6 Ways the Sixth Season of ‘True Blood’ Could Get Back on Track
It’s been more or less agreed upon by critiques and fandom, that the last two seasons of True Blood have gotten off track and not lived up to the standard created in the early seasons. Personally, I still find season 4 to be fairly enjoyable, though the momentum begins slowing down significantly. I’ve been rewatching the show for the past couple of weeks and am struggling through season 5; a good deal of fast forwarding has taken place. There’s very little that redeems season 5, which is extremely disappointing considering the return of fan favorites Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare) and Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian). Being the optimist that I am, however, I submit a few potential narrative improvements that I’m rooting to see revive the feel for the upcoming season 6, premiering this Sunday, June 16th.
6. Dial Back the Bellefluers
Let me first clarify, that I love having Andy (Chris Bauer), Terry (Todd Lowe), and Arlene (Carrie Preston) in the mix. I think the way the actors have realized these characters, who typically only make brief appearances in the Sookie Stackhouse novels, is all around delightful. Plus with so many gorgeous supernaturals running around, having a few average, old human characters keeps things in balance, as well as offering an opportunity for comic relief. The problem is that they’re not really grounded anymore, or even dwelling very close to the realm of sensibility. I want to see this group get interesting plotlines that can be well executed, but I strongly vote on just cutting down said plotlines if the writers can’t do much better than what we’ve seen lately.
Watching Andy deal with V (vampire blood) addiction in season 4 was absurdly repetitive. He went through the same essential addict struggles that we saw Jason (Ryan Kwanten) deal with in season 1, but with even less payoff or intrigue. His romance with Holly (Lauren Bowles) is a nice B story, but the season 5 finale with Andy’s fairy fling, Maurella (Kristina Anapau), giving orgasmic birth to a litter of fairy babies on the Merlotte’s pool table was… Well, I’ll put it this way, my husband (not a regular viewer) walked in on the show during this scene and asked me, “Why do you watch this again?” I still have no response that can truly justify… that.
Next up, I have to go after Terry’s wartime flashbacks that eventually translate into Terry and a commanding officer that he toured with, Patrick Devins (Scott Foley), trying to evade an Ifrit fire vengeance demon. Taking a serious look at Terry’s backstory seems like it would be a great idea and throwing in Scott Foley was a nice bonus. The narrative execution, however, felt half-hearted. The storyline of soldiers opening fire and killing civilians seems like it would be incredibly compelling, but the threat never really felt that significant. Plus the special effects of the actual monster were laughable.
5. Ease Off the CGI
There is no way to take the Ifrit smoke monster seriously, and the while the god Lilith is a cool image when she’s walking around covered in blood, the unrealistic way she emerges from a puddle of blood is another element that works better in concept than actuality. Game of Thrones has just set the bar too high for this level of special effects to be acceptable in such a high quantity on premium cable television.
Where True Blood shines in special effects is the gore and blood department (wouldn’t that be a fun place to work!). Anytime Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård) makes a kill is usually a highlight. And there have been so many out-of-left-field creepily effective scenes. A few examples that jump out: Tara (Rutina Wesley) and Eggs (Mehcad Brooks) dining on Maryann’s (Michelle Forbes) Hunter’s Soufflé, Bill (Stephen Moyer) twisting his maker, Lorena’s (Mariana Klaveno), head around while having angry hate sex, and very recently, Sam (Sam Trammell) flying into Rosalyn’s (Carolyn Hennesy) mouth as a fly and then turning human while inside her causing a vampire explosion (this scene used a mix of computer effects, but the bloody splatter is the prime highlight). The smaller, focused special effects are so much more fun to watch than over-the-top CGI.
Another staple special effect, is the constant animal transformations for the various two-natured creatures. True Blood’s transformation method is simple and straight forward. It works without distracting viewers too much, but I still think these could be cut down on. Only because (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), but I’d rather see the actors spend a bit more time with their clothes on. After nearly every transformation, we generally get an eyeful – often from multiple actors as once. Honestly, though, it’s happening so often that it’s kind of losing the sexy excitement. Maybe that’s just me, though.
4. Pack Unity
Alcide Herveaux (Joe Manganiello) is an easy character to get behind and root for. He’s fair-minded, a loyal friend, and has abs that simply go beyond reason. His personal storyline has had two major points to revolve around: his psychotic, V-addicted girlfriend, Debbie Pelt (Brit Morgan) – she doesn’t deserve an RIP – and unending conflicts with local werepacks. While I appreciate the drama and understand that Alcide needs to overcome obstacles in order to grow into leadership, I’m hoping that we can see some of the benefits from being in an aligned, united pack. This should be one of those clubs that are just too cool to ever possibly be able to join, not to mention hardcore badass. Why would a sensible wereperson even fool with so much drama and unfavorable tradition (like scarfing down the remains of dead packmasters) if he/she had the option to go solo?
Werewolves seem to just be automatic subplots in most vampire stories, and True Blood really hasn’t been an exception ever since the wolves’ introductory storyline wrapped up in season 3. I understand that they’re wild and follow their own code, but I’m ready to see Alcide’s ascension bring things together. A highlight for this show is when storylines begin to merge, and the wolves feel like they’re becoming more and more adrift. Also, wouldn’t it be cool if the producers actually worked in Quinn the Weretiger to oversee the packmaster trials? I’m not holding my breath for it, but it would be a pleasant surprise if he were cast correctly.
3. Keep the Authority in the Background
HBO thrives off smart political dramas. With The Wire really setting the standard of well-scripted local government politicking, HBO has now become even more directly relevant with shows like The Newsroom, Veep, and, the TV movie, Game Change. True Blood is keenly aware of current social politics and uses them as a backbone of satirical allegory to accompany the lusty, soapy drama that is at the bloody heart of the show. Of course, the vampires have always been presented as a metaphor for the gay community’s struggle for equal rights with the story initiated by vampires’ decision to “come out of the coffin,” thanks to the creation of a synthetic blood substitute that allowed them to present a non-threatening persona towards humans.
