Category Archives: True Blood

Final Thoughts: True Blood

It seems that I’ve done little more than bitch about True Blood this moth and so it’s difficult to think of anything more worth saying in a “Final Thoughts.”  Clearly, I hated this show and my various reviews offer an extensive (though not exhaustive) catalogue of why.  The only point of contention I can really think of is whether this is merely my opinion or if the show is “bad” in an objective sense.  Some might claim that this is an absurd notion when talking about art, that how one reacts is inherently subjective and that you cannot make an objective assessment of quality.  I would counter that we need shared standards to have any meaningful discussions about art.  Efforts to articulate why something is good or bad presuppose some common ground in our understanding.  I say that True Blood’s failings are not merely offenses against my sensibility, but actual sins against narrative.  With that in mind, I submit Ten Commandments of television storytelling and this series’ most egregious violations of them.

  1. Events shall be relevant to the plot.  Arguably the most basic, essential part of narrative.  That which happens on screen should be a consequence of what has happened before and, in turn, be a cause of what happens later.  There were countless examples to choose from, but I’ll take the death of Sookie’s cat as the most obvious one.  The killer hadn’t done anything in a while, so for some reason he… kills and mutilates a pet?
  2. Characters shall exist outside the story.  Commonly referred to as “depth,” we should get a sense that characters have thoughts and emotions beyond what’s portrayed on screen, that their actions are a consequence of some underlying identity.  What, exactly, were Sam’s core characteristics?
  3. Visuals shall be engaging.  Television is a visual medium and what we see needs to draw us into the story, not push us out of it.  The sex scenes that dominate the first few episodes do nothing to pull the audience into the story.  Whether you enjoy these scenes or not, there’s nothing about them to either ask or answer the question “Who are these people?”
  4. The acting shall be “up to” the emotion.  Bad acting is, obviously, bad, but competence just isn’t enough when conveying heavy emotion.  The extensive melodrama between Tara and her mother just seemed absurd coming from two actresses of such limited range.
  5. Plot devices shall at least be consistent.  Generally not a good thing, the plot device shouldn’t change from moment to moment.  V: cure-all, aphrodisiac, habit-forming, steroid, spiritual experience, whatever else the writers need it to be.
  6. Emotional payoffs shall be proportional to time requirements.  We don’t need to care about everything that happens.  However, the more time we spend with an event, the more we need to care about it.  Gran’s death gave us a whole episode of mourning.  Did anyone care about her enough to be sad for a minute, let alone an hour?
  7. If we’ve seen it before, we don’t need to see it again.  Clichés are bad.  Duh.  True Blood does nothing to expand the vampire subgenre.  Why should we watch it as opposed to any other vampire story out there?
  8. Events shall be consistently relevant.  Don’t ask the audience to be outraged one moment and ambivalent the next.  Sookie’s child abuse is a perfect example, going from completely unknown, to worth killing over, to completely forgotten in the space of two episodes.
  9. The setting shall have an internal logic.  It’s not necessary that what’s on screen be “realistic,” just that it makes sense in itself.  Sookie’s telepathic powers developed and shed limits from episode to episode.  How, exactly, was Rene able to “lie” with his thoughts?
  10. Hmm, can’t think of a tenth right now.  True Blood sucks.
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I’m gonna hall ass to Lollapalooza

Yes, I’ve gone with a Simpson’s quote rather than one from True Blood, it seemed appropriate.  The episode quickly established itself as a by the book thriller and kept bringing to mind that Simpson’s classic, “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming.”  I was therefore able to find some delight in my own insight though not the episode itself when it literally ended with a “here we go again” moment.  The briefest of summaries:  The heroine tries to stay with her manly protector in order to avoid the serial killer stalking her.  Unfortunately, she needs to go home for some reason and so gets a lift from the one other person she trusts.  Damn, he’s the killer.  There’s some cat and mouse when she figures it out, a gun with no bullets, and then a big chase scene.  Manly protector figures out that she’s in danger and must rush to the rescue.  He arrives just in time to attack the villain, who quickly turns the tables on him.  Luckily, it’s enough of a distraction for her to deliver the killing blow.  Wow, I’ve never seen one of these things play out like that before.  Outside of that, Bill also realizes Sookie’s in danger and braves the sun to try and save her.  He doesn’t quite make it so she and Sam need to bury him to save his life.  Gee, that Sam really is a great guy.

 Thankfully, all this cliché is mercifully short, taking up about half the episode.  The rest of our time is spent setting up plot lines for next season and, since I have no intention of watching season two, I won’t bother getting into it.  I suppose enjoying this finale hinged on enjoying the episodes that preceded it.  Bill’s sacrifice in particular was flat for me.  Why should I care about his suffering for a romance that I don’t buy into?

 Final Thoughts

 Why doesn’t Bill put up some curtains?

 Seriously, the scream that ended the episode just felt like the final insult, a witless promise of more wacky adventures to come.

Requisite Buffy Comparison:  Buffy, with the exception of season 7, always ended strong.  Payoffs were made, emotions were satisfied, things were laid to rest.  That’s not really so much a comparison as another “Buffy’s better” statement, but I really can’t come up with anything else.

I still haven’t decided if True Blood needs a final thoughts post on the season.  I’ll need to step away from it for a week to see if I can come up with anything that isn’t just rehashing the bitching I’ve done all season.

I'm a vampire, woo!

