Over a decade ago, HBO introduced the masses to the fantasy-filled world of Bon Temps, Louisiana. True Blood was a deliciously-addictive watch, a satisfying gumbo filled with sex, gore, and drama, mixed with interesting, eccentric characters, and served up as a seven-season course that redefined the boundaries of storytelling on TV. It glamoured fans with its love for camp and cliffhangers and, like the vampires who got a taste of Sookie Stackhouse’s blood, it left us all craving for more.
That’s why, during these challenging quarantimes, we think it only right to rank some of the best episodes of the show for those in desperate need of a re-watch.
Feed on the 10 best episodes of True Blood.
10. “Escape From Dragon House” (Season 1, Episode 4)
The Story: After Sookie discovers Dawn’s been murdered, she launches an investigation of her own to clear her brother’s name, which leads her and Bill to Fangtasia, and a 1,000-year-old Viking vampire named Eric Northman.
Why It’s On This List: True Blood took its time in building out the world of vampires and werewolves and shapeshifters that drew so many fans to its particular brand of camp, and it paid off with episodes like this one. Sookie gets to marvel at Fangtasia, or as she views it, the Disney World of immortal bloodsuckers, and we get to marvel at Alexander Skarsgard for the first (but not the final) time.
9. “Death Is Not The End” (Season 7, Episode 4)
The Story: Sookie recruits Eric and Bill for a rescue mission at Fangtasia, and we learn how Eric and Pam came to Bon Temps.
Why It’s On This List: Did you know you needed an ’80s-era, hairspray-soaked origin story for Eric’s vampire-only dive bar? Yeah, us either. But that’s what we got this episode, and it tasted as good as a tall glass of O-Negative. Not only did we get some of the best Eric and Pam moments of the entire series, complete with costume changes and funny gags involving Ginger, we also got some soul-lifting Eric/Bill banter as the two put aside their differences to help Sookie save her friends. See guys, we really can all get along.
8. “Let’s Boot and Rally” (Season 5, Episode 5)
The Story: Sookie and Alcide help Bill and Eric hunt down Russell Edgington as Tara and Jessica bond over their shared vampire genes at Fangtasia.
Why It’s On This List: There are definitely other episodes with more vital storytelling that could reserve a place in this ranking, but we choose to supplant them with this comedy caper instead because it’s nice to be reminded every now and then that True Blood was, at times, f*cking hilarious. Not only do we get to gleefully watch as a drunken Sookie deflates Alcide’s too-eager boner by vomiting all over his shoes right before they’re set to do the horizontal mambo, that awkward makeout session is then crashed by her two former vampire lovers, who recruit them both in the search of a genocidal ancient immortal who’s completely lost the plot and want to destroy all of humanity. And you thought your love life was laughable.
7. “Me And The Devil” (Season 4, Episode 5)
The Story: Eric, still suffering from a bout of witch-caused amnesia, flees Sookie’s place after overhearing Tara rant about all of the terrible things the vampire once did to her. Bill tries to find a solution to his Marnie problem as Lafayette and Jesus travel to Mexico for help in defeating the vampires.
Why It’s On This List: Most people might point to the next episode in season four — the one where Eric and Sookie go at it like rabbits in the woods — as the most important moment in terms of their ever-evolving romantic relationship, but there’s something to be said for the buildup to that first bang session. With Eric’s memory gone, Sookie’s able to see him clearly and to be open about her feelings for him, while he returns that gift of vulnerability by regretting his past actions and resisting the temptation to drink her blood. Their kiss is sweet and filled with promise, and it feels like more of a declaration than the moonlit romp they engage in later in the season.
6. “Life Matters” (Season 6, Episode 9)
The Story: The town gathers to say goodbye to one of its own as Bill and Eric rescue the vampires trapped by Sarah Newlin and her Vamp Camp disciples.
Why It’s On This List: Another emotional goodbye, Terry’s death marked a turning point for the entire town of Bon Temps. Not only did the show dedicate a respectful amount of time to exploring the character’s PTSD and how it affected his relationships with those he cared for most before putting him in the ground, but it also used his passing as an excuse for Sookie to come clean to her friends about her abilities. For a woman who had been hiding a vital part of herself from those closest to her for decades, this revelation felt revolutionary, in a subtly powerful way proving that True Blood had the ability to craft meaningful, heavy character development when it needed to. Of course, for those wanting bloodshed and chaos, we’ve always got Vamp Camp.
