True Blood Sleeps, Life Goes On

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).

Whoopee.

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.

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About S. Norton

Writer, marketer, musician.
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13 Responses to True Blood Sleeps, Life Goes On

  1. Ryan Field says:

    “I suppose one could say he was looking to get caught.” …I’m not a crime or mystery expert, but I think this is what they were trying to achieve. That most killers leave clues, subconsciously hoping to be caught (light and simple?). But I agree with you…as a viewer, I would have liked to see more complicated layers…from a mystery point of view. However, I write romance and probably would have done the same thing, which is not zooming in so much on the msytery aspect (clues) as I would focus on the romance and the horror aspects.

    “I’ve got bad taste in men” says Rene’s widow.

    A “dumb ass” comment would have been nice, but they seem to move so fast (the trend these days in everything, especially novels) they don’t want to take the time to offer these things (I’m guilty of doing this myself, recently). They take for granted that we “get” it, without saying it out loud…I think. I could be wrong. And Arlene is fairly typical in a realistic sense. I know people like her; I tend to be like her. If there’s a good looking thug around who is nothing but trouble, I’m always attracted to him…even though I know better and should have learned my lesson from the thug before him. But more than that, I usually attract the thug types…again,even though I know better. 🙂 The morality issue is another thing: I just don’t think they want to go there in depth. Maybe they should; but I don’t see that happening on HBO.

    But I agree with all your comments, and I can’t help but wonder if they aren’t trying to overcompensate too much…in all aspects. To make this all so fast and moving and “different” they are missing some basics here. I hate cliches, but I think Ball is crossing the lines (overcompensating to be so non-cliche)sometimes with vampire facts. Vampires are not photographic; I don’t care what Ball or anyone else says 🙂 And he does this with other vampire facts (classic; not cliche), too, that often bother me.

    I know the non-cliche thing won’t change; it’s what Ball is going for. But I’m hoping a lot of the things you mentioned do change in the next season. And I’ll be watching.

  2. scottyus says:

    You make a good point that reminds me of the election and why Obama didn’t really need to go into too many details. Where that was an issue (only in part, of course) of “It’s the economy, stupid” I guess this is an issue of “It’s the romance, stupid”. 🙂

    But I feel that depth to some degree is what HBO affords us, not just romance and boobies. The Sopranos always had something interesting behind every killing, and Six Feet Under showed more layers in the opening death sequences than anything we’re getting in True Blood. I could say the same about Rome. Seriously, you could just tone down the sexuality, language and blood and TB falls neatly into a slot on the WB. Ball has a ton of time here to get clever with the mysteries and character reactions and still have all the bodice-ripping he wants. I’m just sensing a bit too much “cart before the horse”: he’s shoving plots and characters around to illicit conflict and bring about another R rated scene. That weakens the conflict for me, and gives the show a feeling of high-budget, softcore porn. 🙂

    I agree with you when you say he’s trying to do a lot, and on one hand I can appreciate that. But we’ve seen vampires before. Lots of them. And Twilight is out (which is all I plan to know about it). Making a few things different-as you say-isn’t enough to make a show about vampires worth watching. If Ball doesn’t give TB a little more meat, I have a feeling that the top brass will be wondering, like I am, if the bent on the pulp is enough to drag it out.

  3. Ryan Field says:

    “I’m just sensing a bit too much “cart before the horse”: he’s shoving plots and characters around to illicit conflict and bring about another R rated scene. That weakens the conflict for me, and gives the show a feeling of high-budget, softcore porn.”

    I so agree. But I think this is on purpose. And it’s fun. Let’s face it, the economy is down, the country is in a slump and there’s not really much on TV to watch. In times like this we typcially see escapism, in books and film. And sex helps.

    “You make a good point that reminds me of the election and why Obama didn’t really need to go into too many details. Where that was an issue (only in part, of course) of “It’s the economy, stupid”

    If you notice, Obama didn’t need to go into any details about anything. All it took was a smile and nod and they were eating out of his hand, pardon the cliche 🙂

  4. scottyus says:

    Heh, and as you’re alluding to, what’s happening now and what’s come before is making what holds little substance look damn good. It’s a lot to live up to.

    Totally agree about the escapism, too. Still, I have to say, that doesn’t mean it has to be all empty calories. I may be being too hard on Ball here. He’s working from Harris’ material, and we’re talking young reader. I just am still kind of surprised he chose to make TB. Of course, I’m not privy to what’s gone on behind the scenes, but perhaps HBO wanted a book tie-in because of what they knew was happening with Twlight? Maybe Ball was brought in to make it all work?

