12 Essential True Blood Episodes
By Olivia Armstrong, Marissa Blanchard, and Ashley Morton
From Bill’s first utterance of “Sookie” to Eric’s unforgettable memory loss and Russell’s revenge — these episodes are not-to-be-missed. (Spoilers follow.)
When Alan Ball’s fantasy drama True Blood premiered in 2008, it was unlike any show on TV. Set in a sexually-charged, adults-only world and featuring over-the-top special effects, it was a far cry from the teen-vampire romances of the same period.
If it’s been a while since you watched, or you’ve been wondering where to start, here are 12 not-to-be-missed episodes that introduced unforgettable characters, featured jaw-dropping sex scenes and shocking twists, and gave both newcomers and fans of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels … plenty to sink their teeth into.
Welcome to Bon Temps: A New Orleans suburb that revolves around the local bar patronized by God-fearing townsfolk, shapeshifters and vampires. Creator Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, Here and Now) wrote and directed this sexy, twisted introduction to the seminal series, where we first meet waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). Their immediate, forbidden connection is obvious from the start, and the episode tees up the rest of the show: mortals and supernatural are pitted against each other, fighting against primal desires.
Two words: Eric Northman. Only vampires become more beautiful and powerful as they “age” — who better to exemplify this than Alexander Skarsgård? Bill escorts Sookie to Fangtasia for the first time, and we get our first glimpse of Sheriff Northman. This is a rare anomaly in the Sookie-Bill-Eric love triangle when Eric’s superiority to Bill is unquestioned: He’s older and more powerful. It’s also an introduction to the seductive, ruthless microcosm of the vampire world that Eric and Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) have built together as maker and progeny.
Gran’s death leaves everyone shaken, and it’s made worse by the fact her granddaughter Sookie can hear what everyone’s thinking: That it’s her fault Gran’s dead. Sookie’s brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) isn’t so subtle and downright slaps her — a move so gasp-worthy and heartbreaking, it leaves Sookie feeling more alone than ever. In addition to the death of a beloved character, the big to-do here is the moment virgin Sookie lets her guard down and sleeps with Bill.
True Blood never played it safe, and this was the episode that proved it never would. Season 2 was the season of Bacchic revelry, led by Maenad and Dionysus worshipper Maryann (Michelle Forbes) and “Hard-Hearted Hannah.” The pair brought the Bon Temps to its knees, with nearly every adult participating in a spell-induced orgy. It was ugly, it was animalistic, and it concluded with a cliffhanger featuring Maryann in a bull mask and Sam as a sacrificial shapeshifter. Simply put: It was an episode that defined the glorious weirdness that defined the series.
Eric’s greatest wish and deepest fears come to fruition. He successfully deceives Sookie into thinking he’s injured, and a panicked Sookie agrees to suck out silver bullets — drinking Eric’s blood in the process. This forever connects her to Eric and turns her hatred into sexual desire. Score one for Eric, who then has to witness the death of his 2,000-year-old maker Godric (Allan Hyde). Taking responsibility for the recent vampire-against-human violence, Godric decides it’s time he meets the sun. The audience (and Sookie) get the first glimpse of Eric’s sensitive side: Bloody tears stream down his face as he begs the only person he truly cares for, to live.
Season 3 marks the reign of 3000-year-old Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare) and an introduction to the werewolf-of-your-dreams, Alcide (Joe Manganiello). Russell, an incredibly powerful vamp with a merciless disdain for humans, tries to convince Bill to “turn” Sookie into an immortal bloodsucker. Eric, afraid Sookie is being targeted by Russell, sends the hunky Alcide to keep watch — but underestimates the pair’s chemistry.
Season 3 set the scene for, more or less, the remainder of the series in terms of vamps versus humans, a plan set in motion almost entirely by Russell Edgington. The war between bloodsuckers and mortals escalates precipitously — and on a nationwide scale — the instant Russell rips out a news anchor's spine on live TV and assures viewers everywhere that vampires will no longer hide in the shadows. “Why would we seek equal rights? You are not our equals,” declares Russell. “We will eat you after we eat your children. Now, time for the weather. Tiffany?”
Bill and Sookie’s might be the dominant relationship when True Blood begins, but for everyone shipping a Sookie and Eric hook-up, Episodes 3 through 6 of Season 4 are downright delicious. His memory gone, Eric is as close to domesticated as a vampire can be, and his wide-eyed vulnerability wins Sookie over — enough to confess she actually likes him. While they eventually go on to sleep together, it’s their first kiss that gives us all the feels.
Not one, but two love triangles heat up here. Sookie’s attraction to Bill is reignited after a sip of his blood, producing an iconic, sexy fantasy where Sookie professes her love for both Bill and Eric. Meanwhile, the Jessica-Hoyt-Jason situation takes its own turn when Jason tries to suppress his feelings for Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) out of loyalty to his best friend. Jessica, reeling from her breakup with Hoyt (Jim Parrack), has other plans. This episode reminded Trubies that Bon Temps’ more innocent residents had needs too.
The Season 5 premiere picks up where Season 4 left off: when Tara (Rutina Wesley) took a bullet to save Sookie from Debbie (Brit Morgan). Summoned to save Tara, Pam agrees to turn her if Sookie can help her get back into Eric’s good graces. When Tara wakes as the thing she hates most, she’s met with what vampires crave like candy: Sookie’s fairy blood. This sets the scene for a threat that will come into play later on: the vulnerability of Sookie’s kind.
For a show about immortality, a lot of action goes down at True Blood funerals. This episode may be the quietest on this list — there’s no crazy sex or violent tantrums, but it’s significant to Sookie’s storyline. When the town gathers to say goodbye to Terry (Todd Lowe), Sookie announces to the world that she has telepathic skills. Not to be lost in the monsters and gore is a story about a young woman learning to accept who she is.
With the series finale, we bid adieu to some of Bon Temps’ most beloved characters and watched others step into the light — some for the first time since the pilot, “Strange Love.” After struggling to find a cure for Hepatitis V, New Blood is welcomed on the market and acts, not as a cure, but also as an alternative to Tru Blood — hinting at the potential for peace between mortals and vampires.
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