5. “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (Season 5, Episode 1)
The Story: Lafayette and Sookie plead with Pam to turn a dead Tara in exchange for their help with Eric while he and Bill find themselves in trouble with The Authority after Nan Flanagan’s murder.
Why It’s On This List: The show’s season four finale was further proof that True Blood could pull off a heart-stopping cliffhanger. The show never got squeamish when it came to doling out a death sentence to its most beloved characters, so until this episode dropped, we all believed Tara Thornton might actually, truly be dead. Of course, instead of torturing us, the show decided to torture Tara by saddling her with an undead status, and this episode marks the beginning of that juicy, dramatic arc. Not only did turning Tara introduce us to a friendship we never knew we needed — her bond with Pam, which carried through until the end of the series — but it also created conflict between her and Sookie, which forced both women to evolve in interesting ways. Plus, Tara made one badass fanger. Good on the show for realizing that early on.
4. “Everything Is Broken” (Season 3, Episode 9)
The Story: Sookie confronts Bill over his deception as he learns the truth about her origins. Tara seeks therapy for her recent trauma, and Russell starts a war between vampires and humans in a very public fashion.
Why It’s On This List: Everything is a bloody mess this episode which, as any True Blood fan knows, is when sh*t starts getting good. Sookie finally begins to assert control over her life by calling Bill out on his devious, controlling behavior while Tara begins to find closure after being abused by Franklin. And while we’re all for feisty women, the most iconic moment comes thanks to another diva: Russell Edgington. A power-hungry megalomaniac with a superiority complex, Russell was a fantastic villain throughout the show’s third season, but he reached stan-level status with his on-air meltdown that began with him ripping out a news anchor’s spine and ended when he threw it over to Tiffany for the weather.
3. “Cold Ground” (Season 1, Episode 6)
The Story: Sookie is left reeling after Gran’s gruesome murder. Her funeral and the gathering afterward descends into chaos when Jason, jacked up on V-juice, publicly blames his sister for their grandmother’s death.
Why It’s On This List: Again, there’s sex and murder and some deliciously good drama hidden in this episode, but what the show does best — focusing on the very real, very human emotions that become heightened when dealing with immortal problems — takes shape in how Sookie struggles to grieve the passing of the most important person in her life. She journeys through the steps of numbness, anger, deep despair, and denial, all while politely hosting the judgemental townsfolk of Bon Temps, managing a hapless brother with a drug addiction, and realizing her true feelings for Bill, which she acts on later in the episode. The most important scene here isn’t when Sookie finally offers Bill her neck and her virginity, it’s when she confronts Gran’s passing by tearfully eating her homemade pie.
2. “Strange Love” (Season 1, Episode 1)
The Story: We meet Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress living in Bon Temps, Louisiana. Two years after the invention of TruBlood (a synthetic form of sustenance for vampires) was created, immortal beings roam relatively free, and Sookie finally meets one when a 173-year-old fanger walks into her bar.
Why It’s On This List: Adapting any fantasy series is tough — like killing an immortal vamp tough — but what HBO was trying to do by bringing Charlene Harris’ 13-book set to the small screen was nearly impossible. It’s important to acknowledge that because the show’s premiere episode still stands as one of the best pilots we’ve seen on TV. Not only are we introduced to the rich, complicated, Southern cess-pool that is Bon Temps, we also see the first meeting of the show’s beloved, doomed couple. There’s blood, there’s gore, there’s fantasy, there’s sexual tension. Really, it’s all you could hope for as a fan of the series.
1. “I Will Rise Up” (Season 2, Episode 9)
The Story: After Eric is injured in an explosion as he and Sookie escaped the clutches of the Fellowship of the Sun, Sookie offers to help heal him and accidentally initiates a bond that threatens her relationship with Bill.
Why It’s On This List: Sure, seeing Bill sweat it out over Sookie’s steamy, Eric-starring sex dreams was fun — as was the confrontation between the two men over their shared human obsession — but the real reason that this episode rises to the top of this particular blood, camp-filled heap has nothing to do with sex, or bloodlust, or bloodlust-induced sex. Godric, Eric’s Maker, was one of the few vampires on this show that seemed to have some memory of his humanity, and it guided him in his final days in a few ways: first, as he tried to parlay with the Fellowship radicals, and second, when he decided the best form of penance for the mess he caused would be to greet the sun. Seeing Eric beg his oldest and dearest friend, a father-like figure, in both English and Swedish to reconsider his planned suicide was heartbreaking, but when Sookie offered to stay with Godric until the very end, it cemented the pair’s relationship in a way that even blood-sucking couldn’t.