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- TV Series: True Blood
- Episode: Shake and Fingerpop
- 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: Alan Ball
- Directed By: Michael Lehmann
- Network: HBO
- Series: True Blood
TRUE BLOOD: Shake and Fingerpop Review
Have Your Ever Seen Dallas From a DC-9 at Night?
By Rob Vaux
July 12, 2009
The juiciest bits of this week's True Blood concern the long-awaited trip to Dallas, where an important vampire has disappeared, and Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Bill (Stephen Moyer) have agreed to find him. The remainder of the episode steps back to let the subplot flourish, while revealing minor developments of its own. Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) grapples with fallout from his tenure in the Fangtasia basement, Maryann (Michelle Forbes) throws yet another orgy, and Jason (Ryan Kwanten) starts picking up serious vibes from the smoking hot preacher's wife (Anna Camp) at Bible camp. Each thread remains resolutely predictable, following well-established paths which shouldn't surprise any of the show's regular viewers (though we do catch horrifying site of some of Maryann's natural anatomy, and Lafayette receives an unwelcome shock during his recuperation).
No, screenwriter/co-creator Alan Ball saves all his goodies for Big D, both in the abstract and the particulars. Vampires' impact on popular culture appears more copious here, complete with a trip on Anubis airlines (the country's premiere service for undead travelers) and vampire porn on the hotel TV. The details fit perfectly, helping us grasp the larger universe (which, as always, owes a great deal to White Wolf's World of Darkness) in clever ways that nonetheless retain a core of plausibility. Bill brings Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) along at Sookie's behest, and the babe-in-the-woods bloodsucker steals the show yet again with her eager indulgence in a new playground. Ball wisely tones down the bickering between Sookie and Bill this week--focusing more on the satirical side of their current adventures--and the results make for another engaging episode.
The mystery of the missing vampire becomes equally intriguing: possibly perpetrated by the Fellowship of the Sun, but raising questions as to how mere humans could dispose of one so powerful. (Rvd. Newlin [Michael McMillian] seems awfully sure his vamp killing methods are effective, but frankly, when you're hunting centuries-old undead, the phrase "or so I've heard" should never apply to your tactics.) Ball and director Michael Lehmann take a gentle, nudging tone to the proceedings: keeping our heroes more concerned with their own safety than with accomplishing their chosen task. It leaves them wide open for another of the series' patented sucker punches, which as usual, makes for a delightful twist at the end. It also side-steps the expected detective clichés by focusing on the characters' reactions to their situation rather than the clues leading towards the culprit.
Elsewhere, things proceed in dribs and drabs, as Sam (Sam Trammell) begins ruining another potentially great relationship and Tara (Rutina Wesley) falls further under Maryann's spell. True Blood often adopts such methods, keeping various subplots percolating on the back burner until the time comes for their respective bombshells. Bloodshed is way down this week, though there is a copious sex scene exemplifying HBO's established philosophy of using serious nudity to prove how "edgy" they are. Lehmann makes up for it by maintaining the show's careful balance between humor and horror… or in this case an undercurrent of dread which surfaces just often enough to remind us that it's there.
Such tactics may be the only effective way to juggle its full plate of stories, though the most recent characters provide much more energy this week than the well-established ones. That may prove dangerous in the long run, but for now the dividends are well worth such a risk. The same holds true for the Dallas trip--presumably a staple for numerous episodes this season--which might become a gimmick in less skilled hands, but here reveals a wealth of information while allowing our heroes to explore a new environment. Provided characters like Maryann and Jessica can match the same feat--adding to the show rather than just propping it up--True Blood is in no danger at all.