyt and Jessica's relationship still has its challenges. And just when Bill and Sookie — who has begun to question whether she is even human — get ready for their happy ending, a juicy cliff-hanger postpones it... for at least a year, when we'll next see a new episode of Alan Ball's genius vampire fables. Sucks, doesn't it? (One last vampire pun for the road!)
I'm going to do something a little different tonight and try to recap this insanely packed 59 minutes in chronological order, since many overlapping stories unfolded in short bursts of revelatory scenes. Wish me luck!
We pick up right where we left off, with Tara and Eggs preparing a nest for "the egg," and we still have no idea what it all means. Lafayette instructs them to take the egg downstairs — "This means he's coming," says Tara — and tells Sookie to take off her clothes. For a second, I thought this was going in a very confusing, dangerous, uncomfortable direction, but no, he just wants her to change into a white gown.
You see, Maryann is planning a wedding — to her god, who should be arriving, oh, any minute now. She's even wearing Sookie's grandmother's wedding dress, and she wants Sookie to be her maid of honor. The image of Lafayette clapping upon hearing the news is one of the gazillions of tiny pleasures this episodes yielded. Go back and watch it again; it's priceless.
Black-eyed Tara, Arlene and Jane are all dressed as if they're on the Oscars red carpet, circa-2007, except they have vines in their hair, which Nicole Kidman found to be a bit much. "I will not let this happen," an ever-defiant Sookie says. Maryann wants Sookie to shock her again with her electrical hand thing she did before, but Sookie is unable to replicate that odd occurrence. Maryann reports that, since she can't control Sookie, she can't be human. "It'll be our little secret — what are you?" Maryann asks. "I'm a waitress; what the f--- are you?" she replies, with just the right touch of humor.
A possessed Maxine is dancing like a banshee to "Party Lights" by Claudine Clark. When she tries to escape, she trips the alarm on an ingenious, red-string-derived security system that Hoyt has devised to keep his mother in check. "Norman Bates!" she shrieks at him.
"You're marrying Sam?" Sookie asks Maryann. Nope, Sam is just the ideal wedding gift, she reports. Michelle Forbes hilariously shifts between Dionysian zealot and Ibiza party girl in this scene. She recites an austere oration of the virginal vessel that perfectly segues into her concerns that her crying will smudge her mascara. She explains coldly that Sookie is the bait, that once Sam finds out that she is being held captive, "he'll come running like a dog — maybe as a dog," she says with a cackle.
Meanwhile back at the castle, Eric is playing Yahtzee with the queen. "We play to 5 million," she reports with glee. I have to say this about Evan Rachel Wood's performance. I was critical of it two weeks ago, but it kind of grew on me tonight. I now look forward to seeing more of her next season. Her blending of imperious monarch and impetuous teen is still oddly off kilter though. "I heard about your maker; that blows," she tells Eric.
They discuss the maenad in Menard Parish. The queen reveals that she doesn't know if the advice she gave Bill is "gospel or gorilla sh--." She also expresses displeasure that Bill is in love with Sookie ("He is?" Hadley asks, excitedly), and warns Eric about falling victim to the same fate. It's here that the queen nonchalantly confirms that Sookie is not entirely human, which is a revelation sure to echo through future seasons.
Changing the subject, she asks abruptly, with a scary display of fangs, "How does [Bill] know that I'm having you sell vampire blood?" Eric assures her that Bill doesn't know she's the source of his V-dealing business. "You may be the strongest, oldest vampire in my queendom," she warns, "but if I wanted, I could own your fangs as earrings. Understand?" Eric says he'll "take care of Bill Compton" — whatever that means. And then it's back to Yahtzee... "You suck at this," she tells Eric.
Jason and Andy are armed and clueless as they storm the Stackhouse residence. Jason unfurls the most ridiculous barrage of references to Scarface, Terminator and Apocalypse Now all in the same breath — he's like a violent-movie jukebox. "I love the smell of nail polish in the morning," he hollers. "It's times like these that this town needs a good man, and that man... is us." (Heh.) Naturally, all this bluster is for naught, for as soon as they enter the fray of Maryann's faithful, they are immediately converted into black-eyed soldiers of Dionysus' fortune. In a nice detail, Jason falls right into his go-to vice: sex, and immediately starts sucking face with the lucky lady who happens to be standing next to him.
