True Blood: The Sun, Review

As the series embraces even more melodramatic plotting, we join Jessica in giving a little prayer for all the aspects on the show that work (hint: it ain't the faeries)

Vampire Bill in his newly infinite divinity has seen the Vampire Apocalypse that is to come. All tremble and prepare for the end is nigh…and in related news, Tara lived from last week’s cliffhanger. Okay, I am getting ahead of myself. This week’s True Blood began exactly where the last one left off: on the cheap cliffhanger of Jason being alone in the car after his ominous driver vanished. Readers were quick to point out in my review of that episode that it was not Warlow, who I mistook Rutger Hauer’s character to be. But in my defense it was an easy mistake to make because: a) Jason called him Warlow after he ominously laughed and said, “Who the Hell do you think I am?”b) Hauer’s CV lists him as playing Macklyn Warlow. However, I stand corrected. While Hauer is indeed playing Warlow this season, he is also playing the so-far-more-prominent Niall Brigant, Jason and Sookie’s great-great-grand faerie father or something. You know, all that fae stuff really makes the mind wander (but more on that in a moment). Niall reveals himself to be related to Jason by knowing about his past high school football glories (as well as the porn in his bedroom). With that formality out the way, Jason takes to Niall like a succubus in a Tru Blood factory. And, despite my reservations for fairy storylines, it was great to see. The show appears immediately determined to wipe out the dour and whiny Jason of Season 5 by giving him some more kin to fawn over in his own charmingly moronic way. The speed of which Jason goes from a vampire-killing Charles Bronson to Lon Chaney Jr. discovering the joys of rabbits (or rifts in the spacetime continuum at Sookie’s house) with a grandpa George has a whiplash effect. But it is probably for the best since the show is eager to please with its new pace. The one great thing about Alan Ball, even in the darkest days of Season 5, is his ability to capture quirky slice-of-life moments in off-color situations. At his most brilliant, it can create something wordlessly stunning, like the final season of Six Feet Under or the better parts of his screenplay for American Beauty, and at his worst, he still writes really funny characters in really bad situations. Again, likely because I never read the books, his infidelity to Charlaine Harris was never a deal breaker for this reviewer. And yet, his biggest challenge always remained creating new stories for his characters, especially after he quit using the novels as road maps. He can explore a large range of characters and inhabit their voices in authentically amusing ways, but when it leads to things like Vampire BAMF Russell Edgington getting killed in two seconds by Eric…it just kind of sucks. Pardon the pun. With Season 6’s second episode, I can now safely see that True Blood is under a new stewardship. Even as a show that has never been known for its subtlety, the level of exposition dumps and character motivational shifts are somewhat jarring. But they are also being used to sweep the board clean and push the show into the direction that it perhaps should have headed long ago: a silly supernatural thriller. Gone is that leisurely pace from previous seasons as most of the characters make major moves in this episode while promising more cliffhangers to come. Two seasons ago, I might have hesitated seeing the series embrace such camp histrionics so strongly right out of the gate, but after the last season…why not? Let’s see what happens.  For example, Eric was awfully mean to Pam last week. He told her to get lost and indicated that he and sister Nora were going off on their own “Kill Bill” adventure. Yet, lo and behold they did get distracted from a mission that would satisfy millions of Team Eric shippers the world over. After sensing Pam’s distress due to Tara being shot with one of the governor’s UV bullets—do Len Wiseman and Kate Beckinsale get a cut of this season’s budget considering this is such a blatant Underworld rip-off?—Eric and Nora appear long enough for the two lady vamps in Eric’s life to have a pissing contest worthy of the CW. Fortunately, the momentary trite leads to a sudden and welcome plot twist. Eric, sheriff of an Authority that is now defunct, will take the law into his own hands and leave Bill to Nora while he pays a visit to the Governor’s Mansion. The plot twists and twirls around that location like a particularly thick serving of barbecue. First, Eric arrives incognito as an environmentalist whose ID he glamoured. But when he pulls the same trick on Governor Burrell, played like a country fried ham by Arliss Howard, the show contorts once more as the governor reveals that they have perfected contact lenses that emasculate vampire hypnotism. He even makes a dig at the phrase “glamour” like he is as terrified of the gay community as he is of the fang one. Burrell reveals that Louisiana has been stocking up for years to go to war with vampires and that the Authority’s attack on their own Tru Blood factories has finally given them the excuse. Of course Eric escapes, but not before paying a visit to daddy’s little girl. In a scene that surprised no one with the way the camera followed Willa Burrell (Amelia Rose Blaire, HBO’s newest vampire meat), Eric flies up to the governor’s carefully guarded princess and glamours the far more susceptible waif into letting him in her bedroom. He has a wolfish grin, which suggests bad things to come for Willa, yet I know there are a couple million Skarsgard fangirls who would happily be placed into that trap.  