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- TV Series: True Blood
- Episode: Keep This Party Going
- 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: Brian Buckner
- Directed By: Michael Lehmann
- Network: HBO
- Series: True Blood
True Blood Review: Keep This Party Going
Simmering Passions Fuel True Blood
By Rob Vaux
June 21, 2009
Things are heating up in Bon Temps, and not just in the soap-opera gossip kind of way. The sparks stem from Maryann (Michelle Forbes), queen of bacchanalia, who has poor Sam (Sam Trammell) chasing his own tail while sending his customers into fits of orgiastic excess. They stem from Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), who shows violently mixed emotions at a reunion with her family: hugging them one minute and threatening to tear their throats out the next. They stem from Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), still willing to do anything to survive and whose fate is left hanging for the second time in three episodes. And they stem from Bill (Stephen Moyer), who sees his fellow vampires putting the moves on the love of his un-life and yet is unable to do anything about it.
All this, and we haven't even gotten to the bloodletting yet.
True Blood's second episode of the season shows no signs of slowing down, and while certain weak links remain in its make-up, its strong points quickly hit their stride. The bad patch is still Jason's (Ryan Kwanten) subplot, as he continues his churchin' up with the Fellowship of the Sun. One hopes (and with Alan Ball, one can reliably presume) that they're setting us up for a big twist, but in the meantime, tonight's episode offers nothing but more smug Pentecostals and a dull-as-dirt rival (Wes Brown) who doesn't appreciate Jason's presence. If you need a bathroom break, just wait for the "praise Jesuses" to start. You won't miss anything worth watching.
On the other end of the quality spectrum, Maryann shows more of her true colors this episode as she winds both Sam and Tara (Rutina Wesley) tighter around her finger (with the rest of the town quickly following suit). Director Michael Lehmann plays up Forbes' inscrutable qualities, lending her enigma and menace in equal tones behind that passive-aggressive smile. From a fanboy perspective, speculation continues on exactly what kind of freaky thing she is. The books on which True Blood is based have an answer, but the show takes great delight in slowly trickling out clues.
Meanwhile, Jessica develops some unexpected texture when Sookie (Anna Paquin) decides to take her home to see her folks. Woll made a meal out of the character in her first few appearances as a newly-liberated bad girl, but tonight gives her an opportunity to show her vulnerability, her confusion and the fact that there may still be a decent person in there who just needs to figure out how to deal with this whole "drinking blood" thing. Sookie's decision to help her bring closure to her human existence further complicates life with Bill, though the darkest ramifications are left to next week to resolve.
While flat-out horror has been toned down this time (save for Lafayette's thread, which remains as gruesome as it was during the premiere), Lehmann and writer Brian Buckner further explore one of vampirism's other primary threads: the uneasy power dynamic between the undead and their human prey. Vampire society has been deeply entrenched for thousands of years and they regard the humans as no threat to them, but their complacency may become dangerous. Who ultimately is in control here? Is humanity really a race of unwitting puppets? Or are the bloodsuckers just one more demographic, scrambling for traction in a diverse society? Humans have as much thirst for their blood as they do for ours, a fact which they dislike, but have no real solution for (besides threatening dealers like Lafayette--just like real-life law enforcement). The first season explored some of the ramifications of that, and Lehmann seems to be laying the groundwork for further development later this summer. The truth has a way of surfacing, like a body in the swamp, and it may eventually help True Blood's supposed victims turn the tables on their tormentors. Make sure you're tuning in when they do.