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Review: Down On The Bayou With "True Blood"

Shadow and Act By Monique | Shadow and Act June 27, 2011 at 12:55PM

Last Night the much anticipated fourth season of True Blood premiered on HBO. As some of our long time readers know, I’m not a huge fan of some key elements in the show. In case you don’t recall, here’s my post from last summer. I took series creator Alan Ball and the True Blood writers to task on their ridiculous and sometimes paper thin portrayal of the show’s two characters of color, Tara (Rutina Wesley) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis). I vowed with three episodes left in the third series, never to watch the show again.
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Last Night the much anticipated fourth season of True Blood premiered on HBO. As some of our long time readers know, I’m not a huge fan of some key elements in the show. In case you don’t recall, here’s my post from last summer. I took series creator Alan Ball and the True Blood writers to task on their ridiculous and sometimes paper thin portrayal of the show’s two characters of color, Tara (Rutina Wesley) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis). I vowed with three episodes left in the third series, never to watch the show again.

Of course vows were meant to be broken (just ask any incarcerated priest), so Sunday night I found myself settled in front of the television, holding my breath, hoping that I could find something in the show to get excited about or at least justify me taking the time to bother. As the opening scene emerged on the screen, my anticipation level plummeted.

As a disclaimer, the following may contain spoilers...don't say I didn't warn you!

It was Sookie, wandering around a land of pastel glitter and sparkle, in a fairytale imagery fit for, well—a fairy. Her golden mane and innocent frock of a summer dress oozed of dewy-eyed innocence; the kind we have come to expect from her tired and trite damsel-in-distress storyline. However, before you die-hard fang bangers say it, let me warn you that I’ve heard it all before: “It was written that way in the book,” “It’s just a television show,” “You’re a hater!” I respond to all that nonsense with this simple statement: Do better or don’t bother.

To which this premiere again falls to the latter—don’t bother. It was almost a chore to write this because I feel neither passion nor anticipation moving forward with this series and here’s why…

Our blonde heroine, Sookie, was again trapped in her same ole routine. She was again in need of a rescue, this time the baddies are her fairyland people—you know, the ones we’ve been led to believe were providing her safe haven.

I could have bought this little twist that the writers threw at us, if only it wasn’t so ridiculously executed. I mean, c’mon, I felt like I had been time warped back to 1988 in a slightly elevated version of Willow or even worst, 1986's Troll (eww, I feel icky all over). We even met a long lost Stackhouse relative – snooze. I remember thinking, “Wake me up when this segment is over.” Fifteen minutes or so into the program (finally) the viewers were saved. I thought, maybe there is a reprieve in here somewhere. I turned off the lights and dug in to get a glimpse of what has been going on in and around Bon Temps—and what has happened since last we saw our supernaturally afflicted bloodsuckers, canines, heroes, felons and foes?

It’s a brave new world; vampires have been exposed as living among us, there must be some fall-out, maybe some chaos in the streets and the National Guard on red alert? Hmm, no, here’s a fast forward montage of what followed the opening scenes.

Sookie traipsing through the wood for the 100th (how many time again?) time. Jason’s a cop – well we knew that was coming from last season. He has sold their grandparent’s home and of course, he’s more than surprised to see his sister after a year. No tears but plenty of sigh-worthy staring that made me question whether he was in love with his sister too (after all, it is the deep South). Bill and Eric enter on cue to remind us that Sookie’s so hot and irresistible, even a year’s absence in fairyland can’t extinguish those loin fires, a time filler domestic squabble with raw eggs ala Hoyt and Jessica, Lafayette exploring his bitchy—I mean witchy side, Arlene and Rene’s baby playing with Barbie dolls and Tara pounding on a pretty young woman’s face in a French Quarter cage match. These scenes rounded out the mid-point of the episode.

