I love vampires as much as the next person. I have seen every episode of Buffy and Angel (though I haven’t gotten around to Twilight so I guess I’m missing something). And with Twilight becoming such a big deal, it didn’t surprise me that a new vampire show would rise. The show is based off of the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. (I have not read the books yet and therefore cannot compare but I hope to remedy that at some point by at least getting the first book.)
Now that I’ve seen every episode so far, I have some thoughts about True Blood. For one thing, I like that the show (supplied by the book series) has given the typical vampire story a new spin. While there are still those vampires who skulk around in the dark and scare everyone, they are not a secret like in Buffy. Vampires have revealed themselves to the world in the hopes of gaining equal rights. A step towards this goal has been the development of Tru Blood, which comes in the flavors A+/-, B+/-, AB+/-, or O+/-, and allows vampires to have an alternative food source other than human beings. There aren’t only vampires in the world of course, other storybook creatures like werewolves and shape shifters exist too. And the main character is a telepath.
The writers have done a good job of fleshing out the vampire hierarchy and the general vampire world, showing the vampires as intelligent and calculating rather than simply blood thirsty undead. (Whereas in Buffy, a vampire could only be good should they acquire a soul or a chip to tame them.)
At the same time, there is a lot lacking in this otherwise fleshed out world. The characters themselves fall short of the creativity present in the rest of the show:
Sookie Stackhouse is perhaps the blandest of the Bon Temps citizens, which doesn’t bode well since she is the main character. Mostly she is a weak, frightened girl that everyone else has to protect, though on occasion she does show some spine and stick up for herself or someone else. Everyone around her thinks she is helpless, which alternately pisses her off and ends up to her advantage. The fact that she is a telepath, which her closest friends and family know, gives her an interesting twist but it’s the kind of thing that would be interesting no matter who had the ability. I might be biased though, as I really dislike Anna Paquin (she completely ruined the character of Rogue for me, who had previously been my favorite X-men).
Bill Compton, the True Blood equivalent of Angel (he’s the vampire with a “soul” which in this case just means he wants to tame his animalistic side), is equally flat. His entire personality is “I love Sookie and I must protect her” and “I don’t want to be an evil vampire.” The second part is interesting, particularly because other than the vampire on TV who we constantly see in a polished suit talking about vampire rights, he is the only civilized undead we see. (Which begs the question, if none of them are really civilized why did they reveal themselves in the first place? And why is Bill the only one who seems to care?) His past, the story of his family and what he lost when he became a vampire is what makes him sympathetic, but I think we need more of his story and what makes him the way he is.
(In part, I think the love story between Sookie and Bill is underdeveloped. Loving him simply because he’s a vampire and she can’t read his thoughts isn’t enough.)
Jason Stackhouse, Sookie’s brother spends the show being Sookie’s polar opposite, though which extreme he is leaving with changes. In the first season he was a sex-loving, vampire blood-drinking wild child who was always getting himself into trouble. In the second season he has gone the opposite route, joining the Fellowship of the Sun, the most vocal anti-vampire church around. You can’t help but wonder how he gets by with so little brainpower buy you can’t help but be glad for the comic relief. He does have a few redeeming moments, like when he talks Luke over the fence rather than choosing to leave him behind, but he also slaps Sookie across the face in one episode so it’s hard to really get a handle on his personality.
Forming Sookie’s merry band is Sam, a shape shifter who owns the bar she works at and has harbored a secret crush for her, and Tara Lee, Sookie’s best friend who grew up in an abusive home and has a big mouth that gets her into trouble. Tara Lee is probably one of the most compelling characters, dealing with the very real emotional scars left by an alcoholic mother while trying to find a place for herself. Sam has the potential to draw your attention, but his character winds up being the adult version of an emo teen.
There are some minor characters who pull you into the story:
Jessica is a teenage girl Bill was forced to turn into a vampire as punishment and who he is now responsible for, Jessica serves both as another way of “humanizing” Bill, as well as shows the way a vampire comes to terms with their new life and the ways they can be molded based on their makers and their surroundings
Lafayette is Tara’s drug dealing and fast talking cousin. For a while he was the sure of himself guy always scheming to make a quick buck (and generally succeeding) but when his ways finally catch up to him, we see a more defeated, quieter side. Lafayette has just made his return after being held captive by some vampires (thanks to Sookie’s help) and who he will be now is anyone’s guess.
There is also Eric, the sheriff of area 5 who has a fascination for Sookie and a constant need to mark his territory. This week’s episode showed a new side to this vampire–loyalty and respect–as he leads the search for Godric, a 2,000 year old vampire who has gone missing. On the one hand he is a violent, bloodthirsty vampire,but on the other, he takes vampire honor very seriously and I think that the more we learn about him the more he will surprise us.
A definite plus for True Blood is that it doesn’t shy away from anything. Murder, sex, nothing is too much to put on air, allowing viewers the full impact of important moments. (Not to say there aren’t numerous gratuitous sex scenes as well.)
True Blood, HBO’s most successful show since The Sopranos and Sex in the City, is about to delve even further into the dark and I despite the characters that annoy me, certainly want to be there to see where it’s going.