Category Archives: alan ball

Bad Blood

Regular readers know how much I love HBO’s “True Blood.” I even reviewed every episode of season three here on the blog. Now, in its sixth season it has started to go sour for not just myself, but for a lot of fans. Here are just a few reasons why, and not just because Sookie and Bill and/or Eric are not still together.

From the beginning, within the show’s credit sequence, and with references like “God hates fangs” and “coming out of the coffin,” the vampires of “True Blood” have always been a metaphor for the gay rights movement. At times the analogy has become quite uncomfortable, while happily when homosexuality has been shown in the world of the show, it’s been normal and accepted.

This makes “True Blood” a welcome fence post in modern television, but this season has been different. It’s cutting too close to the bone. The in-story escalation of anti-vampire protests has produced some frightening parallels, the most horrifying being the dragging to death behind a car of a young vampire in Texas.

We all know this happened to a young man a few years back, spurring on murders against race and gender minorities. I, like most viewers, turn to TV fantasy to get away from the cold darkness of the real world. I not only don’t want to be reminded, I don’t want to see such things trivialized in what has become a supernatural comedy drama. And with recent events in Russia these last few weeks, the vampire concentration camp subplot is even worse by comparison. There may just be such places for gays soon.

Those issues aside, the stepping down of show creator Alan Ball as writer and showrunner seems to have had a serious negative effect on the show. In my mind “True Blood” seems to have lost its way. The show this season feels more disjointed and less real.

The characters feel more like cookie cutter templates being moved about a chessboard than real people. They have been broken down to their basics and show very little else in the way of depth. Sookie, Jason, and Tara, for instance, might as well just be ‘slut for supes,’ ‘dumbass,’ and ‘clever curser’ for the lack of depth they have shown of late.

This just might be the end for me as far as “True Blood” goes. But for those still on the bandwagon, be sure to catch my friend and colleague Marie Gilbert‘s recaps/reviews of the current season of “True Blood” at Biff Bam Pop!.

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True Blood: Evil Is Going On

Finally, the long awaited season finale of “True Blood.” It’s gone by far too quick, and now the waiting begins for next summer. Next summer? Maaan…

So the faerie, the fae, Sookie’s people, might also be aliens, eh? It’s a curious thought. I have compared “True Blood” to “Dark Shadows” frequently this season. The gothic soap opera had a habit of doing everything within its genre and then throwing in the kitchen sink as well. We saw vampires, werewolves, ghosts, Frankenstein-ish monsters, time travel and even Lovecraftian horrors – but aliens, alien abductions and the like are more of a seventies phenomenon. Had “Dark Shadows” stayed on the air I guess they would’ve gotten o that sooner or later. Therefore, it’s probably fair game for “True Blood” as well. Can’t wait to see how it plays out.

We were left with one of the more thrilling cliffhangers so far last time, Eric and Russell both burning up in the sunshine. Such a good cliffhanger, I almost wish it had been a season ending cliffhanger, but such is this season of “True Blood” – it’s never what you expect.

Sookie insists on bringing Eric back inside to save him. The whole time Sookie and company were trying to save Eric inside Fangtasia I couldn’t help wondering one thing – is anyone watching Russell? Couldn’t he have just have crawled away to safety? Personally I was shocked when they saved Russell too. Eric’s not a good listener by the way. Godric said ‘forgive,’ not ‘save.’

The new subplots again supercede the main plot as Sam outs himself to Tara as a shapeshifter, and frankly (pun unintended) I find it hard to believe she took it as well as she did. I would have thought she would just run as far as she possibly could from this crazy town of Bon Temps. And it’s possible she did. I will miss her, but damn smart girl, if it’s true.

Now I’m not fond of Sookie to begin with, but I found it really distasteful the way she was taunting Russell like a trapped animal. No matter how evil the bad guy is – I’m pretty sure the rule for the good guy is to show mercy, or at least not be a sore winner. In fact, rule number one for heroes should be, don’t be a dick. Like Sookie.

The Hotshot subplot came to a head of sorts, but mostly it’s just set-up from the books and for next season. Jason is now apparently the new caretaker of the Jackson Whites, I mean the Pineys, ahem, I mean the shifters who sell V, meth and need dental badly. There’s more to come, according to the books, and I would have rather seen it happen all within one season.

