Posted on Saturday, June 23rd, 2012 at 4:45 am
Author: s.e. smith
My response thus far to the fifth season of True Blood on HBO has been one of overwhelming ennui. The show appears to have long-ago passed its ‘use by’ date, and right now it’s skulking in the back of the refrigerator, waiting for someone to notice and throw it out. Until then, we all need to suffer through the mysterious smell of unknown origins permeating our television sets on Sunday evenings.
Much like the book series on which it is based, True Blood was based on a fun premise, but it took it too far in the interest of more attention and profits, instead of quitting while it was ahead. As in the Harris books, True Blood is filled with a growing series of muddled, confusing plots about people most viewers don’t care about and can’t bring themselves to care about because they flit around on screen so much that it’s hard to keep track of them.
‘Oh look, someone died. Who was that, I wonder?’ isn’t really the kind of response viewers should be having over and over again.
You know you’re in trouble when you start to root for the stake.
Showrunner Alan Ball will be leaving after this season, in which case it’s possible True Blood will get injected with a breath of life from some new creative talent. Anyone following after Ball, though, has a number of problems to contend with, including scores of disaffected viewers who aren’t going to be easily wooed back, a horrific tangle of plots that need to be dealt with so the show can be driven forward, and a cast of characters that varies from the mindnumbingly dull to the actively unlikeable.
Who is the Authority? HBO asks in promotions for this season.
Bluntly, I don’t care who the Authority is. Unless they have the power to ensure that True Blood won’t be coming back for a season six, which seems unlikely, because HBO is treating the show as a cash cow and it’s determined to milk every last drop. Even if it involves boring viewers to death (the true death, naturally) in the process.
Allegedly, this season is going to be some sort of complex commentary on theocracy in the United States, based around the political tactics of people like Rick Santorum. Which means even less sex and random nudity to keep viewers at least marginally entertained, or at least one can only assume. Unless you’re into pomp and pageantry—of which there was plenty in the second episode to give you a taste of what lies ahead—you may not find much reason to sit down for True Blood in season five.
It’s not just the vampires who have come over all ceremonial; if this season remains true to Dead As A Doornail, the book it’s based on, there’s also going to be a healthy dose of werewolf politics. This seems likely, given the brewing drama over the packmaster’s death. I confess that I may have slept through part of the setup there, but in the moments I could rouse myself awake long enough to follow what was going on, the show appeared to be going for high drama levels in the werewolf community.
Unfortunately, a series of crises alone isn’t enough to drive a show. The characters on True Blood aren’t interesting enough to carry the show themselves, and I’m increasingly less interested in their lives and activities. When the show lurches from one disaster to a next, usually in the form of heavy-handed allegories about whatever political trend has captured the momentary attention of the creators lately, I start to side with Lafayette: enough with this supernatural shit. In fact, enough with all of this shit.
The Sookie of the books has been turned into a pasty, needy, gloppy version of herself, dependent on the people around her and alternately screeching and weeping without actually doing anything meaningful. When the main character of the series is the one you’re hoping disappears first, that’s a bad sign, and Ball appears oblivious to the growing viewer antipathy when it comes to Sookie Stackhouse.
The other main characters appear to have fallen into the stereotype blender, which I do admit makes it easier to keep track of them, because you just need to remember which label they’re wearing at the moment. Terry, for example, is the Troubled Veteran, while Hoyt is the Wronged Friend, etc etc. One wonders if the writing team got their characters half-price from the bargain bin.
Meanwhile, the writers have decided they haven’t put Tara through the wringer enough, so they decided to turn her into a maddened and furious vampire who whirls around the house like some sort of primitive, animalistic caricature. Lafayette, one of the few characters I was still liking, is falling apart, and who the hell cares about the parade of men Sookie’s sequentially banging and mooning over, honestly. The end result leaves me cold.
Will I be tuning in for the rest of season five? Unlikely, unless I start experiencing intractable insomnia and need something so soporific that it would tranquilise an elephant.
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