Monthly Archives: January 2010

She's a psycho

Just when I thought True Blood was beyond any chance of enjoyment, it once again shows signs of being watchable.  Is this an indication of the actual quality of the episode or my own falling expectations?  I think the latter is almost certain, as I’ve given up trying to enjoy this series as a whole, not just from episode to episode, but even from scene to scene.  Every effort to appreciate plot or character has resulted in frustration and annoyance as the series flits from one moment to the next, never bothering with pesky things like integration or development.  Drama, at its most basic level, might be described as “characters doing things” and True Blood certainly has that.  Where it fails so utterly is communicating who those characters are and why they do the things they do.  It’s like a child recounting their favorite movie, “And then this happened, and then that… and then… and then.”  Piecing together the narrative is an exercise in futility, best to just enjoy those cool moments and ignore the vacuum surrounding them.

 Tonight’s diamond in the void was definitely Stephen Root’s performance.  He’s Eddie, the blood bag Jason and Amy kidnapped last week.  I’ve always enjoyed Root’s comedy, but his turn here as a sad, lonely vampire at the mercy of two addicts was outstanding.  His look of pain and horror as Amy and Jason have V-fueled sex in front of him was awesome, as was his advice to Jason that she’s actually crazy and more dangerous than a he could ever be.  The notion that Amy’s brand of freedom means freedom from moral concerns is certainly tantalizing, but I’ll make it a point not to anticipate any sort of payoff and just enjoy Eddie’s presence.  He’s generated more sympathy and interest in two episodes than Bill’s managed all season.  It’s a shame that Amy’s probably gonna kill him.

 Elsewhere, Bill stakes Longshadow before he can kill Sookie and we’re treated to the most visceral effect we’ve seen since the first episode.  Longshadow completely dissolves into blood, showering our resident psychic, nice Carrie reference.  Bill is, naturally, in trouble for killing another vampire but, also naturally, refuses Eric’s offer of trading Sookie in exchange for getting off the hook.  He’s called away for a tribunal, but not before promising to always stay with Sookie and protect her.  Oh no, another hurdle for their relationship, yawn.  Bill calls on Sam to protect Sookie while he’s gone, and they finally stop being coy about Sam being a dog and we get the non-surprise of him awaking in naked human form at the foot of her bed.

 Final Thoughts

 Ok, so the Tara subplot actually is progressing in a who she is and why sense, but this character’s just so gratingly awful that I elected not the mention it above.

 Requisite Buffy Comparison:  The bloodbath may be the first thing True Blood’s actually done better.  On Buffy, “dusting” the vampires was a convenient way to avoid too much fallout from her slaying.  Here, the reality of a vampire’s death is undeniably real.  And yet, why do I suspect this consequence will be as much of a non-issue in future episodes.

 Killing Sookie’s cat does nothing to advance the fang-banger killer storyline.  It’s merely another isolated bit of gruesomeness that gives her an unnecessary new reason to be sad/bitchy.

 Nine down, three to go

It's like there's nothing there

The jury’s back on True Blood, and nothing that happens between now and the finale is going to change that.  It’s a bad show, end of story.  Why then, continue watching?  For my part, I’ve long since ceased to find amusement in mocking this show’s flaws and, if WordPress stats are any indication, so have my readers.  The fact is that people read reviews to a) get some idea of whether or not a program is worth checking out or b) to share the thoughts of another fan of the show.  No one that thinks True Blood sucks wants to read about it twice per week and no one that likes it wants hear how much it sucks twice per week.  Ultimately, the only reason to continue is my own stubbornness.  I started this blog to get myself writing regularly, and I can’t quit just because the going’s gotten tough.  If I can endure this, everything else will seem easy.  Lost can’t start soon enough.

So, this week, in brief:  Sookie and Tara have a laughably unrealistic fight, apparently because Sookie’s upset by Bill’s death and Tara’s creeped out by the fact that her mother’s exorcisms seems to have worked.  But don’t worry; Bill’s not dead, he just spent the night in a grave and crawls out at just the right moment to grab Sookie’s leg and have necrophilic sex with her.  Tara also gets over the creep-factor and decides to have an exorcism of her own to deal with her ongoing personal issues.  Unable to crack the fang-banger case, deputy Fife turns his attention to the mystery of Sam’s streaking, and actually exhibits some real detective skills.  Jason and his new paramour follow Lafayette to his Vampire blood bag and attack the guy with silver after Lafayette leaves.  Things conclude with Eric summoning Sookie to investigate the money’s that’s been embezzled from his bar because, as Bill’s squeeze, she needs to do what Eric says.  She reads the minds of the human employees and learns that it’s the bartender that’s responsible.  He attacks her, credits.

