Wednesday, 25 July 2012

TRUE BLOOD, 5.7 – "In the Beginning"

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

My blood's boiling...

True Blood's been incompetent and wilfully stupid for years now, but it's now become insulting and wretched. If you're still watching HBO's vampire drama, I hope it's only out of grim fascination, because from a creative perspective it's become a catastrophic mess. Scenes lurch out of nowhere, logic takes a backseat, and any clarity of motivation is practically non-existent. It feels like each episode's writer is under orders to fill an hour with whatever malformed ideas they have, rather than work together to weave a satisfying story. At times it feels like this season's being written in a round robin style; with each writer having to produce a screenplay based solely on the one that preceded it.

There's only 15-minutes of plot in episodes these days, so the bulk of each hour is spent on superfluous moments that exist because, well, they sound like fun in principle. But they're not. They're really not. True Blood has become unutterably boring; no matter how many decapitations and instances of blood-letting they find excuses for. The characters are clueless and inconsistently written, but worse is how they're little more than hollow puppets for the writers to abuse for their own amusement.

Let's examine this week's train-wreck:

  • The Fae told Sookie (Anna Paquin) that her fairy powers are finite because she's half-human, so by the end of the episode she's intentionally overusing her energy blasts in an effort to deplete herself and become fully human. I would I could understand this line of thought, but the show's done a poor job explaining the pressures that come with Sookie's mind-reading—because, frankly, that particular superpower comes and goes when it pleases. And why give up the energy blasts that have saved her life on more than one occasion? There's a story to be told here, of course, because almost every superhero goes through a similar experience (Superman II, Spider-Man 2), but True Blood isn't bringing anything different to the table. Who actually cares if Sookie loses her powers?
  • Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) went looking for his dead boyfriend Jesus's body, and in the process was caught by Jesus's crazy grandfather, who has a plan to bring his grandson back from the dead involving his pregnant wife. Where did any of this come from? Can we just move on from this, please? Ellis was once a highlight of True Blood, as crazy as that sounds these days, but he's now utterly pointless. His friendships don't even mean anything now, because he's had so little input with both Sookie and Tara (Rutina Wesley).
  • Russell (Denis O'Hare) killed Roman, but was stopped by bodyguards who deployed a net made of silver. Then we had to swallow that Salome (Valentina Cervi) was responsible for releasing Russell, so he'd kill her husband (which she couldn't do herself for bullshit reasons), and the writers had no option to try and make a forgive-and-forget argument work to prevent antagonism between Russell, Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgård). At least this storyline was enlivened by O'Hare, who brings an impish charm to the tyrannical yet playful Russell—with the episode's highlight being the moment he calmly chopped a dissenter's head off, after deciding to drink the blood of progenitor vampire Lilith. This in turn led to an amusingly bizarre sequence of the vampire Authority out on the town together, smashed out of their skulls after ingesting Lilith's blood, and later feeding on a bar full of humans. It was so-bad-it's-good for a short while, until the frankly nonsensical moment when Lilith was reborn from a drop of blood. The show usually has excellent production values, but that CGI effect moment was appalling and my interest in Lilith as a nemesis flat-lined almost immediately. She's not even corporeal, she's just a group hallucination? And then they threw in a bizarre moment with Eric's maker Godric (Allan Hyde) returning as a ghost to try and make his progeny see the truth.

  • Tara did the least sexy pole dancer ever captured on film (and I've seen that Britney Spears video), while suddenly looking like she's halfway through a sex change. The writers seem keen to explore Tara being torn between her birth mother and her vampire maker, which is fair enough. I just wish it was being done with a more interesting character.
  • Hoyt (Jim Parrack) has joined the redneck "hate gang" who are going around killing "supes" because... well, just because. He's a presence on the show, so he needs something to do. When I think back to how likeable Hoyt was until season 3, it makes me want to punch someone in the nose.
  • Sam (Sam Trammell) gives Sookie advice about remaining human and being true to herself... which she duly ignored because she apparently doesn't value his opinion. Sam remained aggrieved that yokels are going around killing his pals, which is understandable, and managed to catch one who unwisely returned to finish off his girlfriend.
  • Sheriff Andy (Chris Bauer) had a crisis of confidence and sought the advice of his predecessor Sheriff Dearborne (William Sanderson), which hopefully pleased the twelve people who remember who Sheriff Dearborne is, and the other nine who were demanding that character's return with an online petition.

  • Jason (Ryan Kwanten) is angry that a vampire killed his parents. Fair enough, I would be. He's also angry that Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) is feeding on strangers in the privacy of her own home, despite getting the hint they're in an open relationship. He then shot Jessica in the face, because that's a funny punchline on this show now.
  • Alcide (Joseph Manganiello) practised for his fight with J.D, which adds another few minutes to the chest quota HBO demands every season. I bet Manganiello is so glad he found the time to appear in Magic Mike between seasons, because it's ridiculous how poorly treated he is on True Blood.
  • Terry (Todd Lowe) was frightened by the Ilfrit fire demon, which can't even be bothered to kill him or his friend when it gets the chance, it just mocked them in an empty field. When even a fire demon loses enthusiasm for its one job in life, it's time to worry.
  • Arlene (Carrie Preston) watched her fucking wedding video. I'm serious. And they evidently went to a lot of time and trouble recreating Arlene and Terry's special day, too. Talk about wasting resources.
"In the Beginning" was rather terrible, in my opinion. I counted three worthwhile moments, all involving Russell Edgington: his high-speed killing of a rebel, the moment when he interrupted the karaoke at a bar, and the lunacy of the sequence where the head vampires hit the town (with Bill riding on Eric's back!) They were all instances where True Blood's sense of crazed fun came back, but such moments are vestiges of earlier times, half-remembered by the current writing staff. God bless O'Hare for managing to make this episode enjoyable for brief moments, but I'm otherwise astonished and saddened by how dumb this show's become.

written by Brian Buckner / directed by Michael Ruscio / 22 July 2012 / HBO