When writing a quick review of the series premiere of True Blood last September, I cited its “unflinching eroticism and brutality” and hailed it as “poised to take its rightful place in the pantheon of great vampire epics.” As the season unfolded and the show improved week-to-week, I felt vindicated in my assessment, which was pretty much mirrored by Heather’s review of all 12 episodes.
So it was with a great deal of anticipation and, I’ll admit, extremely high expectations that I settled in to watch the first four chapters of True Blood Season 2: “Nothing But the Blood”, “Keep This Party Going”, “Scratch My Back”, and “Let’s Take a Trip Together”. All I can say is WHEW! If you thought last season was hot, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Things start up shortly after the events that ended Season 1 with Bill (Stephen Moyer) teaching his new vamp progeny Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) the ropes, with some much needed help from Sookie (Anna Paquin) once she warms up to the idea of sharing her man with another; Tara (Rutina Wesley) adapting to her cushy new life with the enigmatic Maryann (Michelle Forbes) and bad boy housemate Eggs (Mehcad Brooks); Sam (Sam Trammell) continuing to battle his inner demons but finding a little respite by becoming chummy with new waitress Daphne (Ashley Jones); Jason (Ryan Kwanten) still trying to find himself but being drawn to the anti-vampire church Fellowship of the Sun; and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) … well, let’s just leave a few things a mystery for the time being.
Now that the audience has familiarized itself with True Blood‘s core characters, it’s a good move on creator Alan Ball et al’s part to inject several new ones into the mix. And what an assorted group they are! Maryann continues her “Earth Mother” ways by taking in strays and hosting gatherings that more often than not turn into wild orgies of food and fondling. She and Sam have a history, however, that keeps him on his guard and wary of her intentions with regard to Tara. Jessica is a delight with her combination of innocence and cruelty. She reminds me at times of Claire from Ball’s “Six Feet Under” — quite child-like in a number of ways but wise beyond her years in others. She is so far my favorite new addition to the cast. Michael McMillian and Anna Camp as the Fellowship’s Rev. Steve Newlin and his wife Sarah are perfection, leading Jason down a path that is certain to result in some of True Blood‘s most comical situations. Hopefully, though, Jason won’t be stuck in this same storyline for the duration of the season as I feel Kwanten has just begun tapping into his and the role’s potential.
Oh, and did I mention that, like its predecessor, Season 2 starts out with a murder? Only this time, instead of being strangled, the victim’s heart is ripped out. So you can expect to see a lot of William Sanderson’s Sheriff Dearborne and Chris Bauer’s Deputy Bellefleur snooping around the scene.
But don’t think that because all these other characters are being given their due, Bill and Sookie have been put on the back burner. Their story arcs are still the focus of True Blood, and they fight and fuck just as much as, if not more than, they did in Season 1. She acts silly and threatens to call things off on occasion, he still has trouble fully opening himself up to her, and they are both impossibly stubborn; but fortunately, their relationship deepens and matures over the course of these four episodes, and certainly their bond will only grow closer as we approach the finale.
So, thanks to Bill and Sookie, plus Maryann’s as yet unexplained powers, we’ve got that eroticism thing I discussed earlier well in hand. What about the brutality element? That is provided courtesy of bloodthirsty Eric (Alexander Skarsgård), who shows off his dark side as he figures prominently in this season’s events. Along with Eric’s evil ways, there’s a new monster in town that promises extra carnage and mayhem. All in all, there’s more graphic gore and violence in these four entries than we saw in all of Season 1. There’s also a very juicy subplot that involves a threesome heading out of Bon Temps to track down a missing vamp “Sheriff” named Godric. Their arrival in Dallas coincides with the end of Episode 4, the appropriately titled “Let’s Take a Trip Together”, which additionally reveals just enough info about Maryann to further confuse viewers as to her true identity.
And that should be enough to whet your appetite to tune in this Sunday, June 14th, when True Blood returns to HBO. It’s one of those treasured instances of a series taking everything that was good about its first season and building on that by amping up the sex and slaughter. The only bummer is that while all of you are reveling in Season 2 this weekend, I have to wait a whole ‘nother month to re-dig my teeth into it!
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