True Blood

True Blood's second season showcases the similarities between fundamentalisms -- whether Christian or pagan.

True Blood

Airtime: Sundays, 9pm ET
Cast: Anna Paquin, Rutina Wesley, Stephen Moyer, Deborah Ann Woll, Lizzy Caplan, Ryan Kwanten
Subtitle: Season Two First Four
Network: HBO
Air date: 2009-06-14
I'm sick of things sneaking up on me.

-- Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin)

"Every time I think I know what's what, it turns out I don't know anything." As much as Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) thinks through her dilemmas -- numerous and profound, usually having to do wit her vampire boyfriend -- she remains mystified by her own choices and those made by others. The choice she's contemplating now, during the first few minutes of True Blood's second season, has resulted in a traumatizing sight: a corpse left in the back seat of Detective Andy's (Chris Bauer) car, her mouth gaping, limbs stiff with rigor mortis, and her heart literally ripped from her chest.

As Sookie ponders her limits, Tara (Rutina Wesley) tries to maintain control, hoping to elude confessing to cops what she knows about the victim, namely, that she kept a "voodoo bus out in the middle of the woods." Whether this has anything to do with the woman's grisly end is unknown. What is abundantly clear by this brutal, swift, and exquisitely yucky scene is True Blood is back, doing what it likes to do best, that is, dumping you into yet another crisis with precious little context or buildup. Sly and beguiling, it offers up desperate souls and sweaty bodies, hungry vampires and fearful humans.

Tensions between communities in Bon Temps, Louisiana are rising. Even as Sookie is making her way from the crime scene to her regular late-night liaison with her gentleman vampire lover Bill (Stephen Moyer), he's trying to get a hold of his own changed situation. The new master of Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), whom he turned late last season, he's not quite equipped to cope with the ordeals of a teenaged girl, a point that Sookie makes shortly after she discovers Jessica (who emerges, betoweled, from the bathroom as Sookie and Bill are entangled mid-clinch, to announce how much she likes his "shower"). When Sookie wonders exactly what's gone on -- "You bit her, you drained her. Did you have sex with her?" -- Jessica is instantly endearing and annoying, like a lot of kids her age: "Eww!" she gasps at the thought, "Old!"

Jessica is the designated replacement for the vampire Bill killed last year in order to save Sookie. That Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgîrd), the vampire sheriff in Bon Temps, has ordered the replacement is more a matter of policing Bill than replenishing undead ranks. These two have a seriously complicated relationship, partly dictated by their competition for Sookie (Eric wants to put her thoughts-reading skills to his own uses, while Bill, well, he appreciates that she's inspired him to feel "something I thought had been lost to me forever"), and partly by their concern over who has the oldest, most potent blood (the new season will be introducing two new vampires, both older than Eric, one a princess played by Evan Rachel Wood). As Eric and Bill have to make deals and trade favors, they repeatedly declare their mutual respect, compare notes on their trainees: Eric's girl wears killer pumps and is "lazy but loyal," Bill describes Jessica as "petulant and afraid."

As much as they think themselves opposed, these boys are awfully alike, sharing a righteous moodiness and sense of alienation that the younger generation just doesn╒t. They're mystified by the new vampires' ability to slide in and about of human communities, and not a little worried when dead bodies start showing up that are plainly not the work of vampires. Bill is horrified by his new responsibilities as a maker (i.e., a father). "She has no humanity," he whines to Sookie, "She's in the grips of an overwhelming transformation. There will be times when she cannot control even a single impulse and believe me, she has many." Sookie rolls her eyes: "How is that different from being a teenage girl?"

But as vampires are learning how to mingle with humans who are, as Sookie puts it, "open-minded," other humans are turning up the anti-vampire heat. Where last season showcased an anti-immigrants-like movement bolstered by sensationalist talking-heads media, here the haters are overtly religious, rich, and recruiting. Sookie's brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) remains disturbed by his own encounter with a dead body last season (his girlfriend killed a vampire who was, Jason worries, a "nice person"). Picking up on the search for order and redemption he started last season Jason heads off to church camp with the telegenic Rev. Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian) and his Stepfordy wife Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp).

Jason isn't certain how he feels about "fangers." Not only is his sister dating one, but he's also aware that his beloved gran was killed by a human full of hate for vampires. Still, he likes fitting in, and likes being told how "special" he is, and so he's inclined to swallow Steve's patent illogic. With humans designated light and vampires dark, he insists, the sides are absolute: "You cannot love evil, you have to hate it so hating evil is really loving good." Gee, Jason gulps, never thought of it that way.

Even as Jason is almost tripping over himself en route to his salvation, Tara is having her own "community" issues, spending a little too much time at the home of sexy-goofily vibrating Maenad Maryann (Michelle Forbes), not to mention falling for Eggs (Mehcad Brooks). If Jason's getaway is flag-waving and pert (during a group session, Jason hangs his head, "I ain't much of a sharing type of guy"), Tara's is hot and sultry, tres Louisiana, even if Maryann's outfits look like knockoffs of Angelina Jolie's goddess gowns from Alexander. Neither adventure is especially subtle or interesting, but together they underscore the similarities between fundamentalisms -- whether Christian or pagan.

These too-easy distinctions are effectively messed up in Tara's cousin Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis). Locked up in a vampire's dungeon as this season begins, he tries to deal with his captor. First, after weeks of torture, he declares his willingness to give up whatever information he can, with apt intertextual allusion: "If I got even a Jew at an al-Qaeda pep rally chance of getting my black ass up out this motherfucker, I'm taking it." Presenting himself up as a vampire waiting to be made, Lafayette says, "I'm already a person of poor moral character, so I'll hit the ground running. Not only will I be a bad-ass vampire, but I'll be your bad-ass vampire." While this offer is discomfiting enough, it's made worse when Lafayette escapes the dungeon, dragging a chain and a slave's collar around his neck. Never one to understate, Lafayette resists Tara's nurturing and Sookie's protection. He's learned to rely on himself, and he makes all too plain what everyone else in True Blood talks around: (Southern) romance is a long-lived deception, comprised of power struggles and betrayals and brutalities.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

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

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