True Blood: Strange Love (TV)

HBO's True Blood (click for larger image)Reviewed by Debi Moore

Starring Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Sam Trammell

Written and directed by Alan Ball (series creator)

Original Air Date September 7, 2008

When I first heard that Alan Ball was working on a new series for HBO that involved vampires, I was pretty excited. Although I wasn’t familiar with the source material, Charlaine Harris’ “Southern Vampire” saga (order the first book Dead Until Dark here), I loved Ball’s Six Feet Under and was very curious to see his take on the vampire mythos. If anyone could energize my most beloved sub-genre and turn it on its head, it’s Ball. Last night was the premiere of True Blood, and if Episode One, “Strange Love,” is any indication, we’re in for an extremely fun ride.

Meet Sookie Stackhouse (Paquin), a small-town Louisiana waitress who has more than a few issues to contend with. She lives with her slightly doddering grandmother, has a sassy best friend Tara (Wesley) who can’t control her tongue long enough to keep a job, is the object of an unrequited crush from her boss Sam (Trammell), and just found out her promiscuous brother Jason (Kwanten) is the number one suspect in a brutal murder. On top of all that, she has telepathic abilities, which has made her the brunt of untold jokes and suspicion by the locals. The world in which Sookie lives is quite different from ours in that, thanks to a Japanese concoction called “Tru Blood,” vampires have been able to reveal themselves to humans (the phrase “come out of the coffin” is used to great effect). Tru Blood keeps their blood thirst at bay, but undoubtedly the topic of future episodes will be whether or not modern-day vamps really want to assimilate into society and be looked upon as just embracing another lifestyle choice.

HBO's True Blood (click for larger image)In “Strange Love” Sookie meets Bill (Moyer), the first vampire to openly venture into her hometown of Bon Temps, and is instantly attracted to him. It’s not just his seductive vamp aura that appeals to her but the fact that she’s unable to read his thoughts. For someone who is constantly struggling to turn off the voices in her head, finding a person who provides nothing but blissful silence is a powerful aphrodisiac. And how could a guy with such a common name like Bill be scary? Of course the townspeople are not so welcoming, and Sam and Tara both do their best to discourage Sookie’s attraction to Bill. But she will not be deterred, even going so far as to save him from a couple of lowlifes who try to drain him dry in order to sell his potent blood on the black market.

Just from watching this first episode, it’s obvious that Ball hasn’t missed a step since his Six Feet days. We have offbeat characters, hot sex, social commentary, and a compelling mystery to solve. The actors are perfectly suited to their roles, and the dialogue never seems forced. If Ball can keep things balanced by not making Sookie too cutely quirky and the vamps too drearily Gothic (based on his track record, neither seems likely to happen), the remaining installments should build on what was laid out in “Strange Love” in a more than satisfactory manner.

I don’t want to give too much away, but judging by the unflinching eroticism and brutality we’ve seen so far, True Blood is poised to take its rightful place in the pantheon of great vampire epics. The series will no doubt have its detractors, but this woman is certainly not one of them. The bloodier and bolder, the better; and I’m already looking forward to next Sunday and the next chapter! In the meantime join me in staying up-to-date on the latest goings-on in Bon Temps by visiting HBO’s official True Blood website.

4 out of 5

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Debi Moore

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  • Avid Fan

    I have to say I was slightly underwhelmed at this show. My wife has read all the books and said it was frustrating what changes they’d made to the characters (apperently Sookie isn’t supposed to be able to turn on or off the “voices”, the silence is part of her attraction to vamps). I felt like it was a slightly higher production version of the Creepshow series, especially the well lit night and the over-acting was a bit much. Regardless, I am a bit curious as to where this might lead, it is Alan Ball and he hasn’t let me down yet.

    • MagusMaleficus

      I’m a bit of a literary snob, so seeing a TV series depart from the novels upon which it is based turns me well off. I just can’t get past the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something is very wrong when a show does this (i.e. USA’s “The Dead Zone,” based on the novel by Stephen King).

      • The Woman In Black

        Well, Dexter the series is drastically different from the novels, and I can enjoy them both independent of each other, but I understand how a lot of people might have issues. For instance, I still haven’t forgiven the people behind Queen of the Damned for butchering it beyond recognition, but somehow for a TV series I can be more lenient.

        • MagusMaleficus

          You know, I have to admit Dexter is one of the few exceptions to my rule. I love that show, wholeheartedly so, and would recommend it to anyone. And yes, the QotD movie was absolute trash–both as an adaptation, and just in general. Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but even he was a better Lestat than that Townsend guy (even so, I think I just threw up a bit in the back of my throat).