- "All that fake civilization bullshit just fell away so they could dissolve into the infinite, so they could lose themselves and unite with their God"
- ―Maryann Forrester
Maryann Forrester is the main antagonist of the second season of the HBO original series: True Blood. She is portrayed by Michelle Forbes.
First appearing in the last few episodes of season one, little was known about outsider Maryann; she appeared kind, generous, loving and ultimately obsessed with pleasure and ecstasy. She seemed to be a nomadic mystery woman who shows up in a small Louisiana town, Bon Temps and begins to make her presence felt to the people there.
It was later revealed that Maryann was not your average out-of-towner but in fact a supernatural creature, a maenad. As suggested in the show, Maryann was not a typical maenad but an exceptionally powerful and ancient one with rare powers and abilities, a devout worshipper of the Hellenic Pagan deity; Dionysus, the god of festivities, drunkenness, limitless sexuality, wine, animalistic expression, the wild, and of course, physical and spiritual ecstasy. She was mistakenly summoned by a ritual of one of the protagonists and her ultimate agenda was to summon her lord in corporeal form by sacrificing someone she deemed worthy of.
Maryann's powers and age were directly tied to her beliefs. By believing in her god and becoming a maenad, Maryann was immortal. The only way to defeat her was to make her believe that Dionysus was ravaging her. It was suggested in the show that her age is such that she even predates written history itself.
Maryann's primary power laid in her unusual ability to place large congregations of people under a sort of trance and mass hypnosis, supposedly connecting them to the essence of Dionysus: releasing them of all their inhibitions and making them give in to their deepest and at times most perverted desires. When her control and influence has infected them completely, the pupils of
the subjects eyes black out, meaning the ego and super ego of the psyche is completely suppressed, leaving
the id to run wild, creating a totally loyal, if questionably effective servant to Maryann, at which point she no longer needs to focus. Supernatural beings were shown to be immune to this form of mass hypnosis and energy channeling, though not completely. Her influential powers were shown to be very powerful compared to a vampire's glamouring and that
her hypnotic spell was difficult to be broken. By using this power she could also feed from human beings. When enacting this ability, her body was shown to slightly unhinge physically, beginning to flicker and vibrate maddeningly, similarly to the signal that a rattlesnake produces when it is threatened. She usually stayed in one fixed location with her eyes closed, suggesting this was something of a meditative process for her. Sometimes and especially in one of her rituals, Maryann wore a bull-helmet that seemed to make facial expressions when she channeled her energies. It is believed that the helmet was a way to attract her God Dionysus.
The true scope of Maryann's powers was never truly revealed on the television show. As it was revealed she possessed numerous unique and rare abilities and she could do different things to different supernatural creatures, although she couldn't hypnotize them because supernaturals had some kind of natural resistance to her energy. However she could force a shapeshifter to change at will.
Maryann also seemed to have acquired many names for herself during her immortal lifespan (Gaia, Kali, Isis, even Lilith). In addition to being long-lived, Maryann was shown to be remarkably invulnerable to conventional damage, as she demonstrated an ability to effortlessly and gleefully deflect bullets fired at her with her hand.Maryann proved to be impossible for vampires to drain, as her blood was made up of a black, corrosive and poisonous substance. She was also very resistant to fairy powers and she was shown to enjoy being jolted by the fairy-hafling protagonist of the show. This suggests a possible trait among all maenads, to take amusement in the futility of being attacked.
In terms of physical powers, Maryann's most prominent feature is the ability to morph her hands into a pair of razor claws that secrete a powerful toxin known to instantly paralyze humans, while the bacteria slowly poisons and kills the host, similarly to a Komodo Dragon's poison does in real life. Without proper medical attention to the point of infection, even vampire blood is proven to be ineffective in healing the victim. Vampires, while not as susceptible as humans, when subjected to this toxin are still not completely immune and are poisoned.
Maryann also demonstrated superhuman speed and strength and she possessed means of tracking prey. She also demonstrated limited aerokinetic abilities, being able to produce brief gusts of wind while using her powers of persuasion to induce chaotic behavior in others. When she was very angered that energy became so powerful and extensive that could kill someone. That kind of energy was like an ear-piercing screech, a sort of bird cacophony.
Maryann also had a free lifestyle by moving from one place to another living a parasitic, nomadic life. It is unknown if it that was a general maenad trait or it was just Maryann who liked to live that way. The most possible thing is that the homes she has acquired came from rich people that unwittingly have summoned her into their lives through specific means. There is also a small possibility that Maryann or maenads generally, needed to change their names due to their long life span. Maenads also show some means of sensitivity to powerful energy sources like rituals. Maryann herself, if not all maenads, possessed some form of psychic intuition, as she commonly seemed to be aware of or know things that she had no possible way of knowing.
Maryann herself stated that she lived off human energy, though she was shown capable of eating as a human would, if in unfathomable proportions. In fact, even if it offered her no personal sustenance, she seemed to have a real passion for eating food. Her love of food was also evident in her home life, as her kitchen was always decorated elegantly with exotic fruits. Her parties frequently had ample and lavish dishes available to serve to guests. Her knowledge in the culinary arts also expanded far enough for her to be able to make excellent dishes that contained ingredients that would be atypical today, such as rabbits and human hearts.