Lafayette’s V aftershocks have taken on an interesting aspect as he has become slightly prescient. This will obviously be shorthand for the writers to tease the viewers with what’s to come. As we find out that Jesus is a witch, we are assured that witches and Wiccans and voodoo will abound in the next season. But again, I am bothered. Why introduce new storylines in the last twenty minutes or so of the season finale, especially when the main story has not come to a close?

We get to see a very dark side to Bill as well as a very dirty secret reaching back to the start of the show. This is a good thing as it adds a twist to this story’s ending. There is also an interesting parallel with Sam. We are told that both of their recent dark turns are actually how they have always been, we just didn’t know it. I don’t know however if Alan Ball and company have succeeded in making me believe this.

We leave as we began. Sookie rejoins the faerie folk. Next season should be interesting if nothing else. Did I like this one? You guess. I can’t wait until next summer.

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True Blood: Fresh Blood

This episode’s title is “Fresh Blood,” and it really does feel like such, more like a ‘new start,’ actually. It feels like we are playing catch up with all the new subplots, and some are completely new as of this episode. It’s almost like a new season. The highlight of the episode is Eric’s confrontations with Russell, and to me, much of the rest of it pales in comparison. A vampire who declares war on both the vampire and human worlds should be an unignorable main plot, don’t you think? And shouldn’t you tie up old loose ends before you unravel new knots?

Some random thoughts about what else happened this time around: the ‘In Memoriam’ mini-feature that opened this episode was interesting. Arlene consults the ‘Wiccan’ waitress as to how to get rid of her baby to mixed results. Bill and Sookie play let’s-pretend-we’re-normal. Andy confesses to Tara what really happened to Eggs in a less than satisfying sequence. Lafayette has some V aftershocks after refusing to do more with Jesus. Sam throws a drunken tantrum, then has a moment or two with Tara. Jason picks a fight instead of dealing with his shifter girlfriend or looking for Sookie.

None of the above have anything to do with Russell or Eric, and it’s sad. When they do get to it, it rocks. The climax, and Eric’s plan, and the cliffhanger. Oh. My. God. Imagine if the whole episode had been like this. That would have really rocked. Please, next time, more main story, and less subplots, and set-up for subplots. Thanks!

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True Blood: Everything Is Broken

In the pre-credit teaser of this episode we get our first look at the vampire law enforcement/military. They are very Robocop, very Starship Troopers, and very old school cyberpunk, and of course, they are armed with silver. My first thought is ‘kewl,’ but my second thought is ‘how do you keep something like that a secret?’ I’m all for secret empires and ages-old illuminati and the like, but whoa.

“Everything Is Broken,” title derived from the Bob Dylan tune that closes the episode, is written by Alexander Woo, who also wrote the less than satisfactory episode “It Hurts Me Too” from earlier this season. We open on Russell cradling what’s left of Talbot and then move to a vampirically erotic shower scene with Bill and Sookie. Nice juxtaposition. The chatter between them, about what normal couples do, is fun and charming.

When Sam suggested to Tara that she see a shrink, I nearly snarfed Coke through my nose. I think the last thing this show needs is a psychologist creeping around Bon Temps. They would have to commit the whole town! Crazy aside, it’s a good episode for other things. Bill and Sookie get some, Lafayette and Jesus get some, and Sam’s brother gets some.

Eric rats Russell out to The Authority (not the comic, although that’s the first thing I think of when I type that). Full confession, baby. Only the result is not what he hoped. They leave him high and dry. Russell is too hot to handle, so if something is to be done, Eric has to do it himself.

Bill gets to visit fairyland. I have to wonder at the logic of this however. After Sookie’s blood saved his life, there was a weird effect where he could momentarily stand the sunlight. Here, he goes to that watery place of light near the cemetery and the hostess says he’s there because he has Sookie’s blood. But now, hasn’t Bill had Sookie’s blood before this? Why hasn’t this come up before this?

Franklin! He sure scared the crap out of Tara, but we knew he wouldn’t be gone long. Lesson learned for folks not in the know, like Tara – you must stake or decapitate a vampire or they just ain’t dead. Stake in the heart, or head off body, or there’s just no true death.

