True Blood: Jessica's Crisis

This post contains spoilers for one of the more recent episodes of True Blood.  Choose Your Own Spoiler Adventure by reading on or choosing The Crypt for older, non-spoiler blog entries.

True Blood was attractive to me when I first started watching because of it’s vision of a world where vampires walk freely among mortals.  Vampires struggling for rights the way all marginalized minorities have.  It was equal parts overtly sexual, political, and campy fun and tended towards more vampires than anything else.  But as the seasons wore on I grew disenchanted.  Last season in particular made me throw my hands up and swear off watching it.  The glut of characters - many of whom I didn’t care a fig about - the lack of focus on the vampires (and far too many werewolves), the insufferable ‘special snowflake’ complex everyone has about Sookie (who must be the least special fairy ever invented)... it just got, in a word, intolerable.  I have always loved the vampires, though, so I was lured back in this season, warily, to watch what everyone promised was a renewed focus on them.  In particular on Jessica.  Jessica is the Baby Vampire Who Could in my mind.  Her journey is the most identifiable, the sweetest and simultaneously sassiest.  She struggles with things we can all identify with.  I came back for the vampires.  But it’s Jessica who has convinced me to stay the course.  

Here’s why.  Jessica is struggling with what can best be called a spiritual crisis.  The world she thought she understood as a relatively baby vampire was upended when she drained Andy Bellefleur’s four fairy daughters.  At the time, shaking and undeniably high, she confessed to Bill that she thought it would be him that would lose control.  She wasn’t prepared for it to be her.  She fled to Jason and was subsequently captured and thrown in Vampire Prison.  Jessica’s spiral is painful to watch because it’s so real.  She believed she was essentially ‘good’ in spite of being a vampire.  Killing the fairy girls forced her to confront the monstrous side of her, a side she didn’t believe existed.  She accepts the prison because she feels it’s deserved.  As a killer she sees the jail and the inevitable true death lurking at the end of the sentence as her  rightful punishment.  So she is freshly unprepared to encounter James and his staunch refusal to have sex with her for the sport of the human overseers.  His declaration that he is “a vampire, not a rapist” and his stubborn adherence to his moral choice throws her into further upheaval.  Is it possible to be both monstrous and moral?  Vampire and victor?

Jason inserts himself into Jessica’s crisis in a misguided rescue attempt.  The hardest thing to grasp, from a casual viewer standpoint, is why she would refuse his offer to free her and rebuff his declared love.  After all, she ran to him after the fairy slaughter, didn’t she?  Yes, he’s a friend.  Whatever their history, Jason is dear to her and she trusts him.  Regardless, and this is a very important point to note, she is not obligated to need rescue simply because a man is offering to save her.  Nor is she required to reciprocate his love simply because he stated it.  This is a basic tenet of equality and the right of a woman to choose her own destiny and it’s almost unfair that it surfaced in True Blood in the midst of plots full of such insanity and death.  But surface it did and it’s no less valuable for it.  Jessica is going through a crisis of self.  She is questioning her world, what she is, and her place in the order of things.  She is imprisoned, literally and figuratively, and wrestling with whether or not to accept her fate as deserved.  Whatever choice she makes, though, it is hers and nobody else’s.  Jason sweeping in to rescue her doesn’t serve her best interests and she recognizes that.  He isn’t her salvation and just because he’s there, proclaiming that he is, doesn’t create any obligation for her.  The only way for her to come to terms with the reality of what she’s done and the true nature of vampirism is, for now, to be with James.  To be with someone like her who stands up for what he believes to be right so she can see that their nature and ethics are not necessarily contradictory terms.  She can still be ‘good’.  She simply cannot be untainted.  

Of all the journeys happening on True Blood right now, Jessica’s is the most profound and the most quietly moving.  She is becoming a fully realized vampire and woman simultaneously.  However else the show fails - in so many ways - this story is one of the few beautiful ones for it’s honesty and the strength of Deborah Ann Woll’s portrayal.  You lost me last season, True Blood, but thanks to Jessica you’ve pulled me back in.  

- Corinne Simpson