"True Blood" returns for its sixth season tonight, and as much as that's a cause for celebration there are still plenty of reasons to feel, at the very least, ill at ease. As everyone knows, creator Alan Ball has left the show (though he assures us it's in more than capable hands with replacement showrunner Mark Hudis). Cue ominous music here.

Okay, maybe that's an overreaction, but when it comes to TV, change is always a little unnerving. Though the series is based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels, it's not hard to think Ball was instrumental in nailing down the show's tone, a sometimes uneasy balance between dark humor and just plain dark. Granted, things have gotten increasingly convoluted in the last few seasons, and not every storyline has worked. But the real reason to worry about what's to come in season six is pretty much, you know, Bill. And Warlow. Hell, everything. 

A lot happened in this episode, and some of it was predictable, and some of it was oddly charming, but just for the record: this is a recap, not a review. If that makes everyone entirely crazy, I'll switch back to the greatest hits format that Geoff used, but I felt that for the season premiere, it was best to hit all the plot points with some brief commentary. 

When season five wrapped up, Nora, Jessica, Tara, Pam and Jason were running around Authority Headquarters trying to infiltrate the place, Sam and Luna are trying to get the hell away from it, and Sookie and Eric were trying to get the hell away from Bill. Or what appeared to be Bill. Having drunk Lilith's blood, he seemed to have been reduced to a puddle of goo, but only momentarily. He emerged, phoenix-like, bloody and pissed off. And that's where we find him at the start of season six. Bloody, fang-y, and mad. Really mad. 

Eric and Sookie get out of the building's elevator (after Sookie proves her use as a human flashlight) and get into the car, picking up the rest of the Scooby gang seconds before the building blows up. They gun it -- until they realize they don't have to. Bill isn't following them. "He's letting us get away," Eric says, leaving everyone to wonder exactly why. 

Sam and Luna also escape, but aren't as lucky. Sam hovers over Luna as she begs him to save himself and her daughter, Emma, and when she finally expires he grabs Emma and hotfoots it to safety. Is anyone crying over Luna? Well, probably not. Sam and Luna have not sort of felt tacked on to the show of late, and let's face it, as a couple they were pretty boring despite their supernatural abilities. So farewell, Luna... unless she's not really gone. Actually, I suspect she isn't. If she does come back, let's hope she's more interesting as a vampire. 

Although Sam had one of the most impressive kills of, well, ever by exploding Rosalyn from the inside out, Luna's incomplete skinwalk on live television has clued in the world about the existence of shape shifters. So, Sam has no girlfriend (well, maybe, see above), a little girl/werewolf to take care of, and most likely some vampires who want to kill the crap out of him. 

Not that it's a great time to be a vampire in Louisiana, mind you. Governor Burrell, who's never seen an opportunity to advance himself he didn't like, has a press conference to assure the humans he's sworn to protect them. Vampires? Not so much. He institutes a vampire curfew (which is basically "vamps can never leave the house ever") and demands all vampire-owned businesses be shut down. Then, he suggests everyone get a gun and lots of wooden bullets. Yeah, he's not Nazi-esque at all. While I realize this show is a really, really, REALLY heightened reality, I'm not sure that any elected official would be quite so frank (at least in a televised statement). Telling people to pick off vampires like ducks in season seems a bit much. But minor quibble. Moving on. 

With Bill not an immediate threat, it's time for everyone to squabble. This is a little awkward, as it seems as if the action just... stops so everyone can emote about stuff. Jason loves what the gov has to say, as it's high time someone did something about vampires... he says to a bunch of vampires. Pam wants to kill Nora, and is shocked when Eric reveals she's his sister. How could he keep that from her? Eric tells her to get over it. Nora suggests it's time to kill Bill, as he's probably mostly Lilith at this point, and Jessica weeps. Pam is crying, Jessica's crying; it's just not a happy time in general.

At the beach, Pam complains, as it's all "sand in your cooch," which is a very Pam assessment. She insults Tara, but Tara knows she just doesn't want anyone to see her cry or know how deeply Eric's secret-keeping has hurt her. Ultimately, Pam gives in and cries on Tara's shoulder, and it's actually sort of a nice moment for a couple that kinda needs one. I've been a late adopter of the Tara/Pam relationship, but they're growing on me even if they often remind me of a couple you'd get stuck having dinner with who won't stop fighting, then storms off to have sex in the bathroom while you get stuck with the check. 

