‘True Blood’: The Troublesome Tale of Tara Thornton [Review]

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It stands to reason that with all of the loose ends True Blood still has to tie up, some things will inevitably be left by the wayside when the show wraps on August 24. The current runners of the seven-year-long HBO guilty pleasure are definitely trying their best and the episode Almost Home, which aired on August 10, did clear away a bit of the rubble in the lives of some characters. However, the final page in the tale of repeated victim Tara Thornton, played by Rutina Wesley, has once again divided fans at a time when the show desperately needs to end things on a good footing with them.

Things were already on a bad path from the Season 7 opener, Jesus Gonna Be Here, when Tara was killed off-screen while protecting her mother, Lettie Mae (Adina Porter). During one moment, Tara had been besting her opponent and in the next, Lettie Mae was covered in her vampire daughter’s blood. The audience would eventually learn that Lettie Mae was able to communicate to Tara through vampire blood-influenced hallucinations. Eventually, Lettie Mae would convince Tara’s cousin, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) and even her own doubtful husband, Reverend Daniels (Gregg Daniel) that it was more than drug-addled dreams that she was having.

Fans were left wondering if they would finally get a resolution in just how Tara was killed, with some believing that Lettie Mae herself could have been the culprit. However, it turns out that Tara had brought Lettie Mae back to her past home, where she was once physically abused by Tara’s alcoholic father, in an effort for closure. What transpired in those early days would begin a destructive journey for Lettie Mae, who would, in turn, become an alcohol abuser just as her husband once was, and end up physically and emotionally abusing her only child. Tara would grow up into an angry young woman and the cycle would repeat.

It was a strong moment for True Blood and rightfully so. It was a great expression of abuse growing differently within their victims. Sometimes, the abused become abusers themselves. On the other hand, the one thing the episode did not offer was a peaceful and more explanatory resolution for Tara’s story line.

A born fighter, as shown through many flashbacks throughout the show’s run, Tara has probably endured the most painful moments as opposed to any other character. She would often come close to finding happiness, only to have it torn away from her in a brutal fashion.

In Season 1, she attempted to help Lettie Mae banish what she believed was a “demon” inside of her body. Although the woman who performed the “exorcism” was found to be a fake, Lettie Mae would turn her life around and give up drinking. However, after Tara was jailed following an encounter with the “big bad” of Season 2, Lettie Mae would turn her back on the daughter who pulled her out of the dark world of alcoholism.

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Tara and her mother, Lettie Mae (Adina Porter) during season one.

Season 2 would see Tara under the influence of a powerful supernatural creature that would control her body and thoughts to commit horrible acts. In the process, she would violently lose the one man she had ever truly loved. Season 3 would not only have her come into contact with her former flame’s killer, who happened to be her long-standing childhood crush, but she would also be kidnapped by a sadistic vampire who would assault her emotionally, physically and sexually.

Following those events, she would run away from her hometown of Bon Temps, change her name and began a relationship with a female wrestler. However, she would ultimately return to help her best friend, main character Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), and end up with a bullet in the back of her head for her trouble. With this, Sookie would call on another vampire to turn Tara into the one thing she never wanted to be.

In another unusual turn, Tara would come to terms with becoming a vampire herself and find a connection with her maker, Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten). But the very next year, she would find herself in danger again as one of the vampires who held hostage in an attempt to kill them all. She would be freed, only to have Pam leave her side in order to find her maker, Eric (Alexander Skarsgard).

When one brings all of those actions into account, it is almost disrespectful that Tara Thornton would last be seen to bring closure to her mother, a woman who gave her the most pain during her life and subsequent afterlife, including a Season 6 moment in which Lettie Mae disowned her daughter for the second time in a number of years. In essence, there was no real closure for Tara herself, which makes the conclusion in her story line all the more hard to swallow. Why bring such a tragic character in and out of harm’s way, only to have no real tranquility in the end?

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Tara (Rutina Wesley) says goodbye in “Almost Home.”

Almost every show has a harrowing hero or heroine to really tug at the heartstrings and not everyone is meant to get a happy ending. However, when you throw in the fact that many characters in Almost Home were either set up to receive or actually did get to a place of content, it feels as if Tara was intentionally left out. She ended her journey on True Blood in the same way it began: completely misunderstood, dealt the harshest of cards and pushed aside in a way without any clear moment of peace. Stronger still, it has happened to her for every single season of the series.

Tara Thornton deserved more than what she got during her seven years of abuse, torment, neglect and all around sorrow. The moment of forgiveness given to Lettie Mae during the episode was done with a great intent, but honestly, True Blood owes a much bigger apology to Tara Thornton herself. May she now rest and find the peace she was never conclusively given.

Opinion by Jonathan Brown

Entertainment Weekly

10 Responses to "‘True Blood’: The Troublesome Tale of Tara Thornton [Review]"

  1. Rina   September 4, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    I totally disagree. The whole point of Tara’s storyline in S7 was to resolve all the unfinished business she had with her mother and to lay the character to rest. Tara was the protector of her loved ones. She cared more about others than she did about herself, so it makes perfect sense that her final act on Earth would be to make sure that her mother wasn’t suffering over her death. Tara spent most of her life being angry and fighting every battle she could, but in the end she chose the path of love and forgiveness and peace, which is a beautiful conclusion to her story.

