True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

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True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Thanas » 2011-06-25 06:49pm

...will premier tomorrow.

I hope they get a better season this time.

Here is a rather ambivalent preview:

[spoiler=]Oh, 'True Blood.' What am I going to do with you?

Just like one of the characters on the show, 'True Blood' (9PM ET Sunday, HBO) goes through a transformation in the first couple of episodes of its fourth season. Creator and head writer Alan Ball appears to have remembered that his characters -- humans, shapeshifters, vampires, faeries and the like -- are living beings with actual emotions and not just objects for him to Bedazzle with ever-thicker encrustations of incidents, events and OMG moments.

It's a refreshing and surprising change of pace. But then in the third episode, the show starts to show signs of falling into ruts it has frequently and heedlessly dived into before.

The good news is that the fourth season doesn't plunge headlong into overcaffeineated, laughable melodrama, which was the hallmark of season 3 (and parts of other seasons as well). Sure, 'True Blood' is as addicted to cliffhanger moments as a vampire is to blood, but the season premiere, which brings us back to Bon Temps, La., some time after Sookie's season 3 disappearance, shows unusual restraint and takes its time in filling us on in where all the characters are in their lives.

'True Blood' sometimes has real trouble balancing its various story threads; in season 3, good characters were shunted off the to the sidelines and the plots that did get prominence often didn't merit the screen time. The bigger issue was an overall sense that the show was simply messy and needlessly hyper and not all that interested in clarifying or emotionally deepening most individuals and relationships. We expect sexy insanity from 'True Blood,' but indifferent sloppiness is a different thing and quickly becomes tiresome.

So it's good to be able to say that the first couple of episodes of season 4 have a much cleaner trajectory and I am happy to report that (the next part of this sentence may be considered spoilery) Tara is not in any jeopardy in the episodes I saw. If Ball and Co. had gone to that particular well again, I just would have turned off the show for good, because watching a show waste good actors and turn characters into caricatures isn't my idea of fun.

It's not that the creator of a vampire melodrama shouldn't be able to put his characters in jeopardy, it's that the characters have to have some kind emotional resonance before viewers are going to care about what happens to them. And that's what concerned me about the third episode of the show: The show began to feel like it was repeating itself, with situations that recall things we've seen before and don't add much to the characters or the world depicted in the show.

Don't get me wrong, Fiona Shaw is terrific as a new witch on the scene, and I still have quite a bit of of fondness for characters such as Lafayette, Jesus, Eric, Sam and Terry. Bill is still his quietly charismatic, courtly self, and he's in an intriguing new situation this season, one that makes him more proactive and complex. Even Sookie has grown on me, and as someone who long thought she was the least interesting thing about the show, that's saying something.

But 'True Blood's' signature move has to do with power: One character will have power over another, and then kabam! That dynamic will be reversed, or it won't, or a new person will come on the scene and seize power. The show is often just a round-robin of those power exchanges, but Ball seems uninterested in saying anything about power, and that can be frustrating. Again and again, we see people holding each other emotionally or physically hostage, and sometimes even going to war, but then the dynamic shifts and the whole thing starts over again with slightly different combination of characters.

I'm not demanding that 'True Blood' go full-on 'Buffy' or 'Supernatural' and make every freaky situation into an emotional metaphor. But at a certain point, the kidnapping, hostage situation or rescue of the week becomes a little tiring, not to mention repetitive. When the show delves into the idea of characters accepting their powers and beginning to explore the uses and consequences of their capabilities, it becomes more than just a nutty romp in the woods around Bon Temps. That's the kind of thing I'd like to see more of. Then again, the show's been very successful by simply burning through a lot of story every week, and it'd be unrealistic for me to expect much more than that at this stage of the game.

Of the dozen plots that spin through the fourth season, the love triangle among Bill, Sookie and Eric has potential, given the skills of those actors, but a few threads seem downright dull, particularly the one focused on an addicted character. Hoyt and Jessica, appealing characters who were unjustly marginalized in season 3, are stuck in an uninspired domestic story line this year, while 'True Blood' appears to be misusing Jason yet again (remember when Jason used to be funny? I didn't hallucinate that, right?). As for Sam Merlotte, he's always deserved better story lines, but this season he's stuck in one with his troublesome brother, who's never added anything useful to this show.

