Every year since the series premier in 2009, the summer’s True Blood season premiere is hyped, poster-ed all over every bus route in every major city, meme-d, masturbated to, and enjoyed by millions, and this year was no exception. But like the changing landscape of the show, the fanaticism surrounding True Blood is also in a transition, because no one understands what the hell is going on anymore.
I used to wear my True Blood fan-hood with pride. In the summer of 2010 I spent every Sunday night escorting the group that came over to cerebral-y watch Mad Men out, as I let in the crowd arriving to let their better halves go and enjoy some True Bloodian violence, sex, and fantasy. This is also the summer I learned that if any whiskey-loving girl or gay tells you that they don’t secretly dream of being a honkytonk waitress in the bayou, who has fairy powers and maintains an irresistibility to the sexual advances of hard-bodied vampires, they’re lying. That group of loyal, dreamy fans doesn’t really exist anymore though, and aside from a few fishy freaks like me, that was even obvious on social media Sunday night.
I’ve had numerous conversations with folks that started back in the fourth season with the introduction of the witches, about how the show has just become too far-fetched. Granted the original premise of the show revolves around a backwater Louisiana town after vampires “come out of the coffin” in a historical event called “The Great Revelation” and “mainstream” into society, and that is far from realistic. But first of all, when you consider the pretty much fictional media of today, that sentence is honestly not that wild anymore. Secondly, True Blood started out as a satire. That’s why throughout the first three seasons there is an underlying parallel to homophobia and the gay rights movement (“God hates fangs”), many references back to the civil rights movement, hundreds of jokes about politics, the media and social stigma, and a clever playfulness with history (“Pasteur is a vampire?”).
It is true though that once the fourth season proffered a coven of necromancing witches, the story line became much less self aware and a lot more fantastical and high impact obsessed. That wasn’t alleviated by the fifth season either. The exploration of a conflicted vampire authority and the allusions to a vampire bible, God and creation story I think are undeniably interesting. And yet the show still became too caught up in drama and leaves us with a Bill Compton who has just consumed a vile of blood supposedly belonging to Lilith, the first vampire, explodes into a pool of blood on the ground and then resurrects into a blood-covered, monster-fanged, neked god-reincarnate.
Needless to say after last season’s finale I no longer think less of people when they tell me they don’t like True Blood, the same way I used to think less of them for telling me they prefer vodka. But I was hoping that maybe season six’s premier could right some wrongs, and instead it was an incredibly fast-paced, cheap hour full of cheesy moments and bad special effects.
Stephen Moyer directed the episode, and after watching this behind the scenes clip I think that he might be as deluded and power-hungry as his character on the show. He says that he wanted to “play episode one as a kind of thriller.” In doing so he took every part of the show that was ever charming or intriguing, i.e. the cultural affectation of the south, subtle nuances that allude to future plot events, the repercussions of the interpersonal relationships of the characters, the reverence to a socio-political parody, and omitted them. Those aspects have been waning for some time, but still, Moyer made an episode where they are entirely absent.
He brags how in the cold open was filmed with no dollies or tripods, and instead was entirely shot hand-held. Well, that finished product is the same kind of shaky thing you see in either a film student’s thesis or a crappy Hollywood action movie trying to be indie. He says that the scene depicting the character of Luna dying was initially longer and more poignant, but apparently since she’s going to be gone forever anyways that was insignificant, and instead he kills off a show regular within a matter of seconds and moves on. Moyer also speaks of the scene in which Sookie stakes Bill to save Eric (which I refuse to expound upon in order to hold on to any semblance of intelligence you all might think I have after reading this), but instead finds the emphasis on Bill’s new powers rather than a show-long love story reaching a climax.
That whole paragraph above is pretty silly, I know, and makes me sound like I want the show to be some slow, girly soap opera. But I don’t, I just want the magic of the twangy, sly, smart first three seasons back. At least in those seasons there weren’t the worst special effects HBO has probably ever commissioned, because it wasn’t the type of show that needed buildings exploding in goofy CGI flames. Not to mention that this episode included the funniest, slow moving resending of an invitation ever (which is always the silliest part of any episode, but this one took the cake), something that Moyer even admits is inconsistent. Lastly, I’ve heard grumblings of True Blood being too pornographic before, to which I’ve always said, “If you’re too busy for God, brother, you’re too busy.”
But this episode made me start to agree with them, with a sex scene so raunchy even my heathen self had to take a beat and get a glass of water. Maybe True Blood is trying to embody edginess over its original quirkiness, but it’s just not consistent, and is really taking the show to places that its original fan base just doesn’t care about.