17 August 2010

True Blood: Season 2

True Blood: Season 2

Created and produced by Alan Bell
Based on "The Southern Vampire Mysteries: Living Dead in Dallas" by Charlaine Harris
Starring Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Rutina Wesley, Nelsan Ellis, Sam Trammel, Ryan Kwanten, Chris Bauer, Anna Camp, Michael McMillian, Mechad Brooks, Michelle Forbes, Deborah Ann Woll, Alexander Skarsgard, Allan Hyde
Transmission dates: Summer 2009

Broadcast on HBO, 12 episodes, 50 mins.

Plot: Sookie's in a relationship with vampire Bill, and his connections to Sheriff Eric brings the couple to Dallas to help solve the kidnapping of two thousand year-old vampire Gordic. Meanwhile in Bon Temps, the mysterious and deadly Maryann is casting a spell on the townspeople, intent on pleasing her Gods with a very specific sacrifice.

Hardly been buying into this huge vampire craze that's risen up the last few years. Sure, I loved the hell out of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but since Twilight, I've since failed to understand this new attraction. With all the reignited interest in vampires, it was only a matter of time before the small screen's schedule became occupado with the undead bloodsuckers. The CW gave us The Vampire Diaries, a show that's pretty badly acted but features at least a decent script thrown in here and there. And for the adult, HBO produced True Blood, a show full of nudity, sex, and gore. Obviously True Blood is the more popular of the two. Out on a blind whim, I bought the first season, and wasn't all that impressed. I waited for a friend of mine to lend me his second season set, and lo and behold - season two is leaps and bounds superior to the first and boasts some really interesting ideas and utterly compelling episodes.

The reason for my admiration for season 2 rests in, I believe, the expansion of the shows mythology. Unlike the first season, the viewers and writers are not limited to a confined story about a human and a vampire falling in love and dealing with the prejudices and repercussions that come out of that. Instead, the writers were allowed to delve into the other supernatural creatures and entities that go bump and the night, and craft a storyline that literally brings in every character of the series, new and used, and culminate in a bigger scale finale. Now, folks, please don't send me death threats, but the relationship between Bill and Sookie is, to me, the absolute least interesting thing about the entire series. From one episode to another, I was glued to the screen wondering what would happen to Godric, how the relationship between Daphne and Sam was going to develop, where the writers were going to take this seemingly one-dimensional courtship between Tara and 'Eggs', what Maryanne's end game is, and what the hell is going on with The Fellowship of the Sun [a subplot introduced at the end of season 1 with little enthusiasm on my part, but ended up being another favorite aspect of this season].

It was like everyone was flying high on all cylinders - the actors, the writers, the editors, the cinematographers - whether it be new-found energy or all the great publicity the show was gaining through word of mouth, but no matter the reason, True Blood's second season was pretty much a fun and awesome experience to watch. And, lest us forget, probably the next best vampire show to air since Whedon's days. Basically, that's high praise.

This seasons Big Bad is about as opposite as last seasons very human antagonist - Maryanne is some sort of supernatural creature called a maenad. Apparently she's been around on this earth for a long, long time, and has the ability to be immortal just by believing its true. Her presence in Bon Temps is clouded in mystery for the major portion of the season, her character instead inserting herself into peoples lives, causing complications, hosting giant orgies that includes nearly everyone in the area. Truth be told, Maryanne's character wasn't very strongly written, but actress Michelle Forbes (Battlestar Galactica: Razor) goes above and beyond the written material to give us one menacing bitch. Even I was freaked out by her before she decked out in minotaur/bull claws and head! So the ever present question in the last two episodes, when Sookie, Bill, Jason, and Eric return is: how does one kill a seemingly indestructible being?

One fantastic character first introduced this season and then sadly written away is Godric, a 2,000-year old vampire and Maker of Eric the Viking. Barely about 5'2, Godric looks like a short prepubescent teenager and strikingly un-imposing. Well, Godric is a great case of deceiving appearances - this character is the most threatening, most captivating, most freakin'ly awesome character in the show period. Forget Eric, forget Bill, forget 'em all - Godric is the real deal vampire, the type in the old days who could kill a good percentage of warriors in mere moments, the type that relished blood foaming in his mouth. And now, his years of existence has provided a epiphany, a choice to make some sort of peace with the humans, content with cohabiting without feeding. Actor Allan Hyde gave a Emmy-worthy performance in those few featured episodes. The character's cool demeanor and soft-spoken voice will continue to irk me and chill me whenever I think about him.

Sookie and Bill are given a rather uninteresting story, tasked by Eric to find Godric and infiltrate the Fellowship of the Sun. Their services aren't even really needed until the sixth or seventh episode, and they spend their time before hand sexing each other up and simply being genuinely annoying; however, once Sookie meets up with Jason - another character who has a interesting but sorta aimless arc this season - the storyline gains momentum, and eventually leads the trio back to Bon Temps. By the final episodes, the Sookie character does become a bit more interesting, as her supernatural powers are addressed once again, and the question of what she is exactly lingers in the air without conclusion, frustratingly enough. I daresay the truth of what Sookie is is quite possibly the most interesting plot thread the show has going for it - at least for me.