The action is getting pretty crazy in another part of the beach (big beach) where Nora is insisting to Eric that Jason knows about Warlow, Eric isn't buying it, and Jason is going to kill both Eric and Nora if Nora doesn't tell him who Warlow is, as he killed his parents. This makes very little sense, even for Jason, who doesn't always seem all that tethered to logic. Though Nora explains that, duh, she's only read about Warlow in the Book of Lilith, Jason is pretty committed to having a big fit. 

Sookie tries to get Jason to stop acting crazy, but he's done with her, too. She loves vamps more than her own flesh and blood! Well, probably, but it still hurts her feelings when he stomps off into the night. I'm just wondering why he didn't do it sooner. Yes, he got to have fun picking off vampires during the assault, but after that, why stick around? 

That doesn't mean it's time for a bonfire and skinny dipping (it's just a shame to waste a trip to the beach on crying and yelling, isn't it?). Jessica starts puking blood, as she's being summoned by Bill. Now that he's so powerful, summoning isn't exactly a strong suggestion. Jessica IS going to see Bill, and Sookie decides to go with her. Bill may have given up on Sookie, but Sookie is willing to be a good parent to Jessica, even if that means ceding custody to a guy she last saw covered in blood. 

The pair gets to the house, where they find Bill on the porch, cleaned up and fully dressed. He looks so nice you could almost believe he's the old, courtly Bill -- right until Eric pops up and he and Eric get into it. Panicked, Sookie stakes Bill to stop him from killing Eric, and Bill pauses, turns around, and PULLS OUT the chunk of wood in his chest. He might as well pick his teeth with it for effect. If there was any doubt, Bill definitely got an upgrade with that Lilith blood. 

"Now can we talk?" Bill asks the gang (as Eric showed up with back-up). Considering that killing Bill is out of the question, talking seems like a good choice and Eric puts away his fangs. 

Bill assures them he's still Bill, but "something more." He promises that the man who put fear in Sookie and Jessica's eyes is gone. This is part of a much longer speech that kind of sounds like Bill is running for office or Steven Moyer got a chance to tweak the script in his favor. Still, it's nice to see Bill, to whatever extent, "back." I don't trust him, of course, but fond memories. 

Anyway, Sookie ain't buying. She thinks that if Bill really doesn't mean anyone harm, he should leave Bon Temps and never come back. Everyone turns to leave -- except Jessica. She's staying with Bill, period. After all, who is she going to hang out with otherwise? Hoyt? Jason? Hardly. 

By the way, not all the action is at the beach in this episode. Alcide, having killed J.D., is now packmaster -- but that involves eating some of J.D. Eww. His dad Jackson (Robert Patrick) tells him it's not too late to back out, but Alcide grabs an arm and chomps down. The packmaster gig isn't an easy one, but there are perks, namely naked chicks like Danielle. She, for one, is happy to, um, serve the big guy. But when Danielle and Alcide later get hot and heavy, who should show up but Rikki. Rikki comes in, snarls and makes out a little with Danielle, then reminds Alcide that she's his number one bitch, always. Alcide does not argue. This segment really feels like an excuse for a lot of female (and some male) nudity. 

Andy is also finding himself powerless against the ladies in his life -- namely, those four faerie kids he had with Maurella. He can't deal! He's not a daddy! Terry and Arlene, who know a little bit about this parenting thing, try to walk him through it, though he reacts to diapering one of his kids as if he's handling a loaded gun with oven mitts. Still, it seems like he's going to get the hang of it -- until he wakes up to find the kids calling him daddy and running around the house.

This is the comedic interlude for this episode, and while it feels almost sitcom and perhaps out of place, it's passably cute. Besides, it makes me think of all those parents yapping this month about how they blinked and their babies were graduating from high school. Yeah, faerie kids actually grow fast, Andy. Better start saving for college yesterday!

