Mania TV Review: True Blood -

Mania Grade: B+

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  • TV Series: True Blood
  • Episode: I'm Alive and on Fire
  • Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Sam Trammell, Rutina Wesley and Nelsan Ellis
  • Written by: Nancy Oliver
  • Directed by: Michael Lehmann
  • Network: HBO
  • Series:

Mania TV Review: True Blood

The bite gets sharper.

By Rob Vaux     July 17, 2011

True Blood
© HBO/Robert Trate

True Blood picked up its game this week, investing bad subplots with a modicum of interest and ensuring that the good ones kept rolling right along. The show’s nominal ADD attention span continued, but no one should be surprised that they keep jumping back and forth between key characters at this point. At least we’re jumping to something interesting most of the time.
The biggest uptick in quality comes with Jason (Ryan Kwanten), who finally escapes from his captors and fights off his pursuers en route to safety. Or so he thinks. As the show’s superfluous appendix, he rarely generates much interest, so whenever he does anything that merits our attention, it stands out. “I’m Alive and on Fire” pulls a similar feat with both Sam (Sam Trammell) and his brother Tommy (Marshall Allman), thanks to some twists in the romantic life of the former and a return of the latter’s horrible parents. All three of these characters were just taking up space in the first chunk of the season. This week, they finally get into the game. It’s up to future episodes to make good on their progress… something that True Blood hasn’t always been able to do in the past.
His sister Sookie (Anna Paquin) is engaged in the usual game of Which Beau Shall I Choose, but with Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) still freaking out in her basement and Bill (Stephen Moyer) playing an entirely different game these days, it maintains a higher-than-average level of interest. Bill, in particular, has been loads of fun to watch the season. Burdened with the crown of Louisiana, he’s proven a grade-A sneaky bastard: colored by good motivations, perhaps, but making compromise after compromise to see his goals through. Moyer’s smoldering chemistry with Paquin becomes positively electric now their characters no longer trust each other, and the interplay between them on the porch of her house – in which he’s searching for Eric and she’s attempting to keep him hidden – stands as a high point of the season.
As fascinating as they can be, however, they’re only the sideshow for the main event: vamps vs. witches, which kicks things up an additional notch this week. Regulars like Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) and Tara (Rutina Wesley) act mainly as supercargo – giving them something to justify their appearance this season – but the real juice lies with Aunt Petunia. Fiona Shaw’s coven leader is apparently channeling the spirit of a young Spanish woman burned at the stake; she has it in for vampires and cheerfully uses the witches’ power to take out some of her frustrations. Her fear and confusion reach a fever pitch here, helped out by another good performance from Shaw.
Bill is right: the coven constitutes a real threat to the local vampires (though admittedly most of the bloodsuckers have it coming). Yet it possesses no malicious intentions – the witches merely act as conduits for vengeful spirits – and the vamps’ reaction to their presence brings out the persecution complex in all of them. Both sides are scared and defensive, leading them to rash actions that only further justify their fears. “I’m Alive and on Fire” succeeds in upping the ante on that equation with perhaps the best episode finale since Russell Edgington yanked out that newscaster’s spine.
We watch True Blood for moments like that: moments that horrify you, intrigue you and make you laugh all at the same time. When the characters justify their appearance and keep the storytelling from going completely off the deep end, it really becomes something special. The fourth season has cast about for that tone more often than it should, raising the inevitable question of whether the show has peaked. It may have – we’ve never regained the intoxicating thrill of season two – but this week announces loudly and clearly that it’s still a long way from being finished. Keep bobbing and weaving guys: the effort is worth it.  


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timrandles 7/18/2011 7:20:01 AM

Wow again! Can this review be more lopsided! I mean yes you like it, but then the next statement you don't! I mean really Mania let's get someone who actually can give a good review.  This episode was good, and at some parts humorous! I mean, Erik being like a young vampire is funny! The way he got drunk off of fairy blood was great! He was grabbing sookie's butt and stuff was just too great! I like this side of Erik, the human side so to say! He was too arrogent at times.  Also,  the Jason plot finally is going to change! The whole let's have an inbred screwfest was just getting weird and then downright akward even for T.B. I will agree that the Tara and Lafayette plot line is interesting but they are trying to bring sort of a background character up to the limelight, and I don't think it is going ot work. I think they need to either figure out what they are doing, or start tieing up these ends for this season quick, only 6 more episodes, which sucks, or maybe 8.  I am not sure what to make of the Arlene thing, all I can say is demon child, cut the head off! LoL.  I all and all liked this episode, and would have given it a b also maybe even an A-. I think it was one of the better episodes for the season so far.

rogue188 7/19/2011 5:54:39 AM

B is a good rating. To be a good reviewer, you need to bring in both sides of the coin. Trueblood has had its share of crapiness since last season, and this season's opener was far from bright. Good review Rob. Keep it up. I whole-heartedly agree with everything brought up.

isgrimner 7/19/2011 7:38:59 AM

Irritated that they are bringing the Mickens group back.  In the books Sam has a good family if I recall correctly, and they are hardley mentioned.  Early on the writing on the show surpassed the writing of the books, which is rare, but now the writing on the show has devolved to the level of or lower than the books.  The books were entertaining enough in a pulpy sort of way to an avid reader like myself, but then again I probably only read them because it was bundled as 8 ebooks for like $12 on my Kindle.  I haven't read the last two because Penguin Publishing sucks and overprices their ebooks since the first iPad came out.

I do agree they should trim some of the fat from the show, aka the supercargo.  Though Lafayette is interesting, but Tara not so much.  When she was pointing the gun at Pam, I was hoping Pam would use her Vamp speed and just take it away from her. 

Also, how the heck is Bill supposed to "remember" the Salem Witch trials, etc. when he is not old enough to "remember" them?  He was turned during the Cival War era around 1865 or so.  Yes he could have studied them as history, but then they played the scene wrong or somewhat sloppy.  I really want to see Erik kick Bill's ass, as he could do it rather easily.   Also, I wonder if they'll have Erik and Sookie actually hook up during this time where his memory is gone as they do in the books, but for some reason I don't think the show will go there. 



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