TV Review: TRUE BLOOD 5.3 “Whatever I Am, You Made Me”

After a rocky start, TRUE BLOOD's fifth season seems to be finding its legs.

Things are starting to come together nicely this season after a mostly patchy start. True Blood still has too many characters spinning about and embarking on their own disparate adventures, but this episode began to weave together some of the season’s major plot threads in some fun and clever ways. While there were many things to admire about "Whatever I Am, You Made Me," including some compelling scenes with centuries old seductress Salome, the episode also had its share of eye-rolling and repetitive (dull) moments.

Let’s start with the good. It’ll be interesting to see where fandom comes down on Salome, Roman’s most trusted adviser in The Authority. I like that the character, played by striking Italian actress Valentina Cervi, has an origin story that offers a twisted spin on a Biblical tale, continuing True Blood’s apparent obsession with religion and mythology this season. Cervi is undeniably appealing as Salome. She does a great job of selling the character’s duality; she’s both a pragmatic manipulator and a person of great passion, a bleeding heart who wants to stake her faith in something worth believing in. (Oh, and she’s also kinda slutty. She bedded at least three different vamps within hours of each other, which may be some kind of True Blood record.)

Salome and the threat of Russell Edgington are helping to keep the stale Vampire Politics plot bearable. So is my favorite vampire newbie, Steve Newlin, whom Roman dubbed “the new Nan Flanagan,” aka the face of the Vampire Mainstreaming movement. Newlin only appeared for a few minutes here, but his scene was a lot of fun. Newlin’s assertion that humans are brainless sheep who are “one-hundred percent motivated by fear” offended Roman, who thinks of humans as his “ancestors” and believes that mainstreaming Vampire culture is the only way to prevent a human war against Vampires, which Roman believes the fanged-toothed club would most definitely lose. It sounds like Roman is the one who’s motivated by fear, which is kind of a letdown. Meloni is creepy and imposing as Roman, but the character lacks true bite and menace. And learning that his biggest fear is an anti-vamp human uprising only makes Roman seem like less of a badass. This guy is no match for Russell Edgington, the poster boy of the fundamentalist Sanguinista movement.

Veronica Mars fans were treated to a cameo by Tina Majorino. Unfortunately, Majorino played a hacky computer wiz who spewed tired, cheesy Interweb lingo (“There’s an app for that”) and introduced the episode’s most groan-worthy development – the iStake (ugh), a silly looking manzier (or a “bro”) that’s supposed to keep Bill and Eric under The Authority’s thumb. Majorino was clearly having fun here, despite her corny lines and hackneyed character type.

Pam’s flashbacks got a lot more interesting. True Blood is smartly using Eric’s absence from Fangtasia to develop Pam as a character and explore her backstory. This is great – we get to see Kristin Bauer van Straten show her range, and we get to see more of stupid Bill as a young Vamp, which I always find entertaining for some reason. The flashbacks also give us a glimpse at a younger and somewhat more dashing (but still dangerous) Eric, which I can’t see anyone complaining about. All of Pam’s flashback scenes here were well-staged and compelling. I didn’t even mind seeing Lorena again, even though I hate hate hate Lorena! And seeing Pam pine for her maker made the night’s final scene – with Pam sensing Tara’s suicide attempt – seem all the more sweet.

I guess that brings us to Tara. Oh, Tara. It looked like the show was gonna have some fun exploring what it’s like to be a newborn vamp through Tara’s eyes, which I was a little excited about. The “Tara cam” early in the ep – with a sweeping psychedelic shot of the stars, meant to mimic the way only a vampire can view the heavens – was mildly interesting, but I couldn’t help but think we’ve seen something like that before with Jessica a few seasons ago. There’s little to latch onto with Tara’s arc, and the emptiness of this story zapped all the tension out of the tanning bed suicide attempt at the end. Oh yeah, A TANNING BED!? Your telling me Tara couldn’t just wait until sunrise to kill herself? Come on show, that was just … not so good. Still, with Eric’s kidnapping leading Pam to do a little soul searching, it’s likely that Pam will come to Tara’s aid and stick with her for a while, hopefully making the future Tara scenes worth watching.

Let’s check in with our other Bon Temps crazies in convenient bullet point form!

- Jason and His Junk: The show always tends to reset Jason Stackhouse after every season, erasing any growth and putting him through the same emotional ringer over and over again. It’s frustrating. But there’s hope that the change will take this year. In this episode, we saw Jason come face-to-face with the root of his problem – the schoolteacher who seduced him as a teen and taught him to fill that deep dark hole in his heart with sex … and more sex. I like that Jason’s struggle means his relationship with Jessica will become more complex (we already have enough sex for sex’s sake on this show). But where does Hoyt (who was sporting a geeky goth look at Fangtasia) fit in? And how will Jessica’s new attraction to the sweet-smelling mystery kid affect her relationship with Jason?

- Sookie, aka The Show’s Main Character!: Sookie seems to be spending a lot of time in the background lately. Maybe it’s just that her story is anything but compelling. She’s dealing with the repercussions of making Tara a vamp, and she’s struggling to hide the truth about Debbie’s murder. The best thing about this plot thread was that it gave Sam and Alcide something to do. Alcide’s angry meltdown outside Merlotte’s was great, and Sookie’s fairy power rebuke of Pam was fun, but the show is arguably more fun to watch when Sookie is off screen.

- The Bellefleur Boys: We didn’t spend much time with Terry, who had a funny scene in which he promised to tell Arlene something and ended up telling her, well, nothing. Terry split town with Scott Foley in search of an old army buddy who may hold the answers to … something about Terry’s dark past? Honestly, I’m not loving this story either … Andy’s bare ass ended up on Facebook, where bare asses tend to end up these days, I guess. There’s not anything really compelling going on with Andy either, unless you call him investigating Debbie’s murder compelling, but I still love the guy. He’s one of the funniest characters on the show.

- Lafayette: Dammit, I though we were done with the witch-demon possession business!

Here's hoping Russell wakes up next week and starts killing everybody!