Tuesday, 24 June 2014

TRUE BLOOD, 7.1 – 'Jesus Gonna Be Here'

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

written by Angela Robinson | directed by Stephen Moyer

After seven seasons, the sun's setting on HBO's supernatural drama True Blood. Over that time it's become increasingly inessential and ludicrous, but there's been enough craziness and graphic violence to placate viewers like myself who've grown distant from the characters and believe the show peaked in the middle of season 2 (which was a long time ago now). Since then we've had all manner of weirdness thrown at us, to try and keep onlookers interested in goings-on (witches, fire-demons, werewolves, were-panthers, fairies), but the final season appears to be returning to the simpler issue of the vampire-human relations that underpinned the first year.

After last season's finale time-jump, we're in a brave new world where vampires and humans share a common enemy: mutant vampires infected by the man-made Hepatitis-V disease, who travel in swarms and are keen to drink real human blood because they're terminally ill and, well, might as well. Society's combated this threat by insisting all the regular vamps partner a human and offer them protection from the crazed Hep-V's, in return for non-infected human blood to drink. It sounds like a good deal, but obviously there's suspicion and distrust in a small-town like Bon Temps....

As premiere's go, I thought "Jesus Gonna Be Here" was very underwhelming and didn't excite me on any level. It just seems blatantly obvious that True Blood has nothing new to offer its loyal audience, and this is one last roll of the dice before oblivion. The Hep-V's aren't a bad idea for a season menace, but why not make them truly scary and monstrous like the Reapers from Blade II)? They instead appear to resemble 'vampire-zombies', and the difference in abilities and strengths isn't clear. In one sequence, Jessica (Deboran Ann Woll) spent most of the episode trying to protect fairy Adilyn Bellefleur (Bailey Noble) from a Hep-V on her front lawn, and I didn't understand the danger. No vampire can set foot in a person's home without invitation, so why was Adilyn imperilled? Why do any humans need protection from vampires when they're indoors at night? And why did some humans go looking for Hep-V nests in the middle of the night, when it would surely make more sense to search them out during daylight hours?!

Maybe I'm missing something, but it's apparent lapses in logic like this that infuriate me about True Blood. I also dislike how the time-jump's resulted in Sookie (Anna Paquin) being in a relationship with werewolf Alcide (Joe Manganiello), because that's clearly a lame narrative shortcut to help the writers (who kept failing in their attempts to make that romance play out on-screen). Alcide's always been a horrendous bore, and making him Sookie's love-interest doesn't alter that fact. It just gives Sookie a new person to berate about the terrible hardships she encounters as a telepath hear everyone's thoughts—which is a power that comes and goes on the show, anyway, let's be honest.

Strangely, "Jesus Gonna Be Here" also killed original character Tara (Rutina Wesley) before the opening titles had rolled, during a mass Hep-V attack around Bellefleur's Bar & Grill. That was a ballsy move, but also about four seasons overdue because Tara's always been a massive pain in the neck. They'd actually managed to improve her after turning her into sassy vampire just recently, so her demise didn't make me as happy as it would have done back in season 3. I'm just a little shocked they killed a prominent cast member like Tara—the best friend of both Sookie and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis)—and it barely seemed to register or matter. The only character who reacted plausibly was Tara's crazy mother Lettie (Adina Porter). I guess the others are now inured to friends and families dying in vampire attacks, seven years after Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) walked into their lives. Of course, this poor treatment gives me cause to believe Tara's not gone; in which case, the writers still needed to make her fake-death feel real and have impact.

What else happened? One of the few remaining character you can still enjoy watching appears to be stuck in a dumb foreign adventure, as Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) searches for her 'maker' Eric in Morocco. And she's doing dangerous things like participating in vampire Russian Roulette (the difference is competitors stand in metal basins to aide clean-up of the gooey mess a successful bullet through a vampire's heart creates). Eric was presumed vaporised as he sunbathed in broad daylight before this "day-walking" power was rescinded last season, but True Blood was never going to let brooding hunk Alexander Skarsgård sit the final season out.

There's also a new human character called Vince (Brett Rickaby) who's taken lead of a Bon Temps mob, keen to eradicate the Hep-V interlopers, and he's discovered that Sam (Sam Trammell) has the ability to change into a dog. A fact Sam was worryingly blasé about keeping a secret, considering he's done a superb job maintaining radio silence on the matter of shape-shifters for so many decades. Maybe this season's big plan is to have everyday folk realise the world's full of freakier things than vampires.

And if you care about Jason (Ryan Kwanten) managing to slip out from under the thumb of vampire girlfriend/mistress Violet (Karolina Wydra), or cute vampire Willa (Amelia Rose Blaire) moving into Reverend Daniels' (Gregg Daniel) church cellar, you're a better person than I.

Overall, this was a poor start to a final season I'm not very excited about to begin with. True Blood lost the plot a long time ago, but now it appears to have lost its spirit, energy, and ability to surprise. When a show once celebrated for its amazing cliffhangers ends a premiere with Sookie making a dull speech to churchgoers, you have every reason to worry this show is running on fumes and we're in a for a bumpy final ride.

22 June 2014 | HBO