True Blood: Nothing But the Blood Review - Mania.com



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  • TV Series: True Blood
  • Episode: Nothing But the Blood (Season 2 Premiere)
  • Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Sam Trammell, Nelsan Ellis, Chris Bauer, Michelle Forbes, Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd, Deborah Ann Woll, Carrie Preston and William Sanderson
  • Written By: Alexander Woo
  • Directed By: Daniel Minahan
  • Network: HBO
  • Series: True Blood

True Blood: Nothing But the Blood Review

True Blood's Season 2 Premiere is Summer Fangtastic

By Rob Vaux     June 14, 2009


TRUE BLOOD is Back for HBO(2009).
© Mania.com/Robert Trate

 

SPOILER ALERT: A few modest but palpable surprise details are discussed below.
 
The second season of True Blood opens with most of its best assets (and a few of its minor flaws) in tow. Series creator Alan Ball and his team of writers adroitly maintain the mixture of Southern gothic horror and character-based absurdity which made the first season such a hoot. The new slate of episodes looks to be more of the same--good news for anyone fighting madly against the tweenification of vampire-dom evinced by Twilight and its ilk.
 
Last season ended in typical cliffhanger fashion: having finally dispatched the duplicitous murderer terrorizing Bon Temps, telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) runs smack dab into another body in the parking lot of Merlotte's bar. No, it's not Layfayette (Nelsan Ellis), the drag queen short-order cook who disappeared in the finale. His present circumstances are covered in another plot thread, one of several which the premiere trundles out with deceptive ease. Besides the new killer and the increasingly complex relationship between Sookie and her vampire beau Bill (Stephen Moyer), there's Jason's (Ryan Kwanten) freaky involvement with anti-vampire fundamentalists; Tara's (Rutina Wesley) entanglements with her newfound benefactor Maryann (Michelle Forbes); said benefactor's ultimate intentions and unsettling past with Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell); Bill's new protégé Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), who's embracing the child-of-the-night thing a little too enthusiastically; and Bon Temps' increasingly erratic Detective Bellefleur (Chris Bauer), looking for redemption after wrongfully fingering Jason for the first season's killing spree.
 
They make for quite the potboiler, and it remains to be seen whether Ball and Co. can keep them all as engaging as they need to be. On the other hand, by spreading the wealth between True Blood's passel of terrific characters, the writers ensure that if one plot thread starts to flag, another is always ready to step up. Jason's involvement with the "Fellowship of the Sun," for instance, relies too much on chicken-fried cliché, as sanctimonious Jesus freaks preach their smirking hypocrisy in a perfunctory (and creatively lazy) manner. Though they hold ripe potential for satire, the early scenes fail to capitalize on it, and indeed do little more than reinforce the well-established notion that Jason isn't the brightest bulb in the drawer.
 
Countering that low point, however, are at least three high ones. Forbes remains a hidden treasure for genre fans--stretching back to her Star Trek days--and the obvious glee she takes in her character's quiet manipulations (as well as the question of exactly what kind of creature she is) constitute one of the show's great pleasures. Pairing her off with the tart-mouthed Tara marks a stroke of near-brilliance: no other character remains quite so vulnerable as she and yet no other character has the ability to strike back at Maryann with such ferocity.
 
Speaking of ferocity, Layfayette finally discovers a dilemma befitting his survival skills: as the spiritually strongest figure in the show, he breezed through the first season without a care in the world. True Blood does right by giving him a proper challenge right off the bat here. So too does Jessica's appearance add some spice to Bill and Sookie's otherwise by-the-book romance, as Sookie has to navigate the fickle mood swings of an immortal teenager in order to stay with the man she loves.
 
Ball and director Daniel Minahan keep the melodrama from becoming overcooked by respecting both the characters and the situations in which they find themselves. For all its soapiness, True Blood never downplays its horror elements, and the blood-soaked nudity on display holds its fair share of thrills. The mischievous humor helps further cement the show's disparate components: playful and savage at times, but never overshadowing the central drama. In addition to its primary conceit--that vampires live openly among us thanks to the successful marketing of synthetic blood--the show dances the razor's edge between horror and comedy most clearly with Bill's fellow bloodsuckers. Though menacing and arrogant as they should be, True Blood finds clever ways to deflate them, as when the very scary Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) shows up with cellophane treatment in his hair.
 
