Wednesday, 31 March 2010

True Blood - time for one more?

I'm starting to become a little nervous about True Blood. Not nervous that there might be vampires lurking in the shadows, of course, but nervous that the show is starting to show signs of Heroes-syndrome.

Remember how, in the first season of Heroes, the original premise kept us glued to the screen? How it was possible to believe that - if there were people with superhuman abilities - then that was how life would be for them in the real world? Well, that's essentially where True Blood began, too. Okay, so it had vampires instead of super-powered humans but, like Heroes, one of the things that made it such compelling viewing was the fact that it presented us with a wonderfully detailed and entirely plausible picture of how the world might really react to the news that these extraordinary people/creatures exist.

About half-way through Season 1 of Heroes, the premise changed and the show began to show signs of fatigue. The problem was that there were just too many characters with too wide an assortment of special powers and abilities. Every time a new character was introduced, it was a foregone conclusion that they would eventually be revealed as being yet another super-powered individual. It became boring. As The Incredibles so neatly put it: "when everyone is super, no one is."

But what does this have to do with True Blood? When the show started we cared about Sookie Stackhouse and the difficulties she faced because of her mind-reading ability. She had a loving grandmother and a brother who was as thick as two short planks; an ordinary family trying to live ordinary lives despite an extraordinary ability. And then came vampire Bill Compton, a Southern gentlemen soldier, a veteran of the American Civil War. He may have been part of the exotic world of vampires but paradoxically, because Sookie was unable to read his thoughts, he actually gave her a chance to experience something close to a normal relationship for the first time. An intriguing premise, and we were hooked!

Later we learned that Sookie's employer, Sam, was a shape-shifter. There was a mention of werewolves. Then, the mother of Sookie's best friend Tara went to visit a witch (although, admittedly, she was later revealed to be a fake). Now, in Season 2, we have a bull-headed creature like a minotaur roaming the woods and a woman who appears to be able to use the sexual energy released in Bacchanalian orgies to turn people into pigs (some connection to Circe from Homer's Odyssey perhaps?) It's reaching the stage that, whenever a new character is introduced, we no longer wonder what their stance on vampire rights might be, or what their relationship with Sookie could become. Instead, we automatically assume they must be some form of supernatural entity and try to guess which one the writers have chosen this time. It's becoming ... predictable!

But don't get me wrong. I haven't given up on the show just yet! For the time being it's still up there with Caprica as one of my two favourite shows currently on TV. What keeps it alive, for me, is the witty script and the excellent supporting cast. Anna Paquin's Sookie and her brother Jason may have been the initial route into this show but, during Season 1, Sookie's best friend Tara outgrew her given role as comedy sidekick and developed into a complex character in her own right; one with real emotional depth, and who we could care about. Tara has continued to grow in Season 2 but, from the first few episodes, it's already beginning to look as if she might yet be upstaged by her cousin Lafayette. After an entire season of shamelessly hamming it up as an over-the-top gay drug dealer, the scenes in which he is imprisoned, waiting for death in a vampire's basement have shown that Lafayette is developing into a far more subtle and nuanced character.

Even the smaller supporting roles are played to perfection. The pathos of the lonely ex-alcoholic Detective Andy Bellefleur makes him an ideal partner for the long-suffering Sheriff Bud Dearborne. Together they form a hilarious double-act that outshines anything in most shows which actually bill themselves as a sitcom!

The story in True Blood may be showing signs of getting tired, of falling prey to Heroes-syndrome, but with a script as witty, characters as interesting and performances as fine as we've seen so far in Season 2, I'm guessing it'll be able to keep me entertained for at least one more season after this!

2 comments:

  1. With vampire medium I am hit or miss. Seems for this show I was miss.

    I watched 2 episodes before I couldn't take it anymore =p The pacing was just way off to me. It seemed very dull and the few times something happened it seemed predictable. I even figured out the bar keeper was the dog (I didn't know he could become more)

    The main thing that annoyed me was the endings to the eps. The 1st one had the girl getting attacked by the couple. The way it went off didn't give me a feeling of "I need to see what happens!" like I think they wanted it to. The next episode the vampire rescues her. I thought that would have been a more interesting ending to the 1st ep.

    The ending to the second ep really had me throwing my hands in the air. The vampires she meets in front of Southern Gentleman's house acted ... well.. generic vampire retarded I guess is a good way to say it. I didn't take them as a threat or serious at all.

    I'm assuming in ep 3 they reveal that they were just messing around with her -_-
    My friends tell me that it gets better in S2 though. But I don't think I'll give it a chance anymore.

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  2. Hmmm - I think your friends are wrong! ;-)

    I am still enjoying it (mainly because of the script) but, if you didn't take to Season 1, I honestly don't think Season 2 would do anything to change your mind. Season 1 at least had the "novelty factor" going for it, whereas Season 2 (from what I've seen so far) seems to be more of the same. I'd recommend you give Season 1 another try, though!

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