Thursday, June 10, 2010

Claws and fangs: Reviewing the new season of HBO's "True Blood"

HBO's weird, wild fantasy drama "True Blood" is not unlike a carnival. It's bright, a little unsettling, and contains something for almost everyone. Just as some carnival goers might dig the midway and despise the Ferris wheel, "True Blood" fans, more likely than not, enjoy some aspects of the this occasionally over-stuffed show more than others.

For instance, you might like the show's gory vampire attacks, while being un-thrilled with the lush romantic scenes between telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). Or you might love the show's rollicking sexuality, but be bored to tears by its exploration of vampire politics.
The fact is, there's so much going on in this show, it's easy to find something you like. Of course, it's equally likely that there will be plenty of things that make you nuts. Judging from the three episodes I've seen of "True Blood's" third season (which starts Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO), this season promises to be just as fun, and maddening, as the first two.
The new season picks up where season two left off, with a hysterical Sookie wondering who kidnapped her beloved Bill. Meanwhile, Sookie's friend Tara (Rutina Wesley)  is reeling from the violent death of her former partner in Maenad-influenced love, Eggs. Shape-shifter Sam (Sam Trammell) is on his way to find his birth parents. And, baby vamp Jessica (the hilarious and adorable Deborah Ann Woll) is dealing with the pitfalls of disobeying Bill and feeding on a human.
There's a lot going on and, to make matters even more chaotic, this season introduces a slew of new characters, including werewolves, a British vampire and Alfre Woodard. Without spoiling anything, let's just say that, as always, some things work, and some REALLY don't.
I'm already tired of a story involving Sookie's brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and his guilt over killing Eggs (and letting Chris Bauer's Andy take the blame). Meanwhile, the werewolf stuff is more weird than enthralling at this point, and I run hot and cold on the character of Tara every season. However, she usually shares screen-time with one of the show's best characters, the flamboyant, drug-dealing cook Lafayette (Nelson Ellis, who continues to be a real find). Woodard, by the way, plays Lafayette's mom. Not sure where they're going with her character, but her one scene in the first three episodes is both funny and heart-breaking.
Other things I like include the new character of Franklin, a mysterious vamp played by James Frain. And, as always, I'm sucked in by anything involving Eric (Alexander Skarsgard, the show's break-out sex symbol), the ancient vamp whose lust for Sookie occasionally drives him to make unwise decisions. There's a lot of good Eric stuff so far, as he balances helping Sookie with her quest to find Bill and his various business ventures. As a bonus, the show has finally started developing the character of Eric's sidekick Pam (Kristin Bauer Van Straten). I doubt she'll ever have quite the depth that she does in Charlaine Harris's novels, but this season she does get to do more than spew one-liners.
"True Blood" isn't perfect but it never bores me. Like a carnival, it sometimes leaves me feeling dizzy, nauseous and overwhelmed. But I'm always entertained.


einnoczg said...

i agree with your comment about pam - she is way too underutilized.

The Colonel said...

It's the perfect summertime show. Sultry, sweaty, sensationalistic. It's a gourmet bbq where everyone is impossibly good-looking and naked.