John P. Johnson/HBO
Mandi Bierly
July 07, 2014 AT 07:13 AM EDT

True Blood‘s final season is a balancing act: How do you keep upping the body count in your two wars (H-vamps vs. humans/healthy vamps and vigilantes vs. the supernatural/those who support them) and still have this feel like the summer guilty pleasure fans know and love? Showrunner Brian Buckner, who wrote this episode, certainly gave it his all in this hour killing off Maxine Fortenberry and Alcide while giving us flashbacks to an ’80s Eric boning a French vintner’s daughter, a Lafayette dance party, and the return of Sarah Newlin. Was it enough? Let’s break it down:

RIP, Alcide: Joe Manganiello told EW he knew the moment he read the script for the season 6 finale and saw Sookie and Alcide together that his days were numbered on the show. Read his postmortem here. If Alcide suggesting he and Sookie just keep driving to save themselves in the previous episode wasn’t enough foreshadowing for fans, this episode’s heart-to-heart between Sookie and Bill as they waited for the H-vamps to come take her as bait should’ve been. As she’s sitting in the woods (near where she and Eric had sex in season 4?) whittling a stake that she ultimately uses to cut her impatient self, she admits to Bill that Alcide wants a family and loves her more than she loves him—and she’s not sure how much longer she can take it. She knows Alcide’s perfect, but she wishes he’d love her less. Bill, who’s perched in a tree like Edward Cullen, tells Sookie she might learn to love Alcide more, but she won’t get the chance.

The H-vamps send a bitten Holly into the moonlit clearing as a distraction. They capture Sookie and snag Bill from the tree. They’re about to kill Bill when Alcide and Sam, who’ve met up in the woods and been spotted by a couple of hillbillies, attack in wolf and canine form and save Bill. Andy, Jason, Violet, and Jessica also arrive, guns drawn. The H-vamps are shot, and after Alcide asks someone (Violet) to take Sookie to the water to clean the blood off her face before she ingests any—perfect boyfriend—he and Bill have words. Just as Alcide is saying he’ll kill Bill himself if he insists again that he knows Sookie better, another shot rings out. Then another. One of those vigilantes lurking in the woods has shot Alcide in the chest and in the head. It’s Lou, the young gun Andy had warned about taking a human life. Andy reminds Lou of that when he sees him—struck by returned fire and begging for an ambulance—and ignores him. 

Manganiello is right: There was no place else for Alcide’s story to go once he finally got the girl, and if you’re looking to knock off characters, he’s the perfect choice: It hits Sookie hard and leaves her open to deal with Bill, and other than Sam, he didn’t interact with anyone in town (though couldn’t he have made some friends during the six-month time jump?). Presumably Alcide needed to go now so producers have seven more hours to make us believe Sookie might really end up with Bill.

They have their work cut out for them: Even though she tells him something she hasn’t yet admitted to herself, and he enjoys her drinking from him so he can track her (“I have a boyfriend,” she’d reminded him), that relationship doesn’t feel inevitable. She can’t look at Bill the same after last season and neither can we. Yes, Sookie wanted to have kids with Bill, so she loved him as much as he loved her—we get it. But that was then. And why couldn’t Sookie not want to have kids now with Alcide because the world is being overrun by H-vamps who’ll eat babies (they were counting Nicole and Sam’s unborn child as two)? That would at least temporarily stop your clock.

It’ll be interesting to see how Sookie handles Alcide’s death. Weeping over his body and declining Jessica’s offer to turn him into a vampire because Sookie’s already forced that transition on one friend (Tara) who never would have wanted it was one thing. But will she have time to grieve in the next episode with things moving so fast? And if she doesn’t, will you think less of her? Like, less than you do after she threw out her cell phone in the premiere instead of just turning it off for the night? (Communication, people. It saves lives. Maybe make sure EVERYONE, including Sookie and Alcide, know there’s an armed mob in the woods hunting supes.)

Some fans feel like Alcide didn’t get the death he deserves (and Tara for that matter, too). But what would have been a more satisfying way for Alcide to go out at this point? He died after protecting Sookie, and Bill for that matter. Did you want him to have a deathbed conversation with Sookie? That would have been awkward for the audience after overhearing what she’d just told Bill. The vigilantes had to kill someone we had a connection with (no offense, Matt) to make us see them as a real threat and to raise the moral issue of “good guys” retaliating.

Also, why, hasn’t anyone thought to check if VAMPIRE BAR Fangtasia is where the H-vamps are nesting? Did the vamps glamour Holly into forgetting where they’d kept her in case she got free, or will she lead the rescue Bill was meant to mount if Sookie had been kidnapped and taken there? #FreeArlene. That cellar is getting as boring as flashbacks to Bill taking tintypes with his family before heading off to war.

NEXT: I love the ’80s

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