No TV show says summer to us more than True Blood, its Southern Gothic atmosphere and pulpy pleasures providing the perfect complement to sweaty evenings spent drinking mint juleps at home after another exhausting day in the hot sun. The show alternately drives us crazy and enthralls us, and even though these days it’s more of the former than the latter, we keep coming back for more. This week: is the whole rounding-up-the-vampires plot going where we think it’s going? And if so, yikes.
So, a couple of episodes in, and we’re starting to get a sense for what this season of True Blood is going to be. The first, not entirely surprising, realization is that at least half of the show’s subplots could happily have been expunged, with no one batting an eyelid. This season the problem isn’t so much one of volume (there aren’t that many subplots this year) as one of divergence: the various plotlines have neither conceptual nor narrative connections, and the show’s directors have been given the unenviable task of hopping between them at random, undermining continuity and making for a fragmented viewing experience.
Of course, True Blood isn’t the first series to reach the point of having one decent storyline padded out with a bunch of extraneous bullshit to make up the running time. Even so, some of the stuff this season is plumbing Nadine-going-back-to-school levels of shittiness: here’s bumbling Andy Bellefleur, chasing around a gaggle of fairy children and saying things like “I don’t know what I’m doing!,” just so you get the point that, hey, he doesn’t know what he’s doing! Or poor Jason Stackhouse, once a somewhat interesting exploration of the character of a man coming to terms with the fact that charisma and a legendary footballing reputation aren’t always enough to get by, now a cardboard cutout of male stupidity reduced to delivering lame one-liners about how dumb he is. Even the ever-awesome Lafayette has had to make do with both limited screen time and little to work with when he does get in front of the camera.
We’ll save the effort of going into any sort of detailed examination here, but basically, this week’s extraneous plot points go something like this:
– The creepy old dude into whose car J. Stackhouse stumbled last week was not a vampire but his Fairy Grandfather, a benevolent type who has apparently been watching over the Stackhouse family forever (but not, presumably, during all the woes that have befallen various members of said family in previous seasons — continuity’s a bitch, eh?); – There’s a gentleman who’s presumably going to be Sookie’s new love interest, viz. a wandering fairy by the name of Ben. At least it’ll make a change from the ongoing Bill-or-Eric? storyline; – Sam appears destined to spend most of this series trying to recover Luna’s daughter from the clutches of Alcide’s werewolf pack, who sadly didn’t have any threesomes this week, perhaps because they were distracted by childnapping duties; – As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also being menaced by a bunch of do-gooding college students who want him to “come out” as a shapeshifter; – The wife of Terry’s old sergeant from Iraq turns up, leading to much awkwardness (sorry, ma’am, he got eaten by a fire demon!); – Andy Bellefleur has children that are growing up crazily quickly, and he Doesn’t Know What He’s Doing™!
But really, the only storyline worth caring about is, as ever, that of the vampires. This episode revealed that for all their supernatural powers and general awesomeness, the world’s blood-drinkin’ population is very much up shit creek since “terrorists” blew up the True Blood factory. They’ve been placed under curfew and stripped of any constitutional rights, and their ability to fight back appears seriously undermined by the fact that humans have developed both defenses against their powers (special contact lenses that protect against glamoring!) and weapons that can hurt the undead (silver-plated bullets that emit UV light, which, in an example of life proving even more ridiculous that art, rather recall these).
If there was any doubt that this season was going to go for hardcore allegory, it was removed in the denouement to this episode, in which we discover that Supernatural Nice Guy of OK Cupid (and now apparently immortal übervampire) Bill Compton can a) commune with Lilith and b) see the future, a future that seems to involve a full-fledged vampire holocaust. The episode ends with Bill looking upon a vision of vampires being rounded up like, well, Jews in Germany, and then locked into a sealed chamber and exposed to sunlight.
Part of the interest of the first season of True Blood were the parallel between its depiction of vampires and real-life minorities. Several of these were made pretty explicit — the whole Southern setting evokes the civil rights struggle, while anti-vampire slogans like “GOD HATES FANGS” have obvious echoes of the delightful Westboro Baptist Church. But even so: the Holocaust? Really? You get the feeling that True Blood is on pretty risky ground here, a fact that in and of itself is at least better than the playing-it-safe feel that accompanied past seasons. Still, is a show that remains essentially a vampire soap opera largely notable for its copious sex and southern accents the place to deal with genocide, allegorically or otherwise? Gulp. Um. Well. Maybe?