Can you believe it's been a whole season of "True Blood"? I certainly can, as plot points and storylines have zinged past our heads like vases during a lovers' quarrel in a 1940s B movie. Though that's meant some shoddy character development and (especially in this episode) some false turns in the service of wrapping up a storyline, the good news is that this season finale sets us up for what could be a dark future, but one possibly more satisfying than this one.

The Bad Blood

Warlow gets ugly: Given how our initial perceptions of Warlow turned (then turned again) earlier in the season, I had high expectations for how this storyline might be resolved. We'd learned just enough about Warlow and his tortured backstory to think that, whatever happened, it might at the very least make sense from a character development perspective. Instead, Warlow completely overreacted when Sookie had the temerity to suggest they date before they danced around the maypole -- you'd think he was having a snit about having to cancel the florist and the cake delivery too late to get his deposit back.

His response to her fairly logical request was over the top and unnecessarily nasty -- and seemingly happened only so that Sookie's friends would have some justification to rescue her (as well as a ticking clock). But even the ensuing action didn't make a lot of sense. Warlow is a jerk! Except, you know, he won't hurt Sookie's friends or family or anything like that. But, um, he still needs to slap and strangle Sookie a little to, I don't know, keep her in line? Force her to love him? He admits he wants to screw her, use her and drink her blood, and clearly, he's a guy who expects deals to be kept, but why did he feel the need to expose his true, crappy agenda before he'd sealed the deal? This reminds me of every tired action movie that has a lengthy, detailed confession from the bad guy right before he aims his gun at the protagonist's head. 

It's not that this ending was predictable, mind you -- it was more the fact that there was no attempt to make Warlow's actions even mildly logical. I mean, wouldn't he try some of the sweet talking he'd used to pretty good effect earlier in the season to cajole Sookie out of the "dating" idea before he strangled her? Oh, right, that would have made too much sense and the writers didn't feel like having to sort out how to de-vampirize Sookie. Given that Warlow's return was a big plot point this season, we deserved better. 

Sappy Bill is back: We saw it coming the moment we spotted Bill sulking toward his house, a parade of doped-up-on-faerie-blood vampires dancing around in various stages of undress behind him. He feels terrible about sacrificing Sookie to Warlow, dammit, just terrible! While I've loved how serious, devoted and loyal old Bill could be, after a couple hundred years (and a few seasons) I was thinking that Lilith's nutty mindset might leave a lasting mark to give a character that had become tired some new colors. But it seems that Bill is back to being Sookie's loyal defender (even with Alcide in the picture) and thinking deep thoughts when he's not writing best sellers. While there's a chance Sookie has changed for good, I have my fingers crossed that Bill and Sookie don't just pick up where they left off next season. 

The Good Blood

The time lapse: Bumping the story forward by six months allowed us to walk away from the mess that was Warlow (literally and figuratively) as well as pull us into a more interesting reality for Bon Temps. I didn't need to see how Sam became mayor or how Arlene bought his bar, and this fast forward takes us right into the heart of the desperate situation facing Bon Temps -- Hep V has mutated, leaving bands of roving vampires wandering around looking for victims. While I had hoped for more from the human-vampire war (really, that could have lasted seasons), a world in which the only logical solution seems to be that humans align themselves with one vampire for protection suggests an intriguingly dark future for humans.

Grandpa Niall is back!: If Warlow had to go, at least it gave Rutger Hauer an excuse to come back and save the day. I'm hoping this isn't the last we'll see of him, although I'm not sure what else he'll have to do for Sookie and Jason except make cookies and tell stories. But hey, that might be just fine.

Lettie Mae and Tara make peace: It was a weird and yet strangely logical moment between mother and daughter, and this elemental definition of feeding -- so often a sexualized transaction on this show -- was oddly touching. Tara didn't say much, but Rutina Wesley did an excellent job with a few choice words.  

Best line from high vampires or, really, anyone in this episode: "We need croquet! And volleyball! Who's making a Target run?" 

Jessica mans up: While Baby Vamp wasn't the focus of the series, she was perhaps the feistiest part of it, pushing Bill out of his funk to rescue Sookie (perhaps the best part of the entire nonsensical sequence) and later offers her protection to Andy, barely flinching when he levels a gun at her. Bill's little vamp is all grown up, I think. 

Bill gives Takahashi the proper send-off: Sure, it was a little pat, and it was another "good guy Bill" resolution. But hey, if anyone deserved a bag full of money, it was this guy. 

The Iffy Stuff:

Violet and Jason: Jury's still out on this one. While there's some comic relief in the idea that Jason can't get no satisfaction, Violet's insane jealousy is going to need some backstory to help it rise above the level of lame cliche. 

What's happened to Eric?: Yeah, I know. He was in the middle of snowy Are, Sweden and, when Warlow died, he (like everyone who dined on his super fantastic blood) lost his daywalking ability. He caught on fire. But that wasn't really the end of Eric, was it? Yes, I'm in denial. But it seemed far too jokey an ending for his character, so I'm not convinced. Plus, you know, Pam's looking for him, so I see fabulous European vacation scenes ahead!

Alicide cut his hair: You know, he looks good either way, but I liked the long hair. Just a thought. 

While the ending of Warlow wasn't what I hoped, I think the second half of the episode holds some promise in showing what happens to the survivors who've lost the war and must face compromises they never expected. While some of the war parallels this season didn't resonate as much as I hoped, this new, bleak future might yield some good stuff -- and, as we know, the war isn't really over with all those Hep V infected vamps bearing down on Bon Temps as the credits closed. Welcome to the new age, indeed. 

What did you think of the finale? Are you glad to see Bill back sans Bilith? Do you think Eric will return?