June 17, 2013



TRUE BLOOD:  Sunday 9PM on HBO

Although TRUE BLOOD shares with its HBO cousin Game of Thrones a predilection for high body count, sexual content and ratings, the two shows are very different.  Where Game is, in many ways, an exercise in elegant restraint, with climaxes carefully spaced out over years of storytelling, True Blood is all about nonstop crazy spectacle, an ante that’s steadily climbed every season to become a festival of vampires, faeries, shape-shifters, werewolves, telepaths, witches, gods, and seemingly every other kind of supernatural creature.  In so doing, it’s moved some distance from the more personal stories and social commentary that made the show appealing in the first place.

This is going to be a transition season for True Blood, the first not run by series creator Alan Ball (although he remains, by contract, an Executive Producer).  First Mark Hudis, who’d been a producer on the series for the past couple of seasons, was promoted to showrunner, and then he was shifted out and the show was put into the hands of Brian Buckner, who’s been with Blood from the start.  Based on the Season 6 premiere, written by Executive Producer Raelle Tucker and directed by Stephen Moyer (whose day job is playing vampire–and now resurrected goddess–Bill), it appears that the show is letting things settle a bit, sticking with the storylines begun last season instead of introducing yet more madness.

We pick up just where Season 5 left off, with Bill’s apparent death and incarnation as some blood-drenched form of Lilith, as all the major characters assembled for last season’s finale at the Vampire Authority make their respective escapes before it incinerates.  Eric (Alexander Sarsgard) is determined to kill what the show is already calling “Bilith,” aided by his sister Nora (Lucy Griffiths), while Jessica (Deborah Ann Wolf), created by Bill, is explosively drawn to him, and Sookie (Anna Paquin), his one-time love, mostly wants to go home.  It appears that whatever Bilith is, exactly, that’ll be the focal point of the season.

The major new plotline introduced is not an unfamiliar one:  the (human) governor of Louisiana, Truman Burrell (Arliss Howard), is an anti-vampire activist who essentially declares war against the species, with actions that include shutting down vampire-owned businesses like the bar owned by Pam (Kristin Bauer von Straten), who’s still loyal to her maker Eric despite having gotten involved with Tara (Rutina Wesley).  Governor Burrell seems, on first glance, not all that different from the religious leaders who were trying to destroy all vampires back in Season 2.  Meanwhile, we also meet Warlow (Rutger Hauer), the vampire who apparently killed the parents of Sookie and Jason (Ryan Kwanten), and who was granted rights in Sookie, as their part-faerie daughter.  In more subsidiary plotlines, Alcide (Joe Manganiello) enjoyed a threesome as part of the spoils of becoming the new werewolf packmaster, Sam (Sam Trammell) prepared to raise the daughter of his late shape-shifter girlfriend, and Sheriff Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) raised his own quartet of half-faerie children–the good news there being that they grow super-fast, and by episode’s end had moved out of diapers to walking and talking.

True Blood had become overly busy by its last couple of seasons, and tonight’s premiere was promising in that it appeared to take note of that fact and bring the show’s focus back to the core characters (there are certainly more than enough of them at this point to carry a season).  For the moment, though, the series seems to be low on personal stories, with Sookie estranged from both Bill and Eric, Sam’s girlfriend dead, Jason in one of his anti-vampire moods that seems to rule out a reunion with Jessica, and Pam and Tara the only semi-functioning couple.  The series has always had a whole lot of mythology, but that’s never been its strong point (unlike, say, The Vampire Diaries)–it needs to rely on the interrelationships between its characters to keep its heart pumping.  Of course, the season is still young.

True Blood is one of HBO’s biggest hits, so it needn’t be overly concerned with ratings or even initial response to a season.  This year, too, should move quicker, thanks to a reduced order of 10 episodes instead of the 12 it’s gotten in the past (partly due to Anna Paquin’s real-life pregnancy–this also brings it in line with Game of Thrones, although The Newsroom and Boardwalk Empire are still at 12).  Having less time for plot complication may be a good thing for True Blood, a show that can use a visit back to its simpler roots.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."