Friday, 25 February 2011

TV REVIEW: True Blood Season 3

Oh, totally forgot to mention Anna Paquin. She's really bad guys.

Once upon a time there was a new vampire show on HBO. It came from the mind of Oscar winning screenwriter Alan Ball, who had already left an indelible impact on TV with Six Feet Under, was as about as big of a name one could wish to get for TV. It starred a movie star only in her first cycle of fading, and promised to tell a supernatural tale without the content restrictions of network TV, a Buffy The Vampire Slayer where you can say fuck and watch people's heads explode, if you will. It's supporting cast is made up of a wealth of under-appreciated talent, and it came out at a time when Vampires were ablaze in pop culture. It was pre-destined, seemingly, to be that rare ticket of populist and awesome.

Yet here we are three years later, and True Blood is high in the running for worst dramatic cable show, run by people who could give less of a shit, featuring a cast the size of a small country and writing as bad as latter year Heroes. To call True Blood a failure would be unfair to all the shows that swing and miss, shows that have any ambition to tell a story, create characters or do anything other then have overqualified writers lazily sit back and give viewers what they want until nothing means anything, and by the third season finale I'd had all I can stands and I can't stands no more. It's all the more frustrating because somewhere, behind the arrogance and endless exhausting hyperbole, there's a fucking great show scratching at the walls, begging to get out. You see it in an odd scene with Bill, or with Eric. There are characters with stories to be told and actors good enough to hold your attention. But the writing is so eager to undercut itself, so eager to create a world where nothing is taken seriously, and so eager to let you know that it knows that the thing is a basic pile of ridiculousness. My theory is that with writers like Nancy Oliver or Alexander Woo, you've got people who deem themselves too good for this show. Oliver wrote Lars and The Real Girl for fuck's sake. And there's no effort here, everything feels poorly drawn and all over the place. Bad writing will out, and it's torn the life out of True Blood.

I think you can trace the missteps of the show through the character of Bill. In the first season, actor Stephen Moyer gives a good, thoughtful performance. He's a character you engage with, most notably in the fifth episode 'Sparks Fly Out', which sees him speak to a civil war assembly and flashback to how he became a vampire. This is still my favorite episode to this day, because it succeeded at both being a horror story and telling a rich, character driven story. At this point in the series Bill is a mysterious and intriguing presence. But then they seemed to bend over backwards to make him nothing more then a lovesick puppy for Sookie, with all aspects pointing to either being with her or wanting her back. He became a plot device, a device by which people could watch Twilight the TV show with naked people. And his slow morphing from credible entity to Edward cullen clone, is made all the more painful by the occasional scene he gets sans Sookie, where Moyer finds something interesting again. A couple of moments early in this season saw Bill recapture a sliver of that character but, there he goes again pining after Sookie like some fucking teenager. If you relate this to the show, then its something so potentially interesting consumed by its worst instincts at all corners.

In season 3, this shit spread like a virus. Every character was the most bastardized version of themselves, and given that it flat out to refuses to kill any regular cast members, I'd say you've got about 7 characters who add absolutely nothing to the mix. Tara, Sam Merlotte, Arlene, Lafayette, Hoyt, Andy Bellefleur and even fucking Jason. Jason, who used to be one of the stronger aspects of the series, now just seems to get here's my new girlfriend plots. As does Tara. And Lafayette. And Hoyt. And Sam Merlotte's here's my new family plot doesn't much sooth. And to be clear, each one of these dead-eyed, space wasting plots appears in every episode. Meaning True Blood has turned into overcrowded soap where you don'y give a shit about 70% of what's happening. And again, I liked many of these characters at one point. But it's so much more important for the show to be streamlined then for me to check how everyone's doing every week. But all of it's boring, and none of it goes away. Deborah Ann Woll's Jessica, one of the few things the show's done right from start to finish, pretty much becomes an extension of Hoyt's arc, playing a third of his love triangle.

And gradually these plots, all with nowhere to go, accumulate and accumulate until no episode has any identity. The finale, possibly the worst episode the shows ever done. Ends with about six of these characters, getting the most asinine sudden ends. WILL HOYT GET WITH SUMMER OR JESSICA? AND WHAT WILL HIS MOTHER MAKE OF ALL THIS????? TUNE IN NEXT YEAR ON TRUE BLOOD. If I were to compare that to say, the Breaking Bad finale, a fair comparison as far as I'm concerned as people call this shit the best show on TV just far too often, with every shot meant something, every character's story was heartbreaking and its cliff-hanger caused you Physical pain, then this whole thing just feels lazy and crappy. Which it is, as the show's sacrificed its integrity in the name of weakass fan service.

If there's a saving grace, its a couple of the performances. Alexander Skarsgaard has very much become the Terry O' Quinn of this show, doing the same with his character Eric what O'Quinn did with John Locke in the middle years of Lost. That is, whatever crap they throw at him, however bad his storyline or however ridiculous what is happening. Skarsgaard is just like 'No. Show, you won't take me down. I am awesome, as is my character and through sheer force of personality I will fight your shitness off. Fuck you. A.S' Skarsgaard maintains a dignity in his character that the thing really doesn't deserve. But frankly, the only thing that truly works in season 3 is Denis O' Hare's glorious, immensely OTT performance as vampire king Russell Edgington. Clearly recognizing the ridiculousness around him, he comes in all Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, stealing every scene and becoming a show in and of himself. He's responsible for a rare moment of ascendancy too, where he gives an impromptu newscast after ripping out a news-acnhor's spine on air.

" We'll come for you. Then we'll come for your babies."

But the problem is that we've got to cut away from O' Hare to Sam Merlotte's struggles with his hick family. And that never really goes away. True Blood really could have been something great, and I say this as a fan of the show, at least at the beginning. But it sold its soul at the feet of camp and its own popularity, and now there's truly no reason to give a shit. The thing is, if it committed entirely camp and basically became a Treehouse of Horror Simpsons episode but live action, then I could get behind that. But it doesn't take its horror seriously nor its characters, not its story, yet still expects you to care about who or what is fucking each other this week. Because that's what the fans tune in for. And it makes it somehow condescending and awful at the same time, and if there's a worse combination then that I haven't heard it. One great scene every six episodes isn't enough to tolerate this structureless, truly cowardly mess. I never quit on shows, they have to be consistently bad for the longest time before that happens. But I'm done with this one. And not an ounce of me is going to miss it.

Rating: 4/10

1 comment:

Brettsweird! said...

i completley agree 100%! The first season was well written with a great storyline and great acting. The second season was not that bad, but still a step down from the first. But the third season was just horrible. Storylines going nowhere. Horrible cheesey writing. No effort put forth, bad acting. Plus i think they are straying to far away from the books.