With the end in sight—True Blood‘s series finale airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO—here’s another look inside some of season 7’s most fun and memorable scenes, which have led us there.
Episode 1, “Jesus Gonna Be Here”: Tara (Rutina Wesley) dies—again.
“It’s kind of like the catalyst for everything else that’s gonna probably happen,” Wesley told EW. “I think it’s kinda cool that the last time you see me, it looks like I’m gonna win the fight, and then you cut to Lettie Mae. Me and that vampire went at it, and unfortunately, he wins. They’ve given me such an incredible journey on this show that I’ve never had any complaints about what they’ve written for me. So when I found out, I was just like, ‘Okay, great. Let’s get it started. This is the final season. We can’t all make it to the end.’ You wouldn’t have a show. There wouldn’t be any drama. It wouldn’t be True Blood if somebody didn’t die.”
Episode 2, “I Found You”: Jason (Ryan Kwanten) has a sex dream about Eric (Alexander Skarsgard).
Director Howard Deutch: Bucky [showrunner Brian Buckner] and Kate [Barnow, the supervising producer who wrote the episode] asked me for my input, and I felt like the more ownership of the scene I gave Alex and Jason, the more they’d be able to channel it. So it wouldn’t be me being a puppeteer or them just acting, they could be it. This is Jason’s dream, so Alex kept saying, “Well, you tell me what to do, Ryan. It’s your dream.” And Ryan would go, “Well, I don’t know. What do you want to do?” It started like that until Alex said, “Well, you know, I could f–k him or I could kill him. I’m not sure.” And out of that came the notion that there’s violence in the eroticism. There’s a sense of, What is gonna happen here? It’s not just romantic. It’s dangerous as well.
Kwanten: We wanted a very to and fro scene—much like a seesaw, where I would take the power base, then suddenly he would, then I would slowly gain it back, and then suddenly he would. We wanted that constant elastic-band-being-pulled type of feel.
Barnow: We wanted to make it feel like, “Oh, maybe, in Jason’s subconscious, he’s had feelings for Eric in ways that we’ve never known.” I personally feel like the character Jason Stackhouse has probably always really admired Eric Northman from afar: Like if I was vampire, that’s the kind of vampire I’d be. The writers have always had—I think it was actually really Bucky who’s always had—this idea that Jason was a big fan of James Bond. So I had it in my mind that Eric would be making a martini, because Jason, of course, would fantasize about that. It was not actually discussed whether the martini glasses would be oversized—it was just our genius prop master Tom [Cahill] who came up with these glasses that, in fact, look like they’re as big as Jason’s head. [The reaction to Eric's long pour] was all Ryan. They were having so much fun with it. We really had a hard time remembering that it was supposed to be a love scene, but they straddled the line perfectly: One minute was just pure burning desire, and the next minute we were all just dying laughing from the things they were doing. The physicality of it was really those two actors bringing their A game. They came up with all that stuff. They really believed that there would be a sort of masculine component to it because of who they both were. In talking through it all, Eric’s not the kind of character that’s used to having his belt taken off, but Jason’s goin’ for it.
Deutch: My favorite part isn’t in the final cut. When he rips Eric’s belt off, he snapped it like a whip.
Barnow: So then Eric would have to get kinda rough with Jason. But then maybe he was getting rough with him because he was feeling turned on. They just had a real sensibility about how their characters would act in that moment, and it led to this hilarious tackle.
Deutch: Ryan came up with that. Ryan was like, “I need to tackle him. That’s gonna turn Jason on.” I was like, “Got it, okay.”
Barnow: We didn’t want to shy away from what a real love scene would look like with them. And of course, when it got hot and erotic, I was like, “Oh god, the entire crew is looking at me and thinking that this is my fantasy life.” That was the one problem with writing the scene. But it’s not like anyone instructed them on how to play the actual love scene—that was all them. And they had a great time doing it.
Episode 3, “Fire in the Hole”: Alcide (Joe Manganiello) is killed.
