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Reviews

'True Blood: Season Five' Runs a Little Dry

Denis O'Hare as the uber-bad vampire, Russell Edgington

There are moments when we imagine that a character might actually meet the true death, leaving Sookie without a vampire lover to come to her rescue, for once.


True Blood

Distributor: HBO
Cast: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Rutina Wesley, Sam Trammell, Alexander Skarsgard
Network: HBO
US release date: 2013-05-21
Amazon

That Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) is the good-guy vampire to good-girl fairy Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) has been a given since True Blood first launched on HBO in 2008. The formula of relations between vampires and humans improving immensely was getting a little tiring, despite the addition of a love story between Sookie and badass vampire sheriff Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) in season four. Even the growing tension between Sookie and Bill seemed pretty regular and dull.

In the first few episodes of season five, we see some promising indications that the storyline is changing a bit. Bill and Eric are carted off to the underground headquarters of The Authority, the ruling legal body of the vampire world. There are moments when we imagine that one of these lead characters might actually meet the true death, leaving Sookie without a vampire lover who can sense when she's in danger and come to her rescue. Unfortunately, things just don't stay that interesting.

Sookie and her two favorite vampires are soon reunited on a quest to find an ultra-dangerous vampire who Bill and Eric were supposed to have killed in a prior season. The action devolves into silly antics when the trio enters an abandoned building to find this dangerous vampire, the one and only Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare). Everyone's favorite werewolf, Alcide Herveaux (Joe Manganiello), is even involved. The show returns to its same old predictable structure even as the writers attempt to cook up major vampire conspiracies and trigger a human vs. vampire war.

The only real bright spot in the season is the growing relationship between Tara (Rutina Wesley) and her maker Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten). By the beginning of this season, it was clear that Sookie's best friend hated vampires as much as possible—so naturally, she was nearly killed by a violent rival of Sookie's and had to be turned into a vampire in order to stay alive (sort of). At first it seemed like it would be just another silly plot twist, but as Tara and Pam work together, their relationship turns into something endearing and unique.

It's too bad that we can't say as much for the rest of season five. Sookie's brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) has, once again, turned into a not-so-likable character susceptible to the influence and opinions of others. Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) and Hoyt (Jim Parrack) are still stuck in weird relationship limbo that distracts from the story arch of the show. Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) and his fellow shape shifters become the target for a group of violent vigilantes. Even the humans are battling with supernatural demons from the Middle East.

In the midst of all of this, and 'all of this' is too much, Sookie and Jason learn that their parents were killed by a vampire. Many of us saw this revelation coming sometime during season three, but it becomes a reality when the siblings get confirmation from a hidden circus tent full of fairies (yes, there's that, too). It's this revelation that seems to push Jason over the edge. Trying to deal with it in her own way, Sookie asks her fellow "fae" to help her figure out the name of the vampire responsible.

Season five closes out in typical True Blood fashion with a cliffhanger. If nothing else, viewers will tune into season six just to satiate their curiosity about what's going to happen next. While we can hope that the next season offers the quirky, interesting stories that made the first season compelling, we probably shouldn't hold our breath. It seems that True Blood has finally become the soap opera it was destined to be all along.

True Blood Season Five: Special Features

True Blood would be in much better shape if the episodes were as good as the bonus features included on the Blu-ray boxed set of the season. "Authority Confessionals" and "Enhanced Viewing" features give viewers a lot of interesting background information about the series. One is left wondering why some of the interesting details elucidated in these special features aren't included in the episodes themselves. While the "Authority Confessionals" do verge on the campy, they stand out as an extra space for the actors involved in the show to put their talents on full display.

As with other HBO series, the boxed set also features "Inside the Episode" snippets for each of the 12 episodes. Taking us behind the scenes with True Blood's writers, directors and actors, these mini-episodes often draw attention to styling and cinematography details that we might not see otherwise. They're the real standout on a boxed set that is filled with too much silly melodrama for one show.

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Photo courtesy of Matador Records

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