Monday, June 22, 2009

TV: True Blood Episode 1 & 2 Review/Wrap Up...

Ahhh, vampires. How you have a horrible cinematic history.

Actually, only recently has the cinematic outings involving the toothy beings have been popular, and the quality has been quite a mixed bag. For every brilliant piece of celluloid like Let The Right One In, we the people get simply mediocre pieces of lard like Twilight. That said, TV really hasn't had an upstanding vampire television show since Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Well, starting its second season, True Blood looks to add something to the blood sucking canon. And what an addition it is, and will be.

Here's what you need to know.

Based off of the best selling series of novels written by Charlaine Harris, True Blood follows the lives of Sookie Stackhouse (Rogue...uh...Anna Paquin), a mind reading waitress in a small Louisiana town, Bon Temps, who falls for Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), a 173 year old Vampire who happens to have an eye for Sookie as well. In the first season, along with following these two lovers and their tumultuous relationship, there has also been a rash of murders involving women who have had relations with vampires. This is the main mystery, and it all stems back to women who not only have relations with vampires, but also have had relations with Sookies six packed brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten). Near the end of the season, it is revealed that Rene, a friend of Jason's, is actually a guy named Drew Marshall, who simply had a fake Cajun accent.

Along with the overall plot of season one, they also hint at plots that will play out in the current season, the second of three planned as of this date. Bill, to save Sookie, was forced to turn a young girl, Jessica, into a vampire, and in turn has to have her live with him, as shes "too annoying", for fellow vampire Eric, to care for. Also, while sitting in prison, Jason decides that he should join an anti-vampire movement, the Fellowship of the Sun. Also, for Merlotte's owner Sam, a shape shifter, has a past "friend" return, named Maryanne, whose powers don't become known until this new season.

The last shot of season one involved a dead body, with simply a few painted toenails showing, and Sookie and Tara (Sookies bff, played by Rutina Wesley) screaming. Many people simply thought that was Tara's cousin, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), who was also openly gay. However, season 2 picks up at that very second, and to all of our surprise, it was not Lafayette. It was Miss Jeanette, who had performed an "exorcism" for Tara and her mother. Lafayette in turn has been kidnapped by the aforementioned Eric, and in the second episode, is for all accounts and purposes, being turned into a vampire.

Not much has really taken up yet in the season, but what is really nice about the first two episodes, is actually two fold. First, it's really heartening to see that, so far, the writers all seem to really understand where they want this season to go. Then, compared to the lackluster opening to the first season, to see the second season kick off with such a bang really has my hopes high.

A few things HAVE happened in the opening however, particularly in Bill and Sookie's relationship, and Jason and the G.O.D's relationship.

In the opening episode, Sookie discovers that Bill has been living, and will be living with another woman, who is not only younger, but quite the hot piece of ass Jessica. This throws Sookie off the deep end. However, she ends up taking him back, and in the following episode, begins to grow to really enjoy her company. That said, the end of the second episode leaves everything out in the open. Sookie brings Jessica to her families house, who have been on the hunt for her ever since her disappearance/turning. The episode ends with Bill telling Sookie to get the hell out of there, and both Bill and Jessica looking at confronting Jessica's father, who has been revealed to be quite abusive.

The other major storyline gets picked up primarily in the second episode. Jason is in full Jesus kick, and is now attending the Light of Day leadership camp, where he becomes the star pupil. Tara gets a lot more screen time, at least in comparison to the opening of season 1, as she is beginning to have some sort of romantic relationship with fellow "rehab" mate Eggs, and Maryanne has finally come out and shown us what her powers truly are. She "charms" people at Merlotte's Bar, and even charms Sam into turning into his shape shifting form, a Dog, all of which he is unable to control. That is the primary points that all should know, and for more information on the series, if you are interested, you can go to HBO, and actually watch the thing on Sunday nights at 9 pm.

To me, the best thing about this show, and the primary difference between this and its closest relative, Twilight, is both the female lead, and her relationship to the male lead. In Twilight, the female is completely mindless, and no matter the amount of shit she is given, she will still fawn for the guy who would kill her if he had the chance. However, in True Blood, Sookie has a mind of her own, and Bill does as well. Both have a deep love for each other, and they go through fights, just like any couple. If Bella saw Edward living with a sexy piece of ass, she would be all like, I'm down with that, if you would still have me Edward, all in a wide eyed puppy dog face. But instead, Sookie flips her lid, and tells Bill just what she thinks. It's a much easier role and performance to get attached to, and that, in turn, allows for the viewer to get much deeper into the twos relationship as a whole. Moyer is also stellar as the southern gentleman Bill, and really brings a lot of heart into a show that otherwise could play itself out, at least play as some sort of high class smut that HBO has pumped out like Entourage. Without these good performances, the show would be of the same quality of Entourage, just with deeper themes.

Those themes also really add a lot to the show. The biggest theme that the show deals with is gay rights. Vampirism is a play for gay rights, and in the show, it really works, particularly with the new addition of the new Jason storyline, bringing religion into the equation. It may be a bit up front and in your face, but in the second season, it seems to be played pretty straight, and rather subdued. It's most easily comparable to what Bryan Singer did with X-Men and X-2 as to what Brett Ratner did with the drek fest that was X-3. It lets the story breathe, while still playing with these themes, instead of forcing these themes upon the story, as Hackner did in X-3, with the addition of Angel, and other things.

However, to me, the true star of this in the setting. The show takes place in a small town in the deep south, which not only has more than its fair share of religious background and history, but the area also breathes style albeit particularly Gothic. It's a grungy little town with a bunch of distinct characters, and for these people to live in such a stylistically Gothic and rural area, is something much more fresh than the urban landscapes that rule television.

Finally, the opening credits. Can we just have a moment here to mention just how awesome these credits are. In the midst of just a minute and a half, you get an, albeit brief discussion of redemption, all wrapped in this stylish opening, to the tune of Bad Things by Jace Everett. The song oozes sexuality and really matches the shows grungy feeling. It's a raw, twangy tune that is a pitch perfect match for the show. Watch the opening titles below.

All in all, the show may not be the biggest intellectual boost, but it's not just mindless smut like many people have said. It deals with many issues that, while sometimes standard fodder for television, have rarely been done with such an entertaining and raw style, that this show is really a must see. It's a message filled tale of love, wrapped in a Gothic shell, and I personally love every second of it. So will you.

I will be posting my thoughts on True Blood after two new episodes have aired, and they will feature my thoughts on only those new episodes, and season two as a whole. For my thoughts on season one, come back to this post, or check out my previous True Blood discussions by clicking on the True Blood tag below.

Go see something good!

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