I watched this week’s episode within the context of attending a writing conference. Right before I queued up “The Sun,” I sat in a reading given by the poet D.A. Powell and the author Stacey Levine, and then to an impromptu sharing of student works over beers and wines in the garden of a bar that energetically attempted to shoo us out by taking away first our drinks and then our bug repellent and finally the lights, but we were enjoying ourselves so much we sat in the dark without drinks, getting bit up by mosquitoes, reading bits and pieces by the light of iPhones.
And then I came back to my dorm room and watched True Blood.
It is likely apparent where I am going with this.
Watching the last five seasons of True Blood has been an exercise in stubborn loyalty. The first season was rather tight, with a close focus on the trials of the waitress Sookie Stackhouse and her burgeoning love affair with Vampire Bill. It had a murder plot woven in to keep things complicated. The cast was manageable, the writing was funny, and the show seemed clear in its intent. It was also wildly popular. Subsequent seasons have been an exercise in over indulgence, each one attempting to outdo the other in its scope and fantastical elements, bloating the cast and attempting to throw story lines at every secondary character that some poor fan once professed to love, without understanding that these characters were intriguing because they enriched the world by their secondary or tertiary nature. Alan Ball is no longer driving the show; I had hopes that this meant new things for the sixth season. After all, I felt that the fifth season had shown signs of improvement. There was promise of getting back to a tighter focus and less reliance on tits and ass (not in the least because the lead actress was pregnant throughout the filming, requiring the show give her character, you know, story lines to fill out her on screen time).
At the end of the second episode, I am not hopeful.
Things that worked:
There is a definite continuation of story lines that shows consequences and repercussions for actions of the characters in previous episodes/seasons. The Authority’s fucked up decision to bomb their own True Blood factories is shown to be as monumentally stupid as the viewers thought it was. It’s nice when objective facts and internal facts align like that. The new guns, the glamour-resistant contacts, and the push back against the vampire violence of last year all shows promise.
The world that True Blood takes place in has blood escorts, which thrilled me to no end. The actual, uh, thing that happens with that escort not so much.
Martha! I love Martha. I love her gravely voice, I love the screen presence of the actress, I’m excited that she’s back this season.
Jessica prayer voice over, which I thought was well executed and kind of sweet, even if she was praying for a bunch of people she threw out of her house just the night before and the fact that we got to see glimpses of every person she named except Hoyt, which was glaring. They couldn’t bring back Jim Parrack for one freaking scene? They could have just shot it at his actual house while he was watching tv or washing his car or something.
I can’t decide if the overt civil rights analogy is ham-fisted or tolerable. Since I’m undecided ““ though Sam was right to tell Eager College Kid to shove it ““ I’m leaving it here in “what worked.” I’m gonna have plenty of examples for what didn’t work.
Niall teaching Sookie how to generate the light ball. Rutger Hauer is an old hand at this campy shit. The presence of Niall means that Jason and Sookie will spend more on-screen time together, which is something the show has really lacked over the past couple of years. The siblings have a nice chemistry with each other that reads like a real relationship.
Everything else, or What Didn’t Work:
Wasn’t Alcide a decent fellow at one point? Didn’t Martha learn anything from that time her last packmaster sold her granddaughter off? Maybe she could give the kid a couple of hours to get over her mother’s traumatic death before stealing her away again.
What the fuck with Lala’s non-starter scenes? We all know that Lala was babysitting just to give the character screen time. Why can’t we give Lafayette screen time with his own stories?
The very terrible, awful, no good CGI hooker exsanguination. That’s the best they could do?
Hey, remember when Queen Mab was coming for Sookie and she had traumatic hallucinations about it? And fairies are actually ugly monsters? Nope, neither does the show.
The slutty demon hand maidens. Gratuitous. Overt excuse for full frontal female nudity. Again!
Seriously? The djinn plot again? There is no reason on god’s green earth to revisit that mess.
I am over Andy Bellfleaur, bumbling cop and father, and it’s only been two episodes. Why was he complaining about his kids? They weren’t even misbehaving! And he doesn’t have to potty train them! At this rate, they’ll be going off to college in a week or two. And there’s four of them, so he’ll get plenty of financial aid.
Nora. The vampire bible. All of it. Go. Be gone. Why did we add another recurring character to this fucking cast?
Pam and Eric are still fighting.
Jessica praying to Bill. Yes, I also listed this in what worked because the actual scene was a good one, but after last season, where Jessica was terrorized by Bill to study the vampire bible, and she actively compared it to her parents abusive use of religion to control her, why ““ seriously, why ““ is she invested in Bill enough that she literally prays to him?
This, of course, leads me to Bill. Bill Compton is not my favorite character on the show. True Blood is invested in making him a compelling lead character, and they seem to want us to ignore the many, many occasions in which he is a massive controlling asshole (see above), but not because they want us to view him as a compelling anti-hero. Nope, he’s just Bill Compton, that dude we’re supposed to root for because he’s on all the promotional materials. Last year, they seemed to finally be willing to let Bill go whole hog evil. He consumes the blood of a god and is reborn in her image, which one might think would be a Bad Thing, since we spent all of season five learning about how messed up Lilith is, and how her cult is one of human slaughtering and indulgent violence. But here we are in the new year and Lilith took a shower and put on some clothes (though we can still see through her clothes, so don’t worry, there’s still lots of nipples to be had), and she’s all, “Bill, you can save all the vampires!” And you ““ or maybe it was just me, but I bet it was you, too ““ are groaning in your dorm room because this twist means we’re not going to get Evil Bill, but another variation on Bill Compton, Still The Guy You Root For, And Also Ancient Blood God. So Bill gets to wake up and feel all the terrible things that His People are being put through, what with the obvious parallels to significant moments in gay and civil rights struggles, because we need to be back on Team Vampire, even though I’m fairly certain that gays and blacks didn’t have a history of pulling out people’s hearts through their chests on national television, which puts a more concrete spin on the idea that white and/or straight people had something to “fear” from gays or blacks. What I’m saying is, they can’t say, “in our world vampire rights movement is the same as the civil rights movement” because no African Americans were literally eating white people.