And finally, Russell takes his war public and worldwide – wow and holy crap – in one of the best cliffhangers on television in quite some time. I cannot wait for the next episode!

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True Blood: Hitting the Ground

The “previously on True Blood” brought up that Sookie’s cousin Hadley is with the Queen of Louisiana, which is something I have been waiting for them to remember. Can’t wait to see where this little tidbit is going, because they did remember. It has interesting implications later when Eric tries to use Hadley later, and it promises to get even more interesting. And speaking of Sookie, our cliffhanger from last time has Lorena getting a taste before, ahem, Sookie makes her point.

There’s a tense scene with Alcide and Debbie while Sookie and Tar try to save Bill – a situation that reverses itself by the end of this episode, by the way. Great rescue and great intensity here, nice to have some action that lasts more than just a few seconds – no offense to vamp speed.

In Sam’s little corner of Bon Temps, the brilliant concept of a champion dogfighter who is also a shapeshifter boggles the mind. Think about it – a dog with the strategic mind of a man fighting just a dog… a betting man could clean up. I have to say I am enjoying the Sam subplot now. It’s a whole lot better now than when it was just Beverly Hillbillies comic relief.

There are more interesting revelations, or should I say complications, when Sookie tries to revive Bill by giving him her blood. He eats it up, figuratively and literally. Unfortunately it nearly kills her, putting her into a coma in the hospital, where we find out she has no blood type. And that’s not the end of the crazy stuff here either. She starts tripping and visits a fantasy world. And here I thought “Lost” was canceled. My guesses as to where she went are an afterlife of people killed by vampires, or perhaps she’s really some kind of faerie? Hopefully we’ll find out sooner rather than later.

Nice to see, or is that nasty to see, that Russell Edgington take his rightful place as the true villain of the season. It is chilling to see him unofficially declare war on man and vampire alike, followed by of course, another ironic episode title song, this time “Hitting the Ground” by Gordon Gano and P.J. Harvey. Man, after last episode and this one, I am hooked on “True Blood” again.

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True Blood: I Got a Right to Sing the Blues

Sookie’s first line in this episode, “Eric, what the f**k?” says so much. It describes accurately my thoughts on the season so far, and is also the perfect commentary on this opening scene, a very tense situation in the royal court of Mississippi. Russell is a very deadly foe indeed, and not a vampire king to be trifled with, or tricked.

This is an Alan Ball script and it shows. His care and respect of the characters is plain when compared to the cartooniness of previous episodes. Under the pen of Ball, everything rolls much better. No pun intended. And under his pen, it looks like Jason has left cartoonland and entered into his initiation as a shapeshifter, just like in the books. And by the way, speaking of the books – those of you who have read them, stop telling those of us who haven’t what’s going to happen. Puh -leeze. Thank you.

The title of this episode is derived from the Billie Holiday song that plays as Lorena tried to kill Bill, as instructed. It’s a reminder of their jazz age romance/partnership, nicely played. Bill is certainly a sly one when he wants to be. Speaking of sly, Tara is quite the bitch, but then, Franklin does deserve it.

Everyone is sly in this episode. Eric does some startling and amazing face changes, his chameleonic performance is one of the prizes this night. The charisma bubbles from the interrogation of Sookie by Russell and later in the evil ride with Russell and Eric. It’s disturbing to see that Russell (a Southern stereotype unfortunately) is also a racist, and not just against the human race. Great tension, great secrets, juicy stuff.

Other things I liked this time include the secret of Sam’s family taking an exciting and unexpected turn, making all the puns of past episodes make complete sense. I also loved Jessica manipulating and glamoring (and eating) the customers at Merlotte’s. I loved the slice of Lafayette’s love life despite how it ended. More please, Lafayette is criminally underused.

All good stuff, all going to show it’s good for a series when the creator takes the reins, even if for just an episode or two. Another great cliffhanger ensures I will be here next time. Can’t wait.

