Season four of True Blood was a disaster. It was such a mess, in fact, that I basically decided to give up the show for good.
Yeah, I lied.
Despite the abject nature of the final episodes of season four, despite all the stories that held no interest and seemed like a waste of time, I decided to give the show another chance. After seeing the premiere—although I still have reservations—I’m glad I did.
The premiere works for one basic reason: Bill and Eric are kept far, far away from Sookie. Sookie’s romantic entanglements have always been the weakest part of the show, culminating in mediocrity last season with the somewhat disastrous Sookie/Eric pairing. After enduring several episodes worth of nauseatingly sweet devotions of love between the two, to hear Eric say “Fuck Sookie!” with actual vitriol feels like the best kind of breath of fresh air. It’s probably inevitable that their stories will intertwine again now that Bill and Eric are in trouble (as there’s nothing Sookie likes more than inserting herself into other people’s troubles), but until then, the separation feels welcome.
Their specific trouble is with the Vampire Authority, the ruling authority over all vampires and something the show has been flirting with on-and-off since its beginning. Vampire politics have always been one of the more interesting things about this world, so further exploration of this previously shadowy ruling class is something I’m definitely looking forward to this season. Bill and Eric start the episode being captured by the authority and shipped off to face the true death for defying their orders about Marnie, but are quickly rescued by Eric’s sister, Nora. (Here is where I should point out that sisters in the vampire world are a bit different than for us humans, because apparently, vampire siblings have lots and lots of explicit sex. They’re not actually related, so yay?) The last thing True Blood needs is another character to juggle, but Nora’s presence as an Authority member willing to defy the group's orders in order to save Eric brings a bit of immediate intrigue, especially when her rescue mission goes south, and they all end up back in the Authority’s hands once again.
The other big doings have to do with Sookie and Tara; these are therefore significantly less compelling. Any joyous relief felt at the apparent killing of Tara at the end of last season is quickly dashed here, when, instead of letting her die, Lafayette and Sookie convince Pam to turn Tara instead. Watching Pam reluctantly go through the sire process is interesting; watching her do it with Tara, potentially less so. Ultimately, though, the show’s refusal to kill Tara (or any other major character) is one of its greatest weaknesses, and it is perfectly illustrated here. Was there a significant portion of the True Blood fandom dying to see Tara as a vampire? Is there a significant portion of the True Blood fandom that cares about Tara at all? Letting Sookie’s actions have true life-or-death consequences would have added some gravity to her storyline; instead, we get Tara the vampire hater becoming exactly what she hates.
This might be more novel if the show hadn’t introduced exactly that same character type in the season finale with Reverend Steve Newlin, who is back from whatever hole he was hiding in, newly vamped up and ready to declare his gay love for Jason Stackhouse. Although the character’s return is highly unnecessary and ultimately kind of pointless, his entire confession sequence with Jason was the most fun I had during the entire premiere. Jason struggled last season with the awful Hotshot rape debacle, so returning him to a kind of funny comic relief character is a wise choice. Between his scene with the Reverend and his adorable confusion at the status of his “open” relationship with Jessica, Jason is easily the most consistently enjoyable aspect of the episode.
Less enjoyable is Sam’s continued interaction with the werewolf pack, as they come after him for killing pack leader Marcus. Sam has everything needed to be a compelling character, but he is always stuck in dead-end, unimaginative plots. Now that Marcus is dead and the whole pack knows Alcide was the actual killer, here’s hoping he can somehow extricate himself from this and find his way into something a little more interesting.
Because the show isn’t stuffed enough, there’s yet another new character added to the mix, Terry’s old military buddy Patrick (the always-welcome Scott Foley), who is in town investigating mysterious fires that are besieging the members of their old company in Iraq. There are allusions to a mysterious occurrence, which is sure to be explored throughout the upcoming season, whether there is room for it or not.
That’s really the big issue, and the thing I most had to come to terms with before I decided to write about the show on a regular basis. Though True Blood is already stuffed like a sausage, as the seasons go on, it never stops keep trying to shove in more and more without ever letting anything go. While this doesn’t fit the traditional model of a “great” television show, the idea that True Blood was ever even trying to be a great show might have been a faulty one. Despite its HBO pedigree and awards history, the only thing it seems True Blood might have ever been trying to be is a fun show. In this premiere, at least, it succeeded.
- No Russell sighting yet, just a glimpse of what appears to be him dragging in a body to feed on.
- The least essential person getting screen time tonight was Andy, who really doesn't need to be getting story beats of his own. For you Chris Bauer enthusiasts, though, at least he was naked.
- One question I’m honestly interested in the answer to is where Jesus’ body disappeared to.
- Pam: “I am wearing a Wal-Mart sweatsuit for y’all. If that’s not a demonstration of team spirit, I don’t know what is.”
- Eric: “We fight like siblings, but we fuck like champions.” Incest, it’s the reason for the television season!