Back at Merlotte's, Sam carries a sleeping Emma into the bar and puts her in a booth. But he senses he's not alone -- Lafayette is roaming around, drinking the good tequila while the cat's away. Of course, Lafayette has some idea about what's been going on, as Luna's shapeshifting is on every TV station. Emma's more concerned wit the fact her mom is dead and she's hungry, so Lafayette offers to make her something fried, rolled in sugar, then fried again. Not a cure for what ails her, certainly, but it sounds lovely in a heart attack-inducing way. Lafayette also promises Sam he won't tell anyone he's seen him. Let's hope Lafayette will be able to keep that promise, or at the very least someone doesn't forcibly squeeze the truth out of him. I'm just wondering what Sam is going to do with a baby werewolf. 

Jason, who is still pissed at all those stoopid vampires, accepts a ride from an overly friendly stranger (Rutger Hauer). I mean, Warlow. Only Jason doesn't see this one coming, as Warlow invites Jason to tell him his entire life story, then reveals himself, then disappears from the car and lets it drive off the side of the road. Really, as predictable as this is, it's just exciting to see Rutger Hauer, even if he's rocking terrible hair.

The governor is busily getting up to no good, though his latest plan doesn't sound all that terrible. He has a meeting with Ms. Suzuki of the Tru Blood brand and offers to partner with her. He'll let her use an old iced tea bottling factory free of charge so that production of Tru Blood can resume. What's in it for him? Well, gosh, he hopes the vampires can become law abiding citizens, of course! And, ahem,  he needs some revenue for his reelection campaign. The good news is he wants no credit, as it would be a PR nightmare for Tru Blood to be in cahoots with the likes of him. Ms Suzuki agrees to the sweetheart deal, though I have to wonder if she'll live to regret it. I wouldn't trust Burrell further than I could throw him. 

Tara and Pam continue their conversation about Nora at Fangtasia, and all that warm fuzziness at the beach is pretty much gone. Tara tells Pam she didn't sign up to be Eric's punching bag, and Pam warns her that she can't replace Eric and never will. There's probably more they could argue about, but then the governor's SWAT team walks in, trains their guns on Pam, and shoot Tara. It could be argued that Fangtasia clearly wasn't open for business so Pam and Tara were keeping to the broad guidelines of the curfew, but I guess vampires have a hard time taking issues to court. 

Eric (who is in full lovestruck sap mode), and Sookie head back to her house, where he offers her the money to start a new life. Sookie points out that, with so much of Bill's blood in her system, there's no point. He can find her anywhere she goes. Still, Eric is amazed that she staked Bill to save him. I think he's hoping this conversation will lead to snuggling and sharing a pint of ice cream, but Sookie doesn't want to bond over this point. Eric, though, wants to be even more of a good guy and uses his own blood to sign over the deed to Sookie's house. Could someone please return Eric's spine? I think he needs it. I don't dislike nice Eric, but he lacks, uh, some necessary bite. 

Anyway, Sookie thanks him, promises to stay away from Bill, then disinvites Eric from her house. She wants her life back, and I can hardly blame her. 

Nora wants to use Sookie, but Eric won't allow it. "I don't know about Bill's weakness, but I may have just found yours," Nora says, as Eric tells her not to stir the pot. 

Bill and Jessica settle in at home, and, being the good vampire daddy he is, he brings her a glass of warmed Tru Blood, which he somehow freezes in motion when Jessica accidentally spills it. Hey, another neat Lilith blood payoff! "I don't know what I am or why I am, just that I need you more more than ever," he tells Jessica. And why does he need Jessica? Now that he has so much power, he needs someone to keep him honest. It's a sweet moment, or would be if I fully trusted that Bill was back to his old self, and he tucks Jessica into her bed and tells her to sleep tight. 

Then, Bill hears someone calling his name. He walks into a room and sees a bloody, naked woman staring right at him. Lilith? Then there are many Liliths, and then they all zoom right into his body. I guess now Bill really, really isn't himself. And yeah, that makes me nervous.

What do you think is going to happen to Bill? Do you think Sookie will be able to turn her back on vampires for good? And do you think Andy will be able to be a good daddy at super speed?