So season one is in the can–or the coffin, I guess you could say. We’ve come to learn a few things, a few things have been left for us to debate, and summer 2009 is when we’ll get some answers. But there are a few issues I’d like to address now, and please join me if you’re so inclined. By the way, I’m going to have spoilers spilling like freshly drawn blood all over this blog, so if you haven’t seen the finale yet, be warned.
Okay, we all knew Rene was the killer, they were none to subtle about what he was fixing to do for the entire first half hour, and when he finally got to it we got to see Sam the dog save the day as Vampahhr Bill burnt to a crisp trying to join in. Sookie takes Rene out with a fairly cool shovel finish, and even though his head didn’t roll into the grave like I was hoping it would, at least we got some closure on that mystery. And what a mystery it was: escaping the murder of his sister, whom he killed because she was fang-banging, he drives a few hours to Bon Temps, learns a Cajun dialect that makes him sound different than everyone else (because that’s not going to draw attention to him, although I might have let it slide if we were supposed to think he just “sucked” at it), keeps the dialect tutorial tape and all the incriminating tapes of the women whom he killed in plain sight in the garage, starts killing again, and–here’s the best part–get’s married. Now, some of us might say it was the writers’ way of throwing us off his trail, and I guess it worked. But once he was identified, like so much of what is revealed in True Blood, we’re kind of left with a taste in our mouth like the cream used for the special sauce had gone off a little. I suppose one could say he was looking to get caught. But you know what, as a viewer, I don’t want him to be looking to get caught. I want something clever to slip him up. I guess if it weren’t for Sookie’s special powers it would have never happened because the entirety of the south is rather shit at solving crimes when they can be bothered to try, so good for you, Sookie? Err, yeah.
Which brings me to the baffling reactions of our characters to the deaths of those near and dear to them. “I’ve got bad taste in men” says Rene’s widow. Her offering flowers to Sookie head first was pretty funny, but no sooner is the man she married declared a serial killer that not only killed Sookie’s dear old gran but even one of her co-workers, she’s flirting with the veteran who thinks she’s “the bomb”. Not a single accusation of being a “dumb-ass”, not one question as to why the evidence was so easy to find even a little kid could do it (literally), nothing. So say “forgiving and forgetting” is just what they do in Bon Temps. Okay, fair enough. Why couldn’t Arlene be a little twisted about this sudden development? Why wouldn’t she possibly blame Sookie for discovering her husband’s “secret”, seeing as it was vampires that drove him to be what he was? We’re not sure why he hated them so much, but I suppose vamp hate is as nonsensical and as primitive as gay-bashing, racism, and general “otherness hating”, and Ball may have been all too eager to give Rene the blade here. He’s just “bad” according to Ball, and he got what he deserved. If you ask me, we’re being shortchanged when it comes to the underlying morality in True Blood, and what we’re getting is a soap opera with vampires. Not bad when there’s nothing else on, but when morality is where the show hangs its hat, it’s hardly deeper than a bite to the neck.
Let’s move on. Sam has a history with our good Samaritan (I can’t find her name anywhere, unbelievably). She’s awfully proud of herself for having found him, although he did open up a bar named after himself. She’s granting wishes to Tara for reasons that are suspect, but at the end of the episode, we’re made to think that Sam is just really pissed about her showing up. Is she dangerous? Maybe. Can she do a mean shimmy? Apparently so. What I’m getting is that we’ve got another season coming of Sam bitching all over the bar about an itch he can’t scratch (and as a part-time dog, that’ really shouldn’t be an issue). Add to that hot prospect the fact that Jason is born again (Zzzzz), Lafayette is probably dead (most interesting character and best actor) and we’ll likely see more of bumbling cop Andy (ZZZZZ).
As it stands right now, I’ve two things to look forward to in the summer: learning who killed Lafayette (the Senator? Jason? The pig?), and seeing the character of Jessica make life miserable for Bill. That’s really about it. True Blood: Season One felt very much like a writing exercise where you try and draw parallels between Vampires and “Your Favorite Scapegoat to the Ills of Society”. There were some clever bits, and there was no shortage of blood and nudity. But somewhere along the line I felt like there wasn’t enough “grit”. I know that Ball was more interested in setting the table from which we’ll feast for seasons to come, but where there’s shallow plot and sloppy character development, there needs to be an artistic point of view to balance it.
So do I stake it, or is there something residual in its effort to depict the monstrousness of humanity–a quality that makes HBO so addictive and provocative–that “glamours” me back in? So far the mysteries have been secondary to the soap, and not surprisingly, that’s cleaned them up to almost make them bland. And if it’s irritation that’s driving me to know who offed one of the better reasons to watch the show, I’m not sure that’s worth more than a future google when action resumes. I guess it all depends on the same thing that most shows go through great pains to avoid: whether there’s something better on at the time.
If I could say one thing to Alan Ball it would be this: have you even seen the opening of your own show? Because for the first time in a long time, as good as it is (and as they usually are), it really shouldn’t overshadow the stuff that follows it.