Sunday, June 16, 2013

Everybody Cries (And Most Wash Up) In “Who Are You, Really?”

The Good: Decent acting, Good effects, Engaging plot development and pacing
The Bad: No great character moments or revelations.
The Basics: Setting up True Blood Season Six’s new villains, “Who Are You, Really?” resolves the dangling issues from Season Five and lays the new foundation for the ongoing plot.

When it comes to True Blood, it is always worthwhile to watch the prior season before the new season’s premiere. The reason it’s so important to rewatch the prior season’s finale is to recall easily whose relationships are intact, whose are in shambles, and (more importantly) who is alive, who recently died, and who is in limbo. As the sixth season of True Blood begins with “Who Are You, Really?” it is worth noting up front that this is a pointless entry point into the series. In fact, those who want to start True Blood here will be lost entirely as True Blood is half a mix of heavily-serialized supernatural horror (which has been going on for years) and soap opera as far as the relationships go.

Picking up directly where the fifth season of True Blood (reviewed here!) left off, Sookie Stackhouse and her allies are on the run from the Lilith-altered Bill Compton. At this point, Jason Stackhouse loathes the vampires. With the True Blood factories bombed late in the prior season, tensions between the U.S. Government and vampires are rising and most of the characters ended the prior season with a raid on the Authority headquarters. There, the vampire religious fundamentalists made a power play based on their devotion to their vampire godess, Lilith.

With Bill Compton transformed by Lilith, Sookie and Eric flee and rendezvous with Jessica, Pam, Jason, Tara and Nora. When Bill flies off, the group heads to the coast to regroup. There, Jason wigs out and walks out on the vampires (after Nora asks him about Warlow) and Eric pushes Pam away. When Jessica begins being pulled toward Bill (summoned by him), Sookie accompanies Jessica back to Bill’s. When Eric and Nora arrive, the standoff finds Bill revealing that he is Bill, but something more and when Sookie attempts to stake him, he does not die. Agreeing to stay away from each other, Sookie retreats to her house – which Eric signs back over to her – and Eric and Nora begin their quest to find the super-Bill’s weaknesses and in his mansion, Bill reveals telekinetic powers to Jessica.

Elsewhere, Andy Bellefleur struggles to deal with his new fairy babies and after Arlene and Terry teach him how to deal with babies, they are all shocked when his children radically age. Back among the werewolves, Alcide takes control of his pack and is rewarded with a three-way. Sam retreats with Luna’s daughter following her demise and when he arrives at Merlotte’s, he is reunited with LaFayette. After laying down a curfew for vampires, Louisiana governor Creighton Burrell makes an uneasy alliance with the manufacturers of True Blood to get them producing once again. And Jason, separated from all his friends, is picked up by a mysterious old man who he tells his life story to and is quickly revealed to be Warlow.

“Who Are You, Really?” is a good start to the sixth season and while it climaxes with the least surprising “surprise” in True Blood history (let’s face it, when prominent new actors are introduced on the heels of a named character being alluded to, it’s a pretty safe guess that the new guy – in this case Rutger Hauer – is the long-awaited villain), there is more of a foundation for the new season laid in the episode. While the appearance of Warlow, alluded to heavily in the fifth season as the actual killer of Sookie and Jason’s mom and dad, is not a surprise, the appearance of the Governor is a pleasant surprise. Governor Burrell is presented in “Who Are You, Really?” as a pragmatist who wants to save human lives . . . even if it means curtailing vampire rights.

The shining performance in “Who Are You, Really?” comes from Arliss Howard, who plays Burrell. Howard pops into a very seasoned cast with enough gravitas to replace the prior villain killed in the fifth season finale. The challenge for Howard is to play a character who seems like he is electable (Burrell is the governor of Louisiana) and strong enough to react to the crisis that is hitting his state worse than the others. Howard has that presence on screen and when Burrell takes a heckler’s attack in stride, he seems downright political. In his final scene in “Who Are You, Really?” Howard makes Burrell seem like he could be doing the right thing by getting a True Blood factory back up and running. Even so, there is enough in Howard’s deliveries to insinuate that the Governor is not all he seems to be. While this might be familiar to those who loved the third season of The Walking Dead (reviewed here!) , Howard does not make Burrell seem at all derivative.

As for the rest of the performances, they are exactly what one expects from the cast of True Blood. None of the actors give particularly noteworthy performances – though Alexander Skarsgard plays Eric in a scene with a heartfelt sense of loss and sadness that is compelling and Kristin Bauer van Straten’s Pam is able to keep making her ability to play deeply loyal compelling – but none of the acting in the episode is bad.

On the character front, “Who Are You, Really?” seems very much like a typical soap opera. Sam and Alcide step up, Jason is characteristically stupid in telling his life story to the mysterious stranger and Sookie whines a bit before accepting that Bill is gone (sort-of), at least from her life. Jessica makes a leap of faith and that might be the most compelling change for any of the main cast.

“Who Are You, Really?” sets up the new season and is enough to make viewers confident that True Blood might still be fresh and relevant.

[For a much better value, check out True Blood Season 6 on Blu-Ray and DVD. The penultimate season is reviewed here! Check it out!]

For other works with Rutger Hauer, please visit my reviews of:
Batman Begins
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Blade Runner


For other television episode and movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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