The witches are an intriguing presence, but other parts of the show aren't casting the same spell as the magnificent Shaw. If you're addicted to 'True Blood's' brand of smoldering melodrama, well, there's a lot of it this season. And it looks as though about half of it might actually be worth watching.[/spoiler]





SPOILER POLICY FOR THIS THREAD:
Anything that happened in episodes aired (or speculation based exclusively on aired stuff) is fair game. Anything else requires spoiler tags.

For example:
"I think Sookie might live in the fairy world for a bit" needs no spoilers.
"I think Sookie might live in the fairy world for a bit due to [inset spoiler here]" requires spoilers.

*******************
As for me, I really hope they manage not to get caught up in the trap of "must have epic moment followed by epic moment" again. True Blood is at its strongest when it goes for understatement rather than the opposite, especially because the male actors seem more of the first type.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Johonebesus » 2011-06-25 08:39pm

Well, to answer a criticism in the review, he complains about the show having too many crises, but that is true to the source material. The first several novels at least were "mysteries," starting out with a murder or disappearance that Sookie had to solve. Along the way the characters do tend to go from one emergency to another. Maybe the show should take the approach of the Dresden Files, using the novels for some episodes but mostly telling new stories. Granted, they are changing an awful lot, but each season loosely follows a single novel.

It could also do with less sex. Do they really have to prove it's premium cable by having soft core porn every few episodes?
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Thanas » 2011-06-25 09:01pm

Johonebesus wrote:Well, to answer a criticism in the review, he complains about the show having too many crises, but that is true to the source material.


Maureen Ryan is a she, and that just proves the source material is not the best there is.

It could also do with less sex. Do they really have to prove it's premium cable by having soft core porn every few episodes?


Actually, the way some of these are shot makes a few statements about the characters. Most of the "premium stuff" seems to be related more to Jason etc, but not directly to the leads.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby FaxModem1 » 2011-06-25 10:57pm

I would like to see what the US government does in response to the whole newscaster killed on live TV thing. Are vampires under the jurisdiction of the FBI?
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby loomer » 2011-06-26 09:46am

I am ridiculously excited. I need my fix of cheesy vampire shit bad.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby loomer » 2011-06-27 01:49am

I still love me some Terry. Also, yay tittays. Say what you will, they're part of why I enjoy the show. And I got an unhealthy love for Hotshot.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Brother-Captain Gaius » 2011-06-27 04:40am

Highlights:
  • Andy ranting about the plaque
  • Lafayette's Mr. T look
  • The whole faerie sequence. Looks like it was from a completely different show, but it was pretty awesome
  • Jessica's Fangtasia look
  • Terry, as always

I like the portrayal of the faeries. Capricious and evil, which meshes nicely with one of the things I originally liked about True Blood: that its portrayal of vampires got back to hardcore roots of bestial, inhuman creatures who are nonetheless bound to most of the old classic rules, like entering private homes and silver. The faerie portrayal seems to match (I wonder if they'll be allergic to iron? :D ).
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Crown » 2011-06-27 05:58am

Not much to discuss, it's just a setup episode for the new season. I liked it, I would have liked it if it were either longer or had less characters in it, as they decided to set this one yeah later so many things have changed; for one Jason is a responsible adult! :shock:
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby loomer » 2011-06-27 06:23am

And how is Jason rewarded for being a responsible adult? Hillbillies try to murder him. That's how.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby CaptainChewbacca » 2011-06-27 07:02am

Good Lord, I'm so bored/sick/tired of Tara that I found myself fast-forwarding throuhg the lesbian love scenes.

Everything else was awesome, though. Especially Terry.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Johonebesus » 2011-06-27 08:42am

I'm not a huge fan of the novels, but I wasn't too keen on the program's depiction of the faeries. I wish they had left them as originally written. Superhumanly beautiful yet completely alien would be better than deformed monsters with magic balls of fire. I think I actually prefer the author's mythos. It seems richer and more thought out. I'd like more magical creatures that aren't so clearly evil as just alien.

And if they have to have naked bedroom scenes, could they at least use Lafayette and his boyfriend instead of females? I'm so sick of seeing boobs in this show.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Mayabird » 2011-06-27 09:07am

Hey guys, you know what's great? Not talking about illegal activities in public.