    What saves it at the end of the hour are some of the performances. Jason is incredible. That guy knows his instrument, as does the actress who plays Tara, and she’s the best when being funny with Lafayette. If only the tone of the show was a little more, I don’t know, Cohen Brothers. Then you could get away with the simpleton aspect but still be saying something.

    And I’m sorry: the scream at the end when they found Lafayette? Like we didn’t know it was coming, hadn’t been waiting for it for the final ten minutes, and would be surprised to see his foot. Fail. 🙂

  5. Ryan Field says:

    “It’s a lot to live up to.” I honestly do believe we have a President-elect that will one day be a great President and that he has what it takes to live up to it all. (fingers crossed)

    I’m not surprised he chose to make TB. And here’s why. It’s timing and he thinks he can sell it. Once you get past the first obstacle, which is, “Can I sell this?”, the next one is to make it worth while. …he has some work to do 🙂

    “Of course, I’m not privy to what’s gone on behind the scenes, but perhaps HBO wanted a book tie-in because of what they knew was happening with Twlight? Maybe Ball was brought in to make it all work?”

    Perfect. I couldn’t have said it better.

    And, Jason is the best!! And those painted toe nails at the end were perfect.

  6. scottyus says:

    “And those painted toe nails at the end were perfect.”

    Damn youuuu! 😉

    Yeah, great touch, but no surprise. Don’t you remember how deaths in SFU and The Sopranos used to be shockers at the end of the season?

    Maybe I’m asking too much. /fussy

  7. Ryan Field says:

    The Sopranos used to be shockers at the end of the season?

    HA! I’m still trying to figure out the season finale…seriously, I do agree. But those painted toe nails were too good to ignore 🙂

  8. scottyus says:

    Oh, right, the series finale was a bit petulant on the part of David Chase. See what kind of arty horse shit you get into when you don’t care if you ever work again? 🙂

    So do you think Lafayette is really dead? If so, who did it and put him in Andy’s car? Jason had it in for the guy, but his new “saved” status would lead one to believe that he wouldn’t do that but I guess, with this series, anyone can do anything regardless of how contradictory it is.

    More Jessica, I say. 🙂

  9. Ryan Field says:

    I don’t think he’s dead. I hope not anyway…why kill off such a strong character? Right? And they have this way of working out these things between seasons (you know), to let you think he’s dead and then bring him back again and make it seem real.

    But if he is dead, Jason didn’t do it; he’s not a killer (with or without his saved status…he’s just not a killer).

    I kind of miss the grandmother. I wish they hadn’t killed her off. I thought she offered stability to both Jason and Sookie. 😦

  10. scottyus says:

    Regarding the grandmother–Rene kept saying “why are you here, you’re not supposed to be here” to give us the reason why he killed her. Why not just leave? I could see if she saw him doing something, but he could have made anything up in this universe.

    Guess we’ll see on Lafayette. Would be kind of funny if he was just sleeping if off in the car like it was his coffin. He’d probably be scary as hell as a vamp. 🙂

  11. Ryan Field says:

    I agree about the grandmother and Rene. He could have made anything up and they could have kept her in the storyline. But I think they were going for shock value, and killing a sweet old woman works.

    Lafayette as a vamp? How vicious would that be?

    But I was thinking the other night that if you’re an actor on that show, nothing is secure.

  12. Angel says:

    Rene killed the women because he was so fucked up after learning his sister did a vamp that he killed her, to free her from the horrible thing she’d done. And he was messed up about what he was “made” to do he started to hate all women who sleep with vamps and began killing them.

    Laf is dead in the last episode he was painting his toe nails red on the bar and a male foot with red toe nail polish falls out of the car. whats the chance its another black gay male in bontemps wearing red polish at the same time Laf is missing?

  13. scottyus says:

    Well, I get what you’re saying about Rene killing women who sleep with vampires, although that doesn’t really cover Amy or the grandmother. I know he went there for Sookie, so maybe he was just “out of his head”. Amy was an addict, so I guess he hates them too, or at least he hates everything to do with V and vampires, and…all, hell, it was a plot wedged into a story about a girl in love with a vampire. It was just a pretty amateur one, at that. All the writer had to do was watch a few episodes of Hercule Pirot, and we’d have had our “ahhh!” moment. 🙂

    And Lafayette was definitely in the car, no question. The question remains, though, “Is he dead, or just sleeping off a feeding or something?” My first reaction is “dead”. But it was two weeks later and the car had been moved. Now there’s a mystery. Let’s see if the uncovering satisfies the winter long debate.

    Cheers for the chime-in, Angel.

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