Tuesday, 26 June 2012

TRUE BLOOD, 5.3 – "Whatever I Am, You Made Me"

Tuesday, 26 June 2012
*½ (out of four)

Now I start wondering if there's any point reviewing True Blood every week, because the show's reached the point where it's a struggle to say anything new about it. You know my core issues by now, and they're not going to be fixed any time soon. (There are far too many characters, most stuck in pointless or boring subplots.) In every episode, an hour's worth of stuff happens—some good, some bad, most forgettable—and you finish each episode with a mix of emotions. If most of the episode revolved around characters/plots you care about, you'll be happy enough; if it doesn't, you shake your head and pray it's better next week. Alan Ball's making the show he wants to make, which is a successful recipe from a ratings perspective, so I'm not even surprised he refuses to change things. For him and the majority of fans, True Blood remains gruesome, sexy, silly fun. I don't begrudge people having their fun during the summer with a brainless show like this, but I'm surprised more people aren't upset this show isn't better.

What happened this week? As usual, a lot of stuf—but none of it felt very relevant. Tara (Rutina Wesley) is still exceedingly angry that Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) had her turned into a vampire, despite the fact it was that or death (which feels ungrateful to me), and spent most of this episode locked in a refrigeration unit to, um, cool off. Tara's "maker" Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) reminisced about her life as a brothel madam in 1905, during which time she forced Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) to turn her into a vampire by attempting suicide, which required a continuation of last episode's flashbacks that made them less superfluous. In fact, the flashbacks here were more entertaining than the present-day story.

Meanwhile, Alcide (Joseph Manganiello) learned the awful truth about Sookie killing his ex-girlfriend Debbie Pelt in self-defense, so she's off his Christmas card list. Sheriff Andy (Chris Bauer) discovered his girlfriend's teenage sons have posted a nude photo of him on Facebook; a story that almost put me in a coma. Lafayette poured bleach into a stew back at Merlotte's, because he was momentarily possessed by the "baboon-gremlin" spirit from season 4 that I've forgotten the inner workings of.

More entertaining was Eric and Bill (Stephen Moyer) being outfitted with the vampire version of electronic ankle-tags (heart-mounted, iPhone-activated chest stakes) to ensure their obedience to the Authority while recapturing the escaped Russell Edgington; and sexy Chancellor Salome (Valentina Cervi) fulfilled this week's nudity quota by sleeping with them both. It's just a shame Bill and Eric spent the episode floating around Authority HQ, when they should really have been sent out on their mission. The sooner this storyline lets Eric and Bill roam Louisiana, trying to bag Russell Edgington for a second time, the better.

Elsewhere, Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) went gaga for the smell of a young man in a clothes store, whom I consequently assume is a fairy (sorry, Fae) like Sookie. (A big clue was use of the same music for the Fae sequences from last season.) Jason (Ryan Kwanten) reconnected with the MILF schoolteacher he lost his virginity to 15 years ago, which helped him realise he's incapable of being friends with women and has been using sex to fill a void in his life. Hopefully you'll have forgotten that this is a personal crisis Jason has been grappling with for years already, because clearly the writers have no idea what to do with him. He's either embracing his libido for laughs and eye candy reasons, or trying to put a lid on his sex drive for so-called drama.

Most bizarrely, chirpy Steve Newlin's (Michael McMillian) succeeded Nan Flanagan as the Authority's spin doctor, which makes no sense whatsoever. Why would Roman (Chris Meloni) give a four-month-old vampire such a prestigious and important position? And why do the writers think it's a good idea to have Newlin, an intrinsically goofy character, join one of the show's strait-laced storylines? Oh, and Nora (Lucy Griffiths) was interrogated with intravenous silver by the South's version of Sharon Osbourne, while heartbroken Hoyt (Jim Parrack) discovered eyeliner. Yes, really.

It all washes over me these days, which is probably for the best. I like the potential of Eric and Bill as bounty hunter types, together with the supreme silliness of vampire lore and how it's now a secret history sitting alongside Christianity. I also enjoy Pam's sardonic quips, and will happily watch more of Italian actress Valentina Cervi naked. I approve of Jessica's new pink dress, too. And the flashbacks are often the most enjoyable aspect of the series, even if they're not always strictly necessary. But everything else this season gets a big, resounding sigh from me. If it wasn't for my sense of professionalism and a degree of masochism, I'd be fast-forwarding a good 70% of these episodes.

Is that what everyone else is doing to cope?

written by Raelle Tucker / directed by David Petrarca / 24 June 2012 / HBO