'True Blood' Season Four Premiere

Renée Scolaro Mora

In the new season of True Blood, the right-wing “nut jobs” are no longer only one-dimensional objects of ridicule: now it's looking like they may not only right, but also correct.

True Blood

Airtime: Sundays, 9pm ET
Cast: Anna Pacquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Nelsan Ellis
Subtitle: Season Four Premiere
Network: HBO
Director: Michael Lehmann
Air date: 2011-06-26
You need to be somebody’s... or you won’t be.

-- Pam (Kristin Bauer)

Last season’s finale of True Blood was something of a mixed bag: the grief-crazed rampage of the King of Mississippi, Russel Edgington (Denis O’Hare), was a high point, as was the revelation that Bill (Stephen Moyer) had manipulated everyone’s favorite telepathic waitress, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Pacquin), into falling for him. After all the chaos, the final moment of the season was almost minimalist -- by True Blood’s standards -- as Sookie gave up on Bon Temps and disappeared in a flash of golden light with the fairy, Claudine (Lara Pulver).

Season Four opens in the fairy world, with Sookie and other humans mingling with their fairy godmothers at something like an alternate universe welcoming party. It’s a retelling on the Lotus-eaters myth, with the humans feasting on glowing “light fruit,” pushed on them by the fairies, and then quickly losing track of everything else around them, including time. Her own experience with the supernatural has made Sookie far less trusting than her human counterparts and, as she often does, she quickly uncovers the ugly underside of this particular fairy tale.

Sookie isn’t the only one discovering grim realities. Back in Bon Temps, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) discovers the hard way that the inbred community of were-panthers he has taken under his wing are less enamored of him than they are hell-bent on expanding their gene pool. Hoyt’s (Jim Parrack) and Jessica’s (Deborah Ann Woll) fantasy of human/vampire domestic bliss is challenged by something as simple as the difference in their most basic need, food. He considers Jessica feeding off others -- people who aren't him -- a betrayal. And, of course, the ever-anxious and -voracious “public” had their worst suspicions about the vampires confirmed when Russell Edgington ripped out the heart of a news anchor during a live broadcast last season. The incident has inspired digital-age Van Helsings armed with iPhones to further expose “the vamps.”

Following on last season’s addition of werewolves to True Blood's supernatural population continues to expand. Bill has planted a spy inside a coven of necromantic witches led by Marnie (Fiona Shaw, who manages to be both endearing and incredibly creepy). Even Sookie, so long so patient, seems exasperated by this turn of events, telling Eric, “You mean I have to deal with witches now?” As with the werewolves, the primary threat the witches embody is not against the humans, but against the vampires. For one thing, the witches are learning to control the dead. Vampires are (technically) dead. You do the math.

Such threats in True Blood typically point to a mix of vulnerabilities and inspire a range of responses, as loosely defined communities and tentative alliances contend over politics, territories, and bodies -- with sexual desire and jealousy underlying all. We can't help but see the irony of the vampires’ concern over the necromancers, given that both groups work incessantly to control everyone else around them.

Sookie, as always, forms a kind of center of yearning, an object of desire and worry for all. That the opponents also repeatedly protect and endanger her only increases their sense of competition. Part fairy, Sookie is at more risk than your average girl for being consumed by the local vampires (as the number of "rules" grows along with the populations, we know fairy blood gives vampires the ability to day-walk). She mirrors the mixed feelings expressed towards her, as she too is stuck wanting, hating, and fearing the thing that can both save and destroy her. For all Sookie’s seeming power, she is incapable of surviving on her own.

Since Russell Edgington single-handedly destroyed whatever progress the vampires had made in mainstreaming, Nan Flanagan (Jessica Tuck), tireless spokeswoman for the American Vampire League, and Bill are now working together to restore their public image and win acceptance from their human neighbors. This includes a new barrage of PSAs with a sort of “Vampires are people too” message, as well as Bill's redoubled efforts to uphold Nan’s “No dead humans” mandate.

The significance of this particular decree lies in its wording. Despite trying to convince humans that vampires don’t need to suck their blood, thanks to the synthetic True Blood, the vampires regularly do exactly that. The key to achieving a sustained place in mixed society hinges on crafting their public image, specifically, concealing the reality of their subculture. When Bill severely punishes one vampire (Aubrey Deeker) for violating the rule, it's clear the real problem isn’t the crime, but that the crime was documented by some intrepid YouTubers. “No dead humans” actually means “Don’t get caught,” a timely, if obvious, allusion to current events far beyond Bon Temps. IT hardly seems a new problem is new for the vampires: they've always counted on “not getting caught” for their survival.

This season, as before, True Blood employs its supernatural others to signify cultural anxieties about race and sexuality. Now these anxieties are foregrounded in some of the human protagonists. It’s a necessary shift: while the show has always portrayed elements of the vampire community as corrupt, we have been assured that Bill, and maybe a few others, were merely misunderstood. As this story has lost credibility, the vampires as a plausible metaphor for "accepting difference" is falling apart. Lying is only effective when it's unknown. As Sookie has learned, acceptance -- tolerance, embrace -- of difference is more complicated when it also demands a denial of self.

This development also exacerbates tensions regarding the series' other "others," the right-wing “nut jobs.” Afforded the most one-dimensional presentation imaginable, these ever-protesting hysterics are ridiculed by vampires and vampire-supporters alike. But the unspoken irony, in this case, is that the supposed crazies are not only right, but also correct.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.