Tuesday, December 12
TV

True Blood Season 3, Episode 1: " Bad Blood" Review

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HBO’s offbeat adult vampire tale True Blood is its most-watched series since The Sopranos. Vampires are hot right now, but True Blood‘s vampires are the hottest of them all. True Blood’s hotly anticipated third season is here in all its sexy, bloody glory.

“Bad Blood” begins just where last season’s finale ended. The premiere episode may have felt a little scattered, but given the size of the cast and the number of story lines to cover, it was a wise choice to bring some of those stories closer to home and have more of the character interaction that makes the show such fun. The fragmented feel of last season’s story lines–the maenad and Tara over here, Jason and the Fellowship of the Sun over there, Sookie and Bill somewhere else entirely–needed to be reined in a bit.

Though the stories may have been reined in, the gore and sex certainly weren’t. Watching Bill’s human captors sharing his blood around like frat boys at a kegger and meeting Eric’s newest playmate in very flagrante delicto within the first few minutes of the show were signs that creator Alan Ball is only going to ramp things up from here.

One of the joys of True Blood is its compelling cast. Watching Jessica stumble over her transformation from awkward good girl to powerful creature of the night is weirdly touching, and Deborah Ann Woll plays her just right whether she’s agonizing over what she’s done to her truck-stop victim, baffled at dealing with the mess, or melting at the sound of Hoyt’s voice. Maybe by next week, poor Jessica will have figured out how to dispose of bodies. Tru-Blood may not taste as good, but at least the empties are recyclable.

Hoyt may not have much good to say about his mama, but she raised him right. Not many men would holler a courteous, “Nice meetin’ y’all!” to a one night stand as she’s fleeing the house after hearing Jason Stackhouse’s creepy confession that all he sees is a bullet hole in her head. As for Jason, he gets all the best lines; it’s a pity none of them are printable here. Andy’s advice to Jason about keeping his conscience off and other parts of his anatomy on was another (and equally unquotable) brilliant bit of wisdom. I’m surprised at how much I’ve come to like Andy.

In fact, my one problem with that story line is what it’s done to Tara. Tara once had a sharp wit and a strong sense of self-preservation. Now she’s a weepy, suicidal mess over a guy she’d known for a few weeks, most of which she spent under the spell of a maenad? As good an actress as Rutina Wesley is, even she can’t make me believe she’d curl up and cry on her mother’s lap, especially given her rocky relationship with dear old Mom. Wesley is radiant when she smiles, but it’s a shame that the writers don’t want to give her character anything to smile about. Lafayette’s been through ten times worse and still has both his spine and his sense of humor.

Bill and Sookie remain True Blood‘s center. Weirdly, they’re often better apart than they are together despite the real life relationship between Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin. Bill’s at his best when he’s worried for his own safety instead of fretting about Sookie’s safety, while Sookie’s search for the kidnapped Bill lets Paquin show off some of the Stackhouse spirit she’s supposed to have. Maybe if she isn’t glued to Bill this season, we can enjoy more of the excellent scenes she used to have with other characters. It’s a nice touch that her house is still a wreck, though maybe she’s just broke; it’s hard to keep a job when you’re constantly taking sick days to chase maenads out of your house or infiltrate an anti-vampire hate group.

Aside from Tara’s sad decline, the only other negative that “Bad Blood” had for me is the addition of werewolves. I know a lot of people seem to think vampires and werewolves go together like coffee and doughnuts, but to me the pairing is more like dogs and fleas. It’s a personal gripe, but I’m not looking forward to werewolves in True Blood even though I know we’ve already met other supernatural critters like Sam the sometimes-dog and Sookie herself. Supernatural creatures are not frightening when they can be fended off by throwing a stick and yelling “Fetch!”

Besides, haven’t I heard about another unaccountably popular story involving vampires and werewolves? Then again, True Blood is its own sexy, dirty beast; I’m sure the vampires-and-werewolves theme will be much more grown up on HBO than it ever could be in Twilight.

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