Such moments attain a sense of glee rarely seen in genre television, which True Blood further enhances by refusing to descend into farce. It maintains an extremely delicate balancing act, and not every piece of its puzzle remains elegantly in place. But Ball knows how to hold it all together, as he did with Six Feet Under, and the existing arc of the Sookie Stackhouse novels on which the show is based provides a strong framework to keep things on track. As teenyboppers moon ever more insistently over Edward and Bella, thank God we have HBO to remind us how real vampires should be… even if they take their O negative from a bottle.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 10
1 
DayDrumFour 6/14/2009 9:00:26 PM

Enjoyed the episode.

I wonder what Maryann is. A warewolf? Could she be any animal she wanted? Was the giant pig her Butler? She's recruiting Tara and her boyfriend, or just Tara. The online preview shows somebody already IS a warewolf. Jason mentioned he could only be a dog, and that warewolves are rare. Do vamps know about them yet?

They might go "Underworld" on us soon
 

mrBig 6/14/2009 9:55:29 PM

Strong lead-in episode. Just got done watching it. Like the hints of things to come. Personally, I think Maryann is a witch, or enchanter of old. Could be a transmuter. There are some hints. The public nocturnal nudity with a large pig(anyone remember Circe from The Odyssey?), the symbology, the Pan mural...who knows maybe a incarnation of a god/goddess. Hopefully not a werewolf...too predictable. 

PS. Damn...Sookie's hot!

TheSeeeker 6/14/2009 10:51:51 PM

Great episode ! As for what MaryAnn is I do believe Mr.Big is right , something to do with Circe from the Oddessy who turned half the hero's men into pigs after stuffing them with food and wine. Greek art , painting , etc decorates her house , so thats what I am guessing its all about. Lastly , great twist with it not being Lafayette in the back of the char , he's one of my favorite chars on the show.

Dazzler 6/15/2009 4:51:24 AM

I love this show.  Adult themed Vampire movie is a great idea.  T&A and hardcore violence.  Of course they get their quota in just as the ep ends but still a solid series.  Bill rulz!

Darkknight2280 6/15/2009 7:28:14 AM

LOVE this show and the 1st episode didnt dissapoint 1 bit. Really liked seeing Skarsgard go BALISTIC on the bigots ass in the pit. Watching him rip him apart was coo (just wished they showed more...but its all good! Yes Anna Paquin's body is nice...she is looking different this season and im loving it..making her look more mature..very hot! :) Cant wait till sunday! :)

zombie65 6/15/2009 9:54:18 AM

Although I like this show, the premise is fascinating and really well done, I just wish they would give these actors some training with real accents. They all sound like they are hollywood actors trying to do a terrible Georgian accent. I'm from southern Louisiana and am a coon-ass and we don't talk like that. The only guy that was half decent turned out to be a serial killer.  That is my only complaint. I know most people don't notice/care about it, but being from cajun country it really annoys me sha!

hanso 6/15/2009 11:08:51 AM

LAFAYETTE LIVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That alone warrants the episode to be an A plus plus.

Alan Ball knew Lafayette was too awesome to die like he did in the book so he brought him back.  Props to you sir.

Marianne in the book was a Maenad or something like that.

ripum853 6/16/2009 9:08:01 PM

Of course Ball would want Lafayette to stay around.  It's whatever for me, although it'll kind of ruin plot threads for me if he'll ever be involved, when he shouldn't have been.  We'll see though.

 

Love the show at any rate.  I thought this episode was just ok.  It was a re-establishing episode, and still had a few good moments to keep me entertained.  I keep hearing from critics, buzz, etc. that the next three episodes are going to be fast paced, or at least very fun. 

 

I always hear people from the south complain about the accents...yet it sounds decent enough from what I (a northerner) hear, compared to real life news reports, visitors from the south, etc.  I'm from Philadelphia, and I have absolutely no idea what the Philadelphian accent sounds like exactly.  In A History of Violence, I didn't even notice that Viggo switches to a Philly Accent when going to visit his brother until I head it from Cronenberg in the commentary.  Perhaps the Southener's having a problem with the accents in this show is because they're not aware of it so much since they live there and are surrounded by it 24/7?

zombie65 6/17/2009 11:27:15 AM

The problem with the accents is "Southern" accents and Louisiana "Cajun" accents are totally different. The problem is Hollywood producers, actors and directors don't care to learn the difference. If you want them doing southern accents place the show in Tennessee or something. I just think is loses the appeal of the Bayou.

ripum853 6/20/2009 12:46:11 PM

Yeah, that's true.  And you're right, the killer of season 1 was the only one that had one, and he was faking it at that lol.

1 

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