That’s it.  There was nothing remotely entertaining or interesting about this 56 minutes of television.  The fang-banger plot wasn’t advanced, the characters circled the realism bowl, and fangtasia was reintroduced with a superfluous story about embezzlement.  How do HBO execs sleep at night when they produce crap like this and cancel Deadwood?

Final Thoughts

Did I mention it sucked?

Requisite Buffy Comparison:  Beer Bad, arguably the worst Buffy episode of all time, still had more total entertainment value than this episode.

I'm one of those open minded kinda fellas

Wow, Jason actually got some laughs. Double-wow, Bill actually did something interesting. Triple-wow, I think I kinda enjoyed this episode. No, hell has not frozen over. I’m not suggesting that it was actually any good, just that, when it was over, I didn’t want my 50 minutes back. That’s certainly faint praise but this series has dropped the ball too many times for me to really get excited by any potential it might show. Bill murdering uncle bad-touch is a good example. It would seem to tie into the “vampires really are dangerous” twist that I was so interested in a few episodes ago. Sookie’s revelation that she was molested was too random to be a justification, it was an excuse. Combine that with how helpless the old man looked in his wheel chair and I can’t help but see Bill’s act as purely heinous, indicative of the monster he really is and the evil Sookie’s now playing with. It instantly makes their relationship one worth exploring and thus makes me think I’m giving the show too much credit. Part of me expects the worst and wants to conclude that we should take things at face value. Uncle bad-touch really deserved it and we need to see Bill as Sookie’s knightly protector. I actually feel the need to discover which is the case and that’s more of a reason to watch than I’ve ever had before.

Reason enough to watch the rest of True Blood? Not if there are any more scenes like the exorcism of Tara’s mother. No, I haven’t mentioned the Tara’s mom subplot much. It’s been so unwatchable that I’ve done my best to ignore it. While the rest of this series may be devoid of substance, it’s at least well acted and well scripted (for what it is). Tara and her mother are just pure melodrama for the sake of melodrama. Was her drinking really demon-related? Is Tara herself actually possessed by a demon? Does this have anything to do with anything? This whole subplot is actually bad enough to ruin what little enjoyment I got from the episode, so I need to go back to ignoring it.

Meanwhile, Jason heads to the vampire bar in an effort to get some V. His moronic efforts to talk his way in actually had me laughing out loud. Sadly, the funny stops there as he remains a moron once inside the bar in his efforts to score some drugs. There are no real consequences as some hippie (human) keeps him from getting himself killed and they head back to his place for some mystical V-sex. I’m hoping she’s not just another random girl and that all her spiritual mumbo-jumbo about vampires might go somewhere but, once again, something tells me I’m setting my sites too high.

The (relatively) high notes just keep coming as the Three Stooges show up at the bar looking for trouble. Yes, these vampires are still a little cartoonish, but it was nice to see all the alleged bigotry of the locals get some justification. These are three unrepentant killers who take visible delight in the fear they create. Is it any wonder Sam doesn’t want them in his bar? Bill shows up in time to save everyone by agreeing to leave with the trio and “go have some fun.” Is he being heroic or villainous here? We get the same sort of delightful ambiguity as the rednecks decide to burn the vamps out of their town. It’s the kind of heinous act that screams “Klan,” but what if it’s justified? The Stooges pose a legitimate threat to the community. “Get them before they get us” doesn’t seem like such a bad plan. This is the kind of issue the show desperately needs to explore. By challenging the acceptance of tolerance as a universal virtue, True Blood is actually doing something new and interesting. Sadly, I don’t think it’s going to get carried into episode 8.

Final Thoughts

I’m really sick of the cliff hangers. The season arc simply isn’t strong enough to tie all these “what’s gonna happen?” moments together. Or maybe it’s the fact that there never seems to be any real consequences to these moments?

