Another year, another fairly typical True Blood finale: last night brought us an intriguing conclusion to a mostly exciting final episode - the only difference being that this year's AVL-centric story was about a million times better than last year's witchy weirdness. Actually, with the exception of a couple of tawdry storylines, this entire season was a huge improvement on last year. I'm almost ready to say that I think True Blood is back to its near-best.
(Warning: this blog post contains spoilers from the fifth season of True Blood.)
I think I was completely in on this season of True Blood from the moment Christopher Meloni (formerly of Law & Order: SVU) showed up as the leader of the American Vampire League; I'm a big fan of serial dramas with a long, multi-season story arc that keeps me interested from year to year and, while the quality of True Blood seemed to be declining of late, the promise of more exploration of the ramifications of "coming out of coffin" was something that kept me coming back to this show.
This season delivered in spades, painting the vampire movement as a regime operating alongside and against humans, as opposed to viewing fangers as a segregated minority within human society, as in the earlier seasons of the show.
I'd probably be bothered by such a blatant change in direction, but I think I actually prefer it this way. It's clear that Alan Ball had no intention of exploring the societal effect of the emergence of vampires (let alone of other species*), so it makes sense to place a kind of political and ideological difference as the spine of the show.
Things got a little silly in the second half of the season, after Russell Edgington (played by the deliciously evil Denis O'Hare) showed up and the AVL started on a more religiously driven path, but the journey to get to that point was fun.
I also didn't really enjoy the way Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) were used for much of this year. Their buddy-cop vibe worked for a couple of episodes, but having the two of them as allies just doesn't seem right to me, and betrays much of what drove the show to start with. I was much happier with how things ended up for the two of them.
Yes, I might be a huge dork, but I love the idea of Bill transforming into a demi-god and causing all kinds of trouble for Eric, Sookie (Anna Paquin) and the other residents of Bon Temps.
That said, the highlight of this season - and I can't believe I'm going to say this - was Tara (Rutina Wesley). If you've read any of my other True Blood reviews, you'll know that I've always considered Tara a problem; the character, as written and as performed by Wesley until the end of Season 4, was annoying and weak and spent altogether too much time whinging about what a rough time she'd been having lately. However, Tara: Vampire Edition is sassy and strong and fun. Plus, I'm all for anything that gets Pam (Kristin Bauer Van Straten), another highlight this year, heavily involved in the show.
However, True Blood is still a problematic show. We could almost amend the cliché to say that the only sure things in life are death and taxes ... and Alan Ball's complete inability to effectively use True Blood's supporting cast.
Nobody cares about Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) knocking up a fairy, or Terry Bellefleur (Todd Lowe) dealing with a fire demon and murdering his best friend, or Sam (Sam Trammell) turning into a fly every five seconds**, or Alcide Horveaux (Joe Manganiello) having problems with his dad and taking over leadership of his wolf-pack ... or Alcide doing anything but take off his shirt, really.
The fifth season of True Blood was fun, and more entertaining than any season of True Blood in at least a couple of years, and I'll definitely tune in next year to see what havoc Bill can cause for everyone. But the writing team needs to figure out how to use the supporting cast well, or just decide to get rid of the supporting cast entirely. Otherwise, we'll be having this same talk at around this time next year.
What did you think of Season 5 of True Blood? Will you tune in next year?
(*) Help me out with this: was the scene last night, where Luna shifted on live television, the first time that shapeshifters have been seen publicly? Are most humans in True Blood aware that vamps aren't the only supernatural creatures?
(**) Though that scene where Sam turned into a fly and then, umm, exploded a vampire was pretty sweet.
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