Now. We don't know that much about Jason, but thus far he hasn't displayed any special abilities like Sookie has. But for some reason — and I hope the "book-ies" will school me in a non-spoilery manner in the comments below — I was under the impression that whatever non-human blood Sookie has in her, Jason would have it too. I'm guessing that this distinction was spelled out very intentionally, so for now let's just chalk it up to a plot seed for future seasons.
Sam and Bill are hiding out at Merlotte's with Arlene's kids when Bill drops a bombshell. He wants Sam to go to Maryann. Sam argues that giving himself up won't stop Maryann, but with a flash of his fangs, Bill forces the issue.
"What's with the egg?" Sookie asks for the perplexed audience. Maryann exposits that it's an ostrich egg, which represents fertility. For some reason, all the ladies in the wedding party have to lick blood off it. (Beats the hell out of toilet-paper veils, huh? Amirite, ladies?) Jason and Andy break up the party to announce that Maryann's vessel has arrived.
As a demented version of "The Wedding March" plays, Maryann sashays down the front steps, ready for her Tim Burton-themed nuptials to get underway. Bill presents Sam to Maryann for sacrifice. The hell? "I will always be grateful to you," she tells Sam with the utmost of sincerity. Sookie is apoplectic with Bill's apparent deception, but he tells her to trust him.
The special effects here are pretty cool and reminded me of that time in college when we went to the cemetery and... well, you don't want to hear that story, and neither does my mother. (Hi, Mom!) "God with horns, worship him, bitches!' bellows Laf, who plays a very convincing Dionysian servant. Maryann tells a story about Dionysus (aka Bacchus and a bunch of other names I can't spell), how he was reborn when a piece of heart was placed in his mother's womb or something, but: ew. Let's move on.
(Aside: It's at this moment of the episode that I wonder: Why hasn't Hoyt gone all black-eyed? While we saw many of the townsfolk come under Maryann's spell when she vibrated in their presence, it's unclear how he evaded her reach. Thoughts?)
Anyway... Sam is strapped-down and brought out for sacrifice. While on a typical TV show, this is where Sam would be rescued at the last possible moment, since this is True Blood, this is where Eggs stabs Sam square in the chest. Maryann takes the blood and anoints her neck with it. Sookie approaches Sam and begs for his forgiveness. She reads his thoughts and hears him say: "Destroy it, all of it!" She obeys, smashing the egg and, using her special electrical power, toppling the meat man.
Maryann is not pleased, and turns her wrath on her followers. "Allow me to sacrifice all of them for you!" she tells her god, as they all cringe and writhe. She plunges her hands into the earth and out pop those gnarly claws. In a flash, a chase ensues that echoes an earlier episode. Just as Maryann is about to bury her claws into Sookie again, a giant white bull appears in a clearing. Dionysus has arrived... maybe?
Her claws retract, and suddenly she's all moony-eyed and in lurve with her bull-headed suitor. "My lord, my husband," she says. "Oh, come, I'm here, my love. We're together at last." I wish I could see the blooper reel from this episode. They must have laughed their asses off between takes with all this ridiculous dialogue.
Just as tiny hearts and flowers are about to burst from Maryann's mouth instead of words, the bull gores her right through the chest, bringing forth blood as black as midnight. This is an interesting development, but reflecting on what Queen Sophie-Anne said earlier about the god devouring his summoner upon his arrival, it's not exactly surprising. "My god, am I the one to be sacrificed?" she asks. "Yes, I'm the vessel, I'm happy to die."
But! At that moment, the bull's horns shift back into arms, and one of them rips Maryann's beating heart from her chest. Hey, looky here — it's naked Sam! "Was there no god?" Maryann asks, as Sam squeezes the heart in his palm and she rapidly decays and falls to the ground.
While everyone in Bon Temps snaps out of it and simultaneous "WTF?" thought bubbles appear over their heads, Bill returns to give us the Scooby-Doo ending — that is, the explanation for how all this happened. After Sam was stabbed, he drank Bill's blood to heal himself. He then shifted into a bull as Bill lay dying, since Sam was a little overserved at Ye Olde Bill's Wrist Bar and Grill. Bill's OK, but kind of woozy.
"We got her?" Jason asks, but Sookie has no time for her brother's idiocy, so she springs into action, asking Bill to bury Maryann's body and Jason to make sure everyone gets home safely. "It's all over now," Sookie tells Tara. "I have this sick feeling that it's not," Tara replies with heavy foreshadowing.