  2. C   August 15, 2014 at 12:45 am

    I was appalled by how they handled the conclusion of Tara’s journey on this show. While secondary characters have gotten needless and pointless story lines I’m sure none of the audiences cared about, Tara was killed off screen, rendered to star in Lettie Mae’s V-induced hallucinations offensively hanging on a cross and speaking in tongues and in the end basically apologizing to her mother before disappearing off to god on only knows where!

    What an utter disservice to the actress who played and developed the role for 7 seasons and to a character that has been through hell and back only to get possibly one of the most disrespectful and unsatisfying conclusions to her journey I’ve ever encountered in television history. Out of all the characters on the show, Tara was the one that deserved to happy and content. Her life from day one has been an exercise in abuse, neglect, disappointment, terror and strife. Was it too much to ask for Tara to conclude her journey loved and happy? Apparently so.

  3. Lane   August 11, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    You’re not the only one who felt that way. I loved Tara’s character from the first moment, and felt as this season started evolving like her life/character were simply being thrown away in order to give redemption to her waste of a mother instead, someone who did NOT deserve it … someone who turned her back on her own child over and over again. You can list all the reasons Lettie Mae behaved that way that if you like–abuse, substances, bladda, bladda, bladda–but the bottom line is … she put herself and her own emotions/issues over doing the right thing by her daughter … every single time there was a crossroads where she should/could have done the right thing by Tara. How could they put the words “You were a good momma” in Tara’s mouth like that? Lettie Mae was NOT a sympathetic character by ANY stretch of the imagination … and she did NOT deserve redemption. Tara did … yet, Tara didn’t even get an on-screen death, much less any respect from the writers/creators of a show I’d loved … right up until that moment 🙁

  4. Denise   August 11, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Excellent analysis…I think the producers knew with Tara they had a more interesting character and complex character with Tara, but since she is NOT the star…the Tara storyline had to be underdeveloped and pushed to the back of the line.

    • Adrianne   August 12, 2014 at 4:37 pm

      everyone watches the show differently, ya know.

  5. Vicki   August 11, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Thank you for writing this article Jonathan. My heart dropped at beginning of the very first episode of the final season to witness yet another and final blow to Tara Thornton. I was always rooting for Tara because she was so misunderstood because she experienced SO much pain and disappointment. And I was beginning to be a little hopeful when she along with others were free from the vampire prison concentration camp. She looked so happy playing volleyball and she had Willa as a friend and somewhat of her little progeny. But no, Tara was abandoned yet again by Pam; it was as if she wasnt enough for Pam. After she was killed at the beginning of the final season, I really didnt care what happened anymore. All of the other core characters are written with kitten gloves, with such care and im SURE they will all get their happy endings, especially Sookie Stackhouse, whom Tara risked her life for. Watching that flashback of Tara as kid on her birthday made me even sadder because its like the girl never experienced any real happiness. I don’t know what the writers true purpose of writing her off like that, but I will say she was strongest and smartest out of the idiots(Sookie) in BonTemp.

    • Adrianne   August 11, 2014 at 7:34 pm

      I agree Vicki. I used to root for many other characters in the show. Now, I am Instead just watching to see if Tara will even be included in an episode.

      For me (and many others) Tara WAS the heroine of this show. Strongest, smartest, bravest, honest, giving AND always standing up for the underdog. After all, that is how she and Sookie Stackhouse first met!!!

  6. Adrianne   August 11, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Thank you Jonathan for this thoughtful and insightful article. I’ve spent six seasons hoping the writers/showrunners would eventually do justice to this amazing character and amazing actress. I could not understand why they did not see the same potential for the character that was so evident to me. It is now abundantly clear that they simply did not care to.

    Why didn’t they call in Shonda Rimes to writer this character? Take me to ShondaLand right now!!!

    I will however say this: What a FINE farewell scene Rutina Wesley and Adina Porter gave us . Granted, we should not have been viewing Tara’s farewell at all, but those two stole Episode 8! Brava ladies!!

  7. Livvy   August 11, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    100% agree with everything you wrote. I liked Tara from her first scene on the first episode of True Blood. I didn’t enjoy watching her get abused, heartbroken, kidnapped, raped, shot and finally killed. I wanted to see Tara find some of the happiness she deserved. The writers of True Blood really dropped the ball in writing for Tara in particular, but in lots of other ways as well. True Blood was a great concept but it’s writing team didn’t fulfill it’s potential – not even close.

  8. Mags   August 11, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I’m glad somebody gets it. All people care about is Eric being cured, which is good, stupid sookie, and Jason and jessica getting together…again. I have no idea why such an amazing main character like Tara would be reduced to a pile of blood and guts. Offscreen. -_-


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