Back to Grown-Up Fantasy TV! This review will hone in on HBO’s fantasy/horror hit, True Blood. I thought it was only fitting to do a review for this show since the sixth season finale was just last Sunday. Yes, I did watch it. No, I won’t ruin anything for people who have it waiting on their DVRs. Spoilers ain’t my thang.
So. Vampires. We’re over them, right? To be fair, True Blood began in August 2008—a few months prior to premiere of the first abominable Twilight film. The only Twihards then were the book lovers, a breed much preferred over the gaggles of squealing teenagers that flocked to theaters to moon over sparkly, brooding, big-haired Edward Cullen. Yes, Stephanie Meyer tried her best to defang vampires, but I believe that True Blood and the novels the series is based on (which came long before Twilight, by the way) have often stood their ground as a gritty reminder of what vampires are supposed to be: cold, murderous, and downright scary. The show is by no means perfect, but it does give a unique look into a dark, bloody, sexy world of weird.
Synopsis: “Telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse encounters a strange new supernatural world when she meets the mysterious Bill, a southern Louisiana gentleman and vampire.” –Borrowed from my favorite movie site, IMDb.
The Good: Like any HBO show worth its salt, True Blood is filled to the brim with surprise endings. Almost every episode ends with some kind of shocking violence or death or straight up craziness—which is great when you’re watching it on DVD, but maddeningly frustrating when you’re watching it week by week on TV. Frustrating in a good way though. It keeps you coming back for more. Of course, even without the shocking endings you’d want to keep watching for the characters. Leading lady Sookie (Anna Paquin) is likeable and generally fun to keep up with—sweet but with plenty of no-nonsense toughness when the occasion calls for it. Her telepathy makes her interesting not because she uses her power, but because she doesn’t want to use it. As a barmaid in a seedy small town, she rarely wants to hear what’s going on in her neighbors’ heads. Which is why vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) is so alluring: she can’t hear his thoughts. Due to the introduction of synthetic blood, vampires have just “come out of the coffin,” so to speak. Instead of feasting on humans, they chow down on a synthetic blood drink called “True Blood” (hence the show’s title), which supposedly makes them safer to be around. Key word: supposedly. The premise is interesting, the characters are fantastic, and the dialogue is generally well-written. Also, I have to mention that Sookie’s place of employment has arguably the sassiest and most wonderful bar cook on television, Lafayette (Nelson Ellis). Just wait for some of his one-liners. Favorite scene: Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), a cold, thousand-year-old vampire and owner of the vampire bar Fangtasia, agrees to let his witty second-in-command, Pam, (Kristin Bauer van Straten) cut his hair. Let’s just say it’s a memorable start to the second season.
The Bad: Sometimes there’s just…too much. Too many crazy supernatural creatures, too many storylines, too many weird things happening. You wouldn’t think this would be bad, but the problem is that sometimes these are just deviations from the main plot that don’t really serve much of a purpose. The first few seasons of True Blood are pretty cohesive, but once you get into the fourth and fifth seasons in particular, things start getting out of control. The plot doesn’t seem to know which way it’s going—and neither do the characters. Some of these characters undergo such massive personality changes from season to season that you begin to wonder if the writers really understand the people they’re writing about. Now that I’ve seen the sixth season finale, I’m beginning to wonder if True Blood should consider wrapping things up before long. Least favorite scene: Season five introduces a ridiculous smoke monster thingy that causes trouble for war veteran Terry (Todd Lowe). Basically, it’s one of those annoying deviations I mentioned. I love Terry, but I hated every second wasted on that storyline.
To Sum It Up: Unfortunately, True Blood is a show that has lost a great deal of its mojo over the last few seasons, but if you watch, you will get attached to the characters, and you will want to keep watching. Though the show focuses on vampires, it’s not just about them. It’s about telepaths, werewolves, shapeshifters, witches, mediums—even fairies, believe it or not. I’d recommend checking out the first few seasons. Just prepare yourself for the quality to drop a bit.
My Grade: B