‘True Blood’ recap: Pam rules in ‘Whatever I Am, You Made Me

Well that was another solid episode of “True Blood.” And the best of the season so far in terms of balancing the large cast of characters and giving a variety of actors room to shine. There’s not a whole lot of momentum building after three episodes, but we still saw advances in several major storylines and got a better understanding of both a new addition and an old favorite.

Let’s break it down…

The Good (What worked)

– I’ll start with the week’s MVP: Kristin Bauer van Stratten’s Pam has always been a reliable scene stealer and one of the show’s best loved characters. But this season the writers have realized she also deserves some juicy dramatic material to play with, and the actress is not surprisingly knocking it out of the park.

Among her best moments in the episode: Her spat with Sookie at Fangtasia, the flashbacks to her early days with Eric (he ignored the other “merchandise” at the whorehouse and went straight for Madame Pam), her first meeting with Bill (he was a newborn vamp feeding on prostitutes with Lorena), the way she convinced Eric to make her a vampire (she didn’t want to face life as an aging sex worker and slit her arms open to force him to save her from dying), the look she gives Hoyt when he enters Fangtasia desperate for a meaningless vampire hookup and, of course, her final line when she senses Tara locked herself in a tanning booth to commit vampire suicide (“You stupid bitch!”). So, basically every Pam moment was a great Pam moment.

The flashbacks also emphasized the responsibility a maker has to his/her “child.” “It would be a shame to waste a promising vampire simply because his maker failed to educate him on how to treat his elders,” Eric says upon meeting the old, wild Bill. Later, he responds to Pam’s request to turn her, “If you had any idea the responsibility that comes with being a maker you wouldn’t ask.” Clearly, these words still echo in Pam’s head over a Century later. She’s tied to Tara whether she likes it or not.

– Tara’s transformation wasn’t just on Pam’s mind this week. It played a major role in tying several storylines and characters together. Feeling betrayed by Sookie and Lafayette, where else would Tara go to feel safe but Merlotte’s? Last week I complained the writers have a hard time figuring out what to do with Sam, but he’s well served as a sympathetic nice guy and loyal friend. Seeing him care for Tara and fumble trying to hide the truth from Sookie was a nice throwback to earlier times. And centering so much of the episode around Merlotte’s also helped remind us that yes, these characters are all a part of the same universe (a feeling that tends to get lost when everyone’s separated in their own storyline). It also provided a great payoff when Tara walked out of that walk-in freezer in front of not only Sam, Sookie and Lafayette (who all know she’s a vampire) but also Arlene and Alcide (who didn’t know, until then).

– Far away from Merlotte’s, Bill and Eric are still tied up at the Authority — this week taking turns being “interrogated” in classic “True Blood” fashion by Salome. I don’t know if I missed something last week, but I had no idea Valentina Cervi’s Salome was supposed to be the Biblical Salome. Her conversation with Bill comparing the Bible to Us Weekly was almost as telling as the ease with which she seduced both Bill and Eric (later sleeping with Roman too, to make it a trifecta). She’s been at this game for a long time, and even if Roman believes he’s in control it seems pretty obvious Salome can get anything she wants, any way she wants it.

– Oh look, Tina Majorino works for the Vampire Authority too! But all she got to do was strap Bill and Eric into those fetish-y get-ups. I’m assuming there’s more to come.

– Jason has his own thing going on too, as the writers somehow manage to combine elements of Adam Sandler’s “That’s My Boy” (probably not intentional) with last year’s awards player “Shame” (possibly intentional) and reveal the root cause of Jason Stackhouse, Sex Addict. Apparently he had a sexual relationship with his teacher at a young (unspecified) age. When he randomly runs into the teacher (played by Melinda Page Hamilton, a.k.a. “Mad Men’s” Anna Draper) at the grocery store she’s filled with guilt but he’s quick to rekindle what they had. It’s only after they sleep together again that he realizes sex isn’t solving his problems the way it used to. When Jessica comes running to him horny from a chance encounter with a sweet-smelling stranger (a fairy? or maybe Andy’s human/fairy son?), Jason turns down her come ons and Jessica sweetly offers to be there for him as a friend. All of this was very well played by Ryan Kwanten, and Deborah Ann Woll was typically great in their scene together.

– Jason on his romantic track record: “One died right in front of me, one was married to a gay preacher, Crystal was a … [looks at cat] … let’s not even go there. Right now I’m f— buddies with the love of my best friend’s life who’s a teenage vampire. That’s all kinds of messed up.”

– Lafayette explaining to Sookie they’re asking for trouble trying to take care of Tara: “It’s like keeping a pet gator in a bathtub.”

– P.S. Lafayette still has a demon inside him and nearly poisoned Merlotte’s customers by pouring bleach into the gumbo. Obviously he’s not going to be able to control these impulses forever…

The Bad (What didn’t work)

– Not much really fell flat this week, but Alcide’s encounter with Debbie Pelt’s parents (Linda Purl and Steve Rankin) stood out as the worst acted moment. But that usually happens when they trust Joe Manganiello with more than a few lines of dialogue.

– Roman introducing Steve Newlin as “the new Nan Flanagan” at least gave Michael McMillian something to play other than lusting after Jason. But I still liked Fellowship of the Sun Newlin a lot more than I like vampire Newlin so far. (And the real fun of that storyline was Anna Camp anyways.)

– There was no movement in the mysteries of Terry’s past at all. Just a single scene of Arlene getting angry he can’t tell her anything. It’s fine to stall when other things are happening, but we better see some progress with this soon.

The Nasty (The week in sex and violence)

– A whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on this week between Salome’s triple play, Jason and his teacher, and Pam’s flashback with Eric. Plus, Holly’s sons posted naked photos of Andy on Facebook. Facebook, thankfully, took them down.

– It was, however, a relatively light episode for gross-out violence, aside from Pam cutting herself and Bill draining the prostitute’s blood as Lorena watched. Hey, it’s still HBO.

What did you think of this week’s episode?