Tuesday, August 3, 2010

True Blood Season 3 - A Midseason Review

| by Allan Stackhouse |

How highly can I speak of True Blood? I cannot say. Actually, that's a lie. I was super excited during season 3's buzz campaign but I found myself nervous going into the actual episodes. I wondered if the show could even come close to the magnitude of season 2. Maryann's near infinite power was so delicious, even up until its ravaged end. I was shaken out of this wonder at the last scene of It Hurts Me Too, episode 3. Or should I say my head was twisted all the way around? Too much? In any case, the show proves to be at the level set in season 2.

Ding dong the b*tch is dead. Which old b*tch? Lorena is dead! I've never wanted someone to die so badly since Lorena. She's been a thorn in my side for three seasons but the show did not let me down. Not only did just this one event deliver but the story, acting, and gore all delivered just like the best show on TV is supposed to do. New relationships are formed, old ones are tested, a wide array of villains seek to have their way at the expense of our favorite Bon Temps residents, and of course there's more sex and violence.

Let my hatred for for Lorena not detract from Mariana Klaveno's acting prowess. The control she wields over Lorena's voice and body language is truly astounding. She commands the attention of viewers and this is entirely one of the reasons why she invoked such a strong reaction out of viewers. This bitter hatred I felt was one that I had not felt since Lauren in the third season of JJ Abrams' Alias. Hey, they kind of have the same name. Viewer beware: the Lorena/Laurens of the world will do your favorite TV protagonists harm. They both met their ultimately satisfying end (for the viewers, definitely not them). Whereas Lauren was destroyed in a beautiful hail of bullets, Lorena, held back by Bill with a silver chain that ironically was holding him, is staked by Sookie. A fountain of blood erupts from her mouth and she explodes like a water balloon. A beautiful end worthy of a formidable villain.

Remaining as high as it was, the writing carries us into supernatural ecstasy. We are finding out what Sookie is, a mystery set up in the very first episode of the show. The manifestation of Sookie's powers in the second season and again in the third drew fascination to her. As Sookie recovers in the waiting room, her consciousness is transported to an ethereal realm where other mindreaders reside. The cliffhangers posed at the end of each episode continuously prove to be both amazing and maddening.

New faces to the world of True Blood are the enormously terrifying Russell Edgington, the King of Mississippi. His grip may not reach as far as Maryann's but through his henchman, his influence seems limitless. From Eric's flashback, we (or at least the smarter of the viewers) know that Russell and his pack of werewolves destroyed Eric's royal family. Russell kept this crown as a token of his destruction but to Eric, the crown's value has only grown for about nine hundred seventy-two years. The destruction that Russell so easily casts brings about the emotional side of Eric that we saw in last season. Perhaps not to the point where he cries blood but maybe this crown means even more than that.

Tommy Mickens. The air of mystery was drawn around Tommy and the Mickens family. Episode 6 revealed that he apparently is a contestant in the abhorrent world of dogfights. Honestly, I find this a little silly but this is providing Sam with a sense of family that he did not know he was looking for. Joe Lee and Melinda both turn out to be disgusting people. We know that Sam is capable of caring a lot about his love interests but the care Sam has for his brother is a nice contrast to sex and violence in the show.

The King may be the main villain but Franklin Mott is the character of whom I find myself the most afraid. Lorena might be relentless in her pursuit of Bill but Franklin is absolutely insane. Franklin's tree of insanity does bear fruit though; it comes in the form of Tara's character development. She has had her moments of sadness after Eggs' death but Franklin's pursuit of her leaves Tara no time to worry about that. She's in the fight of her life. The lengths that she's forced to go through surprised me at her ability to rise to the occasion of saving her own and Sookie's lives.

The breakout character this season is not a new one; it's actually Tara Thornton. The growth in her character this season was further than I could have imagined. Despite wanting to die and having been bound and gagged in the earlier episodes, Tara finds the will to survive. And survive she does. Some of the few amazing things she does: bites into Russell's neck and drinks his blood, she smashes Franklin's head into a mess of bone and brain bits, she almost outruns a werewolf, she takes a female werewolf on with her own bare hands, she lifts Bill's body like it's a rag doll, and she kicks Bill out into daylight for nearly killing Sookie.

I read an interview with Alan Ball in which he said the theme of this season was politics whereas the season before had the theme of religion. Alan and everyone involved created another brilliant chess game where, as is usually the case with politics, someone is trying to usurp power. The black king seeks to marry the white queen in order to control not only their respective states but soon the vampire way of life. Franklin is intolerant of of the oppression he feels the Authority over him, having lived in ages when there was no force that made their kind combine with humans.

In retrospect, I don't know if it's fair to say that any of these episodes are better than the other. There's certainly higher stakes in certain episodes, which obviously leads to preference but the theme of politics this season requires a different amount of setup. The results, luckily for us, remain the same: phenomenal characters. We're definitely set up to have an exciting second half of the season. Debbie, as can be told by her screaming, will go to Bon Temps to seek vengeance for Alcide killing Cooter. Franklin is going to pay Tara a visit. And King Russell? His power may continue to grow but I don't think Eric will allow his majesty's reign to go past season 3. 'Til next time, kids!

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