Was Bill burned to a crisp? No. Were the Stooges? Hopefully. Seriously, if those coffins turn out to be empty I’m gonna be pissed.

Requisite Buffy Comparison: It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Angel also went bad after sleeping with Buffy. It was also one of the best episodes in the series up to that point. The difference? Well, aside from the standard buildup vs payoff and interesting metaphors contrasts, I’ll say that we’re not even this was a turning point. Will this event be treated with the significance it requires or will it simply be another wasted opportunity?

So, this is Louisiana. You’re telling me no one in that bar had a gun?

We've got nothin'

I am trying, very, very hard, to enjoy True Blood.  Regardless of how good the show is or is not in itself, six episodes have made it abundantly clear that this is not the series for me.  Under normal circumstances, I would simply change the channel and leave this show to its fans while I find something more to my own tastes.  And yet, I’ve committed to reviewing this thing and so I must find some way to enjoy it for what it is rather than ranting about what it should be.  In light of all this, I must appeal for aid.  Can anyone please tell me what, if anything, was redeeming about this episode?  It’s not that I found nothing to enjoy in this hour, it’s just that, like almost every other episode, the parts I enjoyed were found on the margins while those I despised were front and centre.  Am I missing something?

 First up on the good points, it was nice that the cast’s investigation into Gran’s murder actually kept pace with the audience’s as Bill and the cops (or at least one of them) appreciate that Gran was either killed for being a vampire sympathizer or happening to be home when the town’s resident serial killer came looking for Sookie.  It’s an interesting puzzle that deserved to be the meat of the episode rather than its intro.  Second, the callous thoughts of the townspeople masked behind their grief was well done.  Alright, so that wasn’t really a marginalized part of the episode, but it didn’t really matter either.  Sookie’s been isolated by her talent since episode one and now, in the wake of Gran’s death, she’s feeling… more isolated.  That’s it, two sparks entertainment in a very dark 50+ minutes.  Did I do myself a disservice by grasping at these straws?  What should I be focusing on if not the “fangbanger murders” or the split between a community’s thoughts and deeds?

 Now the bad, Can anyone please prove me wrong on the following:

 Gran’s death was decisive proof that this series lacks an emotional core and doesn’t realize it.  You have to care an awful lot about a character to watch an extended sequence of her crying and eating pecan pie.  Anna Paquin’s fine here.  Sookie’s the problem.  I just don’t care about her or anyone else on this show.  Everyone’s clearly torn up and we’re supposed to feel bad for them, but it all just seemed irrelevant to me.  If this show can’t successfully play on our emotions then it needs to stop trying.

 V is now the most absurd plot device I’ve ever seen on television.  Jason’s able to shrug off an entire vial but suffers extreme withdrawal from a single drop?  I’m not sure if its this absurdity or the character’s continued lameness that has me yawning as he turns into a blood-junkie.

 Sam and Tara hook up, again.  They both assert that this is “real” this time and yet it still manages to feel even more emotionally irrelevant.

 Sookie and Bill also hook up.  Huh?  I guess this makes sense if you bought into the chemistry these two allegedly have.  And she asks him to bite her.  Huh?  I guess this makes sense if… no, it doesn’t make any sense.

 Final Thoughts

 To some extent, every work of fiction asks you to forgive its flaws in order to enjoy its virtues.  The original Stark Trek provides a fine example:  Get passed the lousy effects and cheesy acting and you’ll discover one of the most thoughtful shows of its time.  What, exactly, can I expect for suffering through True Blood?

 Requisite Buffy Comparison:  “The Body” is the gold standard for television deaths, and an unfair comparison.  Instead, I’ll look at “Passion.”  Seeing characters we care about grieve is different in kind than watching those we don’t.

 Anyone care to tell me how running through the cemetery at night in a nightgown towards your vampire lover is not an absurd cliché?

