2. The First Taste
HBO’s uber-sexy vamp-in-the-real-world drama True Blood continued with its second chapter this week on FX, aptly titled The First Taste. We find Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) where we last left her – still at the mercy of local drug dealers the Rattrays and the savage kicking they feel she so richly deserves. Payback is a bitch, a truism the rednecks have no time to reflect on as angst-ridden vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) arrives in the nick of time to effect a rescue, 18th- century vamp-style.
Beaten to within an inch of her life, Bill offers Sookie some of his blood as an alternative to her imminent death. It seems Vamp blood heals all wounds, and Sookie greedily guzzles down the vintage claret – a favour she then returns by allowing Bill to lick the blood from her head wounds. And they say romance is dead.
From here on in, The First Taste deals mostly with the Sookie’s back-story and the vampire lore of the True Blood universe, but it also establishes some of the secondary characters.
Bill’s appearance at Sookie’s house the night after her attempted murder gives us a glimpse of the Stackhouse family dynamic: Grandma Stackhouse is a fan of the Civil War and more interested in Bill’s memories of Bon Temps than the fact that he’s about 150 years too old for her grand-daughter, Tara, Sookie’s best friend since childhood, has an alcoholic mother and has spent most of her life at the Stackhouse residence, and older brother Jason, who uses the three women in his family for sustenance, compliments and little else – just your usual every-day family unit.
Neither Jason nor Tara approves of Sookie and Bill’s burgeoning inter-racial relationship, and Bill’s skilful extrication of the couple from Jason’s interrogation leaves the poor boy feeling just a tad foolish.
The couple’s subsequent turn about the fields of Bon Temps leads to some unusual getting to know you chit chat. Sookie reveals, among other things, that her parents died in a flash flood years earlier, and in return Bill gives a quick course in Vamp 101.
Every vampire story has its own unique lore, and True Blood is no exception. Aside from death by silver and sunlight, and the miraculous healing blood, Bill reveals that no, he can’t change into a bat, but he does have the power to glamour unsuspecting humans – a good old-fashioned vampire power that you just don’t see enough of these days. Except that it doesn’t work on Sookie. Her gift, and no doubt the large amount of vampire blood she consumed, means that he can’t get into her head, in a reflection of her inability to get into his.
However, the fact that they now share blood means that they’ll always be connected. Which could come in handy, particularly when you’re getting your head kicked in by drug dealers. There’s a very familiar Buffy/Angel dynamic here – uniquely talented blonde chick falls for angsty way too old for her vamp, to the disapproval of her family and friends – but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The humour and genuine chemistry on display here, coupled with some great writing will hopefully start to draw the characters away from the all-too obvious comparisons. Particularly as we discover that Bill is keeping some very interesting, bald headed skeleton-tattooed company.
Aside from the burgeoning romance and character development, The First Taste also plants more seeds in the political conflict that is the backdrop to the show. Placing Bill’s arrival in town in the wider context of ‘The Great Revelation’ shows Bon Temps as a microcosmic example of attitudes towards Vampires across the States, which is in direct conflict with the belief that freedom is a basic right for all Americans. Those religious folks at the Fellowship of the Sun are adamant that Vampires are an abomination, and large swathes of the country agree with them.
What’s interesting about this particular aspect of True Blood is the examination of how Sookie Stackhouse’s America deals with any perceived threat to its status quo. Only in this America would the revelation that Vampires exist lead to televangelism.
In the True Blood universe, right wing America’s tendency to hate first and get educated later draws disturbing parallels with the real world civil and gay rights movements, as well as some of the current right wing attitudes toward immigration. Keeping the politics in the background gives an undertone to the show that allows it to be pure fantasy, while at the same time grounding it in something very real.
A sexy show that’s more than just sexy, a horror show that’s more than just gory, and with just the slightest hint of social commentary – True Blood manages to successfully mix elements that often make uneasy bedfellows, and produce a drama that’s layered, suspenseful and excellently written. Why isn’t all TV this good?
Check out our review of episode 1 here.