Have you ever watched a scene on a TV show or in a movie that hits you like a sucker punch and sticks in your brain for days afterwards? Episode 4 of the third season of HBO’s True Blood had a scene like that and I’ve been replaying it in my head for days.
Vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) goes into a strip club to “procure” dinner for his maker, Lorena Krasiki (Mariana Klaveno) and the king of Mississippi, Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare). He surveys the establishment and is unmoved by the expanse of female flesh – until he lays eyes on a young brunette working the pole. Her feather boa and fishnets do little to disguise the sadness in her eyes and as he watches her shimmying on the bar, we know he’s found the one who is going to provide the evening meal.
Cut to Bill getting ready for a lap dance from said stripper (Jade Tailor). She takes a swig of bubbly, removes her shiny bikini top and tweaks her nipples as he watches uncomfortably from his chair. “Shy?” she asks him. “Perhaps,” he replies, but you can see he’s having a bit of a moral crisis on the inside because he’s about to end this girl’s life. “I’ll take good care of you,” she croons as she gets to work. The conversation that follows between them, combined with the darkly sexy notes of Massive Attack’s Paradise Circus* playing in the background, makes the scene one of the most haunting I’ve witnessed on the small screen in a very long time…
Bill: “What’s your name?”
Bill: “What is your real name?”
Bill: (Reaches up to turn her face towards him, then holds her gaze and glamours** her)
Bill: “What is your name?”
Bill: “What does your husband think about your profession?”
Stripper: “No husband.”
Stripper: “Never wanted any, the world’s too fucked up.”
Bill: “And your family?”
Stripper: “Told me I wasn’t worth nothing, I figured they ain’t worth knowing.”
Bill: “Perhaps you’re right about that.”
Stripper: “No point anyway.”
Stripper: “Lovin’ anyone… Anything… Feels good at first, but it always turns to crap. I know the truth about life… It’s a hell I’ll never get out of alive.”
Bill: “No one does.”
Bill: (He looks down, deep in thought, and you see her arms move, as she resumes her dance)
Stephen Moyer is outstanding throughout the episode, but I think he really nailed it in this scene. We see every emotional nuance on Bill’s face as he interacts with the girl… Discomfort, fleeting irritation, disbelief and, finally, sadness. The parallel between him (the undead vampire going through the motions of an immortal existence) and Anne (the lonely mortal who feels dead inside after being disillusioned by life) is a powerful piece of drama – and an equally powerful, if depressing, comment on the human condition. Kudos to series creator Alan Ball for giving viewers a poignant look at an essential truth: life is often painful, whether you have one foot in the grave or not.
* Paradise Circus by Massive Attack features the amazing Hope Sandoval. It’s on their Heligoland album released earlier this year – definitely worth a listen. There’s something edgy about it, despite the bare and breathy vocals by Sandoval. And the sensual melody, contrasted with the lyrics about sin and the perils of love, fit perfectly with the themes explored in the True Blood scene. A truly epic song.
** For those who don’t watch the show… A vampire can influence humans by “glamouring” them. It’s similar to the Jedi mind trick, I guess.
The title of this post is borrowed from the lyrics of Paradise Circus by Massive Attack. Find the song on amazon.com