That was, without a doubt, the most blindingly stupid hour of television I’ve ever willingly sat through. Seriously, I rag on True Blood a lot, but the penultimate episode set new lows in storytelling. The best way to illustrate my point is with a counter-example, the one piece of entertainment this episode has to offer. Lafayette sees one of his clients, a state senator, spouting anti-vamp & anti-gay rhetoric on the national campaign trail. Now, it’s been established a couple of times that Lafayette is out, proud, and has no tolerance for anyone who won’t tolerate him (“Just say hold the aids!”). It’s natural that he wouldn’t tolerate someone he’s blown and sold V to talking this crap, so when he shows up a fundraiser and confronts the man with a quiet speech about hypocrisy, it builds on what we’ve seen before. This isn’t even really a character arc, just a character moment, but it’s shining beacon amidst the steaming pile. Someone in that writing room knows what they’re doing, too bad they weren’t allowed to touch any of the other characters.

That girl Bill sired last episode? It makes sense that he’d try to get her to mainstream as he does. Unfortunately, she turns out to be a cartoon. The sweet, repressed good-Christian girl becomes whiny, bloodthirsty, hungry, and horny now that she doesn’t have to play by the rules. Bill passes her off to Eric and the bad joke is brought to a merciful close. Tara ends up in jail for her DUI and her mother refuses to bail her out. Turns out the exorcism took her compassion too. Their argument had me ready to throw the remote. Neither of these actresses are very good and we’ve spent a whole season of melodrama bringing them back to the estrangement they had in the 2nd episode. It’s up to some “social worker” who Tara doesn’t recognize as the naked chick she almost ran over to bail her out and take her in. Finally, Sam and Sookie go on a road trip to investigate a similar murder “up the road.” I keep forgetting there’s supposed to be some romantic tension between these two, but there is. I also forgot that being away for two days without calling is grounds for cheating, but it is. Sookie makes out with Sam just in time for Bill to get home and get pissy. She rescinds his invitation and gets angry with Sam, credits.

Oh, remember how I asked for clues about the killer’s identity? We got our first two this episode, so close together that there could be no doubt whodunit. Jason tells his buds about Amy’s V addiction and she gets murdered, leaving only two suspects. One of them is from out of town. Mystery solved. It’s Rene! Which… should I even bother? Is there anyone out there that thinks this was a satisfying payoff?

Final Thoughts

So, now Amy’s dead, effectively destroying any possible payoff to her relationship with Jason. Two weeks in row and the show’s most interesting character has died. Lafayette better watch himself.

Requisite Buffy Comparison: There is no comparison, these shows are nothing alike

Sam: Are you looking in my mind?

Sookie: I’m looking in your heart.

 Me: <<throws up, just a little>>

Meet your maker

 

If Scooby-Doo has taught me anything, it’s how to execute the mystery formula.  A crime’s committed, some meddlers start sleuthing, some seemingly isolated clues are found, there’s a musical number, and then those seemingly disconnected clues add up to an intelligible culprit, the groundskeeper.  Joking aside, good mysteries keep you guessing until the end, when the reveal puts the proper context on all those clues you’ve been puzzling over.  Sadly, True Blood is no Scooby-Doo.  We’ve been wondering whodunit since episode one, but there really haven’t been any clues to speak of.  We can be fairly certain that some human is targeting fangbangers, beyond that, nothing.  I bring this up now because this episode made a point of highlighting just how weird/creepy some of the folks at Merlotte’s are.  Gasp, one of them could be the killer!  Because they’re… weird/creepy.  If this turns out to be the case then I’ll be sorely disappointed, it’s the worst sort of laziness.  Perhaps I’m wrong.  There could’ve been all sorts of clues I’ve missed that will all make perfect sense by season’s end.  Two episodes to go and I’m not holding my breath.

 Creepy townsfolk aside, this episode was split between the awful and the good.  The awful parts:  Sookie’s really pissed that Sam never told her he was a shape shifter because, you know, they were so close?   She bitches about it for most of the episode until Sam saves her from a near miss with the killer.  Naturally, he does the smart thing and comforts her rather than actually going after the guy hiding in his kitchen.  Tara continues waste screen time as she has an exorcism and then learns it was all BS.  Upset, she drives drunk and then crashes her car to avoid some naked woman on the road.  Is it too much to hope that she’s dead?

 On to the good:  Amy’s emerging as True Blood’s most/only interesting character.  Her claims that having a negligible carbon footprint makes her a better person than Eddie was a little over the top, but for the most part her “tree-hugging cancels out kidnapping” logic is fascinating.  Her claim to the interesting throne is solidified when she stakes Eddie (a response to Jason insisting he be let go), the only other character I really enjoyed watching.  Elsewhere, the show does a really good job building its mythology.  Sam’s exposition about shifters and werewolves would’ve been better if it had been shown rather than told, but it’s nice to get the suggestion that there’s a much bigger world out there than we’ve seen so far.  Finally, Bill’s tribunal does an excellent job exploring vampire society.  Their standard of justice is, by any definition, evil.  Bill’s punishment for killing Longshadow is turning a young woman into a vampire.  It’s as much about teaching Bill a lesson as it is about replacing the “life” he took.  Humans are cattle, not worthy of his protection and he must demonstrate his commitment to a vampire way of life.  Again, that way of life is shown to be completely incompatible with our own and the “vampires have rights” ethos now seems to be complete bogus.

 Final Thoughts

 Requisite Buffy Comparison:  Isn’t it odd that everything True Blood does right has to do with the mythology and what it does wrong has to do  the characters and their relationships.  Great scifi/fantasy (Buffy) is really “about” the characters involved, with the mythology serving as a backdrop.  Popcorn scifi/fantasy puts the mythology front and centre, which can be fun, but not much more than that.  True Blood fails in both categories.  Its characters are mostly dead weight, but it insists on devoting its time to them.  This show needs to play to its strengths and aspire to be empty entertainment.

 Farewell Eddie, we hardly knew ye.

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.