“As soon as he knows Sookie’s all right, it’s like, ‘Hey, Bill, I’m gonna f–kin’ kill you right now.’ He probably just should have done it rather than talk about it—it’s the fatal flaw in TV and film, you know, everybody wants to talk about it. And then the gun shot goes off. I don’t know how to make it more suspenseful than that. I get shot in the head by this random character whose name I don’t even know and die naked in the woods,” Manganiello told EW. Fans didn’t see it coming, but the actor did. “I used to have lunch with Alan Ball before every season, and he would let me know what the arc was going to be for the character. So I had dinner with Bucky, and he brought the first three scripts and said, ‘We’re killing you.’ I said, ‘I know.’ He said, ‘You do?’ I said, ‘Yeah. What are you gonna do with Alcide if he’s with Sookie? We’re gonna have a nice wedding and take off for Bermuda, then move away from town and stay there and have babies? That’s not the show. The fairy has to be with the vampire, so you gotta get the werewolf outta the way. You can’t have her break Alcide’s heart, because then people won’t like Sookie—they’ll get mad at her for breaking the good guy’s heart. So it’s the only choice you have, really—you gotta kill him.'”
Episode 4, “Death Is Not the End”: Through flashbacks, we see how Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) and Eric came to Shreveport and met Ginger (Tara Buck).
“My god. I was like, ‘You’re Jason Priestley,'” Buck told EW of setting eyes on Skarsgard as Eric in 1996. “I mean, truly. The hair up. When we all got to the video store for the first time [in full costume], we were all just too geeked out. We kept laughing at each other. We were really giddy, like little kids. In fact, Gregg Fienberg, who directed this episode, kept saying, ‘You guys, seriously. Okay, it’s time to work.’ We’re like, ‘Yeah, but his shirt is unbuttoned to here. It’s hilarious.’…. It was written in the script that Ginger is going on and on about these videos, and then she turns, and in walks Eric, and suddenly the air gets sucked out of the room. To me, that was the most vivid, perfect way to imagine it. This is Ginger’s whole True Blood experience in this moment. At first Gregg wanted it to be pretty subtle. And then we laughed, and we’re like, ‘You know what, let’s try not subtle, but it’s all internal. It’s still Ginger in 1996, so it’s not like a screaming over-the-top Ginger. It’s still a smart girl whose knees go weak and she can hardly stand up.’ And then Gregg and I were like, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a take where she almost screams, but doesn’t?’ She would scream, but it would be inappropriate—that’s not her reaction to things—and yet, he brings that out in her. So then we tried that, where I go to scream and somehow the vocal chords pinch up and don’t let the volume come out. I always feel like everybody sort of dismisses it or they don’t hear it, but in fact, the impression of what the dynamic of a relationship will be occurs in the first moment.”
Episode 4, “Death Is Not the End”: Arlene (Carrie Preston) technically dies, but the ghost of Terry (Todd Lowe) tells her to return for her kids and to be happy. Cue the vampire, Keith (Riley Smith), who saves her.
“Well, there was no problem accessing the emotion for me that day, having Todd there, and Anna, who’s a brilliant actress who has an enviable access to a well of emotions that she can tap into and mine on a moment’s notice all day long,” Preston told EW. “We’re all in awe of Anna, and she is such an anchor to any scene that she’s in. Having her hold me while she’s looking into my face saying, ‘Don’t die! Don’t die!’ and then Terry coming—it was definitely not a problem to cry. But I also wanted to play with the actual relief and joy of seeing Terry—he made her able to face her death without fear because she sees him and he’s calling her. I wanted to play the positive of that, so the tears are actually joy more than anything. She’s in her own world, you know. She sees Terry, and he looks great. She’s relieved to be done with all the suffering.”
Episode 5, “Lost Cause”: Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) and James (Nathan Parsons) hook up at Sookie’s party—and after Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) catches them, Lafayette explains why he knows James better.
“I wouldn’t call it a gay rights thing. I would call it taking command of your own happiness,” Ellis told EW. “You want to be happy, you have to make yourself happy. And that’s what he did: He went in there, and he said, ‘I want this man, and I’m taking him. And you know what, you don’t deserve him. I do. I want to be happy. He makes me happy. So there you are.'” What got Ellis into that mindset? “Beyoncé’s ‘Partition.’ Her new album just got me all into it,” he said.
Episode 5, “Lost Cause”: Hep-V-infected Eric and Pam go to a Republican fundraiser during their hunt for Saran Newlin (Anna Camp), who we later learn is the cure.
