True Blood Mania TV Review - Mania.com



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  • TV Series: True Blood
  • Episode: Spellbound
  • Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Sam Trammell, Fiona Shaw, Rutina Wesley, Ryan Kwanten, and Nelsan Ellis
  • Written by: Alan Ball
  • Directed by: Daniel Minahan
  • Network: HBO
  • Series:

True Blood Mania TV Review

Don't trip on the tombstones.

By Rob Vaux     August 15, 2011


True Blood
© HBO/Robert Trate

 Okay True Blood, you are officially forbidden from ever playing the “it was all a dream” card again. You’ve played it so many times that you’ve worn the finish off the back and we can tell when you’re holding it in your hand. Which is every freaking week.

Oh and by the way, we knew that Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) wasn’t dead. If she was, you would have killed her last week and left us in shock, rather than play it out until tonight. Turns out, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) rescues her before the sunburn gets too bad, thus ensuring that her burgeoning love triangle will continue for a while longer. Poor Jessica.  Coming to grips with her vampire nature apparently means breaking up with Hoyt (Jim Parrack) and trying to hook up with Jason… both of which end in disaster. Her thread remains a palpable high point of the season thus far: emotionally genuine while still acknowledging the unpleasant possibilities of what a vampire-human relationship might entail. She’s begun to realize that she can’t live as a normal human no matter how badly she may want to. True Blood has developed that realization beautifully, and it keeps the episode centered while other subplots fumble for traction.

As for said subplots… yeah, it wasn’t pretty. Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) consummate their relationship in inimitable vampire fashion, resulting in a lot of surreal images and copious nudity that seems to exist for its own sake. The art director must have had a blast and one dreamlike sequence involving a feather bed and falling snow looks gorgeous. But it holds no emotional resonance and – the actors’ hot bods notwithstanding – fails to generate any compelling reason to watch.

It gets worse when they pledge themselves to Bill (Stephen Moyer), essentially burying the hatchet and putting the Sookie Love Triangle on the back burner. Bill immediately becomes far less interesting as a result, forcing us to fall back on the burgeoning showdown with the witches in order to keep the King of Louisiana from devolving into a complete test pattern.

Speaking of the witches, the first big fight with them turns out to be a long drive for a short day at the beach. The first half sets things up well, as Antonia (Fiona Shaw) finishes her daywalking spell and then laments at its comparative lack of effectiveness. It contains the right mixture or menace and wry humor: the sort that True Blood absolutely excels at in its best moments. From there, however, the show doesn’t have the first idea where to proceed. A midnight showdown between the two sides in the graveyard promises a great deal, but ends up looking like a Ren Faire LARP gone horribly awry. The stiff choreography creates a number of serious logic holes, which the show attempts to redress with yet another round of “stunning” cliffhangers. But they’ve burned that bridge pretty thoroughly by now, and despite a lovely build-up during the season’s early episodes, this supposedly big pay-off falls flatter than a pancake here.

Most of the rest of the episode does the same, from Tommy’s  (Marshall Allman) shapeshifting mishigoths to Andy’s (Chris Bauer) continuing problems with the V. Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) spins his wheels as well: possessed by the ghost hovering over the Fowler baby and basically here just to remind us that this subplot still exists. Besides the Jessica thread, the only thing keeping us interested are the werewolves, who wisely wish to stay out of the conflict, but still have a few chips in the game. Alcide (Joe Manganiello) reveals his true feelings for Sookie and that notion continues to go nowhere, but his pack leader pops in on Sam (Sam Trammell), providing both the biggest surprise of the evening and a reason to give a shit about Bon Temps favorite shapeshifter.

But despite that, the episode’s mixed bag of elements proves far too uneven for comfort. Too little happens under the auspices of much greater things, and the show’s over-reliance on gimmickry has really begun to hobble it in recent weeks. They need to do better with what they have – and they still have a lot in their corner. This week, unfortunately, we just don’t see enough of it. 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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1 
wish 8/16/2011 10:09:06 AM

Personally I can't believe we are already into the closing episodes for this season, a good sign that it's been flying by, and you know what they say about time flying by!  They've strayed just far enough from the books to keep the characters of the TV world involved but they've managed to include the best parts, like an actual threat to vampires, the ultimate monsters in this universe, wolves and shifters don't stand a chance against a vamp in a fight and it's even heavily aknowledged by  the rough but wise pack leader in this episode.  This show is great, it might not always please everyone, but it's got an honesty about it that is lacking in most other shows that dare to be as ambitious.  Rob, I used to like you, but you've become pretty jaded lately and now it seems I'm always in disagreement with you, and your attitude kinda sucks overall so I'm finidng it harder and harder to even respect you.  I'll keep reading though, if only just to see what my fellow maniacs have to say.

norseman72 8/16/2011 11:11:04 AM

yes the reviews get more jaded and negative without anything to back it up except personal opinions, and you know what they say about opinions....

