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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 Skarsgård, 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.