“I thought, ‘Wow, okay, great.’ The gown is very over-the-top, but Pam is making a statement—she’s definitely the prettiest girl in the room. But then my challenge was to find a purple sequin republic-nt gown that I could get like four of,” costume designer Audrey Fisher told EW. Without time to build it, she went on a hunt in downtown L.A. and found the La Femme dress. “It started out as a long gown, and I had to shorten it because it just looked too prom-y. I added a little bolero to kind of make it a little more lady-like. And then, of course, hair and makeup had a ball,” she said. “So his outfit I got to custom make, and her outfit I had to piece together a little more. That’s pretty typical of True Blood. Sometimes I’m able to make it from soup to nuts, and other times, I have to use all my wits to figure out a way to pull it off in 48 hours.”
Episode 6, “Karma:” Eric takes on the Yakuza.
“You know I actually have to give a shout-out to the script coordinator, Amanda Overton. It was her idea for him to keep the jaw and fight with it in his hand,” Robinson told EW. “On the day, Skarsgard added in that hilarious beat where he gets tired in the middle of the fight, and he leans over, and more Yakuza come, and he’s like, ‘Really?’ It was a really fun scene to play. My vision of it was that the camera keep circling around Eric and didn’t stop until he heard Pam. That is actually a very technically difficult thing to do, especially with the vamp speed in it. So Hiro Koda, who is the stunt coordinator, designed this incredible fight to be shot in one fluid motion. There’s a few cuts in there, but not really. Then our camera operator and Steadicam guy, they just did this masterful dance. Skarsgard went and learned the fight.”
Episode 6, “Karma”: Hep-V positive Bill (Stephen Moyer) goes to see a vampire lawyer hoping to leave his estate to Jessica.
“In the first draft I wrote of the script, Bill just went and told Sookie and Jessica that he was sick, and it was incredibly undramatic,” writer/director Angela Robinson told EW, laughing. “It was a really, really boring episode of True Blood. And so I re-crafted the episode so that Sookie and Jessica found out on their own, so we wouldn’t have to have that boring conversation about something the audience already knew. And then there was the question of Bill being in this purgatory, of what he would do in the meantime. I’m married to my wife, Alex Kondracke, and the idea came from practically, what he would do? And one thing was to get his affairs in order…. We always love it when it’s like the taxi or airline for vampires, the doctor from the first season. In seasons past, there were these fun vampire-only things that happened in the world that were offshoots. Somewhere along the line, we stopped doing those as much, and so I basically pitched, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if there was an estate attorney who just dealt with vampires and the kind of minutia?’ Because I’d gone through this whole thing of being gay: First we were domestic partners, and then we had a baby, and then I had to adopt him. But then the laws kept changing, and the Supreme Court said gay marriage was okay, and then we married. So over the last couple of years, there was a lot of these meetings with lawyer. The idea of your identity in a relationship to the state constantly changing just worked its way into the scene, which I thought was really interesting. There’s always the gay metaphor with vampires with them coming out, but the idea of whether someone’s alive, or dead, or not alive, and also the idea that all the vampires are dying and whether or not the government would take advantage of all of that property—usually you don’t have time to go into it. But then I just wrote that one scene, and I guess Bill just kills her at the end.”
Episode 7, “May Be the Last Time”: Sookie runs to dying Bill.
“A lot of discussion went into that scene, which I think some people have been waiting for, for a very long time, and others have maybe not,” episode writer Craig Chester told EW with a laugh. “We did shoot, shot-for-shot, Sookie running to Bill’s house in a white dress, so it is literally a callback to episode six of season 1. But one of the things that we talked about is that these are two very different people now that are reconnecting, who obviously have this deep love for each other. It’s loaded with this history between them. That was something that Anna and Stephen beautifully conveyed, having played these characters for so long and knowing exactly where they’re at as they rekindle their feelings for each other…. We had a lot of discussions in the writers’ room about first love, and what it means to have a connection with someone that’s maybe not ideal in every way. I think a lot of people can relate to having that kind of intense connection with one other person that has its ups and downs. I think the fact that Bill is dying is the thing that allows Sookie to let go of whatever resentments that she might have had or accumulated over the years. When someone’s dying, it’s like all of the stuff that happened between you goes out the window. Everything suddenly becomes very real and very urgent. And I think that Bill is actually genuinely sorry for what he’s done to her.”
Episode 7, “May Be the Last Time”: Sam (Sam Trammell) tells Arlene that Nicole (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) wants him to leave Bon Temps and raise their child elsewhere.