Anyway, carry on with the vampires.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby FaxModem1 » 2011-06-27 10:05am

Well, some nice things:

Tara has mellowed out a bit, she sees crazy shit, her first reaction: "I'll be outside."

I noticed that the fairy world looked like too cheap a set, it seemed too plastic, too disney, too fake. What do you know, there's a reason for that, it is.

Jason, wake to go on being both a good cop and King of Cracktown, sucks that it means you get tied to a bed and bitten by panthers.

Technology, the creature of the night's worst nightmare. Heh

Now, some things I am wondering about:

So, its apparently a post-Russell Eddington world, that means rioters and trying to get humans to like and trust vampires, but what else does that mean?

So, are we actually going to see some groups, like the covens and the fairies fighting the vampires, because the fangers seem to have quite a hold on the world.

Things I dislike:

Hoyt and Jessica, marital troubles. Okay, this is not something that can sustain a season, I hope it resolves quickly or isn't seen that much.

So, the American Vampire League and the Authority, is it officially retconned that Bill was always a part of them?

Cracktown and the panthers, they aren't that interesting.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Faqa » 2011-06-28 07:27am

Trash. Well-produced, well-acted trash. That has been, with rare exceptions, True Blood's MO for 3 seasons now, and this seems to be keeping pace. The killer thing here is - when the show focus on the societal impact of vampires, it really is unique and quite drawing. When it focuses on showing us the intriguing world of "vampires out of the coffin", no show can match it.

But then they fuck it up by going back to the terrible soap-opera plotlines I assume are from the source material. I am beyond caring about Bill/Sookie/Eric. ESPECIALLY if they're just going to reset it to a "I love you both! OH I AM CONFLICTED! CONFLICT! RIGHT HERE!"-style triangle, that was old back in the Buffy era. Not to mention that after a brief spat of common sense at the end of last season, Sookie is diving right back into said triangle, the power dynamics of which are sufficiently unhealthy to make Bella Fucking Swan wrinkle her nose. Can't we just have Eric and Bill snarl at each other WITHOUT Sookie? At least that's entertaining.

An interesting point, though, on Sookie's part - she was furious at Jason for selling the house and "giving up on her". Now, while this might just be classic self-centered, self-righteous Sookie (it's DEFINITELY a deliberately written character trait by this point), another interpretation could be had. When Bill was missing last season, she continued to keep at trying to find him, IIRC, long after most people would have given up. So, at the very least, it could be she's not demanding anything of Jason she wouldn't do herself.

Hoyt and Jessica continue to be entertaining. They are something you don't actually see a lot in fiction - not how the heroic couple manage to prevail despite it all, but just plain how it is to just live such a relationship. Oh, they occasionally touched on this with Franklin and Tara - but he was MEANT to be insane. Really, they have the chance to do something original and interesting with this plotline, if they don't tie it up somewhere so they can focus on fairies or something. It helps that the actors do have adorable chemistry. Now where's BBT's Bernadette, to complete a triangle I might actually give a shit about?

Tara the lesbian cage fighter is... ambiguous, for the moment. While I'm glad to see the character not in a plotline requiring her to be whimpering, helpless and boring, I can't shake the feeling that this storyline is primarily about the makeout scenes, because it doesn't seem to be doing much. Show, keep her in New Orleans, please don't bring her back to Bon Temp. You never get an interesting story out of her there, and you've got a halfway interesting one here.

On the Jason front, I feel cheated. I wanted to SEE Jason progress to this level of adult responsiblity. There's a plot there, and currently we face the problem that mature adults are typically boring, so he gets thrown back into a soap-opera plotline. BAH! But I still got a great deal of satisfaction out of seeing him hold back Andy Belfleur repeatedly. Hopefully, we can still get some scenes of Jason being deeply stupid this season, because that's primarily how he stays entertaining.

Bill and Eric, independent of their little blond time-suck, are very interesting. King Bill of.... something? Eric trying community outreach? If they're the window to how Russel Edginton fucked up vampire-human relations, I could certainly get behind that. Not to mention:

"Actually, I'm here with Hoyt..."
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Ah, yes. Fuck fairie-land, and FUCK the fairie plotline, because they are both deeply boring. And, sadly, the Lafayette plotline is not far behind in the race to the bottom.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Brother-Captain Gaius » 2011-06-28 07:39am

Faqa wrote: King Bill of.... something?


