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True Blood – Turn! Turn! Turn!

And we are back! Season five of True Blood kicked off last night in a somewhat interesting fashion, bringing us back up to speed with where we left off and then doing very little to push the story past the season four finale. For those of you with memories as bad as mine, the behemoth “Previously, on True Blood” reminded us all that Bill and Eric killed Nan, Alcide and Sam mixed it up with Marcus, Lafayette has the power and was forced into killing Jesus, Steve Newlin is a vampire, the Bellefleurs’ house burned down, Debbie is dead because she shot Tara in the head, just about the most dangerous vampire in all of existence is back from the concrete grave that the King and his Sheriff put him in and most importantly to some, Sookie broke up with Bill and Eric. 

So begins the season. We picked up slightly before the shocking end to last season’s finale so we could see Bill and Eric’s reaction to the danger that Debbie put Sookie in shortly before she bought it. For once, I was actually pleasantly surprised with an element of the trio’s relationship, as Eric seemingly convinced Bill that after she broke it off with them, they really didn’t need to care about her anymore, regardless of mortal peril. Sadly, Bill couldn’t contain himself for more than a few seconds and that put both he and Eric squarely in the hands of The Authority, with whom they are no longer on speaking terms. Their capture sparked what was, despite its brevity, arguably the best plot thread of the premiere and what is no doubt going to be the central thread of the entire season. 

It’s no secret that there are elements of The Authority that haven’t wholeheartedly agreed with the direction that the AVL is headed, but it was until now kept from us that one of those with questionable loyalty was Nora, Eric’s sister. After Bill and Eric staged an unnecessary escape, Nora informed the two that their capture was just a way for her to safely get them away from The Authority. Before they went to ground for the night, Alcide conveniently got word of Russell’s return to Eric, news that the King and his Sheriff are sorely going to need after their short-lived freedom was somehow brought to a bloody end. 

As I said, it was a brief thread, but the not-so-great escape does have great promise for the season ahead. Logic would dictate that now would be a perfect time to show us some of the vampire politics that never really came into fruition after their introduction last year. With Russell back from the chains, The Authority has as big a problem as Bill and Eric do and alliances between the better of two evils should be on the horizon. Nora’s betrayal of The Authority should also make for something interesting; she’s been on-screen for all of two minutes, but I can’t imagine that a character would come into the story in such a way just to be given the true death moments later. Whilst much of the season will no doubt be Bon Temps contained as per usual, we seem to be in for a slightly grander scale clash between Bill, Eric, Russell and The Authority with no clear victor(s) in sight.

Rewind to the opening credits and important story number two has its time to shine. I will freely admit that I loved the season four finale, not least of all because Tara got shot in the head. She and Lafayette are both ridiculous and often annoying characters, but at least Lafayette is funny. Tara has been the bane of True Blood’s existence for quite some time, so when we rejoined her lifeless body in Sookie’s arms, I was horrified to discover that Pam showed up just in time to make a deal with Sookie in exchange for turning Tara from dead to undead. The scene itself worked wonders for the episode because Pam combines humor with threat like no other, but what it’s going to lead to, I doubt I’m going to like.

There is definitely potential for Tara being turned to create a dynamic between several of our key players that benefits the show as a whole, but the post-episode season promo seems to suggest that Tara is going to become an angry badass instead of a conflicted newborn. Tara really doesn’t like vampires and so self-loathing seems like a logical step for her to take, and as much as I’d hate to listen to her whine, it’s preferable to yet another “Look at me, I’m a vampire and I’m awesome.” With Russell’s return, we’re geared up for bloody death left, right and center. I don’t think we really need much more. Then again, all of that is speculation based on a few short clips, so there may be hope yet.

As I said earlier, the approach to the episode was somewhat interesting and it was the rest of the screen time’s apportionment that made that so. The two key storylines of the episode saw only a few minutes each and Russell Edgington was nowhere to be seen. Instead, we got to see the outcome of Steve Newlin’s return, Sam and Alcide’s antics and a fair amount of Scott Foley. Whilst all three storylines worked and were more than watchable, I don’t really know why they got the screen time that they did—a familiar problem carried over from season four. Taking Steve Newlin’s return as an example, the result of the scenes involving him was essentially nothing at all. At best, he provided a reason for Jason to go and talk to Jessica, which he could have and would have done anyway. 

Speaking of the lovers, the approach to their story was less than desirable as we seem to be in for a season of two people who work well together being kept apart for the sake of time-sucking melodrama. On a similarly stupid note, we spent some time with the Bellefleurs as we got to know Terry’s former platoon leader Patrick, who came with the news that the fire that burned down their house was not the first to happen to someone in their squad. If we are to take the threat of a serial arsonist as real and something that we’re supposed to want to watch, then we’re in for a murder mystery of characters that we’ve never met nor care about. Worse still, it would nullify the entire ridiculous ghost/monster baby storyline from last year. Stupid, right? There is no way this turns out well.

The one redeeming sub-plot came from Sam trying to deal with the aftermath of Marcus’ death, but even that was a little overdone. After trying to deny his involvement in the pack leader’s disappearance, Sam turned himself over to the werewolves as Marcus’ killer in an attempt to spare Luna and Emma from harm. To seal the deal he lead the grieving pack to the body just in time for Alcide to show up and admit that he was the killer, creating more than a bit of tension in the now leaderless pack. The story was interesting; it’s cool and it’s going somewhere, but it ran just a bit too long, considering what else could be done with the time. 

All in all, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was a fairly good premiere that showed promise for the season to come. True Blood will never get its timing right and will far too often begin subplots that no one cares about, but it gets some of its colossal viewership for reasons other than Alexander Skarsgård. I will likely remain skeptical about the season until it’s actually over, given how last year went, but there’s definitely a chance that things are on the rise.

Rating
7.8

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