Let’s talk about a “normal” this week. One of the poor, less-talented, non-paranormal folks running around in the True Blood universe, dealing with a world populated by vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, witches, fairies, and who knows what else.
Arlene Fowler Bellefleur is a waitress at Merlotte’s, a coworker of main-character Sookie, mother of two wee-ones, gossip, four-time divorcee, and a seriously normal normal, terrified of vampires and anything else not fully human. When we meet her, she’s dating René Lenier, a laid-back (seeming) Cajun guy who turns out to be a racist (if that’s an appropriate term for someone who hates vampires) serial killer.
Okay, so much for the normal.
She survives the death of her murderer boyfriend with as much aplomb as we could expect anyone to have. She moves on, only to fall prey to the spell of a passing maenad and find herself (almost by default) dating a shell-shocked Iraq War veteran who turns out to be just about the nicest man in the entire show.
Sounds like a happy ending, right? Wrong. She quickly discovers that she’s pregnant with murderer-man’s potentially evil baby.
It turns out the baby is pretty weird. He likes decapitating barbie dolls and becomes fond of a seriously creepy doll, and then gets chummy with a ghost-woman who wants to steal him.
Arlene holds it together through this… more or less. She also learns to adapt to the craziness of the paranormal world she hates so much, gradually learning to deal with a vampire coworker and accept her seemingly-supernatural son. When baby Mikey is kidnapped by said ghost-woman, she’s frantic. She refuses cousin-in-law Andy access to her children until he gets over his addiction to vampire blood.
Arlene’s is probably the most promising story arc in the entire show. Not only does she come to love a good, genuinely kind (if damaged) man, she grows into a strong, flexible woman who will protect her children above all else. Her unfolding plotline in season 5 seems like it will allow her to dip into her thus-far untapped reserves of strength.
We don’t know much about Arlene’s background, except a little bit about her romantic history. All we know about her children’s father is that he was wild and he eventually left. We see her break down after René’s death, but she doesn’t mourn the murderer for long, instead responding to the timid approaches of Terry Bellefleur. But when Terry starts drifting away from her in season 5, Arlene fights for him, approaching the squadmate triggering Terry’s break-down and telling him to help Terry sort out his issues: she refuses to lose a man she is invested in.
But what triggers the shift and makes Arlene realize her own capabilities? Is it losing control to the maenad’s spell? Is it coming to see that, without her, her children have no one? Or is it that the world around her, filled with people she fears almost beyond reason, has driven her to adapt and use her strength to protect the ones she loves?
We’ve seen Arlene go from a comic-relief character, protecting her children against “good” vampire Bill with silver bracelets and having an exorcism performed on her home to a capable, collected woman actually seeking out a problem and dealing with it before it turns into a disaster… and that’s impressive progress.