Mania Review: True Blood -

Mania Grade: B

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  • TV Series: True Blood
  • Episode: She's Not There
  • Starring: Anna Paquine, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Nelsan Ellis, and Rutina Wesley
  • Written by: Alexander Woo
  • Directed by: Michael Lehmann
  • Network: HBO
  • Series:

Mania Review: True Blood

The season premiere has arrived.

By Rob Vaux     June 27, 2011

True Blood
© HBO/Robert Trate

 True Blood thrives because it doesn’t allow its season-long gimmicks to rest on their laurels. While other shows might, say, throw werewolves into the mix to juice ratings – then sputter when they can’t figure out what the hell to do with them – this show works them into a compelling arc that makes them welcome new additions to its Gothic universe.

The new season continues that tradition on a number of fronts: briefly with the faeries who carried Sookie (Anna Paquin) off at the end of last year’s run, but mainly with the coven of witches who Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) finds himself joining. They seem benevolent, even a little befuddled. But they hold real power in their hands that might bring trouble to both the human and vampire residents of Bon Temps. “She’s Not There” reveals them with typical elegance, using an established character as a guide and displaying an unwillingness to overwhelm us with too many details. It helps to have Fiona Shaw serving as the coven’s de facto leader, who talks to spirits and may even be able to raise her parrot from the dead (with Lafayette’s help).  Shaw is an absolutely fearless actress – in good performances and bad – and the role benefits from the right amount of crazy-eyed nuttiness on her part. (It’s also kind of cool to see Harry Potter’s Aunt Petunia actually practicing magic.)

The show’s other big development displays much more lost potential, however. After arriving in Faery Land – a sort of glowing porn shoot with beautiful people lolling about in skimpy clothes – Sookie soon parses something deeply wrong with the situation and makes her way to the nearest exit. The sequence embodies True Blood at its loopy best, so far off the map that it seemingly comes from another planet. It nails the notion that faeries are dangerous creatures (I cannot emphasize this enough people: if you ever find yourself in a mystical land of wonder and enchantment, do not eat the fruit), as well as providing a neat plot wrinkle when Sookie comes home a year after she left, despite only being gone for a few minutes.

Once that initial impression fades, however, the episode does absolutely nothing with the concept. Sookie’s back, everyone’s aged, but it doesn’t seem to hold any purpose besides cutting out some tedious exposition. Considering that it delivered last season’s major cliffhanger, and considering that Sookie’s faerie blood has become a serious plot point, we needed a little more than this arbitrary wrap up. (True Blood played the same trick with Bill’s abduction at the end of Season Two.)

On the plus side, Sookie’s absence gives the show an opportunity to advance the characters into far more interesting places. Bill (Stephen Moyer) now serves as king of Louisiana, giving him something cool to do besides moon at his lady love all day. Tara (Rutina Wesley) finally finds a healthy outlet for her anger as a low-rent UFC fighter, while Jason (Ryan Kwanten) appears to have cleaned up his act and now serves as a formal deputy in the sheriff’s department. Perhaps most interestingly, Arlene (Carrie Preston) has had the baby – the one she fears is evil – and comes home to find him popping the heads off of dolls.  That kind of over-the-top notion keeps this show from slipping into the doldrums and makes tuning in as compulsively irresistible as ever.

The trick, of course, is whether it can develop all these plot threads properly. In seasons past, some of them inevitably served as space filler, and while this batch looks promising, they may eventually collapse upon themselves.  Indeed, the larger number of subplots gives “She’s Not There” a very cluttered feeling, and as usual we need to wait to see if the excess narrative merits tuning in. But that’s business as usual with True Blood, and in previous seasons it’s always come through.  Genre television enters a fairly turbulent summer, with comparatively few dependable stalwarts to see us through in case the new fish don’t pan out. True Blood is one of them, and from the looks of things, it doesn’t plan on letting us down.


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wish 6/27/2011 2:07:04 PM

I was actually expecting an over-the-top scene of violence or a big bloody scene of some kind, that wouldve been .......true.......blood.............true blood.............

Pretty weird season premiere, but it's good to have it back, I'll never get over how insanely hot Anna Paquin is..........just gorgeous...........but Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica) has got to be one of the prettiest girls in the world right now!!  As usual Erik is proving to be the most interesting character already, but I have to say the normally boring Bill Compton seems to have an interesting story this year!  Andy and Jason are awesome, and it's good to see Sam a little gritty, his whiny character from the first season was annoying and lame.  I would have gladly waved goodbye to Rutina Wesley's character of Tara, but her GF is fuckin smokin!  And the scene with them playing on the bed was just pure candy!  It's nice to see the "other" gays go at it for a change, I could go this season without seeing 2 guys kiss..........but that won't happen.........

So they've strayed quite a bit from the books during the series, but if what I've heard about them basing this off the 4th book, then it promises to be the best season yet!!  Here's hoping anyway.......

hanso 6/27/2011 2:07:41 PM

"It nails the notion that faeries are dangerous creatures"   That sounds like something Mel Gibson would say.

