Has True Blood Jumped the Shark?
(This was written after seeing Episode 2 of Season 4)
Preface, don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy True Blood. I’m watching every episode of this bloody show and have done so since the get-go. I even read the first five or six books in the series during breaks in between seasons, I’m thoroughly invested but it doesn’t mean I can’t be critical at the same time. Also, this shit is full of spoilers. Be warned.
There’s been an ever-present problem with the True Blood tv series since the middle of the first season. While the story is based off of the best-selling novels by Charlaine Harris, the TV series deviated sharply when it came to the supporting characters. It’s much easier in a novel to have a singular main character in a first person perspective mystery series with faceless supporting characters who we only see through the eyes of our narrator. Basically because of the book formula (Sookie is a hot young thing that is attractive to supernaturals) anybody who is not a guy (most likely supernatural guy) Sookie is being pursued by, fucked by or stalked by, gets only a few lines per novel. Lafayette is dead in the first chapter of the second book and was a mere paragraph in the first novel, Tara is a background ‘best friend’ who shows up when she’s in trouble really and sometimes lends Sookie clothes but her own adventures are never spelled out even when she needs Sookie’s help, Arlene is a judgmental harpy (ok, maybe that one is accurate) but with no plotline, Terry is the sweet, confused, troubled man who works at Merlotte’s, also no story, Hoyt is a sub-sub-sub character and Jessica doesn’t exist.
So I can understand why the HBO producers had to get a bit creative when it came to pumping this show full of real interesting characters, backstories and subplots to flesh out the world Harris had created, when there was hardly anything to fall back on. And I think this is the problem that has brought us up to True Blood Season 3.
Season One was pretty straightforward, a clear adaptation of the first Harris novel, with the focused development of supporting cast and characters to expand the series. It’s never a good idea to rely on a series live and die by it’s lead, especially when it’s a character as annoying as Sookie, so this is expected behaviour. By sheer necessity however, the show created Jessica, one of the more interesting characters in vampiric lore, as far as I’m concerned, who represents many sides and issues, all in one redheaded teenage body. (Not really though, as the actress portraying her is in her mid to late twenties.) She is one of the true characters they can influence and control, which makes it a really interesting choice at the end of Season One. They are long-term plans with this character because there CAN be, she had no history except what they make for her, an interesting choice. But my love for Jessica can be covered in another post.
Season Two gets a bit off the rails and I had actually stopped watching the show for long periods at this time already. They expanded the maenad plotline which was somewhat interesting in the novels, as a side story that is evolving in the background while Sookie has completely different adventures, until it completely side-swipes her and the vamps. Unfortunately since they made it the main plotline in season 2 of the TV series they dug their own grave with that one. The plus side was the Fellowship of the Sun plotline which made Jason’s character one of the most electric, charming and lovable people in the series, cavorting with truly evil Christians intent on murdering any and all vampires. The failures and trials of the human characters were more interesting than the supernatural in this season, a trend that seems to repeat itself. The crazier the fantasy element they introduce, the more people pay attention to the more ‘human’ relationships, even if they are between supernatural beings.
Season Three was interesting because we were able to ‘humanize’ both Bill and Eric a little more. Both are less black and white than before (especially Bill) and an interesting lust-triangle becomes more fully realized. Too bad they muck it up with introducing Alcide at this time, making it more confusing and bewildering and RIDICULOUS than plausible. Russell Edgington was a marvelous character who unfortunately fell pray to bad writing. WHY he would trust and allow Eric (therefore to be known as the WORST ACTOR EVER) into his house as a friend, I will never know. They neuter his badass character by allowing him to be fooled by really pathetic attempts at infiltration that unfortunately work. It’s here that the supporting characters really go off the rails, by the end of Season 3, Arlene is pregnant with Rene’s baby from Season 1 (still? timing is weird on that) Tara is more of an abused/broken woman than ever, Lafayette might be a crazy powerful witch, Jessica and Hoyt are getting married and his mother is getting a gun, Bill is trying to kill his queen and Sookie is a fairy. Jason also is hooking up with a were-panther who may or may not be incest-crazy. All the development of him to a more reliable character with a fatal flaw? Only partially understandable, but is Crystal’s vagina made of gold or something? He could do better and less crazy…anyway.
Yeah, so, this is where we are left at the end of Season 3. All these ridiculous loose ends, will Tara ever be able to trust anybody again, is the birth of Arlene’s son going to be Rosemary’s Baby 2011, what dress does Jessica wear, is Bill dead? Is Sookie really a stupid fairy? Season 4 decides that instead of trying to deal with the mess they made in season 3, let’s use the convenient fairy excuse to zip everybody a year in the future. Complete and total cop out. I’ve seen the first two episodes, and I’m sufficiently hooked but that doesn’t mean I like the ride I’m being taken on. Turning Tara gay? Convenient tough-girl stereotype, let’s hope they STICK WITH IT instead of making her get woozy in the presence of oh, Sam or something stupid. Sookie is more useless than ever and don’t get me started with the evil baby.