“What’s happening with all these characters is they’re growing up, as they should be,” Chester told EW. “When the show started, everyone was very innocent. It was a whole world that was yet to be explored. And now it’s sorta like the characters are asking themselves these big questions of, ‘What do I really want?’ Sam’s asking it, and so is Arlene. There’s a history now between all these people, and it’s something the writers talked about: We want to give people the feeling that these people are family. That’s why it’s a dilemma for Sam: Sam has a new family with Nicole and their unborn child, and yet he’s got his family of friends, which is just as legitimate of a family to him. That was the last scene that Sam Trammell shot in his old bar. So it was a very emotional scene for him. As we would go through the season shooting, there would be a lot of these ‘last’s for the actors, and you can feel it. What Sam Trammell’s feeling about shooting his last scene in that set is going into what he’s saying as Sam Merlotte, this nostalgia. It was a very meaningful scene for both Sam Trammell and Sam Merlotte.”
Episode 7, “May Be the Last Time”: Arlene dances with Keith, and Andy (Chris Bauer) breaks down at the lake house looking for Adilyn (Bailey Noble) and Wade (Noah Matthews).
“Arlene and Andy started this series off as comic relief. And what I loved about writing this episode is it’s the episode where they both kind of come full circle as fully fleshed-out three-dimensional human beings. Arlene giving in to her loneliness and keying into Keith’s, and her crying and slow-dancing—we were all bawling on the set when she did that. Working with Carrie Preston is like watching a brilliant athlete at the top of her game—the way she goes from comedy to drama. The same with Chris Bauer,” Chester told EW. “I said to Bucky, ‘I feel like all Andy’s been doing this season is running around looking for people. At first it was Holly, now it’s his daughter. I feel like if it were me, I’d hit a wall at some point.’ Bucky was like, ‘That’s what we should do with Andy. Andy should hit a wall.’ He’s been this stoic guy for seven years, the sheriff always trying to help everybody else. But what about Andy? It was really time for him to have a moment where we get to see that he’s just a person. And that’s what Holly actually says to him when he breaks down. It gets back into that theme again: What does it mean to be human? When we shot that scene, everybody was so torn up watching Chris, because it’s Andy. Andy’s crying. Oh my god, it’s really bad if Andy’s crying. And her reaction to that is our reaction to that—the first time you see your man cry, it’s a big deal. That’s one of my favorite scenes in this season because it’s very real… When Bucky and I saw that scene for the first time edited, Bucky turned to me and said, ‘You know, for the first time in the series, I got the feeling that it’s ending.'”
Episode 7, “May Be the Last Time”: Violet (Karolina Wydra) takes Adilyn and Wade to her sex dungeon.
“I did my own research online. But this is what I love about working on True Blood: What other show can you work on where you have meetings about dildos, and which dildos are better than other dildos?” Chester told EW. “I would sit down, and I would be presented like 10 pictures of different dildos, and I would have to pick which one I thought looked like something Violet might have versus another. It was quite an education to learn about the history of sex toys. They’ve been around for quite a long time. It says in the script that the first strap-on was created in Zanzibar in the 19th century, which is true. I take pride in the fact that the sex dungeon is historically accurate.”
Episode 8, “Almost Home”: Hoyt (Jim Parrack) kills Violet in the sex dungeon as she’s preparing to torture Jessica, Jason, Adilyn, and Wade.
“I started to research the history of torture, which is an uplifting thing to Google,” Barnow told EW. “Karolina is from Poland, so we always placed Violet in some sort of Slavic area where she came from. So I asked Karolina, specifically, does she have any knowledge of medieval torture contraptions from that time? And within a minute of texting her, she sent me this picture of a torture museum. So that was wonderful, because it gave our art department something to go off of visually. And then in my research, I came upon these things: Unfortunately, most of the torture devices for women have historically been of a sexual nature. They really, really go after women in the most visceral ways. If you go too deep into it, it gets pretty disturbing. So we just decided it had to be the most operatic, crazy, crazy, sequence of all time…. [Violet] thought after a thousand years of seducing really powerful men that it was time to go simple. This is a woman who’s been protecting herself through the ages and kinda let her guard down with Jason because she thought she could, and then he ended up hurting her more than she ever could have imagined. Her approach to the resolution of it is probably not the best. But you’re supposed to feel a little bit of compassion for her before she dies.”
