Early episodes offer engaging characters, memorable dialogue, and social commentary.
So far, the new season of TRUE BLOOD, loosely based on Charlaine Harris’ novel Club Dead, has continued two trends of the Alan Ball’s series: it maintains the high quality of the previous seasons, and it gets further away from Harris’ original Sookie Stackhouse storyline.
For those new to TRUE BLOOD, a little background is in order. Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) – a telepathic waitress in Bon Ton, Louisiana – has fallen in love with Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), a vampire, who falls in love with her and saves her life. In the first season, we learned that vampires have revealed themselves and some have taken their place in society, subsisting on a blood substitute called Tru Blood rather than taking human lives as they have done for centuries. Not surprisingly, this exposes vampires to prejudice, including signs that declare, “God hates Fangs.” Additionally, vampires are exploited because their blood is used as the drug “V,” which gives humans extraordinary strength and healing power, creating a pricey, black market demand.
TRUE BLOOD’s second season extended the metaphor further in a subplot wherein Sookie’s brother Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) was recruited to become a “soldier of the son,” part of a religious group that intends to conduct a war on all vampirekind. The church kidnapped Godric, the maker of the local vampire sheriff Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard), causing Eric to take quite an interest in Sookie and her telepathic powers. At the climax of Season Two, Bill proposes to Sookie at a French restaurant; as she returns to their table to accept his proposal, Bill is kidnapped by some strangers.
The first episode of Season Three picks up where previous season left off: Sookie reports Bill missing to the local deputy, who seems neither terribly interested nor concerned. Meanwhile, Jason is consumed with guilt for having shot a serial killer. Jason’s new friend Deputy Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer), who has taken credit for the killing, advises him to act normal, telling the archetypical dumb jock, “Conscience off; dick on!”
Skarsgard’s female fans are treated to an early nude sex scene when Sookie goes to report Bill missing and finds Eric has been having sex with a tied up, foreign-speaking wench for hours. When Sookie reacts skeptically, he asks her, “Bill’s stamina not up to snuff?” Fans of the novels know that Sookie winds up marrying Eric, but as yet it is hard to say whether series creator Alan Ball will take the storyline in the same direction. Previously, Ball spared Tara’s cousin LaFayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis), who died at the end of the first novel; the flambouyant LaFayette has remained one of the series most lively characters, though he is still under Eric’s thumb, forced to sell “V” for the Louisiana vampire queen.
Meanwhile, Sookie’s boss Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) tracks down his actual family, the white trash Mickens. (In the books, Sam’s father shot his mother when he discovered she was a shape-shifter; in the TV series Sam’s real mother gave him up for adoption, but his adopted family rejected him once he started shapeshifting). Werewolves are a major element this season as the group that kidnapped Bill are revealed to be werewolves working under the command of the Vampire King of Mississippi (series newcomer Denis O’Hare). The king wants Bill to pledge fealty to him and reveal the Louisiana queen’s secrets; otherwise. he will take Sookie and turn her over to Lorena (Mariana Kloveno), Bill’s maker, who is still besotted with him (even though he greets her by throwing an oil lamp at her and setting her on fire). Unlike the recent THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE, TRUE BLOOD features true wolves rather than oversized CGI replicas.
TRUE BLOOD’s new season also introduces us to a new vampire, Franklin Mott (James Frain), who beds Tara and uses his hypnotic powers to milk her for information on Sookie and Bill. All at sea is Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), the young female vampire Bill made, who has discovered to her dismay that her vampire healing powers continually restore her hymen; with Bill missing, she is lacking the guidance she needs to function as a vampire. A life-changing event has also occurred for Terry (Todd Lowe) and Arlene (Carrie Preston): Arlene discovers she’s pregnant and tells a delighted Terry that he’s the father. Additionally, when the body of a man Jessica killed is discovered, Bud Dearborne (William Sanderson) decides that he’s had enough and quits his job as the town’s sheriff.
As in previous seasons, the episodes so far this summer have juggled several story lines while offering up engaging characters, memorable dialogue, social commentary, atmospheric photography, and other delights. In these days of vampire oversaturation, TRUEBLOOD remains a very welcome addition to the genre and an example of what a high-quality vampire series can be, putting its competitors to shame. It is easy to see why TRUE BLOOD has, after a shaky start in the ratings, become the most watched HBO series since THE SOPRANOS.
TRUE BLOOD (Season Three, 2010). Created by Alan Ball. Cast: Anna Paquin, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Chris Bauer, Nelsan Ellis, Carrie Preston, William Sanderson, Jim Parrack, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard