Monday, September 26, 2011

True Blood

Like with most things that give me even the slightest raised eyebrow, I went into watching True Blood with some hesitance. Given the prevalence of vampire stories that have permeated our culture over the past few years, I couldn’t help but be skeptical at the thought of trying another show centered around the mythical creatures. But, thankfully, I try to be open to new things and, after a number of friends recommended it to me, I decided to give it a shot.

Not Your Teenage Sister’s Vampires

The most important thing the show did for me was for it to not be Twilight. While there is a measure of romantic melodrama within the relationship between Bill and Sookie, overall True Blood does a fantastic job of subverting expectations. While I wouldn’t call the show “realistic” by any means, it has managed to consistently keep me hooked to its darkly humorous feel, overall sexiness, and impressive character focus.

An important distinction between True Blood’s vampires and the vampires of other stories is twofold. First, unlike the vast majority of other vampire stories out there, in True Blood the vampire population has come out and publicized their existence to the world. The results are as interesting as they are varied. As one might expect, many people are understandably freaked out by these creatures who can walk among them at night and destroy them on a whim. On the flip side, others find the revelation fascinating and seek to learn more, some even to the point of fetishization. What makes this premise plausible is the invention of “Tru Blood”, bottled blood of all kinds easily distributable across the world. With this, vampires don’t need to feed on humans to survive, thus making it theoretically possible for them to coexist.

The second distinction is that these are the most powerful vampires I’ve ever seen or read about in any media form. With powers that only rise in age, True Blood’s vampires can become capable of super speed, immense strength, glamour (mind control), flight, regeneration and, through giving their blood to others, an incredible ability to heal the nastiest of injuries. Not to mention that, since vampires are immortal, you can run into ones that have been alive since before Christ died, creating some really interesting stories and historical tie-ins. However, the power comes with the price of vulnerabilities, mostly what one would expect with vampires. Sunlight, wooden stakes, needing to be invited into peoples’ homes, a nasty aversion to silver... They may be powerful but they aren’t unkillable, and this helps create a balance between the humans and vampires of True Blood. 

The Dance of Character Arcs

What really kept me around with True Blood, though, was the characters and the show’s clear love for them. Although some of the characters were hard to empathize with or care about at first (Jason Stackhouse, I’m looking at you...), True Blood really works hard at giving depth to every single character you see. Even the acerbic detective Andy Bellefleur becomes strangely charming once he gets his time in the limelight. And this is very important as, particularly at first, the show seems very... small. Most of the characters and stories center around the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps and, within that, much of the action takes place at Merlotte’s bar. That scenery doesn’t really change much and makes it that much more remarkable that the show is able to keep one’s attention. But it does and, what’s more, pulls it off with flair.

What impressed me even more, though, was how True Blood somehow manages to keep so many different story arcs going that often have little or nothing to do with each other. It often feels like what the separate characters are going through has no relation to the trials of the others or even the main plot itself; the plotlines feel that divorced. I can’t really give specific examples without spoilers, but this facet of True Blood mystified me (in a good way) above all others. In any story, when the character arcs get that divergent, the plot usually gets very convoluted and causes one to lose interest. But True Blood manages the separate stories with excellence and great pacing, tying them together later on in the smallest ways that somehow manage to hold to a clear continuity.

Long story short, True Blood impressed me. I just finished the third season, am going to start the fourth soon, and I’ve yet to encounter any part that seemed to drag for very long or turn me off from the show. I’ll admit, it was hard to get over some of the more unlikable characters at first. But in short order I came to turn around and like them, even the ones you would least expect.

My only warning is to point out that this show has an eye-popping amount of sex, violence, and gore. Personally, I was fine with it, but it is very important to note that this is an adult show. Drugs, sexual deviancy, mature themes; you name it, it probably has it. If you’re wary or uncomfortable with the presence of any of that, then I would advise staying away. Otherwise, you are in for one entertaining and awesome show.

1 comment:

  1. I justified it as intellectual pornography, sat back, and took it in. I agree about the character arcs and mystifying depth of some (like Bellefleur)who seemed so much less on the surface until they were given their due.