HunterRose 6/27/2011 3:09:01 PM

 Never trust a fairy....

Was going to download last night's episode, but my fanatical True Blood book reading friend told me the episode sucked. Glad Game of Thrones stayed true to the books and didn't jump the shark like TB did.

Since I never read the TB books, I rather enjoyed the series so far. So tell me manias, compared to the books, how far has HBO strayed away from the source material?

MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 6/27/2011 3:16:38 PM

They strayed way far and I know that without reading them. Lafayette didn't make it past book one and Bill should be out of the picture wholly by now but I don't see how that matters much since they never planned to follow the books that much. I mean as long as the show is good - which it is - it doesn't really matter. I think somebody told me that they follow the basic premise of the books but it's more of a "What If" scenario if anything.

I already caught the second episode on HBOGo. It was way better than this ep - which I thought was pretty good. The only gripe I have is that the witches look like something out of a kiddy, Disney movie. But, oh well.

TheMovieGuy28 6/27/2011 4:33:56 PM

So, I've not read the books, only watched the series since day 1, and I was extremely disappointed. Things I take issue with now it's a year later? wtf? That leaves zero tension, everything that happened last year is boiled over...

...hoyt & jessica. So they've made it a year and now she's starting to want another man, or to drain peeps again? Faaack.

....Hoy's mom & Sam's brother??? Two characters I never liked to begin with, and now the little bro is some nice cleaned up project for Missus Hoyt?

....oh, nice. Sam just is taking some anger management classes and it's a throwaway line. And btw, who finds classes with women like that? I wanna take some.....but the entire arc from last year now seems wasted....

....Tara!?!?! Are you kidding me? Now she's some lesbian mma fighter? I kept waiting for them to do something with her to make me enjoy her character, but she's always been a whiny complainer. now Bill is, y'know,? I mean come on, they left that scene on such a cliffhanger, why couldn't we have learnt more about it?

....the fact that the "sneak peek" from last week or two weeks ago was basically the first 20 minutes of the show, effing blew.

.....oh yeah, how else could I forget? So now Jason is a cop after being guarenteed he wouldn't be by Andy, who now has his own issues with something? And in a year, Jason couldn't have cleaned up or gotten the refugee farm a little more liveable?

The only thing semi-cool thing was the fact that the faeries put you under a type of glam too, and are really some nasty skanky lookin things. The head fairy reminds me of Sandra Bernard or Sandal bergman, whoever wasn't the Queen in Red Sonja, but was the millionaire thief wife in Hudson Hawk.

This series better pick up fast. Season 2 was epic, season 3 just had too much going on, and now it seems like season 4 is going to be just as fattened in fact I forgot about Terry, Luanne, and the renee baby

TheMovieGuy28 6/27/2011 4:36:03 PM

*arlene not luanne...

MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 6/27/2011 4:39:39 PM

They explain most of that stuff in episode two MG. You can watch it on HBOGo. But about Jason not keeping that place better. Well, he was never the brightest bulb.

hanso 6/27/2011 4:50:50 PM

 MovieGuy, you don't have to put spoilers in reviews my friend.  The people reading it have seen the show and if they haven't its their fault for being in a place they don't belong :)

As far as your concerns over the episode, i see a lot of them are due to the time jump.  Like Mr. Jaw mentioned some of them get brought up in episode 2.  I'm sure they will reveal more as we go along the season.  

And how can you not enjoy a lesbian MMA fighter?  Did you not see the scene they were making out!?  Great entertainment right there yo.

gauleyboy420 6/27/2011 5:13:13 PM

I thought it was a good episode. And YES the favorite part was Tara "fighting" with her partner. Whats the deal with the actreess that plays Tara? How is she the only one not giving us the goods?

ANYWAY, good episode, Jumped the Shark? Seriously, because it doesn't follow the books it's Jumped the Shark? Fanboys...

Also, I still hate the overusage of the term "Jumped the shark"


TheMovieGuy28 6/27/2011 7:03:33 PM

lol, Hanso I hear ya, but after a crazy run-in with someone complaining on me spilling the beans even though I said SPOILER, ya just never know.

And eh, after 4 years, seeing Tara jump Jason, Sam & Beans, I wasn't all woo-hooin her with her new fling/flame/episode filler.

Galley, I don't know if it's jumped the shark. But it may have drank a corpse (as vampires can't drink blood from dead corpses and will die horribly).

And the HBO go thing is a bunch of crap! I'm not saying I hate it, I just hate the idea of the 2nd episode already being there. Eventually they'll just film the entire season, and seek to release them through individual pay methods.

Which brings me (briefly) to a complaint-society is moving way too fast. Or at least technology is. All those commercials about the newest thing now already being old because the newer thing is out, it's coming true.

I mean, sure, cable shows used to reveal a few minutes here and there of next week's episode sneek peek style, but having a full brand new episode up and running a week before a regular subscriber gets it? Boo! Boo I Say!

I think that's what's happened to all the summer blockbusters this year. Every weekend it's been the next big thing, and maybe that's why nothing is really blowing stuff away.

At least Transformers gets two full weeks before Harry shows up

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