To me, the mark of a good episode of "True Blood" (or really, any television show) is when you moan in frustration at the end of the episode instead of somewhere in the middle. With the former, you're disappointed that the episode is coming to an end, you're eager to find out what happens next (and none too happy about waiting a week to find out), and you've gotten so caught up in what's happening you haven't checked your watch. The latter hasn't  happened, at least for me, in the first two episodes we've seen thus far this season. There have been too many scenes that seemed forced, too much exposition, too many moments that didn't ring true. While this episode wasn't without its flaws, it felt as if the show just might be getting back on track.

The Good Stuff

Eric and Willa - Kudos to this unlikely pairing, which delivered the only real heat of the night (and fully clothed, too)! Yes, there's a Stockholm Syndrome-y aspect to what happens between the vampire and his semi-willing victim, but when she runs her hand across his face only for him to stop her in his lightning-fast way to lick the blood from her fingers, it's intense enough to leave her speechless and gasping. Of course, her affection seems one-sided, but I'm not convinced Willa hasn't gotten through to the big, bad vampire just a bit. This is the kinder, gentler Eric, after all, and I'm hoping he keeps Governor Burrell's dear daughter alive, though not for the Governor's sake.

Rutger Hauer, Rutger Hauer, Rutger Hauer - Grandpa Niall has it rough. First of all, he has to deal with Warlow. Second of all, he has to accept the fact that Sookie will put herself at risk to take care of her stupid brother Jason, who isn't even a half faerie. Third, well, he has to deal with stupid Jason. As played by Rutger Hauer, Grandpa is anything but doddering. He's fierce, exasperated and, despite being a good guy, clearly able and willing to do what needs to be done. When he zaps a faerie into ash in the destroyed faerie club, I chose to interpret that as him putting the guy out of his suffering -- though that could just as easily be interpreted as Grandpa not being a good faeriy fucking grandfather after all. I'm pretty sure Grandpa Niall is who we think he is, but I can't rule out other possibilities.

Steve and Sarah Newlin - It's a short moment, but one that we can't help but feel has been a long time coming. Steve finds himself caught by the henchmen of Governor Burrell (or perhaps even someone higher up the chain) and dragged off to Vampire Camp. This is not a place where vampires make macrame pot holders or learn to swim, of course. It's where vampires are tested, tortured and possibly treated to the True Death. When Sarah walks in on a shackled Steve, he first tries to play on her sympathies by telling her how scared he is, but when that doesn't work, he has no problem laughing in her face, taunting her and generally being the pompous ass he always is. Sarah, dressed to kill (literally) in a tight red dress, lets Steve know she's now in politics, which will allow her to do what they had worked together to do with the Fellowship of the Sun -- eradicate vampires. And Steve, luckily enough, is a vampire. She slithers out of the room and tells the doctor to have at it. It's her moment to grind a heel into her ex-husband's neck, and I can't say I blame her.

Bill sets himself on fire - It may not be kind of me to say it, but I actually laughed when Bill raised his arms to welcome the first rays of sunlight and immediately burst into flame. In addition to driving Jessica crazy with his Chosen One riffs, he's made me roll my eyes more than once as well. Yes, he can stop moving objects with his thoughts. Yes, he can see the future. Nifty tricks, and I have no doubt he's in communion with Lilith. Still, even though Lilith told him he's not a God, he sure acts like one sometimes. By being taken down a peg, we're able to sympathize with what this new iteration must actually be like for him -- confusing, dark, and horribly weighted with the knowledge that if he doesn't figure out what to do soon, his friends  (and most significantly his vampire daughter Jessica) will die a gruesome True Death. 

Sam rescues Emma and the annoying activists get splattered - I don't dislike Nicole, but I will say she hangs out with some awfully annoying people. That they meet a grisly end at the hands of the werewolves (with one whining that they can't touch him as they, in fact, touch him a lot) is perversely satisfying, and more importantly gives Sam a chance to deal with Nicole without interference from people who are probably more like us than we'd like to admit (raise your hand if you would whip out your smartphone if you saw someone transform into a werewolf. No judgment, mind you -- I'd do it in a second). Nicole needed to get a dose of reality. That her friends' sacrifice inadvertently creates an opportunity for Sam to kidnap Emma again is good news, but I have to wonder if Emma is just going to be kidnapped back and forth and back again if Sam and Lafayette don't figure out a good way to actually hide her. 

Lafayette - Nothing much to say here. He's barely in this episode for a minute, but I just love Lafayette. His unmushy mushy commitment to support Sam was one of my favorite moments on the show. Moving on. 

The Bad Blood

Ben's back - I know he'll serve some kind of purpose, and Sookie needs a boyfriend (I doubt he'll resist her for long), but man, he's just so boring. There's nice and then there's underwritten, and if he doesn't start showing something beyond stock good guy behavior soon, I'll start to think he's the "True Blood" equivalent of a Star Trek red shirt. 

Sick Jason - Poor, sad Jason. He gets tossed around so much he must have concussions on top of concussions, but I guess I'm just used to it. Sookie had to keep threatening to take him to the hospital for me to think anything was actually wrong with him, because to me he seemed just as addled as he always does. Yes, we did get a nice moment between Sookie and Jason when she explains that their parents weren't all he perhaps wants to think they were, but it's not enough. Still, we do get to wonder what the hell is actually wrong with Jason, other than him being tossed around like a superball week after week. 

The Iffy

Andy and his half-faerie daughters - Last week, I loved the short scene in which Andy is seemingly terrorized by the tiny, fast-growing quads. It was short, it was funny, and… well, it was short. Now the joke is getting a little old. While it fades into the background as Andy teaches Holly how to shoot vampires, and there's something goofily charming about him telling her how he wants to be her Fort Bellefleur, I think if one more person tells Andy kids grow up fast I'll scream. Of course, all of this is apparently just leading up to Bill realizing he has four tiny containers of faery blood available to him -- an important reveal given that Sookie won't give up any of hers for his chemical experiments. Speaking of which...

Sookie and Bill - I thought that seeing Bill and Sookie together after all that's happened between them (even all that's happened in the last two episodes) would feel weightier and more wrenching than it did. Instead, Sookie seemed like a petulant ex-girlfriend and Bill seemed like, well, Big Godlike Bill, which is to say focused on the task at hand (which made sense, but didn't make for a particularly poignant scene). I'm not sure what these two could say to each other now, but it seemed a shame for the discussion to be focused on blood above all. 

What did you think of "True Blood" this week? Do you think Willa will live long enough to be a good addition to the cast? Were you glad Sam got Emma back? And are you happy to see Ben back in the picture?