June 23, 2014

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “True Blood”


TRUE BLOOD:  Sunday 9PM on HBO

You don’t typically associate HBO with “guilty pleasure”–even its genre shows, from The Sopranos to Boardwalk Empire to Game of Thrones, have the weight of dramas determined to reinvent their forms–but TRUE BLOOD has been the exception.  An all-you-can-eat buffet of vampires, werewolves, sex, political satire, more sex, shapeshifters, witches, yet more sex, faeries, and whatever that Afghan monster thing was (and more sex), True Blood arrived at the horror-excess window before American Horror Story was even conceived (although that series added more style and sheer craziness to the mix).  True Blood has often been a mess, but it’s been a fun one, and it’s still quite successful, but HBO has nevertheless decided–for financial reasons or otherwise–that this season is the time to close the door on Bon Temps.

The 7th and final season began tonight, picking up just instants from the events that ended Season 6.  The hep-V-crazed vampires who were gathering outside of the vampire/human unity shindig at Bellefleur’s, presided over by Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer, who also directed the season premiere) and now-Mayor Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell), invaded with massacre on their minds, the shocking (although only temporary?) result being that Tara (Rutina Wesley) was killed, and also that Arlene (Carrie Preston), Holly (Lauren Bowles) and Sam’s pregnant wife Nicole (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) were all abducted to be slaughtered for food at a later date.

The rest of the hour, written by Co-Executive Producer Angela Robinson (the series showrunner, for the second consecutive season, is Executive Producer Brian Buckner), dealt with the fall-out from that attack. Sookie (Anna Paquin) found herself blamed for the attack by just about everyone in town, even her lover Alcide (Joe Manganiello), when she read their thoughts (whether she wanted to or not).  Bill and Sheriff Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) went searching for the missing women, despite Andy holding Bill responsible for the deaths of two of his half-faerie daughters last season.  Thinking of which, Jessica (Deborah Ann Wolf), who’d actually committed those murders, proved herself, despite the powerful temptation of faerie blood, true to her vow to protect Andy’s remaining daughter Adilyn (Bailey Noble).  Jason (Ryan Kwanten), feeling emasculated by his vampire protector Violet (Karolina Wydra), took care of that with a scene that reminded viewers that there’s still a difference between what the most forward of basic-cable networks can air, and what’s confined to paycable.  Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) bonded with his own vampire protector James Kent (Nathan Parsons), Jessica’s beau.  Meanwhile, in an extremely unconvincing soundstage Marrakesh, Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) went searching for Eric, who remained unseen at the end of the hour.

There was nothing here to suggest that True Blood is planning anything radically new for its final season, but the Marrakesh scenes  aside, it was reassuring that the series seems to be planning to stick to its home base of Bon Temps, with conflicts mostly among the show’s (admittedly many) core characters.  True Blood has gone badly wrong in seasons where it’s pushed its fantasies too far, including the god-like vampire royalty of last season.  Restraint may not sound like a True Blood trait, but confining itself to the settings and characters we know best, and the actors who deserve one more turn in the spotlight, would be a good move in this last stretch.

True Blood has been one of HBO’s biggest hits, but never one of its Emmy frontrunners, and it’s doubtful that will change in this last run of episodes.  Nor should it, as pretensions to glory have never been among the show’s problems.  It’s been HBO’s nod to lowdown, dumb, dirty, sexy, violent fun, and that’s been plenty.


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."