Once Maxine returns to "normal," she finds out that Jessica bit her. Hoyt tells her that Jessica was provoked, that in her zombiefied state, she said some nasty lies, including, he asks hopefully, all that jazz about Daddy killing himself? "You're nearly 30; you should know the truth," Maxine says, and this sends Hoyt on a tear, berating his needy mother for clinging to him, preventing him from being "an actual person." "I wish Jessica had just finished you off," he says contemptuously.
The good people of Bon Temps pick up the pieces — literally in Jane's case, as she finds her severed finger among the meat-man debris. Andy gets his badge back from a cowed Bud, and promises to remain sober. "You might have your faults, Andy, but at least you've got pants on," Bud says.
Sam sees a doe and starts to cry, remembering the loss of his sorta-beloved Daphne. Sam and Bill have a moment in which they both acknowledge they'd do anything for Sookie. As I grit my teeth to get through Stephen Moyer's wooden line readings in this scene, Sam says, with great significance, "You suffer a lot more hiding something than if you face up to it." He turns away and the doe is gone. Aw, Sam.
Inside, Eggs is freaking out, trying to wash the blood off his hands. He's confused and wants to see Maryann, obviously having no memory of what just went down. Tara says she doesn't want to dwell in the past. She apologizes to Sookie for bringing all this on everyone, but Maryann made her feel like she had a family. Sookie says she has a family. They embrace, and the music swells. To break the moment, we see an unconscious Mike Spencer is still on the kitchen floor where Sookie left him after conking him with a frying pan.
Upstairs, Bill has cleaned up Sookie's bedroom, but there are only 41 minutes until sunrise. "Hold me for 40," Sookie sighs.
The next day at Merlotte's, a mystery woman sits at the bar and says to Sam, "Well, I certainly never expected anything like that to happen here." This is funny, clever writing because the mystery woman in question is Charlaine Harris, the author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude.
Arlene's kids forgive her for her absence. "You kids shouldn't even know what that word means," she says to them. Terry buys the kids toy guns and says something sweet, and I look forward to seeing how this nontraditional family fares going forward. "When you went away for all that time, you didn't see Rene, did you?" the kids ask Arlene. "No, I think he's still on his vacation," she lies. "Yep, I'm pretty sure he's dead," one of them says after their mother walks away.
"Gas leak, my ass," one of the gossipy townsfolk says of the lame official explanation for the mass memory blackout. They start the rumors flying, the first being that it was an alien abduction. "Maryann Forrester rhymes with Martian Foreigner," one says. "I heard that Maryann Forrester was an agent of the pharmaceutical companies and the liberal media and she poisoned the water supply with LSD as a mind-control experiment." "Like they did to San Francisco," the other says. Heh.
Jane's finger has been reattached, and her special gift for stretching the truth is intact again as well. Andy, who overhears her, decides to start truth-telling, since he knows more than many. His fantastical tale only makes them laugh, and they assume he's drunk. "It's Diet Coke with lime!" he screams. (Good choice, Andy!) Jason calms him and explains that, despite their total lack of memory, they obviously saved the day. "If a tree falls in the woods, it's still a tree, ain't it?" he offers as explanation.
Sam tells Sookie he's going to go away for a few days, and they hug. As if on cue, a deliverywoman arrives with a package for Sookie. It's a dress, and Bill says he's going to take her out for an evening alone.
While Sookie looks lovingly at the lavender frock, Eggs appears. The gaps in his memory are making him crazy, and he wants her to help him fill in the blanks. She (foolishly?) does, and in a flash he sees that it was by his hand that Miss Jeannette and Daphne died, and that Sam almost did. Naturally, he's a little freaked out and he storms off ominously.
Jessica and Bill are leaving Compton Manor at the same time for their respective dates. Well, Jessica isn't really going a date; she says that she and Hoyt had a fight and that she needs to apologize. Bill is like a new man, and his demeanor is surprisingly kind and upbeat. Why is he being so nice? It's kind of cute, but I can't help but think that it means something.
Predictably, based on the "previously on" scenes at the beginning of the episode, Sam goes to see his adoptive parents, who abandoned him when they learned of his special gift. He wants to find his birth parents. His mother warns that they are bad people, but his dying father hands him a piece of paper that says, in ragged penmanship, "Melinda and JoeLee Mickens last known in Magnolia Arkansas I'm sorry."
Reading this episode's script must have been an emotional rollercoaster for Sam Trammell. Just imagine it: "Page 40, I'm stabbed in the chest and left for dead; page 79, ewwww, that's sick; page 81, I'm naked again; page 120, nice scene with a forward-looking storyline — hooray!" Needless to say, I'm intrigued at the prospect of meeting Sam's supernatural gene-carrying forebears.
