"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
This week, “True Blood” uses Sookie and Eric’s sensual Aryan lovemaking to bookend the episode, which can only mean one thing: It’s all going to be downhill from here, folks. That’s the problem with finally getting what you (you = Sookie, Eric, the audience) want, right? Everything is great in the beginning, but suddenly you notice how your perfect scenario can’t live up to your expectations.
Look: I am all for New Eric. But New Eric is also kind of a little bitch, right? Like right in the middle of his first hookup session with the love of his (admittedly short-term) life, Eric has to fight off Bill when King Pouty-Face runs in to fangblock him. And since Eric is the older, stronger of the two vamps, he almost kills Bill (part one) until Sookie tells him not to, because that’s his king. Immediatly, Eric bends his knee and is all, “Your highness!”
Except why would no-memory Eric care who his king is? It’s his memory that was erased, not his personality, right? New Eric is sincere and naive to the point that it’s ridiculous to think that even as a human he acted like such a dopey-eyed idiot. I think Alexander Skarsgard went back and just watched “Titanic” a bunch of times to study for this character.
“Never let go … because I’m immortal.” – Eric Northman, 2011
But because he is just so New Eric, he is totally cool with this stranger calling himself king putting him in silver and taking him to a prison/dungeon. It’s a different part of Bill’s prison/dungeon from where he’s keeping Marnie, because there aren’t any really bright lights, and he’s not in a padded room.
Yet for some reason Eric is given the same cell as his rotting progeny Pam. Terrible idea, right? If Bill actually believes Eric is faking the whole amnesia thing, maybe he should just keep those two apart? It is a real oversight in the vampire prison system, but you know how it is, with all the overcrowding these days. Pam tells Eric he used to be a goddamn Viking warrior to try to get him to snap out of it, and Eric’s like, “I’m not the vampire I used to be. Not anymore.” Shut up, plaintive New Eric.
Pam also tells him that King Bill is a self-hating pompous little dork (or something to that effect), but since Eric is currently a self-hating, infatuated space cadet he doesn’t really get where she’s coming from. But it’s true: That self-hating pompous little dork Bill is going through the proper vampire channels to finally give the “true death” to Eric Northman. He’s such a slimy little twerp, made even worse because (spoiler alert) he can’t even go through with killing Eric after the blond vampire gives a speech about Sookie teaching him what love is (oooft), and how she deserves to be happy, even if it’s with Bill.
On a better show, or one that didn’t have to answer so completely to its fans, Bill could have been like “Mercy is a woman’s folly” (or something to that effect), and gone on with the staking. But instead Eric’s maudlin words melt the king’s heart and he lets the potentially dangerous vampire go have sex with his ex-girlfriend in the woods. (Let’s talk about them woods in a second.)
Bill letting Eric go doesn’t even make sense in the reality of a show populated by imaginary creatures. At the very least, Eric is under a spell, and has already eaten a fairy. Who knows what else he’ll do? And get this, Bill also lets Pam go, because Eric asked him to. Sure. Anything for the guy you were about to kill before he won you over with his innocent, boyish charm, right?
Pam takes her seriously disgusting face out of Compton’s house of horrors to go
check up on kill Tara and her girlfriend. Oh yeah, Tara’s girlfriend has come down to confront her about not actually being Tony, the cagefighter with a shady past who she fell in love with. Who has this woman been telling her secrets to for the past six months?? (Wait, they’ve only been dating six months? Call me when you find out your husband has been lying to you about his entire life, à la “A History of Violence.” Six months is nothing. I don’t even know most guys’ last names until we’ve been together a year.) But then they end up making out on Lafayette’s floor and Alan Ball decides that he can throw another character onto this grill, no problem.
Also! This week we get to the bottom (sort of) of Arlene’s haunted house/ “Insidious” baby. It wasn’t the ghost of Renee who lit their house on fire and burned it to the ground, but some ghost nanny who is somehow linked with that charred doll that Jessica stole from Hoyt to give as a present to Arlene. And Alan Ball decides that he can throw a ghost nanny onto this grill, no problem. As if we didn’t have enough to deal with. Like the full moon later that night …
Sookie gets fired from Merlotte’s because Tommy accidentally shifted into his brother Sam’s body (ooft-ooft), and as Sam calls her out for being the worst waitress in the world. Fair point. Sookie is the world’s worst waitress. Oh welp. She bounces her little ponytail down the road to find her brother, Jason (who is basically Tommy but without any superpowers), handcuffed to his bed in case he turns into a werepanther. Sookie reminds Jason that if he morphs, the handcuffs will slip right off. I guess we’re all supposed to laugh and go, “Typical Stackhouse!” Except that I’m actually wondering who put the handcuffs on him in the first place. Right? Was it Hoyt, or … no, it actually must have been Hoyt. So that’s cool.