Almost assuredly Louisiana. Season 3 ends with Bill fighting Sophie-Anne, it's not too hard to come to the conclusion that he either beat Sophie-Anne in a straight-up fight (unlikely, but possible I suppose), or engaged in some byzantine maneuver for power with her that effectively landed him with her old job.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Alferd Packer » 2011-06-28 02:10pm

Yeah, since Sophie-Anne managed to inherit Mississippi, it may be that, upon her impending defeat at the hands of Bill, she brokered a last minute deal that gave him control of Louisiana. Maybe there's some Ancient Vampire Law the dictates that kings and queens, once defeated in battle, have the option of splitting up their holdings to save their own skin. That could be why the monarchs are usually very old and thus powerful, and/or exceedingly security-conscious.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby CaptainChewbacca » 2011-06-28 07:48pm

Either he got Mississippi or Louisiana, or maybe both.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Meest » 2011-06-28 08:00pm

Hope they flesh out a lot of the missing year, things are way too convenient now and hope they don't make it go all to shit predictably. I want them to reveal story lines because they are interesting not because they are annoyingly keeping things vague.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Vympel » 2011-06-28 08:05pm

Second episode is available now, I hear.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby loomer » 2011-06-28 09:26pm

But if we watch it now, we won't have a new one next week. Two weeks without True Blood? Better to ration it.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby loomer » 2011-07-04 02:33am

"And I know you love me too. You wouldn't be licking my head if you didn't!"

Also, hilarious vampire hoverfight averted. Silver cored wooden bullets is an interesting notion, too. Does show how modern military technology makes Vampirehood more dangerous than it used to be (although maybe if she'd just used a little fucking superspeed...)

Hotshot continues to please me with how ridiculously stupid it is.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Vympel » 2011-07-04 05:09am

I liked the second episode, but for the idiocy of having Eric waste time feeding on the witch instead of, you know, immediately twisting her head off. Damn contrived.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Crown » 2011-07-04 08:54am

Vympel wrote:I liked the second episode, but for the idiocy of having Eric waste time feeding on the witch instead of, you know, immediately twisting her head off. Damn contrived.


I think Eric was going for the 'intimidate them until they run away' angle. Otherwise he wouldn't have even bothered with the warnings and taunts. We know the guy can rip a human in half as an after thought. I don't think he realised how powerful the covenant actually was (or more importantly Lafayette is) and sort of got himself pwnd.

On a personal level this episode vindicated my claim from last season that the Authority were a relatively new power structure in Vampire society, yay me!

Although I'm left a little irritated that we seem to have to endure a 'vampire who lost his memory' thread plot, Buffy was soooo 1998. But on the plus side, they might make it interesting with Bill no doubt looking for a way to kill Eric, maybe we can have more Pam (God I LOVE her) involved which is always a good thing.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Meest » 2011-07-04 04:31pm

Not bad but not liking some character changes, not sure if it's in the book, but Bill's backstory while a good plot point seems contrived that he was a spy. Tara seemed to revert to her old annoying self right away, agreeing to go see witches when she was done with all the supernatural stuff. The backlash from a vampire killing someone on tv is protesters? Will give that one time but still seems like they haven't fleshed out the missing year. Same with Sookie her like you like you not crap is back already, other than that still interested in the other plot lines, just wish the main one was better. Where did Eric's friends in high places come from, he didn't seem to call on them when he had a powerful king wanting him dead.
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Re: True Blood Season 4 (spoilers)

Postby Crom » 2011-07-04 04:52pm

Meest wrote:Where did Eric's friends in high places come from, he didn't seem to call on them when he had a powerful king wanting him dead.

I have a suspicion that Bill, despite his personal feelings towards Eric, has to recognize his value as a sheriff. Eric is professional enough to do his job, and powerful enough muscle that it seems like it would actually harm Bill to actively move against Eric. As long as Sookie isn't on the table, I would like to think that Bill's smart enough to try and work with Eric.
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