Thursday, July 26, 2012

Don't stake True Blood just yet

Last year, I was seriously considering quitting ‘True Blood.’

I loved the books -- well, most of the books, recent endeavors are pretty weak.

I loved some of the series – pretty much all of the first and third seasons really.

I just was sick of the show.

The first season of HBO’s sex romp was practically perfect. It introduced a vast cast and immediately got your attention with a plethora of violence and gratuitous nudity.

If I’m being honest, I think one of the best things about the show is that they didn’t adhere to the plotlines in the books exactly. There was room to maneuver.

The characters I saw the changes in most (from book to small screen) were Tara and Jason – and the writing for both these characters was so much better on television that you could kind of distance the TV characters from their book counterparts.

Season one was the introduction to Sookie, Sam, Bill, Eric, Jason and Pam that fans had been waiting for. Casting was great – and the story was sexy enough to keep you interested but it still didn’t go over the top.

You couldn’t say that for the second season. The second season was essentially one long orgy – and yet it still managed to be boring.

I liked some of the stuff in Texas – the Jessica and Hoyt love story especially – and I actually thought Jason was the hero of season two. When all the characters returned to Bon Temps, I thought things picked up for a decent finale.

The truth is, though, it was kind of a relief when the show ended for the season.

Season three introduced werewolves and the storytelling picked up again – and I’m not just saying that because Joe Manganiello is all kinds of hot. Again, time was split between Bon Temps and more exotic locations, but it was still a pretty solid season.

So, of course, I was excited for season four. Right from the beginning of season four, though, you knew something was “off.” The first 10 minutes of the season involved Sookie in fairyland. When she returned home, a year had passed, and the characters we loved weren’t exactly where we remembered them.

There were a lot of problems with season four – even though it was based on what was probably my favorite book in the series.

I think the biggest problem was neutering Eric and turning him into a whipped little puppy. Luckily, the saving grace for season four of ‘True Blood’ was a great cliffhanger.

Cut to season five.

I tuned into the new season because I was interested to see what would happen – but I was also ready to cut the show loose if it didn’t show improvement.

Thankfully, it was like the show rediscovered itself.

So, what is ‘True Blood’ doing right?

* Sookie isn’t being monopolized by the vampires. In fact, she has her own storyline. After killing Debbie Pelt in a moment of rage after Debbie shot Tara in the head, Sookie panicked and had Pam turn her into a vampire. Tara, who was raped and kidnapped by a vampire in season three, didn’t react to her transformation very well. Sookie felt guilty but powerless. The best thing about Sookie’s story this year is that it has transpired largely absent of Bill and Eric. Now, I’m sure Sookie will have to get involved with the Lilith storyline – but at least she’s regained some of her independence. It was necessary to make the character likeable again.

* Pam is finally getting fleshed out. Pam isn’t one of the best written characters in the book, but she’s certainly better written in the books than she is in the show. Until this season, though, all we knew about Pam was that she was loyal to Eric. This season, after making Tara a vampire (and hilariously having to go to ground in Wal-Mart clothes) the usually taciturn Pam has been showing some interesting character tics. While Eric setting her free was heartbreaking, seeing Pam taking a still confused Tara under her wing is a joy to behold.

* Sam’s story finally isn’t the weakest one on the canvas. That honor goes to Terry and his Army buddy – a duo I just can’t bring myself to care about. Sam’s story, though, involves a group of individuals going after vampires and other shifters. While I find Sam’s love interest boring, I am intrigued by the wolf pack Alcide is taking over. I’m also a little worried that Hoyt isn’t going to survive this season. Jessica turning on him makes me sick – I was especially invested in their relationship – but I guess Hoyt turning to the dark side makes sense given how he was tossed aside. His mother tried to raise him as a bigot and he rebelled against that for awhile. I just hope he can be redeemed at the end. He’s sort of pathetic now.

* The fairy stuff has been toned down. I’m not a big fan of the fair stuff – not in the books and not in the show. It gets a little tiresome after awhile. Still, I do like that the fairies have given Jason purpose this season. The Jason of the show is a lovable dimwit – while his book counterpart is smarter than he seems and manipulative (even if it means hurting Sookie). Show Jason may be an eternal screw up – but you can’t help but love him. I’m intrigued with what the fairies are doing in their little strip club – but I’m more curious what road this puts Jason on. Hopefully he’ll be the one to help redeem Hoyt. It’s only fair since he’s one of the reasons Hoyt is losing his mind.

* The Authority was interesting – while it lasted. I love Christopher Meloni, so I enjoyed his portrayal of the doomed Roman. And who doesn’t love Russell? That is one of the funniest vampires ever put to film. I’ve also loved the bromance between Eric and Bill (anyone else laugh at the visual gag of Eric giving Bill a piggyback ride last week?). I find the religious intolerance storyline to be interesting and topical. However, that being said, a naked Lilith rising from the ground after an acid trip feast by the vampires screamed ‘Supernatural’ to me – and not the good ‘Supernatural’ of seasons 1-5. We’re talking the horrible season 6 with Eve. Let’s hope this storyline is better than that one.

Finally, not everything is perfect in Bon Temps. I already mentioned Terry’s extremely boring storyline with the Balrog (“Fly you fools!”) – but the one storyline on the canvas that’s actually making me fast forward through the episode is Lafayette’s.

Lafayette is a character that died early in the books. He’s been a great source of comic relief in the show, though – until now.

I understand Lafayette is mourning, but he has lost every trait that made him entertaining. I hope the writers have a way to extricate him from this really bad storyline – because it needs to be done pronto.

Aside from those minor quibbles, though, I find myself looking forward to ‘True Blood’ more and more every week – and that’s something I couldn’t say last year.

What do you think? Is ‘True Blood’ better this season?


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