'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.





90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.


Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.