If I were Jason, I’d be sick of spending half of every season chained down to a bed. He just escaped a two week were-rape session that left him tied to a bed all day, wounds all festering: it’s weird that his first thought is to go right back to the cuffs.
But Sookie, having totally forgotten about Bill and Eric for the time being, decides to help her brother out by promising not to shoot him in the head if/when he morphs. But when the moon comes out, Jason’s vanished, and Sookie takes her shotgun* into the woods to find him. And boy are these woods bustling tonight. There’s Alcide and Debbie, on their way to a werewolf pack meeting, who stop long enough to give Sook some very helpful information about were-creatures needing to be born that way. They don’t change just because of a bite. Good to know, and also that is something that was just made up on the spot by the writers. I think a lot of werewolf mythology is based around the fact that getting scratched or bitten can change you into a lycanthrope, but what do I know? I’m not part of the Werewolf Cathedral, I don’t make the rules.
Jason is having a panic attack in the woods, which he takes as a sign that he’s shifting. Since he drank Jessica’s blood to heal himself, she vampire-runs out of work because she can feel his fear and a little piece of her will now always be inside of him. Like when you bake a cake for your boyfriend and then cut your hand so that you’ll always be inside of him — right, ladies? Not creepy! Jessica and Jason have a semi-romantic interlude in the woods, talking about … stuff. God knows. Jessica tells Jason he’s special, which I agree with, but for different reasons.
Not in the woods tonight are Jesus and Lafayette, who are visiting Jesus’ Wiccan pop-pop out in Mexico. His grandfather is sort of an asshole, but he seems kind of down with his grandson dating another guy, so who knows, maybe his family is more accepting of different lifestyles than most evil Mexican warlock dynasties. Then again, he does make Jesus catch a sacrificial rattlesnake only to let it bite his grandson in the jugular before locking him alone to die in a room with Lafayette. Luckily it’s all a test (of some sort) … Lafayette gets possessed by the spirit of a guy named Tio Luca, and chants some bruja B.S. to save his man.
The possessing process is actually kind of terrifying. It looks like that part of the ring where Samara can just sort of disappear and then reappear right in front of you, like a TV signal you can only half pick up. Getting possessed is almost exactly like that in “True Blood”: we see it both in the Lafayette scene, and when Marnie finally has that dead witch Antonia take control of her body fer keepsies. We also get another flashback to why Antonia hates vampires so much. It’s because one of them named Luis kept raping her during the Inquisition. Conveniently, Luis works for King Bill now. And he just has to go downstairs and check on what is up with their captive when she starts staring directly into her cell camera and creepy-smiling. Bad move, Luis. Now Antonia/Marnie is going to go exact revenge on all the vampires. Again, I blame the vampire prison situation; there should have been more than one guy hanging out in the control room when shit goes down. What is this, a “Die Hard” film? Where are all of Bill’s military henchmen during this situation? That is what you have henchmen for, Bill!
So now the prison is empty, the moon is full, and all the were-things are out in full force, except for Tommy, who kind of accidentally sleeps with Sam’s girlfriend while still in his body, and then feels bad about it and … overdoses? It was kind of hard to tell, but it looked like he tried to kill himself. Wish that it was that simple broheim: these days it’s almost impossible to get yourself killed off on “True Blood” unless you are dating Jason Stackhouse. Or your parents, whom you managed to wipe out last episode. (And for which all are very grateful.)
And yes, now we’re back to the Sookie-Eric sex scene, which happens by a burbling brook on top of a nice piece of well-lit moss. It’s very gentle and tender and you almost expect Bambi (or a werewolf, or her brother) to stumble upon this Adam and Eve scenario. But they don’t. Instead we just get a shot of Bill looking forlorn on his porch, no doubt sensing all the sex Eric is having with Sookie, since she also drank his blood at one point. It must be really awkward to be able to feel your girlfriend get soft-sexed by your frenemy. But hey, that’s what comes with being (the worst) king. Don’t feel too bad for Bill, he could always go back to having sex with his great-great-granddaughter. Let’s all just take a minute to enjoy the Sookie-Eric relationship before it gets as cloying and sentimentally stupid as the Sookie-Bill one did. I give it till the second half of next week’s episode.
* Sookie never uses this gun, which I find interesting considering Chekhov’s rule about firearms: if they show up on the mantel in the first act, they will be blowing Eggs’ brains out by the third. R.I.P. EGGS!
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)