True Blood: Neko Case and Southern Gothic
Alan Ball was known for his masterful use of music in Six Feet Under. He's lost none of his touch when it comes to his current HBO series, True Blood -- which happens to be set in the Louisiana swamps, not terribly far from Houston.
It seems so rare that in the world of True Blood we get to feel what the series so often teases that it will give us, namely love. Now, we know as sure as God made trees tall and Yetis reek that everything everyone in the show loves will be taken away, raped, beaten and murdered simply because that's how modern TV works. There's no happy ending on the horizon for the people of Bon Temps.
Still...for this one brief episode it was possible to believe in the awesome power of love, mercy and forgiveness. Sure, we saw two different people get possessed by powerful spirits who are surely going to wreak all kinds of havoc between now and the finale, and the last we see of Tara and her ambiguously Asian girlfriend is a rotting Pam rushing at them with a whole lot of murder on her mind. However, these are the sideshows.
What takes center ring for more of the episode is a series of honest affections, like Hallmark cards set up like dominoes. Bill breaks into Sookie's house to find her writhing in Eric's arms. Eric is arrested and taken away, and Bill uses his authority as King of Louisiana to procure a warrant of death against Eric.
However, Bill is later swayed by the sincerity of the amnesiac Eric in his final moments. Eric doesn't protest his sentence; he even partly embraces it. He urges Bill to seek out Sookie's forgiveness after he is gone and to tell her how much he loved her. Bill is overcome by Eric's desire to see Sookie happy with someone, even if it's with his own executioner, and releases Eric.
The episode closes on Bill, a glass of True Blood in hand, looking up forlornly at the moon before cutting to Eric and Sookie making love under that same celestial sphere while Neko Case's "I Wish I Was the Moon" haunts us throughout the credits.
When this season first started, we knew that we were going to have to explore Ms. Case a little further. It was her tag-team with the one and only Nick Cave on "She's Not There" that opened the season, and we focused exclusively on Cave's contribution because, well, we love him a whole lot. Now we have no choice but to look into the other half of that equation, and we can tell you that there is nothing but breathtaking beauty in what Case does.
"I Wish I Was the Moon" is a cut from Case's 2002 album Blacklisted, a title that some speculate may have originated from Case being barred from the Grand Old Opry after removing her shirt onstage while in the throes of heatstroke. The sometime New Pornographers songstress fully embraces what she calls country noir and we have been referring to as Southern Gothic.
It's the most interesting thing in music right now, this continuing resurgence of dark-tinged country and folk music. Case cited Angelo Badalamenti as a big influence while working on Blacklisted, and if there is a more dominant voice in the world of music that is both angelic and terrifying, then we haven't heard it.
"I Wish I was the Moon" is the kind of song that lives in two worlds. It frees you, and it binds you. It's both pyre and forge. It is something beyond acceptance on any one plane.
In True Blood, it's not just that some many of the characters have double lives that is the cause of much of the angst. It's that those lives are constantly at war with each other. It's not good versus evil, it's I versus I. Neko Case serves as the perfect entrance music to that battle, invoking love and despair with every note.
As we said, it's rare to just sit back and enjoy a moment of beauty in this show, even if that beautiful picture is framed in gilded pain. Thank you, Ms. Case, for giving us that moment.
Be sure to visit the Loving True Blood in Dallas blog, where Jef With One F will be a semi-regular contributor to the podcast this season.
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