Monday, December 27, 2010

Love, Lust And More Supernatural Charm In True Blood Season Two On DVD!

The Good: Good stories, Decent character development, Some great acting, DVD bonus features
The Bad: Still melodramatic in some points.
The Basics: True Blood Season Two manages to grow the characters and continue the story well as the show explores the darker side of the supernatural among living in Bon Temps!

I came late to the True Blood phenomenon, but now that I've found it, I've gotten more and more excited by it. To be sure, vampires are hot now and those looking for something that seems different seem to be finding it with True Blood. When my wife and I watched and enjoyed the first season of True Blood (reviewed here!), we were mildly amused at how the season resolved with just enough intrigue to reboot for the second season. We had a bet going on whether or not it could sustain itself; after all, Anna Paquin bared all in the first season, so the novelty of that was gone and the first big mystery for the series had been solved.

With True Blood - The Complete Second Season on DVD the show proves that it can retain the spark it started with and build something more than it originally seemed. For sure, it is still occasionally melodramatic, especially with the primary relationship between Sookie Stackhouse and Bill Compton, but for the most part it is enjoyable. In fact, not since Veronica Mars have I been so pleasantly surprised by a show featuring such a young cast. The parallels to Veronica Mars are not inapt: both series' have a season-long mystery each season with more episodic bits that build the larger story.

The complete second season of True Blood is a five-disc set with all twelve episodes of the drama, which continues where the first season left off. In True Blood, the supernatural - vampires, werewolves, demons, shapeshifters, magicusers, and the like - are real and vampires are out in the open about their existence thanks to a synthetic blood substitute - Tru Blood - which makes it possible for vampires to survive without actually feeding on humans. Set in Bon Temps, Louisiana, populace is getting used to both the supernatural and the consequences of living with the supernatural.

The season-long arc in season two focuses both on Sookie and Bill trying to survive their relationship, especially now that Jessica is his ward, while a new serial killer takes up residence in the area. The dark magics of Maryann, who rescued Tara at the prior season's climax, are revealed and the town unravels with violence and lust. The second season unfolds thus:

"Nothing But The Blood" in which Sookie tries to become comfortable with Bill now that Jessica is living him. Jason continues to explore the Church of the Sun, an anti-vampire cult, while the police in Bon Temps try to figure out who killed Miss Jeanette and why,

"Keep This Party Going" has Eric, the vampire sheriff, once again using Sookie for her mindreading prowess. Sookie takes Jessica back to her parents house, with less-than-stellar results, and Maryann visits Merlotte's and menaces Sam,

"Scratches" finds Sookie fed up with Bill and walking away from him on the drive back to Bon Temps. However, she is attacked and Bill and Eric are at a loss to explain what attacked her and why they cannot heal her,

"Shake And Fingerpop" involves Sookie and Bill aiding the Dallas vampires, dragging Jessica along. Jason gets an offer from the Church Of The Sun which seems too good for him to refuse and Maryann reveals more of her magical abilities,

"Never Let Me Go" has Sookie and Bill still searching for Godric and Eric's reason for wanting Godric is finally revealed. Just as that secret is revealed, the truth about Daphne, Sam's new waitress and girlfriend, is revealed. Jason reverts to his old self at the Church Of The Sun,

In "Hard-Hearted Hannah," Bill's more violent past is exposed as Eric works to take control of Sookie. Tara discovers an evil spot with Eggs and the agenda for the Church of the Sun is revealed to Jason,

"Release Me" relates the story of Bill's conversion to being a pacifistic vampire even as Sookie is imperiled at the Church. Maryann manages to get her own brand of vengeance and in the process the magnitude of her power is revealed,

"Timebomb" has the clash between the vampires and humans escalating when Godric rescues Sookie from the Church. At the same time, Maryann manages to frame Sam,

In "I Will Rise Up," Maryann begins an all-out hunt for Sam, using the people of Bon Temps to do it. Meanwhile, the vampire review begins again and this time, Eric and Godric find things changing in big ways for both of them,

"New World In My View" has Bon Temps in shambles as Maryann's endgame begins. Having enslaved everyone there, Maryann makes her bid for power as Sookie, Bill and Sam try to determine what is going on and how to stop Maryann,

"Frenzy" finds Bill learning how to defeat Maryann while Sam makes a surprising appeal to Eric for help,

and finally in "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" resolves the Maryann situation with bloody consequences for several people!