I think True blood is still the beacon in the television sea of shite, polluted with reality shows, housewives, drab sitcoms, lawyers shows and teenage singers.  im surprised and delighted every week by mr.balls show. some eps may be stronger then others as with every creative endeavor.

for the ep itself it was a stronger one but i must agree the cliffhangers are becoming predictable.jessica meet the true death? no, true blood kills their characters off within the show (i.e godric, lorna, claudine, gran, etc)

i do have to give a thumbs up to Pam, who wasnt in the show till the last 5 minutes, and still managed to milk her one line "this is so f&%*ing lame!" for all its worth. is there any dialogue she doesnt have that cant be put on a tshirt?

TheMovieGuy28 8/16/2011 11:28:06 AM

I know Rob gets jaded, and I know he catches a lot of sh*t for his reviews, but I've been tending to agree with him for True Blood this season.

Wish, as you said, this season has flied by. What episode is it now? 6 or 7? And what has happened?

-Sookies' faerie dealings have all but disappeared....unless that will show up near the end of this season

-Tara isn't even a character anymore. She's a weapon to be aimed now, serves no other purpose than revenge.

-Sam's thread. Seriously? The head of the werewovles just happens to be the same guy who is Sam's ex? Seems too much of a stretch.

-The whole snowbed/nude scene was boring. Two naked people. Big whup

I loved this show as much as the next TB fan, but this season has been a real mess. There's no form of coherency whatsoever. It's just been a disappointment

norseman72 8/16/2011 12:13:35 PM

yes the reviews get more jaded and negative without anything to back it up except personal opinions, and you know what they say about opinions....

I think True blood is still the beacon in the television sea of shite, polluted with reality shows, housewives, drab sitcoms, lawyers shows and teenage singers.  im surprised and delighted every week by mr.balls show. some eps may be stronger then others as with every creative endeavor.

for the ep itself it was a stronger one but i must agree the cliffhangers are becoming predictable.jessica meet the true death? no, true blood kills their characters off within the show (i.e godric, lorna, claudine, gran, etc)

i do have to give a thumbs up to Pam, who wasnt in the show till the last 5 minutes, and still managed to milk her one line "this is so f&%*ing lame!" for all its worth. is there any dialogue she doesnt have that cant be put on a tshirt?

axia777 8/16/2011 2:57:08 PM

 

HA!  My prediction is coming true.  True Blood's season 4 will suck huge ass monkey choad.  My bet is that the season finale will be TERRIBLE. There are only 3-4 more episodes and the plots and sub-plots are all flat liners.  SO LAME.  What happened to this show?  The writers are losing it.  Everything else is up to par including the acting, but the writing is descending into the depths of suckness.

Sure True Blood is better than "normal cable TV shows".  But that is not the point.  It is not supposed to be compared to normal cable TV shows because it is a premium cable TV show.  It's competition are other shows on channels like HBO and Showtime, with the only exception of shows on AMC like Breaking Bad and the Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are owning True Blood harshly.  It will happen even more when season two of both of those shows come to fruition.  I also can't wait for the next season of Dexter.

The writing on True Blood this season is more comparable to the crapfest called Camelot, which was cancelled as we all know.  Don't be surprised if ratings drop for True Blood.  If ratings drop enough don't be surprsied if True Blood is cancelled.  That way HBO can put more money into Game of Thrones, which is of far higher quality.  13 emmy nominations proves that in spades.

 

wish 8/17/2011 7:47:32 AM

A 5th season of True Blood has already been approved and announced as of last week.  It's a ratings giant because most people who watch it don't do so with the level of scrutiny and cynicism that critics and maniacs like us do.  Having said that I still think this season has been very enjoyable, easily on par with any of the previous seasons, but that's just me.  From  a critical point of view, the production value and work ethic of everyone involved has only improved so I really don't know how anyone can rip on it, just opinions I guess.

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