I'll have a Fresca

God bless Chris Bauer and William Sanderson for trying. They’ve been saddled with the bumbling cops routine but are somehow able to eke a few laughs out of this tired cliché. Sadly, that doesn’t change the fact that they’re written as one dimensional dopes. Obviously they can’t be too competent, or there’d be no mystery left for Sookie to solve, but is it so much to ask that they be more than comic relief? Are we really supposed to believe that Jason and Bill are in danger when it’s Barney Fife and Chief Wiggum investigating them? The go-nowhere police investigation is characteristic of the flaws of this episode and the series in general; none of its pieces add up to anything worthwhile and the best we can hope for is some isolated entertainment. Bellefleur and Dearbourne may be good for an occasional laugh, but only if you ignore everything that happens between jokes.

Bill’s talk to the local historical society is another case in point. It’s mostly an excuse for some flashbacks to his life during the civil war and an explanation of how he became a vampire and abandoned his family unfolds over the episode. Turns out his human-self closely resembled the present-day vampire in being an essentially decent individual. He was actually turned into a vampire rather than a meal as some kind of “reward” for refusing the advances of an alleged widow and remaining faithful to his wife. In itself, this is a fine back-story. Bill is an innocent victim who has his humanity striped away as a consequence of having it in the first place. This is an ironic, tragic, complicated twist that adds a needed layer to why he is so desperate to reclaim a place in society. And I just don’t care. The show can’t expect us to feel real sympathy for a character that hasn’t been established. Like every other “big” moment in the show so far, this one’s effectively neutered by the lack of context.

Meanwhile, Sookie decides not to see Bill anymore because she’s freaked out by his vampire ways (weren’t we here two episodes ago?) and elects to rebound with Sam. Their date goes well until he inexplicably morphs from Mr. Nice Guy to Aggressive Jackass. Again, it’s nice to see there’s more to his character, but where’d this come from? Could we not have seen an aggressive streak in him a little earlier on? More interestingly, Sookie reveals that his thoughts aren’t like most people’s (fewer words and more sensations), further suggesting that he may not be entirely human. Perhaps we’re meant to link this to his aggressive turn but there’s really not anything in the scene to indicate this. Sookie returns home pissed off at both the men in her life only to discover that Gran’s been murdered. The episode ends with a cliffhanger as she discovers the body (weren’t we here two episodes ago?).

Final Thoughts

Jason is by far the worst character on the show. Why is he so many people’s favourite? This episodes misadventure has him trying V again a day after ODing. How can we like anyone with that little sense? Don’t worry, as Lafayette explains, V is the most versatile drug ever conceived and doing it “properly” won’t give you an unstoppable erection, just cool hallucinations. The exposition here basically amounts to “V can do anything,” reducing it to a rule-less, and therefore pointless, story element.

Lafayette laying the smack down on some homophobic rednecks was great to see. It’s a shame they were the same idiots that brought a garlic press to the historical society meeting. Hmmm… I wonder what the metaphor is supposed to be?

Requisite Buffy Comparison: Angel and Spike showed us the right way to do a vampire origin story. Their backgrounds were saved until well into the series and added welcome layers to established characters.

True Blood keeps trying to have the payoff without the buildup and I think this is my fundamental problem with the show. It’s as though the writing sessions begin with brainstorming some cool scenes and end with the bare minimum of integration. If you’re not going to bother tying your cool moments together in an entertaining fashion, why not just make a clip show? Is Michael Bay a consultant on this series?

Gran’s death may be subject to the above criticism, it all depends on how they play it in the next episode. If this was meant to be a tear-jerker for the audience, then it’s a failure. If it’s treated as a shock for the audience and a “now it’s personal” turn for the story, then it could work.

Still think you're in Disneyland?

Wow, that was actually… entertaining.  More than that, there were actual glimmers of the complexity suggested in the premiere’s first scene.  There were still plenty of missteps, to be sure, but this was the first episode to feel fresh and original rather than tired and clichéd.  True, the “murder in a small town” schtick that that kicks things off has been done many times before, but it still felt like a breath of fresh air after the crap we were fed in the last two episodes.  The yokels are genuinely funny as they gather ’round to gawk at the scene of Dawn’s murder and whisper speculation about Jason’s guilt.  Beyond comedy that’s actually, you know, funny, this situation gives Sookie the necessary excuse to start listening in on people’s thoughts as she attempts to clear her brother’s name.  Her reasoning is again fast-tracked by a chat with Gran, but I’m willing to forgive that as integrating these two threads really seems to push the story forward.

