| by Allan Stackhouse |
While it's a little bit of a bummer for the last taste of an otherwise great season be the incredibly disappointing season finale, this season of True Blood was fangtastic. See what I did there? Glorious deaths, a slew of new characters, and character origins abounded in this season's tale of some nefarious characters seeking to do harm to our favorite residents of Bon Temps.
A plethora of characters were introduced and many met their “true deaths.” The body count was particularly high this season, much higher than the previous seasons. Also stepped up were the extremely well done special effects, providing very satisfying scenes to characters we hated. Franklin's midair explosion into gallons of blood was absolutely fantastic. Not only did it end the character who terrorized Tara but it was a marvel in traditional special effects. The use of live animals was taken just a smidgen further than a cow or pig from season 2 - in season 3, we got not only wolves but a ton of them graced the screen as well as a panther. How about the makeup on the near-burned to his true death Russell? And the orange glows where he was sprayed with silver? Woo!
What was different from the seasons before was the lack of sex scenes. I hope I'm not coming off as perverted by pointing this out but there were multiple suggestions of the act while not many actual scenes of it. There is less focus on Sookie's telepathy but perhaps that was because she spent the majority of her time around vampires. A welcome return for me were the reunions between Sookie and Tara. It's these unbreakable bonds between the human characters that are the show's core elements, one that can be returned to despite any craziness that falls upon them.
The focus of vampire politics carried through the majority of the season. There are some serious plays for power by Russell, the vampire King of Mississippi. The focus changes after Eric kills the Russell's lover Talbot. Bill and Eric had competing ulterior motives, one always threatening to expose the other. It was a big chess game with Sookie unfortunately caught in the middle. The balance on the scales of the vampire world were tipped to a shocking level as Russell beheads the magister. In an effort to contain Russell, Eric is completely honest to the Authority but it fell upon deaf ears, resulting in the killing a newscaster on live television, a single act that will no doubt shape the future seasons.
The delve into Sookie's origins, which we've been wondering about for two seasons, finally came to a head in a rather anticlimactic manner but the subsequent gradual build up to her significance as faerie (or her faerie blood) completely made up for it. The growing control of her powers happens at exactly the right amount of narrative time. Bill and Sookie's appearance in the ethereal faerie realm delivered in that it constantly asked questions, revealing only painstaking bits of information at a time. The finale's final scene is Sookie going with Claudine into a world possibly deeper than previously seen served as a great setup for season 4. If only the finale wasn't so full of these lengthy scenes for each and every other character, this would have made a bigger impact.
A standout performance was that of Alfre Woodard as Lafayette's mother, Ruby Jean Reynolds. Alfre is such a talented actress and made her character so memorable, despite only appearing in a few scenes. She gave her character so much life for a paranoid schizophrenic while still a loving mother on the inside. A contrast to this is unfortunately Crystal, played by Lindsay Pulsipher. She offers nothing to Ryan Kwanten's expertly played southern bumpkin. Honestly, what's so hard about playing white trash? I haven't seen any of her other work so perhaps she's actually a decent actress but this was really really not her role.
Speaking of Crystal, one storyline that I did not like this season was Jason's. This was a travesty to me since he's one of my favorite characters. He's not providing the same amount of humor that he was in season one and two which was a big let down. Too much effort is being made to develop Jason into an upstanding character. Savior to the inbred werepanthers? Give me a break. What's wrong with having just a normal funny character? The whole character of Crystal seemed a little undercooked and the show could have easily done without this particular story.
Despite the missteps, the season did well in telling a story about a quest for power. Russell, in just the span of one season, established himself as a vampire worthy of fear. He had history with Eric. As always, a king's blind quest for more results in his downfall. As always, Sookie's involvement with things is underestimated, her attackers unaware of her ability to prove herself useful as a human or faerie.
As in the previous seasons, hints at the following seasons are included but there were too many setups and not enough conclusions. As was pointed out to me, half the episode was more of a jump into the next season. I feel like Alan Ball's little prologue message was there to make up for the lack in quality of the last episode. The foreshadowing that was done to previous seasons' standards was in Arlene's possibly evil baby. And what was up with the doll in Hoyt and Jessica's house? *shiver* Witches are going take over Bon Temps and I'm only a little bit excited... okay, a lot.