Episode 8, “Almost Home”: Jessica and Jason agree to define their relationship as a beautiful friendship.
“When we knew that we had that scene to write in this episode, I was a little daunted by it,” Barnow admitted to EW. “The marching orders were essentially, these two really care about each other, but they’re not really right for each other, and they end it in a mutually good way, but they end it. Those are shades of grey, and also they just came from a really intense place where they slept together in episode 5. As a writer, you want to know what your trajectory is when you get into a scene, and that felt very nebulous. Oh god, how am I gonna get them to be at the same place at the same time? I don’t know how I got to it, but I just was so lucky in that those two characters’ voices are so strong and lovely, and I kinda felt like they were both poised to do something new in the next couple of episodes finishing up the series. One of the concerns that we were having about the scene was, do you buy it? Because Jason and Jessica are kinda great together, do you buy that they don’t want to be together? I dipped into the times in life where you’ve been in something that can’t work but there’s still something very special to it, and just tried to write from there.”
Episode 8, “Almost Home”: Sookie gets answers during pillow talk.
“It was a big scene because really as a viewer, you’re asking yourself if you’re happy or not about them getting back together,” Barnow told EW. “You can’t help but ask yourself, how can Sookie trust him after everything they’ve been through? So she sorta goes back to the beginning and asks the question, was this love based on the real stuff? He answers what she needed to get closure on—whether or not the love was true. We went back and forth on a couple of different versions of it, and I think that we landed at a place where we got some really good emotional information, but we also get some interesting background information—information about Bill’s past, the mission to go seek out Sookie. I think Anna and Stephen played it so beautifully, and it was a really special scene on the day because it felt like the culmination of seven seasons of conflict between the two of them being resolved—but in a very bitter-sweet way because it’s at the end when he’s dying.”
Episode 8: Jessica and Hoyt bond over losing a parent.
“Jim was really, really wonderful in that scene. He could only work on Mondays because he was doing his play [Of Mice and Men] in New York, and Monday is their only dark day. So he would fly Sunday evening and get there after doing this play all week along, have his lines, and just go right into it,” Barnow told EW. “Maybe it helped, because he was so raw and so ready to go there. It was just amazing. I think it was the very first scene we shot of the episode, so I was just like, ‘Oh, I think the Jessica-Hoyt stuff is gonna work, guys.'”
Episode 8, “Almost Home”: Ghost Tara forgives Lettie Mae (Adina Porter) and asks her to live by letting her go.
“We wanted to give Tara and Lettie Mae, and Rutina and Adina, the origin story that they deserved,” Barnow told EW, “because they’ve been playing such incredibly emotional material for so long, and it felt like we wanted to know where it all came from. We came in to the series with Lettie Mae already so far gone, and this was the inciting event that was the shift for her—from a decent, caring woman who was in an abusive relationship to not really being able to care for Tara anymore. I know it was definitely a circuitous journey to get there, with people wondering for a long time why the cross and snake, but we hope it pays off.”
Episode 9, “Love Is to Die”: After playing relationship counselor to Sookie and Bill, who refuses to take the Hep-V cure, Eric returns to Fangtasia and makes good on his season 6 promise to one day sleep with Ginger (who climaxes almost instantly).
“[The slow slide off of Eric] was my idea only because we had a stunt double [ready]…. I had the stunt double and was thinking to myself, ‘I only get three pumps. I am not letting somebody else come in here and finish this off,'” Buck told EW, laughing. “So the only way to have a dismount is to slowly fall back. In my head, I imagined the funniest thing would be climax and then Ginger just falls out of frame. But we couldn’t shoot it that way. I had imagined a soft pad or something that I could just fall off of him onto. But when we were doing rehearsal, there was no pad there yet. So from the noise—the tea kettle, sort of hissing—she just sloooowly falls backward and then slides off of him. Mostly I slid off of him because I was trying not to get hurt in rehearsal, and then they liked it, and we just kept doing it over and over again. I got quite a good ab workout that day, I will tell you. We shot all day. By the time it was over, I was truly physically exhausted. It was so fun, and we laughed and laughed and laughed, but then it’s always like the last hour or so, everybody gets serious: ‘Okay, the fun is over. We have to get this done.’ The next day I woke up and felt it. It was definitely more challenging than screaming has ever been.”