One of these days, perhaps True Blood will wrangle all of its potentially awesome elements—the impact of synthetic blood on vampire culture and vampire blood on humans, the scope of Southern history from pre-Civil War to the present, thick gothic atmospherics, the tenuous relations between vampires and humans, the wild sex, Sookie’s telepathic powers, et al.—and make something spectacular out of them. Granted, that would involve fixing the myriad flaws that are holding the show back from greatness (or goodness, for that matter), like the cast of blah (Sam, Dawn) or obnoxious (Tara, Lafayette) supporting characters and their wavering Bayou accents. But since I’m slated to write up this blog through the end of Season One, I must remain hopeful that the sucktitude won’t continue unabated.
Tonight’s hour begins by resolving a cliffhanger from the last episode: Will anyone stop a pair of redneck vampire-blood-sellers from beating Sookie to death? Alas, this isn’t Psycho, so Anna Paquin lives to see another day, but we find out quickly that vampires (or Bill, at least) are faster and more powerful creatures than any human can withstand. In defiance of the seductive vampires of old—though they can still be plenty seductive—creator Alan Ball’s new-fang-led (sorry, couldn’t resist) monsters are cut in the revisionist cloth of the zombies in 28 Days Later. Provided that crosses, holy water, silver, garlic, or other such vampire repellent don’t turn them away, they can dispatch their enemies so swiftly that they won’t know what hit them.
At this point, Sookie also discovers another helpful thing about vampires: Their blood has special healing power for humans, and also serves to heighten their senses and stoke their libido. For obvious reasons, Bill would rather that information be kept on the down low, because if everyone knew that vampire blood was such an elixir—like the Fountain Of Youth meets Viagra—its value would certainly exceed that of the undead fleshpods that carry it. No doubt this will continue to be an issue as the show unfolds and humans start taking a greater interest in harvesting blood for personal and commercial use. For now, Bill’s secrets are safe with Sookie.
The shots of Sookie and Bill sharing each other’s blood by a moonlit lagoon are classic gothic romanticism, yet I’m not quite feeling it. Perhaps it’s because Sookie and Bill skip the courtship and go straight to the honeymoon phase: On Buffy The Vampire Slayer (and I’ll apologize now for making frequent reference to that show, which I consider the gold standard for TV vamps and demons), it took over half a season for the feelings between Buffy and Angel to develop into full-blown, consummate-able passion, and their affair ended in one of the most operatic, devastating story arcs I’ve ever seen on TV. While I think Sookie and Bill are the most interesting characters on True Blood so far, and think they share a palpable chemistry, their intimacy comes too soon, before they can be properly developed. Of course, other than the blood-sharing, they’ve only swapped spit thus far, so the relationship has many other places to go.
Another possible reason I’m not feeling the Sookie-Bill sparks just yet is that the other characters and subplots are distractingly lame. I’ll admit to getting a chuckle or two out of Jason, Sookie’s sex-crazed dope of a brother, who gets off the hook for Maudette’s murder via accidental strangulation. (“I didn’t kill her!,” he screams, fists raised in triumph.) The question of who or what killed Maudette hangs on a missing videotape of her vamp-sex session, and Jason seems anxious to scapegoat a vampire like Bill if it means casting suspicion off of him. As for the others, we get insight into Tara’s sad home life, where she’s stuck taking care of her drunken mother. (Yawn.) And the gang gets together with Bill for a meaningful discussion of the Civil War-era South. (Zzzzzzz.) And Tara gets all moony-eyed for Jason. (Wake me when it’s over, please.)
Yet as flat as this episode is, Ball ends with another juicy cliffhanger (is Sookie dreaming or is Bill’s house crawling with ill-intentioned vampires?) and other open threads relating to Maudette’s murder and the killing of a virulently anti-vamp reverend. Just when I thought I was out, True Blood pulled me back in…
• Maybe my favorite little moment of the night: As Sookie is getting her ass kicked in the opening scene, Anna Paquin starts coughing in a Southern accent.
• My adolescent late-night-cable-nudity-seeker within must show some appreciation for how graphic and kinky the sex scenes are so far. No lights out, doors locked, missionary position stuff here. These couples are going for the acrobatic fucking gold.
• “Angelina Adopts Vampire Baby”: No doubt she’s hired a nanny to protect the necks of Knox Léon and Vivienne Marcheline.