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True Blood: Trouble

We find out that Franklin works for Russell Edgington, the vampire king of Mississippi, and we see his true dynamic. It’s an interesting paradox, in his world, Franklin is a screw-up, but in our world a monster. I like it a lot. And of course the more we see of him, the more truly screwed up he appears. Franklin is really effed up. Man, Tara is in trouble.

Last week’s cliffhanger is a complete bust. Like Stephen King’s Rocketman analogy from Misery or a Brian Michael Bendis Avengers comic, we really don’t see how Sookie escapes from a bar full of transforming werewolves. We just pick up her and Alcide on the run afterward. Boo hiss.

Some observations from “Trouble”… I am really warming to Russell’s royal consort Talbot, and man, his electricity with Eric is something else. Also on the homoerotic horizon, it’s really nice to see Lafayette finally getting some non-pay romance in his life. Jason’s police subplot has advanced out of cartoonish territory and into sitcom maturity. I still see it as a waste of time better spent on more serious and important storylines. And Jessica has the best line of the episode – “Do not tip your waitress.”

There is a nice tense moment with Sookie, Alcide and packmaster Colonel Flood that I liked quite a bit. Moments like this elevate the show past the cheese/camp level it’s been rolling in since this season started and brings it back to basics again. Some folks love the cheese, but this is just my opinion.

On the opposite end of the cheese spectrum we get an Eric flashback, which are always more intriguing than Bill flashbacks. Not only do we get to see Eric’s family, but we also find out why he hates werewolves so much – and we learn who the real big bad of this season truly is.

And it’s nice to know that Bill still cares about Sookie. Especially after Alan Ball said he believed they were soul mates at the San Diego Comic-Con this weekend. At least we know where this will be going, eventually. And for the folks who have read all of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels – I haven’t yet, so don’t spoil my fun. Another great cliffhanger – I hope we get to see the other side of this one.

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True Blood: 9 Crimes

Perhaps my not-so-like (I won’t call it dislike, because I really do like this show) of this season’s “True Blood” comes from the lack of use of the original cast and the sudden overuse of the new characters.

Sookie, Bill, Sam, Eric, Tara and even Sookie’s idiot brother Jason all have lots more to tell us and have explored, yet the bulk of the screen time this season, especially the exciting screen time, seems to be given to the likes of Alcide, Lorena, Franklin, Sam’s family, the King of Mississippi, Kitch, etc. Granted, I like all the new additions, but the reason I started watching the show, and the reason I remain, is the main, original, cast. One has to ask, do the original characters still have power for the writers? And if not, why not?

All that said, this episode was a slight improvement over the first few. Maybe like many of the other HBO series, it takes some time to get rolling, and perhaps “True Blood” was just lucky the first two seasons and immune from HBO-itis.

The give and take between Sookie and Bill and Sookie and Alcide feels like either an ironic or sarcastic, but definitely deliberate parody of what’s going on in theatres with Twilight right now. Amusing it may be, I would still rather not have that parallel so painfully paraded. Let’s put it this way – with this comparison so evident, it’s almost impossible to get new folks interested in the series because of the negative connotation Twilight has with older audiences. It might be an inside joke that tickling the heck out of a small handful of folks, but it’s detrimental to the growth of “True Blood” in the long run I think.

Some observations about “9 Crimes”… it was nice to see inside Kenya’s brain if only for a few seconds. I hope we see more of it. The conversation between Bill and King Russell Edgington was fascinating. Nice to see how our world is affecting vampire society instead of the other way around. No one escapes the IRS. The Postmortum, a brief police interrogation video, does this as well, giving a sweet glimpse inside the vampire civilization. This is also something I’d like to see more of.

Other tidbits I liked included the Goody Osburn reference, props to the writers on that one. I loved Sookie’s imitation of the evil Sandy at the end of Grease. And is it just my imagination or does the “True Blood” casting department have a preference for redheads? Not that I mind of course. I also liked how the closing song, “9 Crimes” by Damien Rice, plays so well with the themes of the episode. It’s this kind of attention to music that sets this show apart.

That’s quite a cliffhanger this week, eh? Dogpile on the Sookie, can’t wait to see what happens next. So, until next time, ponder this, why would William Shakespeare steal spoons?

