Okay, there was smoldering Bill, hunky Alcide, and smiley Eggs (oh Eggs!). Who didn’t feel for Sookie (and kept feeling for Sookie even when you saw Anna Paquin in something else!)?
For 80 glorious, dark, troubling, and loving episodes, True Blood brought dozens of despicable and wonderful characters into my living room. And they got to me. I’m still reeling from the entanglement between Jesus and Lafayette. I remain dizzy from season one with Gran and — shudder! — Tina.
But my absolute favorite moments in the series involve baby vamp Jessica, and here’s why she’ll always be my true True Blood favorite.
Her Character Represents All of Us
“I might be a vampire, Bill, but I am also a girl.” — Jessica
Maybe I think too much but doesn’t baby vampire Jessica Hamby’s entire journey relate to all of us? No, we’re not turned into vampires and locked in a violent world. We are all turned into something at some point — in many points — of our life. Our plans, big or small, change because life puts us on another path.
It’s why I identify with Jess.
Her Character’s Struggle
“Nobody lets me have any fun. F***ers.” — Jessica
She’s a punishment. That’s how we meet Jess. She’s turned over to Bill Compton as a penalty for his breaking of vampiric laws.
She’s a kid, and after turning, she does what kids do. She adapts and rebels. She drowns the heartbreak of losing what she had and embraces what she has. She grows and eventually tempers her bloodthirst after rediscovering her humanity.
Raised a devout Christian, Jess hates her pre-vampire life, grieves when she loses it, and eventually abandons it with no regrets. That last event takes place when she dares to revisit her old life. It’s a hodgepodge of homeschooling, enforced clarinet lessons and Bible studies; outdated clothes; a home stripped of technology; a domineering, abusive father; and an oblivious, emotionally neglectful mother filled with “stupidness.” Going home again reminds Jess of a fantasy her younger self probably thought was a dream: getting away from Shreveport, Louisiana.
Ironically, it’s a rare moment of rebellion — sneaking out to a party — that changes Jessica’s life. She’s taken and given to Bill Compton.
Her Character’s Best Moments
“Who I also am is the progeny of the King of Louisiana who happens to be out of town, which pretty much makes me the Queen.” — Jessica
I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but if one or two slip in, I’ll minimize the reveal with a warning. If you’re not familiar with True Blood though, I don’t think anything here ruins being able to enjoy the storylines.
Jessica Threatens to Kill Her Father
In season two, Jess returns to Louisiana. Instead of elation over seeing his daughter safe and alive, Daddy immediately goes to the dark side. With her oppressive past boiling her bloodless veins, Jess threatens to kill her father, maybe the entire family.
SPOILER ALERT: I often wonder, if not for Bill’s intervention, would Jessica have gone through with it.
Before this moment, Jessica was a child who took twisted delight in her turning. After this moment, she begins her evolution. It’s not long before Jess begins her first genuine, honest relationship with Hoyt Fortenberry.
Jessica Argues Over Little Things
Coming home, expecting a warm meal, and a loving better half, Hoyt has a titty fit. Jessica doesn’t have dinner on the table. Common domesticity between a human/vampire couple makes for a good laugh and underlines how much Jess has changed.
Jessica Escapes Death with Hoyt’s Help
SPOILER ALERT: A human supremacist group kidnaps and plans to kill Jess. An ignorant, unwilling Hoyt gets the assignment to take his love and master out. This is a pivotal moment in the relationship. Jess reveals she not only no longer loves Hoyt but cheated on him (with Jason Stackhouse).
She has a brief dance with the idea of sucking blood and taking lives, but Jessica never fully accepts the idea of humans as food. She turns her back on the vampiric tradition early.
She does kill the supremacist guard holding her hostage. The only significant bloodlust kill involves the half-fae daughters of Andy Bellefleur. The scent of their hybrid blood is irresistible to her senses. The remorse never dies. It forever links Jess to her still strong humanity.
Her Character’s Origins
“We’re gonna live forever. We’re gonna be young forever. The world is wide open to us.” — Jessica
I don’t know if you know what I’m about to say here. I didn’t know until I read The Southern Vampire Mysteries.
Jessica didn’t exist until the HBO show. Author Charlaine Harris had little to do with the evolution of this memorable character. Jess’s creation rests entirely in the hands of show producer Alan Ball. It’s speculated that he developed Jess to replace a character in the book the show couldn’t use.
This isn’t unusual. Daryl on TWD wasn’t in any of the graphic novels. The plan was for him to die in the first episode. Instead, the showrunners saw the character’s potential and kept him. Jessica too wasn’t supposed to last beyond the first season.
Can you imagine either TWD or True Blood without Daryl or Jess?
This is a fascinating factoid. It’s said Jess’s sole purpose is to show the trauma of becoming a vampire, as well as giving major figures like Bill and Sookie a character to play off of.
I see Jess as a pivotal cog. With Jessica’s introduction and turning, you get a jolting and complete understanding of the show’s vampiric culture. From the moment she falls out of that car trunk, we feel the world we’re stepping into.
Her Character’s Real Persona Moves On
“Lady, you have no idea how little control I have over my actions!” — Jessica
Jessica is in every episode of the show except one (“Hitting the Ground”). The second she appears on screen until the finale, Jessica Hamby remained a favorite character. Whether Jess did wrong or tried her darnedest to do right, actress Deborah Ann Woll left me wanting to take care of Jess and hoping for a brighter future.
My heart never stopped breaking for Jess and it never gave up on her. The actress told a reporter the one thing she has in common with her character: “I try really hard and it never gets me anywhere.” That makes me smile.
During her time on the show, Deborah appeared in the films Mother’s Day, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You and Catch .44. In the six years since True Blood closed shop, the actress formerly known as Jessica Hamby was in the big screen’s Escape Room. What’s kept her busy after True Blood though was the role of Karen Page. She played the Marvel comics character in Netflix series Daredevil, The Defenders and The Punisher.