When True Blood first came out, I tried my damnedest not to like it. In fact, I shut the show off after the first few minutes and didn’t intend to watch it ever again. Now it wasn’t that I hated vampire stories (although at the time, maybe I preferred my vamps in the form of Gary Oldman, Brat Pitt or Paul Reubens—talk about classic vampires) or that I had some strange opposition to a show about scary, supernatural beings (I totally love Ghost Hunters and even watched one season of The Bachelor); but I couldn’t get into it. Everyone told me how wonderful True Blood was and I would respond by giving them a leery look. I hate to admit when I’m wrong, but I was wrong.
After my failed attempt to watch this increasingly popular TV series, my sister talked me into reading the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris (the novels that True Blood is based on). Oh I resisted, trust me, I did; but I finally decided to give it a whirl. I was so hooked. I read all the books available at the time and even pre-ordered (albeit inadvertently) the next one. Having read all the Sookie books that were published, I started to have withdrawal from my favorite telepathic character. So I decided to give the television series one more try. I loved it. Loved. Then I subsequently watched season two and powered through season 3 when it came out on DVD. Should I be embarrassed to admit this? Well, tough. I’m saying it loud and clear for the whole world to know: I am a fan of True Blood. I’m tempted to say “bite me” here, but I am refraining…
Season three of True Blood picks up where the second left off. The vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) is kidnapped by werewolves and his girlfriend/ fiancée Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) makes it her mission to find him. She loves him, you know? Since Sookie (pronounced “Sook-aaay” if you are Bill) doesn’t really have many connections to the lycanthrope world, she turns to Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård), a vampire with questionable motives, for help. While Sookie and Eric search for Bill, the residents of Bon Temps have their own dramas to keep them busy–which may or may not include an evil bun in the oven for Arlene, shady shifters forcing their son to participate in dog fights (as the dog), and werepanthers—yes, I said werepanthers. Pretty run-of-the-mill stuff for Bon Temps, really.
Compared to the previous two seasons, season three of True Blood is still able to hold its own. In fact, it may be one of my favorites. As with any show that features multiple storylines, certain character arcs are more interesting than others. I was a bit disappointed that Tara (Rutina Wesley) once again is under the control of another supernatural being. I feel that her being under the abusive thumb of vampire Franklin Mott (who also, incidentally makes a fine applesauce—eeeevil applesauce) in season three immediately after being mind-effed by maenad (yes, I said maenad) Marianne in season two seems a bit redundant. My only hope is that she is not possessed by a demon or Greek god in the current season. While I have a bone or two to pick with season three, I liked the introduction of Russell, King of Mississippi (you read that right), as the villain. Russell (Denis O’Hare) is equal parts charmer, manipulator, and evil, psychotic bloodsucker intent on destroying humankind.
Usually, I prefer to read books after I see the movie or TV show they are based on. If I don’t, I get grouchy and pick out all the ways the show deviated from the novel (I’m talking to you, Legend of the Seeker, season 2. You ruined it for the rest of the class). However, in this case, the books did not make me dislike the show or vice versa. The Sookie Stackhouse novels are just that—they are books about Sookie Stackhouse. However, True Blood is about more than just Sookie–even though for some crazy reason anyone with a wiener lusts after her (I know, fairy blood, but everyone? Really?). The supporting cast plays a major role in the series, allowing the characters to have entirely new storylines apart from the book. Heck, True Blood even introduces a new character, Jessica, which in a lesser series may cause the show to jump the shark. Surprisingly, it works and I find her to be a pleasant addition to the plot. These additional storylines keep the series fresh for the book nerds (like me) and interesting for those with short attention spans (also like me) who would tire of the whole Bill-Sookie-Eric drama 24-7. Kudos to the writers for the way they handled the series.
In order to allow the supporting characters to carry a substantial role in the series, it is imperative to have excellent actors to pull off the crazy crap that the writers come up with (hey, I watch it because of the crazy crap, that’s not an insult). When reading the books, Bill was one of my least favorite characters. I thought he was boring and just could not root for him. However, I think Moyer handles the character well, allowing him to have more depth and to say “Sookie” in a memorable way. Each actor (and yes, this term includes both male and female actors) brings their character to life—the people (I use that term loosely since it also refers to the supernatural beings, too) who live in this fictional world are complicated, vibrant, and seemingly have a lot of issues. True Blood walks the fine line between being far-fetched and creating a believable fantasy world. In the hands of lesser actors, it would be uncomfortable to watch. Instead, the actors commit fully to their characters (werepanther or not), allowing the audience to connect to the show.
Like many of the newer series out on cable, True Blood has a phenomenal opening credit sequence. I love the use of found footage and the fitting theme song. In just a few minutes, this short sequence sets the tone for the entire show. Flipping brilliant. Themes of religion, death, and sex are splashed on the screen and the credits help place the audience both psychologically and geographically in True Blood’s setting. Gosh, am I drooling over a credit sequence? What is wrong with me? Is this joy I feel towards a show? Did my heart just grow two sizes? Remarkable.
It’s interesting to think about why vampires are so popular and what they could represent about our culture. Yeah, it’s actually super dorky to theorize about an already geeky topic, but I like to make things exponentially more nerdy when possible (*pushes glasses up and squints*). What about vampires resonates with the audience? In his book, Consuming Youth, Rob Latham argues that vampires represent consumption and youth (I guess, hence the title). I tend to agree—perhaps we are attracted to these supernatural creatures because they don’t age. We are part of a youth-obsessed culture, and it seems logical that beautiful, immortal creatures would appeal to us. Also, vampires are all about consuming blood. It’s what keeps them alive, allows for their perfect, youthful bodies to exist. Maybe this elevation of consumption to the level of necessity speaks to us at this place and time. Are we, too, focused on consumption (of not only food, but technology, information, or luxury items) in order to live our lives to the fullest? Food for thought (pun only slightly intended). I could go on, but may save it for a later post since this is a review, not a theoretical piece. Sigh.
Yes, True Blood is an over-the-top, guilty pleasure, but that’s why I watch it. Everything is in excess. When staked, vampires don’t just die, they explode blood and goo like a flesh and blood version of a Michael Bay film. I mean, how could I say no to that? You’re right. I can’t.
In a market that is flooded with vampire movies, books, and TV shows, I think True Blood is one of the best options out there. It’s a quality show with fantastic acting, fun writing, and “realistic” fantasy setting (OK, that sounds a bit confusing, but I’m going to let it slide). Now I am psyched for season four (which is currently airing on HBO). Bring it on!
Thanks for reading! I am tempted to insert a silly vampire-inspired phrase here (like “go sink your teeth into this series” or “have a fangtastic day”), but I will refrain. I don’t want to lose any readers. 😉
Have an awesome day!
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