As season five of HBO’s gothic southern soap opera, True Blood, drew to a close Sunday night, I was reminded of the old adage about storytelling: Content must dictate form. So perhaps it’s appropriate that True Blood’s fifth season was filled with so much bloody goo, staining the rugs and furniture in every episode, that the plots became such a formless mess.
When it’s good, True Blood works on several levels: as satisfying soap opera, as cultural satire and as dark comedy. To achieve this balance the show always has several different plots running but usually manages to weave the majority together by the end of the season. This year the overabundance of supernatural beings, characters and themes seemed to reach a critical mass that exploded and left everyone, pretty much literally, with bloody gunk on their faces.
Was the season about faith, fanaticism, group hierarchies, assimilation or supernatural niche bars and nightclubs? The True Blood writers never seemed able to decide.
Was the season about faith, fanaticism, group hierarchies, assimilation or supernatural niche bars and nightclubs? The True Blood writers never seemed able to decide. There were many incomprehensible storylines, yet there were also moments of very funny black comedy.
So as Bill, Eric, Sookie and Lafayette did in the first episode, let’s get our mops out and try to clean up this mess of a season.
Vampire youth culture had its day, or night in their cases, as Jessica, Tara and Reverend Steve brought the fun and poignancy this season so desperately needed.
After years of feisty victimhood, Tara Thornton came into her own as a vampire. Once she went through some tough love therapy from maker Pam, Tara settled into vampire life with surly grace. With the exception of the slutty wardrobe, her personality has not changed much at all.
Yes, Rev. Newlin is a vicious killer, but he has such enthusiasm for his new undead life and such a sporty sweater collection, it’s hard to stay mad at him.
Jessica grew up on her own while her vampire daddy (Bill Compton) was stuck in the Byzantine and sometimes Bore-antine Vampire Authority plot. She started off as a party girl, was kidnapped by a vigilante hate group, and late in the season she managed to find some peace by letting her first love Hoyt go.
Rev. Steve Newlin came out of the closet and coffin and became a cable news star for the Vampire Authority. Yes, he’s a vicious killer, but he has such enthusiasm for his new undead life and such a sporty sweater collection, it’s hard to stay mad at him. His May/December (times a thousand) romance with the 3000-year-old Russell Edgington was strangely sweet and innocent.
The Iraqi Ifrit plot
Terry Bellefleur, who has been struggling with PTSD since the beginning of the show, was cursed with his own big plot line this year. Long backstory short, after Terry’s army unit killed unarmed Iraqi civilians during the war they were killed one by one by an ancient fire jinn. Not even bringing Lafayette in for an episode could save this monster of a tonal misstep they should have staked in the writers’ room.
Too many naked people
Unlike some HBO shows (looking at you Game of Thrones), True Blood is is an equal opportunity depicter of naked people, but after a while even naked people become redundant, especially if said naked people are about to be eaten by vampires or are covered in buckets of blood.
Back in season three Sookie came to the realization that she’s part faerie and faeries are lame. This still holds true today. Sure they shoot a kind of taser light from their fingertips, can read minds and they throw a decent rave, but when it comes to dancing and strategizing they fail miserably. Obviously the only way they’ve survived this long is their amazing ability to give birth to litters of faerie/human babies on pool tables.
The WTF did I just watch
For many years, the show has given hints about vampire culture’s secret ruling body, so season five seemed to hold much promise that we would finally get to see the inner sanctum of the mysterious Vampire Authority.
Unfortunately, that government storyline turned into a religion plot turned into some commentary about cults, ambition and mindless faith before finally becoming a kind of slasher movie where one by one all the nubile vamps get offed by the crazy serial killer, who turned out to be Bill.
Perhaps the worst aspect of this goopy plot was that we were never told what or who Lilith actually was. She was presented as that optical illusion where from one point of view we see a vase of blood and another a naked lady covered in blood but what she really wanted or why she was making appearance now was never explained.
The final scene of this final episode was of Bill drinking the alleged blood of Lilith, dissolving into a pool of blood and then reforming as a bloody Bill.
Though True Blood creator, Oscar-winning screenwriter Alan Ball will remain with the show as executive producer, this was his final season as showrunner, so here’s hoping that last image of a newly formed villain Bill was his promise the plots of season six will have some actual form.