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- TV Series: True Blood
- Episode: I Got a Right to Sing The Blues
- Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Sam Trammell, Nelsan Ellis, Chris Bauer, Alexander Skarsgård, Deborah Ann Woll, Carrie Preston and William Sanderson
- Written By: Alan Ball
- Directed By: Michael Lehman
- Network: HBO
- Series: True Blood
True Blood: I Got a Right to Sing The Blues Review
Run For Your Life
By Rob Vaux
July 26, 2010
True Blood Review
© HBO/Bob Trate
The vague-but-not-yet-fatal letdown from True Blood this year stems from a single source: the decision to push the central notion into the background. In its first two seasons, True Blood distanced itself from the pack by positing a world in which vampires were public knowledge, emerging “out of the coffin” to become another minority in American culture. We still see that in bits and pieces this season, but it largely remains in the background. Instead, we’ve delved deeply into the vampires’ hidden society: their laws, their politics and the way they go about defeating their undead rivals. Creator Alan Ball ensures that the quality remains high, but without the “everyone knows” notions, the series loses a significant part of its sly humor.
“I Got a Right to Sing the Blues” exemplifies that difficulty perfectly, without ever once becoming less than watchable. The bulk of it focuses on the Gothic sturm und drang taking place at Russell’s (Denis O’Hare) mansion. Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Tara (Rutina Wesley) are kept prisoner, Bill (Stephen Moyer) faces gruesome execution and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) maneuvers to avenge his mortal father. It all sizzles appropriately, as the characters collide against each other in an effort to survive, but at the same time, it feels very… typical.
Director Michael Lehman cranks up the danger levels and lends the proceedings a great deal of suspense (as well as a heaping dose of premium cable bloodletting). Betrayals rise to the surface, actors face off in carefully managed pairs, and the episode ends on perhaps the biggest cliffhanger of the year so far. It’s very soapy and suitably Southern; those of us wrapped up in the characters and their fates may thrill at the potential developments.
Unfortunately, the results lose that spark of originality which helped make the show a hit. More importantly, Lehman and Ball (who pens the screenplay here) miss countless opportunities to explore a different side of such theatrics. For example, do Sookie and Tara have any recourse once they escape? They’ve been kidnapped after all; can they sic the police on Russell? How will he respond? Will it be a PR blow to the burgeoning vampire rights movement? Are there jails set up which can house the undead?
Questions like that helped the first two seasons of True Blood attain the ranks of real greatness, and could still make this season brilliant. They’ve arrived this year, but only in fits and starts, mostly thanks to the antics of “baby vampire” Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll). Her obligatory scene this week entails a mild squabble with Arlene (Carrie Preston) at Merlotte’s, filled with the same dark whimsy which used to highlight every episode. It doesn’t last—and the show’s other mundane subplots surrounding Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and Sam (Sam Trammell) add little to the equation—but it does constitute the high point for yet another week.
As for the remainder of the episode, it still offers its share of joys. The chicken-fried schemes hold plenty of charm and the interplay between Bill and his demonic sire (Mariana Klavino) drips (quite literally) with the sort of supernatural tragedy that keeps people coming back to the vampire genre. Right now, that’s the best we can hope for. The story is thoroughly agreeable and the new touches like Russell’s biker werewolf minions haven’t grown old yet. It still feels like a step down, however. Going from fantastic to pretty good is still a move in the wrong direction; “I Got a Right to Sing the Blues” is definitely pretty good, but you see flashes of fantastic in it. When those flashes fade, their absence can be felt all the more.