Meanwhile, this subplot tied nicely into Bill’s who got the A-OK from Lilith that neither he nor she is a god, but merely powerful creations from the Almighty. Thus, HBO keeps its Christian audience happy (at least until they stumble upon an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher). However, the show still gives Bill omnipotent powers through a strangely docile dream Lilith. Super-Bill can now drain fang bangers’ bodies dry without ever physically touching them and…see into the future. I am still not sure about this plot thread, but it is keeping my interest, not least of all because Jessica is really getting to shine in these two episodes. Once a victimized “daddy’s girl” herself from a Christian upbringing, the gleefully sinful vampire has found Jesus long enough to pray for Bill to come back.  It is a very sweet moment and can probably be marked right now as one of the season’s highlights. The wayward vampire praying for everyone, even those who wish to destroy her maker. It is strange how this completely original relationship created for the show, between a master and his progeny wishing for his return, has become the series’ greatest attribute. And return he does with dire warnings, though anyone with cable television could also see that the governor’s cruelty to vampires is coming to a head. He IS allowing racists to drag vampires into the sun via pick-up tricks. Sheesh. Both of these storylines leave me hopeful for True Blood’s future and what will come next week. It appears that Eric will hold the governor’s daughter hostage—why do I sense a Stockholm subplot in the works, and I am not talking about Skarsgard’s heritage—in an attempt to assuage his racism. Good luck with that. Meanwhile, Bill seems to be foretelling a vampire Armageddon complete with concentration camps. Awesome. But the rest of the show? What many book readers seem to overlook is that the series did not just go downhill because it strayed from the book. It went downhill because there was a time when the only supernatural creatures were vampires, Sam the Shifter and Sookie’s weird unexplained superpowers. Now, every other character has some magical and/or magic-political agenda. Case in point, Sookie literally cannot walk outside her door without tripping over some hunky man-beast who wants to jump her bones. Meet Ben. On Sookie’s first attempt to go to work in about five years, she is stopped by this handsome stranger who lying on the side of the road right outside her house. Yes, I appreciated the self-aware parody of Sookie not being able to leave her porch without saying “oh fudge” about the next strapping young supernatural temptation (this one is half-faerie for the record), but that does not excuse what is one of Harris’ fall back threads to keep Sookie interesting…in theory. At best, I could see them inverting this now running cliché of a roguish monster popping up on Sookie’s front door in need of help. I am even calling it right now that Ben has something to do with the coming of Warlow. But even so, does anyone really need another boy toy for Sook? Eric, Bill, Sam, Alcede and probably Andy for all I know. The house is already a bit full.  Speaking of filling up, Grandpa Faerie has dinner with Sookie and Jason long enough to reveal that Warlow, the oldest living vampire, is coming for Sookie’s blood. However, he has a secret deus ex machina one-off faerie power to give Sookie that will allow her to kill any vampire ever. But it comes with strings. To use it, she will lose her “light” powers forever. Oh and she is a faerie princess. Yeah…so, when are the vampires going to show up again? In similar fashion, Sam’s story is getting a major overhaul as the death of Luna has apparently left Sam unaffected enough to run his bar like any other Tuesday. Even less phased is Luna’s daughter who is playing jewelry makeover with Lafayette (they seriously need to find something else for this great character to do this season). But two outside forces threaten Sam’s newly imposed fatherhood. The first is an instantly-unlikable LA activist who wants Sam to come out of the shifter closet. How does this random Nicole Wright (Jurnee Smollet-Belle) know what a shifter is, much less that Sam is one? Don’t ask. What is important is that she is preachy and condescending to one of the few totally likable blokes on the show. I think we are supposed to hate her. I most certainly did when she videotaped Sam and Lafayette getting beaten up by the werewolves. As it turns out, becoming pack master for Alcide means becoming something of a douchebag. But it is easier for an actor like Joe Manganiello to play. The nerve of this series’ werewolves, the Jackie Gleasons of the Supernatural Kingdom, to act all high and mighty over Sam is still a tough pill to swallow. Their inability to be nothing but vampire sycophants is why the Authority took Emma in the first place, which led to Luna’s death. As a viewer who loved werewolves growing up, this show undoubtedly portrays the dippiest and lamest lycanthropes I have ever witnessed. And I’ve seen Twilight. Still, I appreciate the way all the plot threads are immediately intersecting and weaving like the best kind of guilty pleasure viewings. True Blood is a summer show and therefore tends to get pass for some of the more questionable narrative choices. However, plotting is now definitely in the driver’s seat, as opposed to quirky characterization. Is that a good thing? It is a bit too early to tell. But things are happening quickly, so odds are they will have to at least accidentally find the right balance in one episode. At the very least, the vampire storylines are cool again. Eric reminds us that he is kind of a bastard when he targets unaffiliated family members. And whatever Bill has become, he has brought back a bit of horror to a species that for too long has been pop horror’s whipping boy. Now, if only someone could do something about those werewolves… Going forward, the stories are certainly all looking to converge. Lilith-Bill, or just Lill, is going to want Sookie’s fae blood to combat the governor. Eric is going to want to kill Bill and the governor. And Warlow is going to do…something. If True Blood can keep these three storylines in the air without falling, I will call this season a success. However, two episodes in, I am not cracking out the A-Positive just yet. Den of Geek Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!


3 out of 5