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‘True Blood’ recap: Unlikely reunions in season premiere

It was a grandly dramatic cliffhanger that concluded Season 4 of “True Blood” -- would Tara Thornton survive a gunshot blast to the head? The prognosis didn’t look good. Lying unconscious as Sookie cradled her body, Tara seemed pretty much dead already. But could the series’ writers really play such a cruel trick on Rutina Wesley’s unstoppable spitfire, having her die at the hands of Debbie Pelt of all people?

Nope. Turns out, they had a much, much crueler fate in mind.

Tara is now Pam’s vampire progeny, sired in a bargain even Sookie knew better than to strike. Still, overwhelmed with grief at the idea of losing her best friend, the reluctant fairy convinces a reluctant Pam to turn Tara, despite her hatred for all vampkind. I suppose the blame rests with Lafayette; he was the one to suggest that life as a vampire would be preferable to Tara having no life at all. We’ll see if that turns out to be the case.

Death, resurrection and unlikely reunions formed the spine of “True Blood’s” Season 5 premiere. The action opens with Nan Flanagan’s true death at the hands of Bill and Eric bringing the Authority to the King’s home; he and the Sheriff are silvered and hauled away for questioning in the trunk of a town car. They stage an explosive escape, but as luck would have it, they had an ally riding with them all along: Eric’s sister Nora (Lucy Griffiths). A chancellor of the Authority, Nora believes that Bill and Eric should be rewarded for saving vampires from the threat posed by the necromancers, and she tells them that others share her point of view. She’s devised a plan to get them to safety, but they may never return to the lives they’ve known, or it will mean the true death for her.

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Sam’s life is threatened too, as the shifter is cornered by Marcus’ pack, who are searching for their missing leader. He narrowly escapes an angry confrontation by assuming the form of a bird and flying away to warn Luna and Emma that they’re in danger. Luna urges Sam to tell the werewolves that it was Alcide who murdered Marcus, but Sam refuses to rat him out. When the pack turns up again, Sam admits to the crime to protect Luna and Emma and is led away. (Does Emma find it at all strange that mom’s boyfriend is naked on the front lawn? One wonders.)

Naked is how Jason answers his front door to find the recently turned vampire Steve Newlin standing on his porch. In no time, he glamors Jason and secures an invitation inside. He releases Jason from his influence, only to profess his love -- becoming a vampire has allowed him to come to terms with his sexuality, you see. Jason tries to let him down gently, but Steve handles the rejection pretty poorly -- prompting Jessica to burst in, declare Jason hers and toss Steve out.

Rev. Newlin isn’t the only vampire menace, however. Russell Edgington is back as well. Alcide drops by Sookie’s to break the news to her and offer his protection, but Sookie insists that she can’t accept. He calls Eric with the same information, interrupting the vampire’s romantic tryst with Nora inside a shipping container. Only on “True Blood” is that a family reunion.

A different kind of reunion takes place once Martha (Dale Dickey), who turns out to be Marcus’ mother, convinces Sam to lead her to her son’s remains (when torture doesn’t work, she promises no harm will come to Luna and Emma): The pack shifts and, in wolf form, begins to devour his corpse. Luna brings Alcide to the grim scene, and he confesses that he murdered the pack master, not Sam, but that has no bearing on the ritual.

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Over at Sam’s bar, Jason and Andy Bellefleur sit down for lunch feeling sheepish about being there (is there another restaurant aside from Merlotte’s in Bon Temps?). Andy’s on the outs with Holly after her two sons came home early and found him naked in bed with their mother. Jason, perhaps unwisely, tries to bury the hatchet with Hoyt, who rejects his former friend’s well-meaning overtures.

Jessica, though, is sticking by her plan to keep things casual, despite claiming Jason as hers. Hosting a party for some local college kids at the King’s place while he’s out of town, Jessica’s a wild flirt, even after Jason turns up unannounced and cluelessly invites himself in. Jason, hoping to make her jealous, leaves with a blond, but he tells the girl that he only intends to drive her home, that he’s doing his best to follow a new path and be a better guy.

Terry also is determined to be a better man, a good husband to Arlene and a good father to their kids, but the appearance of his old Marine pal Patrick (Scott Foley) is creating tension, as though his past is coming back to haunt him. Patrick notes that mysterious fires are plaguing the men who fought together -- two of whom have died -- and might have something to do with an unspecified night in Iraq. Terry makes it plain that he has no interest in getting involved or revisiting the war.

In order to break with their pasts, Bill and Eric are issued (hilarious) new identities by Nora’s accomplices, but before they can make their final getaway, the group is fired upon and placed under arrest by Authority forces. Back at Sookie’s, Pam rises, but Tara lies still beneath the soil. Sookie frantically begins digging with her hands to get to her friend, but in just a moment, Tara bolts from the ground and comes straight for her.

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Other moments worthy of note: Pam mentions she’s created a vampire before-- though she points out that it might not have gone especially well. Also, Lafayette briefly returns home and finds Jesus’ body missing. Hmm….

It was certainly an action-packed episode, and I think the Tara-Pam combo has a lot of potential. What about you? Leave your comments below.

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