The Sookie/Bill storyline also benefited from integration as she asks him to take her to the vamp bar that Dawn and Maudette frequented, Fangtasia (thank you, writers, for admitting the joke).  Stares and sighs are conspicuously absent as the bar presents the first interesting look at vampire culture we’ve seen.  The expected sexuality is there of course, as the place looks like a gay/fetish club, but that’s complicated by a much needed sense of menace.  Every human in the room is flirting with death.  As the bartender says, “That’s what we are, death.”  Not very subtle, but I’ll take it.  Until now, vampires (the three stooges aside) have simply been portrayed as the victims of bigotry based on sexuality and race.  That’s an old story, and the fact that it’s vampires this time isn’t enough of a twist to interest anyone but a Twi-hard.  But what if the minority in question really were dangerous?  What if the threat they posed was actually rooted in their nature and not in the imaginations of bigots?  This is the wrinkle that Alan Ball needs to explore.  If this series is ever going to live up to HBO’s alleged standards then it needs to explore its issues in innovative ways.

Is True Blood now revealing itself to be a defense of homophobia?  No, thankfully it opts for complication rather than simply looking at another side of the coin.  The cops end up raiding Fangtastia and Soookie’s telepathy tips her off and she, Bill, and Eric (the head vampire) out of there in the nick of time.  On the drive home, Bill is “stopped” by the local sheriff in a reenactment of what still happens to black men in many parts of the south.  The show indulges in some entertaining revenge fantasy as Bill ends up being the one doing the intimidating and has the bigot with a badge literally pissing his pants.  It’s a fun scene in which the menace posed by the minority feels entirely justified.

Final Thoughts

I mostly discussed the thematic elements of this episode but, more importantly, it was actually a good story.  The character’s actions made sense, the jokes were funny, and Sookie and Bill did something other than stare at each other.  Is it so much to ask that this become the norm?

It wasn’t all roses however as Jason continues to irritate.  He downs the entire bottle of V in fear of be caught with it and turns into a living boner-joke.  Tara gets him out of jail by providing an alibi and into the hospital by providing some common sense.  Unfortunately, her feelings from him are reduced to a single moment from their childhood.

Sookie’s detective skills suck.  A lot.

Requisite Buffy Comparison:  This episode actually stacks up fairly well compared to much of Buffy’s first season.  I’m also reminded of the time she destroys a place similar to Fangtasia where people go looking to get bitten.  Her motives are anything but pure while the vamps are anything but innocent.  It’s a dynamic the series didn’t explore much further but one True Blood could do a lot with.

What’s with Sam?  Obviously there’s more than meets the eye as he’s either a killer, has a weird fetish, or is in some way supernatural; all interesting possibilities.  Less interesting is the fact that he takes care to wear latex gloves while spreading hair and fiber all over Dawn’s bed.

“Mainstreaming” is the vampire term for living amongst humans, and their’s enough contempt in it to make Bill just a tiny bit interesting.

It’s interesting that there was no sex in the series’ best episode thus far, and I for one didn’t miss it.  As I said before, I have no problem with graphic sex scenes in themselves, but if they can’t be integrated with good storytelling then they don’t need to return.

I don’t think we should see each other anymore

Sookie, you read my mind.  Unfortunately, I’ve committed to reviewing this garbage and my resolve remains strong.  Do your worst you X-Rated Twilight wannabe, you’ll never beat me.  And, to be fair, episode three was not your worst as the bar was raised from god-awful to merely nonsensical.  The first scene pretty much encapsulates the sense of “huh?” that pervaded the episode.  Turns out those vampires threatening Sookie weren’t a fake out, they really were preparing to eat her.  Why then was this scene so utterly devoid of fear?  A big part of that’s due to the acting finally sinking down to the writing’s level.  Bared fangs and a lot of hissing might have made Boris Karloff scary, but I think we’ve moved beyond that.  Anna Paquin seems a little nervous rather than terrified as she stumbles in on some sort of blood and sex party and realizes she’s about to be the main course.  I assume Stephen Moyer was supposed to be conflicted here, but he just came off as bored before saving Sookie.  That salvation was at least markedly different than his white knight role of the last episode but… what role was he actually playing here?  Jerk?  Fake-Jerk?  Clueless love interest?  Artful manipulator?  This scattershot  plagues the whole sequence.  There’s too much cheese here for the sex and bloodletting to be scary.  Is it supposed to be creepy at least?  Titillating?  Funny?  Should we even care?

