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True Blood is back to solidify its position as one of the most popular shows on TV. Last season had ratings of around 12.5 million a week, which made it the second most watched HBO production after The Sopranos. But can it continue to wow and surprise, or has True Blood lost its bite?
First a quick recap for those, like me, who have the memory of a drunken old woman. There are a multitude of details that I won’t mention, but these are the salient pieces of information that will certainly be important for the upcoming season:
– Bill proposed to Sookie, but before she can say yes to him he is kidnapped.
– Eric is under orders by the Queen of Louisiana to kidnap Bill due to his inside knowledge of her V business, but an unknown gang gets him first.
– Jason shot Eggs in the head when he attacked Andy Bellefleur with a knife. Andy is subsequently taking the blame for Eggs’ death and Jason escapes unseen.
– Maryann is killed by Sam’s hand after he used Bills blood to heal a fatal wound.
– Sam is now looking for his biological parents and has their names and an old address.
Bad Blood begins right where the season 2 finale left off. We might have been going about our meagre lives for the last 9 months but for Sookie and co. things are right where we left them. Before the opening credits role, we get a speed run through all of the major characters, to set the scene and remind us of their situations. Sookie runs outside the restaurant distressed and confused. She is convinced that Bill has been taken, but it quickly becomes clear that a disappearing vampire is not high priority for the police in Louisiana. Her conversation with the police officer cleverly mirrors the discrimination that was once common place for interracial couples. The parallels between race and politics have always been strong and it appears this season will be no different.
Meanwhile, Jason is frantically try to get his head around the fact that he has just killed a man and is clearly having a crisis of conscience. We first see Jessica returning from the events witnessed in her minisode, as she picks up roses left by Hoyt, whilst dragging a dying man that she has clearly been having a bit of nibbling fun with. Sam is on the road trying to find answers surrounding his origins and more importantly, why it is he can shape-shift and finally Bill is being fed on by some V-junkies, who when asked, describe themselves simply as ‘The Fuck You Crew’. Catchy.
These snippets are an excellent way of throwing us straight back into the world of monsters and right-wing politics, even though a slew of information is thrown at us within a very short space of time, it never feels overwhelming and by the time we hear Jace Everett’s Bad Things, I felt right at home and was suitably excited for what promises to be an explosive set of storylines.
I’ll focus on the main plot first, just because I know that’s what I was most interested in. Bill is quick to escape his captors, perhaps a little too quick. He appears to begin to glamour the leader, although we never witness this, and next time we return to the car the silver chain round his throat has vanished and he is able to break the driver’s neck. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to see his escape and although it enabled the story to move along swiftly, it felt like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Eric is having problems of his own. We learn that he had not been successful in kidnapping Bill, which leaves us wondering who the men in the car are. The Queen and the Magister [The Magister is a vampire who was responsible for administering justice across all vampire territories of North America] pays Eric a visit to talk about a recent rise in the distribution of V in their area. The Magister is concerned that vampires maybe selling their own blood and wants a speedy resolution to the problem. When he leaves, the Queen makes it clear that their little business venture must come to an end. In doing so she reveals her enormous physical strength as a vampire and also some sizable fangs, which make Eric’s look like milk teeth. I’m inclined to believe that Eric will somehow outmanoeuvre the Queen with intellect, as he is clearly no match for her power. My bet is that the Magister will deal out a little bit of biblical justice and have her publicly executed, but the question is will Eric or Bill sell her out?
I was not a fan of the Maryann/sex zombie plot and was really glad to see her go. This makes room for development with Jessica and especially Sam, who for me, definitely provokes the most interest. Well, if this first episode is anything to go by, I shall definitely not be disappointed. Jessica is in a state of turmoil. To let off steam, she went to a bar to pick up a stranger, however, being a vampire and all, sex was never what was on the [not so] proverbial plate. Now, regretting her spur-of-the-moment rebellion, she is now desperately trying to save the guy’s life. Watching her hide the body, like a teenager trying to hide a packet of cigarettes from their parents, is as awkward as it is funny and it’s clear her character is teetering on the precipice of morality. Which side she falls on seems to lie in the hands of the gentle giant Hoyt.
