True Blood shot

Ryan Kwanten and Anna Paquin in the second episode of "True Blood's" sixth season. (HBO / January 22, 2013)

One of my biggest "True Blood" gripes is that the origin stories behind the series’ main players, which were introduced in the show’s earliest seasons, have largely been buried in later seasons in favor of sideline characters, dead-end plot twists and quasi-political commentary. Last night’s episode offered a welcomed return to some of those origin stories and, I hope, portends a much-needed refocusing on the key characters in the "True Blood" universe.

Where’s Warlow?

Much like the premiere picked up right where Season 5 left off, the second episode begins exactly where the first ended. Well, mostly — the episode opens on a shot of an ominously desolate, familiar-seeming bridge with what appears to be a man emerging from a swirling black portal. The man bares his fangs, but we don’t get to see his face. Who is this angry new Bon Temps vampire? Sure seems like he could be Warlow … but then who was the dapperly dressed gentleman who picked up a hitchhiking Jason and declared himself Warlow last week?

We don’t have to wait very long for clarification. The dapperly dressed gentleman is, in his own words, Jason and Sookie’s “F---ing Faerie Grandfather” (FFG), Niall. He tells Jason that he has been watching over him his entire life, which he proves to Jason by listing off a bunch of facts and events including the “juicy porn” teen Jason kept under his bed. Couldn’t have left that out, gramps?

Jason brings FFG back to the Casa Stackhouse and the two head up to the bathroom where Warlow appeared to Sookie that one time. FFG holds up his hand to reveal a black portal, a smaller version of what we saw on the bridge. FFG tells Jason it’s an entrance “to a terrible place.” FFG says that he needs to know if Warlow succeeding in breaking through, and then hops on up into the portal and disappears. Jason stumbles around trying to follow him, but FFG quickly reappears. “It’s worse than I thought,” he tells Jason.

Never one to stay away from imminent danger, Sookie comes home. After Jason introduces Sookie to FFG, the Stackhouse kin sit down to catch up over some spaghetti (as one does when one’s long-lost FFG shows up out of the blue). FFG discloses that Warlow is in Bon Temps. He has arrived sometime in the last 24 hours. When Sookie channeled nature’s memory on the bridge it drew Warlow out…which would make the man from the opening scene none other than actual, in-the-cold-dead-flesh Warlow.

FFG goes on to fill Sookie in on some family history: They are the “original fae.” Their bloodline is royal, and FFG is the king of their tribe. Jason gets pretty excited at the prospect of being a prince, but FFG informs him that the faerie genes skipped him. Of course they did; Jason always gets the short end of the stick. Anyway, Warlow has been after their tribe for thousands of years. FFG has been tracking him through the centuries, and now must teach Sookie how to harness her powers to defeat Warlow.

And this is when we (finally!) find out something new about Sookie’s magical faerie powers. FFG tells Sookie and Jason that Sookie’s magic light trick is actually a secret family power. They can channel the light into a single ball of energy, and when released, the energy ball will go supernova, killing any vampire it touches.  For Sookie, this must be a last resort — she is only part faerie, and using the supernova light ball will suck all of the faerie juice out of her, leaving her merely mortal. Am I the only one who thinks Sookie looks a bit relieved to learn she might soon be just another human? 

FFG tells Sookie she must practice growing her energy ball, especially since it’s been on the fritz recently.

Heavenly Billith

While Sookie and Jason are busy at home with FFG, Jessica is tending to a distressed Bill over at the Compton mansion. After she finds him screaming in his office, face streaked with bloody tears, Bill tells her that he can now feel all of the vampires, ever. Visions of different vampires being tortured flash through Bill’s mind, until he can’t stand the pain and goes catatonic in Jessica’s arms.

Jess tries desperately to rouse her maker. Thinking he might just be feeling peckish and in need of a snack, she has a tasty treat delivered from the Human Edibles service. Just as I’m wondering why I care at all about Bill’s next meal, a still-unconscious Bill displays another new power. He draws his Human Edible toward him, contorting her body every which way until her spine cracks, and sucks all of her blood out of her and into his mouth until she is left a dead dry husk. Jess stares on (with us viewers) in horror, and then collapses into tears. It’s exactly the kind of over-the-top, gory and unexpected moment that "True Blood" fans have come to relish. My appetite is sated right along with Bill’s.

Jess eventually picks herself up and disposes of the dead body. She returns to the comatose Bill, and having decided that he must be God, kneels down and begins to pray to her very own Heavenly Father. Thus begins an overly saccharine montage showing all the people Jess asks Bill to bless and protect: Jason, Sookie, Eric, Pam, Tara, Sam and Lafayette. Even Hoyt gets a shout-out, although we don’t see him.

All the while, Bill is dreaming of Lilith. She tells Bill “events have been set in motion.” A tyrant is rising, and Bill must complete Lilith’s work.

Bill: Why me?

Lilith: You proved yourself worthy when you won the battle for my blood.

Bill: Am I a god?

Lilith: No. God made me as vampire, and Adam and Eve as human. I am worshipped as a god, as some may come to worship you as a god, but there is no god but God. 

Nevertheless, it is still up to Bill to save them all. Always pragmatic under any circumstance, Bill asks how he should go about doing that. “You will know what to do. Trust what you see,” Lilith responds.

Having learned that he is not God or Lilith but just a souped-up version of himself saddled with yet another savior mission, Bill comes to in the office. He gets up out of the chair he’s spent the entire episode sitting in and starts to walk out of the room, but the TV comes on. Jess runs in as she hears the noise, and hugs Bill, thrilled to see him moving. The news report on the television shows one of the vampires Bill saw in those visions he had before passing out. Another new power! Bill can see the future. As Bill says the words aloud to Jess, he has a vision of all of the Bon Temps vampires we know and love imprisoned and in flames below a bright light.

“We’re all going to burn,” he tells poor Jessica.

The Humans are Fighting Back

Remember when those government agents burst into Fangtasia last week and shot Tara with that futuristic gun? She’s still writhing in pain when Eric and Nora show up to assist. Pam tells Eric that the bullet is still inside of Tara. Eric tries to grab the bullet with his fingers, and gets shocked. So he just grabs the nearest glass bottle, breaks it and uses it to dig the bullet out of Tara’s midsection. Who needs a doctor when you’ve got Eric? The four vamps examine the removed bullet — it’s made of silver and emitting UV light rays. Eric is flabbergasted that the US government has these kinds of weapons, as is Nora.

Nora: They f---ing did it. The humans are fighting back.

Pam: What did you expect? They’d just lie there and take it?

Nora: Well they’ve never fought back before have they?

Pam proceeds to have a mini-breakdown. Without True Blood to keep the peace, vampires are screwed. She screams at Eric when he tells her he isn’t afraid of human, yelling that neither was she until she saw Tara “baking like a goddamn rotisserie.” Not to mention that they “stole all of [her] sh**!” Methinks Pam needs a dose of perspective. Who cares about the bar when they’re about to go to war?

Eric has better things to do then shake Pam back to her senses. He orders Nora to scour the vampire bible for answers re: Billith and storms out. When we see him next, he’s ready to infiltrate the governor’s mansion. The governor’s pretty daughter (who we hear him tell someone on the phone has just graduated from Tulane) is asking for permission to go out for drinks with some campaign staff, after which she goes out and tells a semi-disguised (glasses, nerdy tie and hairdo, sporting phrases like “No problemo”) Eric that the governor can see him now and brings Eric into the governor’s office.

Eric tries to glamor the governor into loving all vampires, but gosh darnit, it doesn’t work. The unglamoured governor calls in the guards and inform Eric that the US government now has contact lenses to protect from glamouring, and as a matter of fact, they have a whole bunch of fancy new weapons that will fry a vampire from the inside (a la Tara). And that’s just the tip of the weaponry iceberg!  Is anyone else looking forward to seeing this new tech?

The guards take Eric outside, but before they can arrest him he jets up into the night sky. Cut to governor’s daughter, sitting at her vanity in a nightgown, removing her anti-glamour contacts. Perfect moment for Eric to show up floating outside her window! He glamours her into inviting him in, but we’ll have to wait until next week to see just what he has planned for her. 

Everything else 

Much of the additional action in last night’s episode feels like an afterthought, so let’s get through it quickly.

Sookie meets another half-faerie named Ben. He’s super cute, and immediately falls for everyone’s favorite heroine. When their fingers touch, there is a literal spark. Sookie lets Ben know that she’s “not in the best place to get involved in anything romantic.” Not to mention that taking walks with handsome strangers has never worked out too great for her. Is Sookie wising up? I wouldn’t count on it, but for now she leaves Ben to find the faeries on his own.

Arlene is complaining to Terry about Sookie’s absences at Merlotte’s when Patrick’s (Scott Foley) wife shows up. Terry goes over to talk to her, but before he can get a word in she tells him that she knows Patrick ran off with another girl. Turns out that last she heard Patrick was coming to see Terry in Bon Temps and she’s been waiting at home for him to return ever since. Terry starts to tell her some version of the truth when Arlene jumps in and confirms that yep, men are idiots and Patrick’s run off and left this poor pregnant lady high and dry. “Life is really a sh*t sandwich sometimes,” Arlene says, hugging her as Terry looks on uncomfortably. Do I care where this storyline is going? No I do not.

A group of college-aged kids also stroll into Merlotte’s. Arlene seats them at a table, and, when one of the girls asks if they have anything organic on the menu, delivers my favorite line of the night: “Sugar this is Bon Temps. Down here organic means you play the fancy piano in church.” One of them gets up and heads over to talk to Sam at the bar. She introduces herself as Nicole, and tells Sam she knows he’s a shifter. When Sam denies knowing what she’s talking about, Nicole says she gets that he and his people are closeted, but that they really think it’s important to begin a dialogue between vampires, shifters and other supernatural beings. She says that she wants Sam to come out as a shifter. She’s the co-founder of the Vampire Unity Society and just wants justice and peace. Oh goodie, another political action group. I’m sure they won’t cause any trouble at all.

Sure enough, we see Nicole and her friends again spying on Sam at his house and gleefully taking photos as Sam and Alcide fight over whether Emma belongs with Sam or the wolf pack. Despite Emma’s protestations that she wants to be with Sam, Alcide and Martha grab her and take off.

Nora, who has dutifully been pouring over the vampire bible as Eric instructed, figures out that a passage has been mistranslated, repeating, "The people led Lilith to the sun” over and over. Wonder what that’s all about.

Lastly and least interestingly, we see Andy struggling to manage his gaggle of now-kindergarten-aged kids as he searches near the faerie field for Maurella to help him. 

I’m glad to know that Bill isn’t a god, because that last thing that man needs is an ego boost. It’s nice to delve into the Stackhouse family history, as provided to us by FFG, and finally get more information about the magical light we’ve seen Sookie occasionally shoot out of her hands for the past several seasons. I’m interested in what Nora has discovered in the vampire bible, and curious about the government’s new technologies.

But there’s an awful lot of extraneous stuff being thrown at us too. Andy’s faerie brood, Patrick’s pregnant wife, Nicole and the Vampire Unity Society, Ben the half-faerie, Emma and the werewolves — unless we’re given better reasons to care about these characters, I’m going to keep my focus on Billith, Eric and Sookie instead of these lackluster side plots.

Here’s hoping we’re given some reason to care.