 After Bill drives off his vampire… friends? enemies? casual acquaintances? his relationship with Sookie enters the “looses girl” phase as she decides the whole experience was terrifying (thanks for clearing that up) and that she shouldn’t see him anymore.  The one problem, as Bill makes sure to remind us, is that he’s the only one she can be herself around.  Oh no, Sookie can’t be with the one person she’s meant to be with.  Wait, there’s a second problem, Sookie’s also horny and masturbation’s proving inadequate.  What’s a chaste southern belle to do?  Luckily, Gran’s there with a pep talk and some startling insights about following your heart and everything having a purpose to get Sookie back on the road of love.

 Ok, so the main plot wasn’t actually an improvement over last week, but the subplots were at least amusingly stupid rather than irritatingly so.  Sam and Tara decide that, as they’re the only people in town not getting any, some casual sex is in order.  No that’s not me being snarky, they literally have a conversation about their respective dry spells and conclude that they should do it.  And I’m glad; the fact that these two characters have been sexualized makes them far more interesting.  Now if only Gran could get her freak on we’d be all set.  That was me being snarky.

 Meanwhile, Jason’s once again conflicted over Dawn’s history with a Vampire, turned on and disgusted all at the same time.  It’d be interesting if he weren’t such an unlikable douche.  After these emotions leave him unable to get it up he’s forced out of her house at gunpoint and heads over to the local drug dealer (Tara’s gay cousin and new roomie Lafayette) for some Viagra.  Of course, Lafayette has no Viagra but offers some V (vampire blood) instead.  Jason can’t afford it but can cover the cost by doing a little dance for Lafayette’s website and we get another scene that tries to be both creepy and funny while succeeding in neither.  I’m assuming this video will lead to yet another alibi for Jason, which he’ll need as Sookie discovers Dawn’s body at the end of the episode.

 Final Thoughts

 I’m not sure this episode was actually better or if my expectations were simply lower.  In either case, I found myself checking the clock less this time and that’s a tangible improvement.

 “Who killed the fangbangers?” is shaping up to be a core season arc with actual potential.  I’m hoping this will get tied into vamp-politics that surrounds the series.

 Requisite Buffy Comparison: Buffy played with the vampirism as a sex act metaphor over each of its seven seasons, effectively moving the pendulum from subtle to overt and back again.  It was dynamic, complicated, and interesting.  In contrast, the metaphors of True Blood are static, obvious, and boring.  Will this show ever hit more than one note?

 The most interesting part of this episode was the new layer added to vampire culture.  Bill’s associates have no interest in integrating with humanity and would rather devote themselves to an eternity of sex and violence.  It’s certainly nice that vampires are taking shape as a complicated group, but that wasn’t really helped by these three being so interchangeable.

You don't seem like a very good vampire

This doesn’t seem like a very good show. I appreciate the need to give new shows room to breathe. Most series require at least half a season to find their footing, and so the initial episodes need to be taken with a grain of salt, but if True Blood actually does get better then it needs to happen soon. This quickly became one painful hour of television as the episode jettisoned everything I liked about the premiere and laid on the clichés with an industrial roller. Sorry if that sounds unfair, but this was one those pieces of crap that can only be enjoyed as an object of ridicule.

Getting to the episode itself, Bill shows up in the nick of time to kill the blood drainers and save Sookie, which is fine, except that he then gets her to drink his blood to completely heal her wounds, effectively gutting the brutality of the previous episode. How can we take the next piece of violence seriously when this one was utterly without consequence? But wait, there were consequences; Sookie’s first five sense are now more acute and her libido is (naturally) more active. Unfortunately, this is a consequence of the blood-drinking and not the beating, an event that really seemed to come out of nowhere. Blood-exchange is the core of vampire-mythology, and the scene itself was appropriately sexualized, but, much like the last sex-scene, the card’s been played way too early. Bill and Sookie’s relationship is in its infancy and they’re already enjoying each other’s blood? Where can we possibly go from here?