Lafayette gets kidnapped and subsequently loses all his mojo, becoming a pale imitation of his former kick-ass self; Detective Andy Bellefleur once again becomes the town joke, but his character rises to impossible odds near the end in a mostly satisfying way; Sam deals with a lot of personal issues, and for the most part his arc was the second coolest story in the series; Eric - well, I just don't care; Tara finds love with this guy named 'Eggs' but it doesn't end well - because the only thing the writers can do with this character is give her a guy and some tragedy, and that's that; and a new character is introduced in the final two episodes, the Vampire Queen, and she is freakishly awesome (!).

A absolutely fascinating thing about HBO shows that still boggles my mind is this: each episode of one of their shows features roughly a runtime of 51-54 minutes, without commercials. Frankly, that is a lot of running time, and the fact that showrunner Bell is able to fill in those extra minutes is nothing less than astounding. The average show on a network station is 41-43 minutes, with plenty of commercials thrown in. Now for the part that blows my mind - even in the first ten episodes of this season, and even the entirety of the first season, not a whole lot of stuff happens. Er, let me rephrase: there's not a lot of Jack Bauer-y, OMG!, OMG!, OMG! action-y pieces until the final three episodes where all the characters come together to bring down the wicked witch. During the preceding episodes, Sookie and Bill do something in Dallas, and Maryann continues to infect the residents of Bon Temps. So it's amazing that even though the episodes are rather uneventful, those 54 minutes still breeze by like it was your everyday half hour sitcom, and the tension and characters are so engrossing and superbly acted that all sense of time in these episodes' runtime goes bye-bye. Showtime's Dexter, which has a lot more plot each episode, feels longer and hits about the same running time. Interesting, no?

I recognize season two has gotten a lock of flack, but I really enjoyed it. The Maryann mystery was played out well enough, Jessica's un-life as a newborn vampire was very interesting to watch, everything with the Fellowship of the Sun was humorous and wickedly awesome (especially towards the end), and this season also brought us the phenomenal and memorable character of Godric, which I will always be thankful for. True Blood is improving in the interesting department, but still needs to find ways to expand its characters and add a bit more dimension to them, as well as exploring other supernatural realms besides vampires and werewolves if it intends on surviving more seasons. Nevertheless, onwards to season 3!


Rachel said...

Oh, sadly, I must disagree with most of your opinion on Season 2.

My main dislike was Maryann. Her storyline became repetitive and tedious to watch, with everything ending in an orgy on a weekly basis. Then in the last 3 episodes when all the focus is just on defeating her, the show totally went off the rails, and only picked itself back up in the last half hour of the season.

I wasn't as big a fan of Godric as everyone else seemed to be. I liked the storyline of finding him, and his death scene was beautiful, but other than that I don't see what all the fuss is about. He's a bit too soft spoken for me.

The thing I loved about Season 1 was the simplicity of the seasonal story arc: women obsessed with vampires are dying and we must find out who's killing them. It focused more on the human aspect, with the existence of vampires being a catalyst more than the central focus. There was real mystery to it, which is something that has since been lost in subsequent seasons. Afterall, the book series the show is based on is called The Southern Vampire Mysteries.

Season 3 is pretty crazy too, but I find it much more tolerable. The mythology expansion is in full swing too, introducing all kinds of new beings. Unfortunately, the show has introduced so many new characters in Season 3, they barely have time for the original characters' subplots. I like it, but it is seriously flawed.

Andy the Time Lord said...

Yeah, a large majority of TRUE BLOOD fans seem to be split with this season.

As for Godric, I was more stricken by the performer moreso than the actual character. Don't get me wrong, Godric was very interesting, but the way Allan Hyde played him - he was like a true vampire: he doesn't need to threaten anyone, he KNOWS he can kill everyone in the room in two heartbeats, and he doesn't need to show his power or intimidation (as opposed to Bill and Eric, who seem to always need to go "Grrrr!" to make their point).

Maryann - yes, far too many orgies, but once I figured out what all the fuss was about, why she was doing it, I became a little bit more 'OK' with it. Still 'repetitive and tedious', indeed, I can just tolerate it. [Speaking of which, that sacrificial moment with Sam was AWESOME]

I fall into the camp of folks who want the bigger world of the supernatural explored in these vampire shows. The 'woman loves vampire' storyline has been done to death and undead alike, so the inclusion of these different vampire sectors, deities, shape-shifters, and werewolves is extremely welcomed.

Eager to get into season 3, I just need to make sure I'm in an environment where no one will kick me out of the lab when there's a sex scene every five minutes. :)