Thursday, June 26, 2014

Last chance for 'True Blood' to make an indelible mark

(June 19, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Season 7 of the fantasy-drama series “True Blood” opens with a melee, a bloody purge executed by savage vampires passing through the Louisiana town of Bon Temps. It’s somewhat symbolic of the chaos that has characterized the past seasons, but the fast-paced action sequence seems, intriguingly, like a necessary move intended to bring back some semblance of much-missed order.

It starts with a mainstay’s unexpected death, rallying the core characters in no time and giving them renewed purpose, at least for now. And while it truly has gotten difficult to care for them—the messy story lines and inconsistently written personalities saw to that a few seasons back—its longtime viewers may find their curiosity piqued for this final, euthanizing season.

Fairy heroine Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) is now paired with the werewolf Alcide (Joe Manganiello), after a string of truly horrid monster boyfriends. It’s been a long time coming, as the partnership makes sense, and the actors have chemistry. But this back-to-basics last hurrah may not augur a happy ending for the two, as hints are being dropped that she and vampire ex Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) might reconnect, in some way.

“True Blood” started out strong as adult fantasy fare, giving a different spin on vampire mythology: The existence of such nocturnal beings is known to the public, and the mass-produced drink “Tru Blood” is introduced as an alternative to actual human blood. Peaceful coexistence, however, is another matter altogether, hence the conflicts. Malevolent vampires, ignorant or predatory humans, other antagonistic creatures—they’ve threatened Sookie and company season after season.

And while the conflicts have been many, in time, it became hard to stay invested in the fates of the characters. The situations have gotten silly, not to mention repetitive. When it was establishing its unique vampire hierarchies and political structures, it offered creepy but fun scenarios. Even when the show expanded on the other beings—the shifters, the werewolves, and to some extent, the fairies—much was shown of this distinctly bizarre universe. But alas, the potential was not fully realized.

At times, it dwelled too much on the main character’s topsy-turvy world, Sookie’s discovery of her nonhuman identity, as well as her obligatory hooking-up with the man of the season. The previous relationship was iffy; the focus on her kinky imbroglio with the fairy-vampire Warlow (Rob Kazinsky) dragged a bit, their scenes mostly titillating (aptly so), but ultimately, empty and disconnecting. The shape-changing Sam (Sam Trammell) had a similarly rushed and questionable relationship last season.

So, are things looking up? If the first two episodes of Season 7 are any indication, the show can improve. So far, the villains are nondescript characters, but things are made a tad lively by the collection of loopy, crazy regulars. There are interesting developments in the individual arcs of young vampire Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), jaded immortal Pam (the incredible Kristin Bauer van Straten, who always gets the best lines) and relapsing addict Lettie Mae (Adina Porter). 

It’s the last chance to make up for the last few seasons’ largely unaffecting and inconsequential story lines. With only 10 episodes this season, this could be the only opportunity for “True Blood” to redeem itself and leave an indelible mark.

(The final season of “True Blood” premieres on June 23 on HBO Go, and June 29, 10 p.m. on HBO.)

No comments: