Friday, July 8, 2011

Review: "True Blood" Season 4

A very shirtless Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) in "You Smell Like Dinner," the second episode of True Blood's fourth season. Photo courtesy of nydailynews.com.

I've been entirely too spoiled by The Vampire Diaries' breakneck pacing, consistent characters and snappy writing to think of True Blood as anything but an inferior knockoff (despite the fact that the HBO series premiered before TVD). I'm still watching the fourth season, largely because it is summer and there is nothing else on, but I'm treating it as a soapy, sexy diversion rather than an actual TV show with believable characters, coherent storylines, or dramatic stakes. This is not only making it much easier to watch - it also keeps me from spiraling into depression when I remember that, a mere three weeks ago, this time slot was occupied by the far superior Game of Thrones.

Since I no longer have any emotional investment in any of the characters, I will evaluate the storylines based on their potential for interesting character development (not much) and hot guys getting naked (lots and lots). As such, the opening scene of the season premiere - in which Sookie made it to Fairyland, only to discover that it was actually an illusion that covered up a nasty, goblin-ridden desert in which you could be trapped by eating glowing fruit - did almost nothing for me. It's been quite a while since I cared even a little bit about Sookie's problems, and this bizarre moment did not make me care about them more. Even the death of her grandfather, Earl Stackhouse, from light fruit-related causes was underwhelming, largely because it is now a given that, if Sookie cares about someone, a shitstorm of trouble is about to come their way. The extremely obvious Persephone overtones that went with the scene did not make it any better.

One storyline, however, that does have potential is Bill's ascension to the title of Vampire King of Louisiana. I've never hated Bill as much as some people do, but I did find his constant moping over Sookie, not to mention his complete lack of understanding of just why she might not trust him, extremely irritating. However, based on the first two episodes King Bill is a vast improvement; not only does he have a much better house, he's powerful, sleeping with various hot ladies, and can order Eric around. I'm hoping that he has actually moved on from Sookie, and that we're not going to find out that he's really just hiding from his love for her or some other buzzkill like that.

Now that Bill has seemingly moved on, Sookie is finally free to get together with Eric. Now, I knew that Eric's (SPOILER ALERT) memory loss was coming, but I'm still not happy about it. I liked the idea of Sookie playing games with Eric, who now owns her house and wants to own her as well. I love Eric just the way he is, in all his deadly, sarcastic glory; I don't need another, lamer version of Eric, no matter how much time he might spend with his shirt off. I want Sookie to learn to love the real Eric, flaws and all, and while Pam and Bill dealing with this new turn of events might be fun for an episode or two, I have no doubt that the writers will drag it out until no one can stand it any longer.

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt remember that my absolute least favorite element of the show is the continued victimization of Tara. Those people might think that I would be pleased about Tara's transformation into a badass cage fighter in a (seemingly) healthy relationship with lovely girl named Naomi. I'm glad to see that Tara is, at least for a couple episodes, free of the constant terrible experiences that plagued her life in Bon Temps (although that will probably last for all of ten seconds), but I'm a bit uneasy about her newfound lesbian relationship. This show has a tendency to divide its women into damsels-in-distress, who are generally straight, and tough women who can take care of themselves, who are generally lesbians and often vampires. Tara's turn to lesbianism reinforces the show's underlying truth, that women who are attracted to men are also dependent on men. Tara could easily have been in a healthy relationship with a man, but on this show healthy relationships between a man and a woman are an impossibility.

There are lots of other plots going on, and based on previous evidence none of them will come together in a coherent fashion. That means that, as much as I want to care about Lafayette joining a coven, Jason being turned into a werepanther, and Jessica and Hoyt's marital problems, but I know that none of these subplots will have any bearing on the season's main arc, so I don't. (And as far as Sam's relationship with Navajo shapeshifter/skinwalker Luna, I don't even want to care about that.) I'm really just in this for the naked Eric and the possibilities that arise with Bill as King of Louisiana; anything else along the way is just a bump in the road.

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