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True Blood: It Hurts Me Too

I am worried about the road that “True Blood” seems to be going down. It feels more and more like a bizarre cross between “Dark Shadows” (and not in a good way) and Iron Man 2 with each new episode of this third season.

Like the golden avenger’s movie sequel, it has too many plots going on at once, far too many, and a lot of what is going on is going in a very camp direction. Not that “True Blood” hasn’t been camp from the beginning, and let’s face it, vampires on television make it hard not to go there, but it just seems too over the top – and without a more focused storyline, and at least one focused storyline, it gets bad.

There is so much happening in “It Hurts Me Too” I find it hard to even sift a theme that might explain the title. Things happen, but they seem roughshod and scattered. There is a lot of sex this time out, both physical and emotional. There is finally some electricity between Eric and Sookie. Tara gets some too from a new vampire heavy, Franklin. And Bill and Lorena give kinky sex a whole new dimension.

Jason has gone from unfortunate to comic relief to a literal cartoon. He feels like a wasted character as he is now. Similarly, but with potential otherwise, Sam is doing the same thing. I just hope we get more insight into the shapeshifter mythology as opposed to more babysitting the Beverly Hillbillies humor. And speaking of which, do monsters fall into bad stereotypes? Is it me or are shapeshifters redneck white trash, and werewolves are bikers?

We also get, for no apparent reason other to show us Lorena is bad (we already knew this), a flashback to Bill’s past when he comes home after being turned. Some final observations… Bud, in quitting the police seems to make him the sanest person in Bon Temps in my opinion. I like Pam more every time I see her. And it about time Sookie started cleaning that house…

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True Blood: Pack of Wolves

First things first, I’m just damned thrilled to have one of my favorite series returning for its third season. But, and there’s always a but, I found the ‘pre-game show’ for this premiere episode was kinda misleading. It was more ads for other upcoming HBO shows than it was for “True Blood” itself. I did love the new intro to the actual show however, the usual ratings warnings now have a shifting blood background, nice.

At first glance the episode “Pack of Wolves” might seem like “True Blood” is cashing in on the Twilight phenomenon, but nope, it’s just coincidence, and besides, the rivalry between vampires and werewolves goes back a looong way, and not just to White Wolf games or even House of Frankenstein. And just as they have done with vampires, I have no doubt that there will be new rules and mythology for the werewolves as well. And we know from the “Postmortem” that the folks who make the show are using real wolves over make-up and CGI, so that’s interesting.

The werewolves don’t actually show up until the last cliffhanging moment of “Pack of Wolves,” but the underlying theme of wolves flows throughout the entire episode. It’s that sort of wink-wink inside jokes that make the show so cool. I have to wonder if Jason’s aborted ménage a trois included two werewolves – they were veterinarian students after all who thought they could psychoanalyze dogs.

The episode picks up immediately where it left off. Bill is kidnapped, Jason shoots Eggs, and nobody remembers anything that happened when Maryann the Maenad was in control of Bon Temps. Sookie’s house notably still bears the décor of Maryann. Neither the viewer nor the characters literally have had a chance to breathe. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Somehow, this “24” vibe suits the series.

Apparently Bill’s kidnappers are working for Eric who’s also in trouble for his V-selling. They try to drain Bill, and this brings up an interesting supposition. The kidnappers were draining Bill for his blood. Were they also werewolves? What happens to werewolves on V? Sookie gets Jessica to help her find Bill, while Bill himself seems lost in Mississippi, the land of werewolves.

There are half a dozen subplots either continuing or manifesting at the same time. This is a soap opera after all. As with the first two seasons of “True Blood” they all revolve around sex and blood. There is an especially hot scene when Sookie goes to see Eric. Tushy alert for the women and men. Speaking of that stuff. Whoa for the homoerotic vibe between Sam and Bill. It seems that saving a life with vampire blood does that sort of thing. What Sookie has for Eric, Sam now seems to have for Bill. Dream or not, it was hot.

There are other things going on. Jason is haunted by killing Eggs. Jessica tried to make a vampire. The powers that be are bearing down on Eric. And Tara, Tara, upset by Eggs’ death is driven first against Sookie, then to her mother, and then to attempted suicide. “True Blood” is back, and it rolling full speed ahead with a loud howl.

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