Again, it’s in the execution – sure some of these elements worked and could have been interesting under sharper writing and direction. Remember the great season six opener to the Sopranos? There was a great montage with a spoken word song by Material featuring William S Burroughs. It was just his voice over the beat as the main characters went about their lives; it was different and effective. For a show like True Blood (which treads heavily on well covered turf like trendy vampires and supernatural beings) different is a requirement. On HBO there’s no excuse not to be. I say to the writers and show runner, “grow a pair!”

As the episode tapered off, they seemed to have answered that call, and yet failed at the same time with two words: plot device. No, wait, that's not right, what about...shock value. Hmm, still not quite there yet, wait I got it now...I only need one word: lesbians

As we get our first interesting moments of the show, which include Lafayette’s participation in a bird resurrection and Eric and Bill’s dueling political speeches, we are again taken back to Tara. We watch her leave the cage fighting venue laughing with the woman she just pounded the shit out of (by the way, not a mark on this woman after that brutal face beating). Before being hassled by a passing drunk, the two women stop and engage in a passionate kiss.

Wait a minute, hold the friggin’ phone! When…what…!

What the hell did I miss in those last three episodes of season three? I know Tara chopped off her braids and hit the road but when did this lesbian conversion take place? Better yet, why didn’t we have a small glimpse of Tara’s inclinations during the previous three seasons of the show? Was that what all this angry animalistic behavior from last season meant to portray? Tara is butch? And wait, hold on, I’m on the verge of a brain aneurysm at the thought that they might…

No let me not go there. Okay, I will…are the writers leading us to believe that Tara is secretly in love with Sookie? I sat back and shook my head. I laughed at the thought of this scenario possibly going down. During a scene that followed with Tara and her new…ehem…lover, I literally let out a belly-aching round of laughter. Imagine a scene where two people are getting it on and the phone rings...it’s a message saying a someone you love has returned. Instead of rejoicing and telling his/her bedmate the truth, she lies. Why the lie? Unless…no, are they really going there? Mr. Ball please say it isn’t so.

As if Sookie doesn’t have every major and non-major character on the show pining after her and damn near killing themselves to see about her well-being, the writers might be planning to throw another love interest into the mix! Did you see this season’s main poster with Bill, Eric and that wolf guy all pining for Sookie? Imagine Tara on the other side? This is getting beyond ridiculous!

At this point, there’s no need in me saying more. It was pretty much hum-drum fair after that. Maybe HBO realized that too and that’s why they made the second episode available to watch now on their website and OnDemand. It will give them an excuse as to why episode two ratings may plummet.

Having said that, it can’t all be negative, can it? Well, no. It’s not “Undercovers” bad and I’m glad the powers that be haven’t found some way to kill off Lafayette and Tara—especially considering Lafayette was never meant to be a major in the first place. And yeah, Rutina Wesley looks great as Tara this season (not to say that she didn’t any other season) but she smiled more this episode and that gave her a certain kind of glow. That was great to see.

As for this viewer, the question remains whether I will continue my vow breaking this season. Maybe, and since I spoke to Nelsan Ellis over the weekend (shameless plug), I feel a certain responsibility to write about the show. I relayed to him that I wouldn't have bothered with the past couple of seasons if it weren't for he and Rutina's performances. Okay, I may have left out part of the truth...I also watched the show for Alexander Skarsgaard, but back to Nelsan...both he and Rutina have bigger and better things they are trying to accomplish with their career and I’m all for supporting that—and them. Most importantly, maybe the writers have something better in store for their characters and the series. Yeah right, I know, I know but a girl can dream. Isn’t that what they do down on the bayou?

Until next time, stay tuned to the blog for my interview with Nelsan Ellis. He has a lot to say, particularly about his upcoming film PAGE 36 and his future film endeavors...and yeah, some stuff on True Blood too, you crazy fangbangers! I think you'll find him as interesting as the character he plays on the show and most definitely as blunt.

See you then!


This article is related to: Television, Rant


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