This episode feels about three hours long. Technically speaking, a great many things happen in it, but most of them don’t feel significant, partly because none of the plotlines that were going somewhere last week achieve any forward momentum. As the clock is ticking down towards the closing credits, there’s a brief, wordless scene of Lafayette and Lettie Mae digging up the yard they saw Tara clawing up in their shared vision, just to let us know that that particular plot thread is still in play and hasn’t been forgotten. But there are also long, meandering scenes in which Sam (drowning his sorrows at Arlene’s bar, where he now seems to be the only remaining customer) and Andy (taking a break from searching for his daughter to stand by the side of a lake and have a good cry) whine about how fed up and frustrated with their lives in Bon Temps, while at the same time expressing sorrow at the thought that their lives there will someday end. It’s as if the writers’ and actors’ mixed feelings about finally finishing up this job and having to go look for work elsewhere were infecting the narrative. 

One thing’s for sure: this is not the best season for new cast members. Amber, Sarah Newlin’s vampire sister, showed some promise, for all the good that did her: last week, Sarah revealed that her own blood is the antidote to Hep-V, and cured Amber by allowing her to feed on her. Eric and his new business partner, Mr. Gus, Jr. of the Yokonomo Corporation, are eager to market that antidote, and try to persuade Amber to reveal her sister’s whereabouts, but when she refuses, Eric freaks out and stakes her. Exit, Amber. Sarah, meanwhile, is holed up in the abandoned ruins of the Light of Day Institute and suffering some kind of mental breakdown, in which she’s confronted by the accusing figures of Jason, who promises her that she’ll be dead before the next sunrise, and all her dead ex-lovers, including a special guest appearance by Governor Burrell’s severed head. (Somehow, it all deteriorates into a pissing contest between Reverend Steve and Sarah’s unlucky West Coast guru, over whether she’ll choose to die as a Christian or a Buddhist.)

Michael McMillian (as Steve Newlin) isn’t the only actor from seasons past who gets to return for a final-season victory lap. Sookie also calls on her faerie grandfather Niall (Rutger Hauer) to manifest himself, so he can tell her that there’s nothing he can do to save the fast-fading Bill. Hauer’s role in the show’s previous season ended up being one big anticlimax, and if anything, his appearance here tops it as an epic non-event. He contributes one piece of supernatural lore to the show’s mythology: it seems that dwarves are afraid of faeries, “Maybe because we killed so many of them in the past.” Then, in response to Sookie’s plea for a little magic, he shows her a flashback to the birth of Bill’s daughter. Sookie is all like, seriously, I ask for magic, and you show me the birth of a baby? Grandpa Niall is all like, childbirth is miraculous, Sookie, there’s magic in the ordinary. The audience is all like, uh, you just had a front row seat for something that happened in the 1850s, that’s really pretty magical. In the end, Grandpa bids Sookie farewell and returns to a distant realm, one where rewrites on the script for “Hobo With a Shotgun” are probably going swimmingly. With the family reunion over, Sookie rushes to Bill to tell him that she’s going to stay with him “till the very end.” Soon they’re both buck naked and stretched out together in front of a roaring fireplace. Seems like old times.

Other developments eat up precious minutes of the final season without adding anything fresh to the menu. Hoyt has returned, with a beautiful, blonde microbiologist girlfriend for Jason to drool over. Before Hoyt left town, Jessica glamoured him and told him to forget all about Jason, the best friend who stole his girl, so poor Hoyt has no idea where this is going. Arlene has a scene in her eternally empty bar where she and Keith, the vampire who saved her life by sharing his blood with her after she’d been drained by the infected vamps, seduces her, and they do it on the pool table. Then she wakes up: it was all a dream. Then, when she’s awake, and Roy Orbison is singing “In Dreams” on the soundtrack and making everyone wish they were watching “Blue Velvet” instead, Keith saunters in and asks her to dance with him. She tells him that she’s Hep-V positive, so they can’t have sex, and he replies, “Then let’s just dance.” It’s very sweet, and even kind of sexy. But I also find it puzzling: Hep-V is the show’s metaphor for AIDS, so wouldn’t Keith have known that she was likely to be Hep-V positive when he first laid eyes on her, when four or five infected vampires had their fangs in her? And wouldn’t he have already been putting himself at risk when he gave up his blood to her? Maybe I don’t quite understand the rules. It’s not like I’m the HBO Surgeon General.

The single weirdest storyline is involves Violet and the runaway near-incestuous teenage lovers, Adilyn and Wade. While Andy and Holly are looking all over creation for the kids, Violet lures them to a tacky love mansion with black velvet walls and such knick knacks as a stuffed polar bear, as well as enough dildos, nipple clamps, whips, and assorted sex toys to stock a bomb shelter in “Californication.” Violet turns in for the day, after inviting the young lovers to enjoy themselves. Adilyn and Wade end up learning that they’re both just a couple of inexperienced kids, not the high-maintenance, demanding lovers each took the other one for, and have a good chuckle together that brings them closer together. Little do they know—when, inexplicably, they’re both still there when Violet wakes—that their hateful, hedonistic hostess intends to get all “120 Days of Sodom” on their butts. At one point, when Grandpa Niall tells Sookie that they’re going to “channel nature’s magic,” Sookie snaps, “To what end?” “To What End?” would have been a much better title for this. 

Sarah at Eric’s mercy, Adilyn and Wade at Violet’s, Bill at death’s door, Jason on the verge of cuckolding poor Hoyt again—which, if any, of these cliffhangers has you on the edge of your seat? And what of the real cliffhanger: which of the people who got killed off on this show between 2008 and last year will reappear for one last goodbye?