True Blood, “Bad Blood”

I tried to watch the True Blood premiere on multiple occasions since Sunday night’s premiere, but kept getting side-tracked or pulled away. Some of the reasons were technical errors, others were that I was simply disenfranchised with what I was seeing on the screen in the first 15 minutes. Combine my issues with actually finishing “Bad Blood” with how “meh” I felt re-watching season two on DVD when it was released a couple of weeks ago and suddenly, I like the series much less than I thought. What happened?

On one hand, I think my feelings toward the series and this episode are valid. Backtracking for a second, I didn’t watch True Blood live until the third or fourth episode of season two. I caught up on DVD and OnDemand after tiring of the hype and discussions about how great the series was. It just so happened that when I started watching live, the series actually became good and with the Dallas arc, seemed to be something more than the sex-fueled R-rated female-baiting romp that I thought it was before ever watching. So for the rest of season two, I was hooked. But watching a number of episodes in short succession on DVD made the series’ issues with narrative coherency, pace, character development and more much more apparent. The closing few episodes are especially grating on DVD for some reason.

In that sense, I’m not shocked that I didn’t love “Bad Blood.” It’s incessantly busy and trying to do way too much in 50 minutes. As Alan Sepinwall and Daniel Fienberg discussed on last week’s Firewall and Iceberg podcast, the episode features a weird combination of characters emotionally reacting to last year’s stories while other characters face new plots that are clearly going to drive season three. It’s an odd mixture that makes it seem like the characters are in completely different episodes or even time periods. And the things that have always bothered me about True Blood — the kink, overly sexual dialogue and situations, repetitiveness — were present here as well.

However, perhaps I’m being too skeptical and critical. I did enjoy the series in the first place for a reason and I can’t abandon the ship just because the premiere is busy and scatter-brained. HBO premieres tend to do more table-setting and world-building than other series and in that sense, I can give “Bad Blood” a little more credit. Moreover, complaining about the things that bother me about the series is a completely useless exercise at this point. I am not the target audience member for True Blood, nor will I ever be and although I know and expect the series to be something more than campy, slash-fiction-come-to-life, fun, it doesn’t have to be to keep its audience. Alan Ball has figured out that he’d rather tell the story in this way than with subtly and I’m sure his bank account is better off because of it.

Nevertheless, the episode sets up a lot for the season to come, but doesn’t attempt to explain a whole lot of anything. There are werewolves now who kidnapped Bill…for some reason. Sam is still off looking for his family…who are somewhere. Tara still sucks. Jason is still awesome, despite dealing with murdering Eggs. And Jessica and Lafayette are still the best part of the series.

Anyway, let’s do some bullet points! I haven’t done those in a while.

Here’s what I did like about “Bad Blood”:

  • Bill is a much better character when not penned down by Sookie. That’s not a referendum on Sookie as a character or an approval of another relationship for her. Just sayin’.
  • I do like how the series’ universe is slowly expanding — at least geographically. Sam’s search for his family is taking him to Arkansas and hopefully that location brings something interesting to the table like the circumstances in Dallas.
  • Andy’s plan for Jason was smart and funny. The two of them continue to be a great pair.
  • Though he’ll continue to be used mostly in ways that don’t appeal to me, I still like Eric and am glad that he’ll be more central to the story this go around.

And the not so good things:

  • Tara. Ugh. At least the series is consistent in its inability to make her likable or interesting. I get that she’d be upset over Eggs’ death, but to blame it on everyone else, people who just saved her life less than 24 hours earlier, is just childish and annoying. Then she tried to kill herself. Great.
  • Honestly, Sookie doesn’t seem as worried as I thought she’d be. Actually, it’s not necessarily that, but the episode spends so much time with other characters that the seven minutes dedicated to the main character looking for her primary love interest seem less weighty.
  • I don’t mind delving into the politics of the vampire power structure, but neither Evan Rachel Wood or her character really do it for me — unless she’s playing Yahtzee — and I’m certainly over the whole selling V.
  • Like I said, the need to set up so many new stories — werewolves, Bill’s journey, Eric helping Sookie, Sam’s search, etc. — means that none of them were fully serviced. I wonder if characters will morph in and out of the story more this year because they’re all so disjointed from one another. And by wonder, I mean hope because I don’t want 11 more episodes of shorted stories that don’t satisfy within the context of an individual episode.

Your thoughts on the premiere?

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