The parallels are well-applied in the early seasons. From the small scale of rooting for Bill and Sookie (Anna Paquin) to be allowed their happily ever after by the government allowing equal marriage rights, to the larger plot created in season 2 of a fundamentalist Christian group targeting the vampire community. Alan Ball’s concept for this last season 5, however, was a bit more ambitious, but unfortunately, less fleshed out, as well. After four seasons of building up to the almighty Vampire Authority, the eventual reveal is quite a let down. It’s a small group of bickering, manipulative vampire politicians maintaining a balance between the necessary public image and controlling a faction of religious zealots.
While I understand the desire to maintain political metaphors, it’s not worth sacrificing some realm of sense for the characters and creatures that the show revolves around. First of all, these are immortal beings. On some level, their version of government really should have the gift of long-term thinking and a bit more sophistication than that of humans who are limited by our own short-term mortality. Secondly, these are still vampires. A group of beings far more powerful and mysterious than simple humans. Such a group would theoretically require a whole next level of strength and political intrigue to dominate. The metaphorical vampire government of season 5 lacks the delicate innerworkings of government that could have given the story authenticity, as brilliantly executed in The Wire. The zealot group commentary was a bit too abstract and overloaded with vampire exposition to truly be relevant. Not to mention, the fact that this government is so thinly held together, that the entire group is essentially dissolved in one season thanks to the introduction of our two vampire heroes, Bill and Eric. Luckily, this dissolution leads into a very exciting premise for season 6.
2. The War Needs to be Affective
The promos for the new season are amping it up to be an all out throwdown between vampire and human kind with the direct taglines, “War Is Coming” and “Blood Will Spill.” After Bill essentially bought into the anti-human vampire religion during season 5, he thought up the catalyst to destroy the last vestiges of the human-vampire goodwill that still remained; destroy the true blood facilities. Eric then “eviscerated” any chances of negotiations with a U.S. General representative. Now, all vampires will have to show their fangs and humans will likely resort to fear and extreme measures exasperating the divide between the two groups. This is the perfect setup for the new showrunner, Brian Buckner, to really make his mark in the True Blood world, though he’s sure to face quite a few challenges.
One of the most important struggles, narratively speaking, will be applying this war driven storyline directly to our characters in a large scale sort of way. The previous seasons have all had the advantage of being firmly grounded within Louisiana with a few trips to Dallas, TX and Jackson, MS thrown in occasionally to branch out a bit. National politics were merely references through witty news bits or propaganda pieces. The scope of an all out vampire war, while still following our usual leads, is going to have to demonstrate the ripple effect on all characters within the True Blood universe and the background world that they live in. If Bon Temps, LA is the epicenter of the vampire war, then I hope to really see the choices Bill, Sookie, Eric and co. make have large scale ramifications. In this Rolling Stone interview with Buckner I found myself particularly encouraged that the writers are trying to refocus on the human aspects of the characters and the value of life. That’s a great way to reconnect with audiences.
Bill is sure to be the key player in the war this season after last season’s finale transformation into a godlike version of himself. He’s a loose canon at this point, but seeing as how every season essentially finds a resolution to its A plot, I expect he’ll return to some form of the “good guy” by season’s end. Either way, his evolution as a player in this war is something to look forward to. The show is definitely treading new ground as Bill more or less fell into the catalogue of supporting characters by this point in the book version timeline. As I mentioned previously, though, the show’s at its best when storylines manage to interweave, and so ultimately a vampire war seems like a great plot tool of large scale inclusion for all relevant characters.
1. Dig Into the Fairy Story
I’m on the fence about the fairy situation. After the revelation in season 3 about Sookie’s fae lineage, True Blood has been giving viewers cryptic (and often silly) scraps of information about the fairy race. This has been a good strategy really; if they’re such a secretive group of beings, then there’s no reason for our heroine to immediately discover all of her origins. Plus this is a supernatural that hasn’t really had much of a voice in modern vampire lore. Slowly building the importance of the fae influence while letting them linger in the background has allowed other more pressing storylines to remain relevant and will ultimately make the fae’s full introduction feel like a natural step. It’s time for that step to be taken.
My doubts on this topic primarily stem from how the bits we’ve seen have been handled thus far. Season 4 opened with Sookie having been abducted to a fairy utopia and discovering some elements of the ongoing war between the different factions. This 15 minute opener carried almost no relevance to the rest of the season, and only a dash to the following season 5. It was a disorienting way to begin, and while that may have been the intention to create emotional shifts in the main characters, it became a challenge to reengage with the new narrative directions. Everything about the fairies has been challenging to engage with so far; they’ve been treated as magical oddities as demonstrated in last season’s end with Sookie’s dialogue with one of the elder fairies. All this strangeness is not necessarily bad, maybe it’s right to feel the need to adjust to such a new interpretation of a magical race. However, it does, once again, walk down the path of needing a balancing payoff. Going by the Stackhouse novels, the fae turn out to be the most dangerous and powerful group of all. They eventually drag their own political war into our world, which is one of the stories I’m most excited to see carried out. This will be a good goal to build towards for next season.
My hopes, concerns, and speculations aside – I’m damn excited about the upcoming season. While there have been some letdowns recently, True Blood is still a fast-paced drama that flourishes by taking risks and, of course, delivering a healthy dose of gore and sex on a weekly basis. I think getting back on track will be an easy step with the elements that have been put into to play and cautiously built upon season by season. There’s certainly plenty to look forward to!
What do you think? Leave a comment.