In its final episodes, “True Blood” pulled off a real bait-and-switch. The wild, freeform gory action of the first half of the season had led many observers, myself included, to predict an apocalyptic finale with dead bodies draped all over the set. Instead, the last couple of hours were a ‘shipper’s paradise, with the longest, most drawn-out sequence devoted to the surprise marriage of Hoyt and Jessica. Andy presides at the service, which is held at Bill’s house, and the out-of-the-blue nature of the ceremony has Arlene and Holly wondering if vampires can get pregnant. 

The real explanation is much simpler, and sadder: after Jessica and Hoyt visit the fast-fading Bill and tell him of their feelings for each other, the wedding is put on the front burner so that Bill can be there to witness it. He had another daughter once, when he was a human being, but when he became a vampire in those unenlightened times, he was shut out of her life and denied a role at her wedding—and this, it turns out, was the reason for all those dull, seemingly random flashbacks to Bill’s life in the Antebellum South, which I had once assumed would have some connection to the main plot. (Does someone close to the production have a cousin whose “Gone with the Wind”-themed costume shop was going under?) 

While Sookie and Bill were sitting there in the parlor watching Jessica and Hoyt being welded together, Bill’s health continued to deteriorate, to such a degree that Sookie could finally hear his thoughts. They were sweet and romantic and, as she later told Jason, exactly what you’d want to hear if you penetrate the mental inner sanctum of someone you’d loved. And so, after urging Jason to recognize that there was something special going on between him and Brigette, Sookie resolved to honor Bill’s final request of her. He had told her that he wanted her to kill him with a mighty blast of her faerie power, which in turn would shut off her faerie powers for good. The way he saw it, with him gone and her powers dispersed, she could finally be happy and live “a normal life, with kids and everything.”

Bill fails to take into account the specialness of Sookie’s powers, and how integral those powers are to the specialness of Sookie herself. Sookie herself isn’t able to put it all together until Lois Smith, making the final guest appearance by a long-departed cast member, popped in as Granma Adele in a flashback that also featured Li’l Sookie and Li’l Tara. (There’s also a cameo by Michael McMillan as Reverend Steve, but it isn’t his first appearance this season, and since Adele checked out before the first season was over, Smith’s surprise drop-in was clearly the bigger event.) After Sookie annoys Tara by reading her dirty thoughts about Jason, Adele tells her granddaughter to take pride in her supernatural gifts and accept them as a part of her own wondrous self. Looking at Bill laid out in his grave with a picture of himself with his daughter, Sookie realizes that Adele was right, and tells Bill that she doesn’t want to blow up her faerie powers killing him. So, instead, she breaks the head off a shovel and stakes him through the heart, his body exploding in a cherry-colored blast that leaves her looking like Bruce Campbell at the end of “Evil Dead.” The important thing is, Bill is at peace, as well as in pieces.

As for the conclusion to the whole Hep-V/New Blood storyline, it begins as an afterthought and a mopping-up operation and ends up as a joke. At the end of last week’s episode, Mr. Gus, Jr. had Eric and Pam at his mercy and dispatched his minions to Sookie’s home. At the start of tonight’s episode, Eric suddenly seems to remember that he’s a vampire, dammit, and doesn’t need to let these Japanese gangsters push him around. So he kills Mr. Gus, Jr., first tricking him into crawling into a tunnel and then wasting him with a fireball. Then he goes after the yakuza, catching up with them just as they arrive at Sookie’s house and spreading them out across the yard like warm cheese. (The most exciting filmmaking of the finale is a quick shot of the charged-up yakuza stuffed in a car together, listening to music while driving to Sookie’s house with murder in their hearts. There’s a funny image to round out the sequence, when Eric takes the wheel and drives away, bopping his head to the radio with pieces of dead gangsters sticking up in the back seat.)

At the very end, the action skips ahead a few years, and we see a TV informercial in which Eric and Pam tout their new product, New Blood, with a story about how they were unable to hang onto Sarah Newlin, but managed to scrape together enough of her blood to perfect their commercially available Hep-V cure. In fact, Sarah is chained up in the basement at Fangtasia, losing her mind while being rented out to thirsty vampires who pay $100,000 for a minute with their teeth in her veins. (Above, in the club itself, Eric sits on his tacky throne, looking disconsolate while watching the paying customers in the packed house go through the motions of enjoying themselves.) 

Meanwhile, over at Sookie’s house, the remaining “good” characters have gathered for Thanksgiving. Jason is there with Brigette and their pack of kids; Sam Merlotte and his lady fair are back in town; Lafayette and New James are making a go of it; Lettie Mae and Reverend Daniels have weathered their marital storms and, from the look of it, come out stronger for them; and Arlene, who for some reason is, unlike everyone else, padded and made up to look as if she’s aged, is with some guffawing redneck who looks like Sgt. Pepper on “China Beach.” The big news is that Sookie is pregnant, and the show fades to black just as she slips one arm across the back of some bearded dude. 

I have mixed feelings about this ending. In its best days, “True Blood” made overripe, hedonistic sexiness look like a blast, and on its very best days, it even made it romantic. The clear-cut dichotomy of those final images—the losers getting down at Fangtasia with their morose sex god Eric looking on, that happy, healthy “Waltons”-esque Thanksgiving scene—is almost a violation of the show’s spirit, and the treatment of Sarah Newlin crosses over from poetic justice to sadism, in a way that seems kind of ungrateful for all that Anna Camp has done over the years to kick some life back into the show’s engine. But it’s nice to see so many nice people still standing at the end, full of new life and passing the fried chicken around. Good night, people of Bon Temps. You were enjoyed.

Were you satisfied with Bill’s embrace of the true death? Do you think Sarah got what she had coming to her? Did you cry at Hoyt and Jessica’s wedding? Seriously, just between us, doesn’t the thought of Jason as a daddy give you the chills, just a little? And what can Sookie’s suitor be like, and did they meet on Christian Mingle? There’s nothing to do with any of these thoughts but speculate on them, freely and to your heart’s content, now that no new episode will be coming along to contradict your wildest fantasies. Talk among yourselves, compare notes, and thanks for reading.