The only way Maryann could be killed as every other maenad possibly, was to make her believe that her God has come and surrender herself to that supposed corporeal form. Maryann possibly wished her God will ravage her and kill her until she is lost into eternal oblivion, a maenad's True Death. Ironically, as stated in the show, all maenads' desire was the seek of death, the only thing that they had evolved beyond other supernatural beings.
In her final moments and into a ritualistic climactic atmosphere, Maryann finally meets her God in the disguise of a white bull which she takes to be her god finally answering her summons. Moved by the situation she comes closer to the bull
and she open up her arms. The bull impales her with one of its horns and shocked, she asks if it means she is to be the final sacrifice to bring her god into the world. The bull answers with another impale deeper into her body with Maryann accepting her fate and completely dropping her immortality shield. While impaling her, the horn suddenly transformed into a hand that ripped Maryann's heart completely out of her body. Distraught and confused Maryann said "Was there no God?" watching helplessly, as the shape-shifter Sam crushed her heart in his hand, causing her body to instantly decay and turn into a skeletal corpse.
The background of Maryann is shown in brief scenes throughout Season 2 of the show. Maryann comes into town summoned from a fake exorcism and later she meets Sam Merlotte, one of the protagonists. These two seem to have a history and not a good one as Sam seems terrified by her presence. These two got to know each other some years before the events of the show, when Sam, a runaway child from his adoptive parents who feared his shape-shifting powers, strayed in the night and entered Maryann's house to eat food. Maryann however found him naked in front of one of her statues and was really intrigued by his naked presence so she seduced him to bed. While they had sex, she began displaying abilities of an otherworldly nature, shaking mysteriously and speaking in a deep chaotic voice, telling Sam not to stop. Sam got terrified and stopped her, asking what she was, but she calmly stated him that he was not the only one who was special in the world. Later when Maryann showered in her bathroom, a frightened Sam grabbed a few clothes, valuables and
Maryann's cash from a drawer and fled into the night in fear. In the events of the show it was stated by Maryann that Sam appeared naked before her in front of a statue that represented the rebirth of her God, the Bird Lady, a sign that he was the vessel for Dionysus and that she foolishly let him go instead of sacrificing him that night. It is possible that she intended to kill him during sex.
In the climax of the show she finally managed to sacrifice Sam but she didn't understand that managing to get him was a set up plan by the protagonists so they could kill her and stop her tyrannic presence. With Maryann distracted sometime between the ritual, a dying Sam is taken and healed by vampire means. He then shifts into the white bull that tricked Maryann into thinking he was "The God who comes" and killed her.
- In the Living Dead in Dallas novel, the character is named Callisto, but it was changed for the series. Unlike her TV series counterpart, Callisto is more like an anti-heroine than a villain. She is a maenad comes to the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana in search of a tribute from Eric Northman (instead of searching for Sam Merlotte to sacrifice in order to bring her God back). At the beginning of Living Dead in Dallas, Sookie meets Callisto, who is accompanied by a feral razorback pig, in the woods. Callisto wants tribute from Eric and, in order to convey this message, Callisto claws Sookie, which poisons her blood. Callisto even help Sookie to take revenge for her deceased friend Lafayette by kills Mike Spencer and the Hardaways (who are revealed to have killed Lafayette). Unlike Maryann, she doesn't try to harm or kill Sam and it is even implied that Sam and Callisto had a romantic relationship, but she leaves Bon Temps to look for more tribute.
- Though clearly the second series' chief antagonist, there is some debate as to whether the maenad can be deemed "evil" or whether such terms simply do not apply to such a creature. Maryann ultimately was not human and did not view the world through human eyes; Maryann was, above all else, devoted to her god - the lengths she went to in order to invoke him may have been extreme by the average mortal's standards, but obviously, as ants to men, humans meant very little to an ancient creature such as Maryann. But however one chooses to look at it; whether truly evil, overly religious, a little too enthusiastic, completely ecstatic or purely insane - Maryann, both in terms of story-canon and the opinions of many fans and writers, was easily one of the most formidable antagonists in True Blood's lengthy television run, if not the most formidable in the show's history.
- Interestingly much of the character's behaviour, history and habits appear to be taken directly from tales of maenads from the Ancient Greek Religion. In Ancient Greece maenads were believed to be the handmaidens and high priestesses of the god Dionysus ("Bacchus" to the Romans) and much like Maryann the maenads of myth likewise were capable of inducing ecstasy and/or madness in those they came across - whilst also being able to tear fully grown men to shreds with their bare hands, much like Maryann herself.
- "The Greeks knew there was the flimsiest veil between us and the divine."
- "Look at you! A few bumps and bruises. That's a small price to pay for bliss."
- "Feeling sorry for things is just an excuse not to celebrate your own happiness."
- "A ritual is a powerful thing and calling forth that kind of energy...has consequences."
- "Well, not the God you're talking about. Not the one the blind billions worship the world over, no, God isn't the way you want to believe, and in your heart of hearts, you know it."
- "The God Who Comes demands his sacrifice."
- "We need to be out of control. We crave it. "