While Jessica is presumably on her way to Hoyt's house, he's knocking on the front door of Compton Manor. Obviously, nobody is there. Like two ships passing in the night... The romantic metaphors end there though, because then we cut to a scene of Jessica making out with some redneck in a parking lot, and all of a sudden up is down and down is up. How could our favorite two lovebirds have gone so terribly wrong?
Ah, but it seems that Jessica's emotional outburst in the last episode should have tipped us off to the fact that her fragile state as a newly turned vampire wasn't going to just go away. We soon see that Jessica's assignation with the redneck is not exactly cheating on Hoyt; she has the need, the need to feed. At the same moment that Jessica lunges for the jugular, Hoyt leaves flowers on his undead lover's doorstep.
I often think that Anna Paquin still looks like that same adorable, potato-faced 11-year-old who won an Oscar lo these many years ago, but with her hair swept up and wearing Bill's present, Sookie looks very grown-up in this scene. Bill has rented out an entire French restaurant for their special night.
"The sight of you is not something I wish to share with others tonight," he says, demonstrating the talent with which True Blood's writers are able to craft very specific, very different voices for each of their characters. Think of the way Bill speaks versus Lafayette or Arlene or Pam (by the way, whither my sweet Pam tonight?). With that, their fantasy evening begins, as they sway to Jerry Lee Lewis' "Before the Night Is Over."
A distraught Eggs approaches Andy outside Merlotte's, brandishing Maryann's blood-encrusted dagger, and says that he's the killer and needs to be locked up. Andy tries to reason with him, but his erratic behavior is a little disconcerting. He pushes Andy into the dirt and appears to lunge at him with the knife. At that moment, a gunshot goes off and Eggs is shot in the head.
It's Jason who pulled the trigger, and his Rambo posturing comes to an abrupt halt as he starts freaking out about having killed someone. In short order, Andy agrees to cover for him, and Jason takes off into the darkness. The patrons and staff of Merlotte's empty into the parking lot, and it's kind of devastating to see Tara wail over her lover's presumably lifeless body.
Back at the French restaurant, where things are still idyllic, Sookie is enjoying a post-prandial glow. "I can't think of a better way to top off the best meal of my life," she says as she polishes off her dessert. "I do have one last thing," Bill says. With that, he produces two plane tickets to Burlington, Vermont (where vampire marriage is legal — topical!), and a diamond engagement ring. He's proposing! (Wait, why isn't such a gallant former Confederate soldier down on one knee? This is the man who practically calls Sookie "milady" on any given Tuesday.)
At the point in the story where Sookie should be beaming and shouting "yes, yes, 1,000 times, yes!" instead we see doubt creep behind her eyes and flutter across her face. It's not the best time, she says. What would it be like to be married to a vampire? Maybe I'm not even human. (If I had a nickel for every time I heard that one...) In a characteristic Sookie huff, she runs off to the ladies' room to powder her nose and contemplate her entire undead future.
In front of the bathroom mirror, though, she slowly tries on the ring and suddenly, we see that smile, the smile that says yes. As she composes herself, we cut back to the table and see a pair of gloved hands pull a silver chain around Bill's neck with a sharp sizzle. "Yes, Bill Compton, I will marry you!" Sookie cries as she re-enters their private dining room, only to find Bill is gone and the place in foreboding disarray.
And then we hear this song, Bob Dylan's "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'," which an eagle-eyed friend named Google tells me is the very song that HBO used in the trailer for Season 2 way back those many moons ago when Maryann Forrester was just a kindly good Samaritan, and Rene Lenier was the most treacherous resident of Bon Temps. My, how far we've come.
What did you think of "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'"? Were you happy with how Maryann's storyline concluded? What's with all the love lost (Tara and Eggs, Hoyt and Jessica, Sookie and Bill)? Will Season 3 be True Blood's swingin' singles season? What did Eric mean when he told the queen he'd "take care of" Bill? Could it be that Bill's silver-wielding, glove-wearing assailant is a fellow vampire? And what do you think that Pam is wearing back at Fangtasia, where she no doubt sits, in a tizzy, prepping her "you never take me anywhere" speech for Eric when he returns?
Watch clips and full episodes of True Blood in our Online Video Guide and follow TVGuide.com on Twitter for more breaking news and scoop