True Blood is written like a soap opera in many places, but it succeeds because it has very likable characters. In the second season, the principle characters are:

Sookie Stackhouse - A waitress at Merlotte's, she is Tara's best friend and sister to Jason. She is able to read the minds of anyone around her and has worked hard to not listen in on the thoughts of those she cares for. Her relationship with Bill Compton grows, despite the fact that Bill has been charged with taking care of Jessica,

Bill Compton - A vampire who lived in Bon Temps during the civil war, he is romantically involved with Sookie, much to the ire of Eric and many other vampires. He is pacifistic and works to make Jessica see the benefits of such a lifestyle. He becomes distressed over Maryann's influence and works to thwart her,

Sam Merlotte - A shapeshifter with a dark past which ties in with Maryann, he tries to get along with Bill now that Sookie clearly loves him more. He falls for Daphne, which quickly becomes a mistake and he spends much time trying to thwart Maryann,

Jason Stackhouse - Having gotten through being accused for every death in Bon Temps, he takes solace in the Church of the Sun. However, it is not long before his hormones start raging again and his sexual escapades get him into trouble,

Tara Thornton - An abrasive young woman who has had a hard life, she is Sookie's best friend, she finds Maryann's comfort worthwhile and she makes the best use of her time with Maryann, most notably by pursuing a relationship with Eggs. When she and Sookie begin to drift, she moves into Sookie's house,

Lafayette Reynolds - The short order chef at Merlotte's, he finds himself more intertwined with the vampire community when he is outed as the "v" (vampire blood) supplier in Bon Temps. After being rescued from Eric’s dungeon, he tries to live above board, until he is brought back to dealing by the least likely source,

Detective Andy Bellefleur - The local detective, he is respected by no one. He is charged with investigating the strange happenings surrounding Bon Temps and Maryann. Accused of being a drunk, he is dismissed and forms a partnership with Jason Stackhouse and Sam to uncover the truth about Maryann,

Bud Dearborne - The local sheriff, he errs on the side of the law and is not as quick as Bellefleur to leap to conclusions,

Terry - An Iraq War veteran, he is twitchy and works at Merlotte's, slowly rehabilitating himself to postwar life. He takes unlikely solace with a woman no one expects him to,

Eric - The vampire Sheriff in nearby Shreveport, he is an honored elder to Bill. He quickly realizes Sookie has a gift and he seeks to use it for the vampire community, in exchange for respecting Bill's claim to her, despite his own feelings,

Jessica - The new wild child vampire, she is adjusting to vampire life after a very repressed human life. After a very rough start, she discovers an attraction for a surprising individual and works to be a good post-death person,

and Maryann - A powerful sorceress with ties to Sam, she comes to Bon Temps to get revenge upon him. Through magic and manipulation, she takes control and menaces everyone.

In the second season of True Blood, the acting continues to be extraordinary. The show uses its entire cast well and in this season, all of the performers seem much more comfortable with their roles, most notably Sam Trammell, who is able to give Sam Merlotte a bit more emotional range. As well, Michelle Forbes, who plays Maryann blends in perfectly with the cast, making for a welcome addition. And Stephen Moyer continues to have great on-screen chemistry with star Anna Paquin.

Anna Paquin rules the show by stealing every scene she is in. Her performance is more confident in these twelve episodes and that makes her character more likable. Instead of being caught in too much melodrama (there is still some), Paquin is able to focus her energy on making Sookie seem tortured by her ability and the consequences of her decisions, while still seeming hopeful about her relationship with Bill. And she makes it work.

On DVD, key episodes are given a commentary track and the commentary tracks are informative with behind-the-scenes information, most notably about acting and directoral challenges to the episodes. The commentary tracks also try to expose clues or discuss how the larger series is fitting together, so those who have not seen the episodes should not listen to it without being prepared for spoilers. There is also a season-long overview featurette which was mildly entertaining, but explored the phenomenon of "True Blood" quite well.

True Blood has its soap operatic elements, but the truth is it is gory and filled with an adult sense of nudity (if not adult relationships). The season survives because it drops some of the melodrama in place of both real romance and truly frightening circumstances for characters that it is very easy to become more and more invested in.

Who could ask for more from television on DVD?

For other works featuring vampire characters, please check out my reviews of:
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Let The Right One In
Blade: Trinity
Star Trek - “ Obsession”


For other film and television reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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