The rest of the episode felt tired and predictable. Jack didn’t actually kill that chick (of course) and (naturally) had more kinky sex to celebrate. Bill meets the rest of the Stackhouses and enjoys a chaste moonlit walk with Sookie, affording them some much needed time for staring and sighing. He also makes the perplexing decision to fake a tornado to cover up the killings that began the episode. Things conclude with our heroine once again being menaced by blood-suckers, this time the immortal variety. Hmmm, I wonder who’s going to save her?

Final Thoughts

The vampires threatening Sookie at the episode’s conclusion were so hoaky that I’d assume they were a fake-out, if the rest of the show weren’t so incredibly hoaky.

It’s inevitable that I wind up comparing this show to Buffy. I shouldn’t because it’s not fair, but the difference really is black and white. For now, I’ll just say that Buffy got away with its clichés by being aware of them. There was always a wink to the camera anytime the show started taking itself too seriously. True Blood keeps playing things straight, even when it desperately needs to admit how ridiculous everything is.

There are number of ways that Bill could’ve reacted to Tara asking about him owning slaves. Apologetic, defensive, angry, anything but oblivious. How can a man so committed to the “vampire rights movement” not be aware of the parallels with other minorities?

I don't think it's very funny

Much like a book’s cover, a series premiere is not enough to make any final judgements on. But it is enough to make some educated guesses. Whatever a show’s creators might be holding back or (worse) still figuring out, the premiere still needs to inform the audience what they can expect from the show. Lost gave us questions without answers, Dexter gave us intrigue, and the Wire gave us a 9:1 character to plot ratio. True Blood gives us porn. It’s softcore, mind you, and with far better acting, writing, and effects than you’ll find in any adult film but it is, nonetheless, prono. It is possible to film a graphic sex scene without it being pornographic but True Blood does not yet have enough credit to pull it off. Without any knowledge of who these characters are we cannot relate to a sex scene as anything but that. Jason’s (Ryan Kwanten) apparent murder of whatshername could’ve been a disturbing blend of sex and violence (the core of the vampire myth) if only we’d been given a chance to get to know them both first.

Beyond the sex, True Blood gives us a bit of a mixed bag. The opening scene was very well done, though I saw the redneck vampire coming as soon as he declared that things weren’t very amusing. That said, I found it actually added to the menace of what was happening and helped telegraph the show’s (apparent) core theme of sex and danger. It also telegraphed the premise that the traditional Dracula image isn’t the one we should be afraid of. We should be looking over our shoulder for the wolf amongst us. Sadly, these hip new vampires don’t appear to be the standard as Nosferatu-Prime (Stephen Moyer), despite having the wonderful name “Bill,” appears to be straight out of an Anne Rice novel. Soft lighting and gothic-romance imagery abound throughout the episode making it clear the series isn’t really about killing clichés. That’s a shame, really.

The conceit that vampires are semi-integrated with humanity seems like it’ll be enough to keep the show fresh, but it makes Sookie (Anna Paquin) an odd choice for a main character. We’ve been given a setting in which the mythic has turned out to be reality and human beings, over their initial panic, are now trying to come to grips with the monsters in their midst. Why then give the main character psychic powers when it seems so natural that she be the everyman? Alienated main characters gravitating towards alienated newcomers are a dime a dozen. It’s not that this set up can’t work here, it just that it seems odd to build a rather standard story on top of a non-standard premise. On top of that, Sookie and Bill’s interactions follow the girl meets vampire clichés almost note for note, albeit with the advantage of her saving him from the human monsters that try to drain his blood. It might be enough to salvage some chemistry, if Sookie didn’t morph into the damsel in distress by episode one.

Final Thoughts

All my griping aside, this was a well-scripted, well-acted episode of television. There’s nothing to really pull me in yet, but there’s also not much to drive me away.

Why doesn’t Sookie’s telepathy alert her to the imminent attack? Everyone in the audience saw this coming, making her appear doubly foolish.

The beating at the end of the episode was possibly the most brutal one I’ve seen on television. This is actually a pretty big accomplishment as it managed be incredibly graphic without devolving into torture-porn. However, much like the sex, this kind of imagery really needed to wait a few episodes until we could appreciate what’s at stake.