Jessica’s character is the perfect portrayal of a teenage girl who has had her sexuality and vampirism thrust upon her like a punch to the face. It is interesting watching the mix of post-pubescent rebellion and murderous bloodlust, especially due to how appropriate it always feels. Even though she is a monster that spends much of each episode with streaks of blood smeared down her cheeks, she is still incredibly endearing to the audience and the show should be commended for balancing this so effectively.
Equally, Sam is given plenty of screen time as he closes in on his real parents and the more he uncovers, the more he realises he was probably better off without them. Eventually, after following the trail from town to town, he discovers that he may have a brother by the name of Tommy that works at a garage not far away. On confronting a young man by the same name, he is told that the person he is looking for has moved on, but it is apparent to both the audience and Sam that this may not be true. The last time we see Sam, he has followed Tommy home and is staring at mail addressed to the same names that his adoptive parents had scribbled on a note. It doesn’t take much imagination to work out that Sam’s real family is going to have their own box of tricks, but will they be the same as Sam’s, or have they managed to harness their gifts and develop their powers?
Bet you thought I’d overlook possibly the most homo-erotic thing I’ve ever watched on TV (that I’ll admit to in public anyway). Having drank Bill’s blood, it has had some rather… interesting [read gay] side-effects. Bill turns up at Sam’s Motel room topless and in need of a shower. Right up until the moment that Bill asked if Sam would like to join him, I was questioning whether this was real or not. The clincher came when Bill exclaimed:
“It should be a lot of fun. I hear the water in Arkansas is very… hard“.
Cue audible cringing and/or flashbacks of your own secretly gay Bill Compton dreams. As you’ll remember from Eric and Sookie’s intimate moment, once a human feeds on a vampire, they begin to develop strong feelings for them. Well, it appears that the attraction does not respect the boundaries of sexual preference. It was a great bit of awkward humour that we don’t often see in True Blood and I do hope they develop it. Other light relief comes from Jason, as he tries to act normal (like a dog on heat) so as not to arouse suspicion. He pulls some moves and quickly has two girls willing to do just about anything for him (we all know how that feels). But Jason’s little soldier wont stand to attention, because everyone he looks at has a bullet hole in their head. Still it could be worse (Oh Bill Compton, why do you confuse me so?)
I’ll only briefly mention Tara and Lafayette, only because I found their sections the least interesting. Tara is whining again; this time justifiably, but it still grates, due to how many outburst her character seems to have per episode. Her mother’s back to perpetuate the cycle of religious acrobatics and systematic neglect, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen in previous seasons. We know how this story ends.
Anyway, back to the good stuff. So who the hell kidnapped Bill? At first we are led to believe that they are merely V-heads that have taken him for his blood, but when Sookie finally finds Bill’s overturned car, there is only one body. After Bill has sucked on a little old lady (it’s ok he gave her some cash and a stroke on the cheek afterward), he walks into the woods whilst Jessica and Sookie research a symbol on the body by his car, that reveals a kind of Werewolf gang may be involved (I want that iPhone app.). We don’t have long to ponder that little mystery as Bill is surrounded by 5 or 6 wolves with crazy eyes and decidedly un-adorable snarled teeth. It’s at this point the episode ends.
If you’ve read anything at all about the 3rd season you will have known that Werewolves would be involved somewhere along the line. This made the reveal a little bit of a dull trophy, but it was still a nice little cliffhanger to set up the next episode.
To be honest, I would have like to see a two-parter to open the season, due to the fact that much of Bad Blood felt like a recap of characters and situations. There was some excellent groundwork done and the set-up for an excellent set of plot lines has been performed. However, the big cliff-hanger of Bills kidnapping wasn’t really given enough attention and could have used an episode of its own.
Still a great opener to the 3rd season and there is definitely a lot of different stories to be told, including Jessica struggling with her waning humanity and Sam meeting his supernatural(?) family. Eric still seems to have it out for Bill who‘s currently a little tied up with a Werewolf gang. Also, one other awesome thing to look forward to, is the possible loss of Tara. Although I suspect we are going to see Lafayette use his stash of V to bring her back, in fact, let’s be honest, that is definitely what’s going to happen. Hey, who cares? True Blood is back and we get to see vampires, blood, and bare flesh all without even the hint of a saccharin sweet teenage soap opera. I hate you Twilight… but I love you Bill Compton. Anyone fancy a shower?