Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

True Blood: “Who Are You, Really?”

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True Blood’s storytelling style has forced the show to back itself into this weird corner where season premieres and finales don’t really mean anything. Traditional season-long story arcs are almost a thing of True Blood past; now, the story just keeps churning, episode after episode, season after season, with only the expected weekly cliffhanger to delineate one episode from the next. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if the continuing storylines were consistently interesting, but if this season six premiere is any indication, most of them seem to be overstaying their welcome.

One of the more successful stories last season was Bill’s death and resurrection as some sort of Bill/Lilith monster hybrid being, and that continues to be the most interesting thing happening here. Season five left off with Eric and Sookie on the run from naked bloody Billith—with Nora, Tara, Pam, Jessica, and Jason fighting from the outside of the Authority compound—and season six picks up right here, spending an inordinate amount of time getting everyone free, safe, and back to Bon Temps where the more compelling action occurs. The big question—just what exactly is Bill now?—seems to be the big mystery the show is posing for the season, and the premiere does a decent job of setting up everyone’s allegiances. Jessica, influenced by her sire bond, is the only one truly on Bill’s side, while everyone else is a bit too freaked out by his whole death, resurrection, and sudden immortality to consider him anything but a threat.

Yes, because Billith isn’t just some sort of vampire Jesus come to absolve bloodsuckers from all their sins, he’s also seems to have resurrected with telekinetic powers and is impossible to kill. For all the tedious beats it took for the premiere to get there (someone in the writers room thinks Nora is far more interesting than she actually is), the emotional payoff of Sookie staking Bill to save Eric and Eric’s subsequent graciousness was decently earned. The Sookie-and-Eric-as-lovers storyline was horribly handled, but bringing them to a more mature place here as friends is good for the show, especially if they are going to be forced to work together to figure out how to deal with Billith.

The premiere also dives into a bit of the human vs. vampire political story that frustratingly lived around the margins all last season. With the TruBlood factories sabotaged and vampires killing more humans just to survive, the Governor of Louisiana declares sanctions on vampires, instituting a curfew and the shutdown of all vampire-owned businesses in order to save human lives. Relations between vampires and humans on a larger scale has always been the most interesting thing True Blood completely ignores, preferring to deal with it on a more individual character level, so any indication they’re ready to delve into it on a macro level is a good thing. It helps that Governor Burrell (Arliss Howard) is a fun little political snake, using the TruBlood shortage to his advantage to pair with the manufacturer and make some money on the side. The vampire politics of last season were ultimately a boring slog—but will the human politics be better?

Dragging anything interesting in the above storylines down into the depths of despair, however, is the rest of the show. True Blood’s insistence that the werewolf storylines are anything but an interminably boring excuse to strip Joe Maganiello down to his birthday suit is at the point of being laughable. In this premiere Alcide accepts his place as pack leader—which he does by ingesting human flesh while in his human form, which is disgusting—and then has a threesome. Mostly off camera. That’s the whole story! Werewolves are the redneck id of True Blood, all eating and fucking and killing in the most uninteresting way possible, and that shows no sign of changing here.

Also sadly uninteresting is Andy and the saga of his half-fae babies. Andy has been relegated to comic relief storylines for the past few seasons, when he probably should just be comic relief within someone else’s storylines instead. Basically, Andy is a likeable character who has no business having full plotlines of his own (a problem that plagues the show as a whole). The problem is Andy agonizing over how he’s going to raise babies when he knows nothing about children isn’t really about Andy as a character: It’s all in service of the surprise shocker ending, when his “babies” are suddenly toddlers who can walk and talk and terrorize everyone with their rapid aging abilities. Oh, my kingdom for a supernatural baby story where the baby grows at a normal rate!


Finally, there’s Jason. Walking a weird, thin line between interesting and dire, Jason’s sudden hatred of vampires upon learning his parents were killed by Lilith progeny Warlow is a head-scratcher. Jason is a strange character because the show actively rejects any sort of defined evolution for him; instead, it’s more like the show decides a story it wants to tell and then slots Jason into that story, character consistency be damned. Considering most of Jason’s new vampire hate is due to the ghostly influence of his dead parents—and we have no idea where this influence is actually coming from—there’s a chance all of this is some sort of manipulation, something using these apparitions to influence Jason. It’s just as likely, though, that the show wants to tell a fun ghost story and make Jason mad at vampires again, whether it makes sense or not. Ryan Kwanten is always game for anything the writers throw him, so at least whatever happens, it promises to be marginally entertaining.

But that’s the whole frustration with True Blood. It doesn’t follow the “rules” of traditional television storytelling, resisting clear season-long arcs, playing fast and loose with characterization, and continuing stories long past when they’ve overstayed their welcome. This was all fine in earlier seasons when the show did this all in the name of fun, but what happens when the fun runs out and leaves this sort of boring, shapeless mess in its wake? All that True Blood needs to be to justify its continued existence—all anyone has ever asked—is that the show be fun. Sexy, violent, crude, snarky fun. The problem is that the fun is getting harder and harder to find.


Stray observations:

  • Nora is pointless. Please go away, Nora.
  • Is Bill possessed by four naked Lilith’s now? That was confusing.
  • So Luna is dead and Sam is raising her daughter? I’m sure the wolf pack will be really happy when they find out.
  • Pam and Tara’s relationship is evolving into a romantic one, and I’m not sure this is a great thing. Their interactions were some of the best parts of last season, so to toy with that dynamic so quickly seems rash.