For a blog that started through extended emails about vampires, we’ve had a real dearth of bloodsuckers since the finale of Vampire Diaries almost two months ago. And after wallowing in the existential angst of teenage vampire romance, all I can say is yes, yes, yes. True Blood is back. Was it just me, or was this episode particularly funny, snappy, and campier than usual? From Arlene’s racist self-pity (“I hate it when they make everything about race”) to her ill-timed attempt to get Tara to buck up (“So you feel in love with a serial killer, but honestly who here hasn’t?”) or Sookie’s snap back at Pam’s lusty come-on (“I’m not really in the mood for lesbian weirdness”) or Lafayette’s incredible skin-tight, knee-length yellow jersey – high camp and humor abounded. Maybe I just didn’t realize how much I loved the screwed up residents of Bon Temps, but I laughed in glee at each re-introduction of the bizarre world Harris and Ball have created.
But this episode also emphasized that campy or not, it is anything but fun and games in backwoods Louisiana. In a really gutsy move, this season opened right where last season left off – which is to say, smack in the midst of the aftermath of town-wide trauma. Bill is missing, except no one but Sookie and Eric seem to believe he was taken against his will. Jason is experiencing PTSD and the side-effects of sexual dysfunction. Tara… hell, Tara is in the midst of a full-on breakdown while her mother makes passes at the minister and imagines she can pray her out of the personal abyss into which she is spiraling. Throw in Sam’s quest for his creepy family in Arkansas, Eric and the Queen’s illegal v-ring, and the moldering corpse in Jessica’s hidey-hole and the drama promises to keep on coming. In an extended sneak-peak interview on hbo.com, Alan Ball said that this season is all about identity – each character wrestling with questions of who they are and how they are defined in relationship to one another. While “identity” is a pretty vague category, I can see the seeds of what he might mean in last night’s opener. How will Tara make sense of her life as she faces the ramifications of her dysfunctional upbringing? Will Sam find any peace or sense of self by knowing his biological family? And the question at the heart of the season, just what is Sookie Stackhouse with or without Bill? Add the introduction of the Were world and the question of what it means to be a person – supernatural or otherwise – moves front and center. In a way, this is what all good vampire mythology is about to me – what defines us as humans in relation to the more than human the vampire offers. What I love about TB is the willingness to push this reflection onto the supernatural characters too. In fact, this is what makes the whole mythology so refreshingly new, despite the well-worn soap operatics: by bringing the vamps into the mainstream we get to actually probe the question “does living get any easier when you’ve been doing it for centuries?” But given what our characters are regularly facing, this season also seems to be about trauma and about how one pieces an identity back together again, if, indeed one even can. Terry’s endearing but misplaced speech to Andy seemed appropriate to all the characters: it is holding on to the goodness and heartbreaking generosity of spirit that will keep them sane. Something tells me these denizens are going to need a lot of that generosity.
I’ll be excited to see how these themes develop as the season goes on. For now, some stray observations:
–did anyone else get a thrill of disgusted delight at the appearance of Željko Ivanek as the creepy Magister? All I could think of was JJ Percy Walker from Big Love – I shudder to think what the Magister hides in his coolers…
–I loved that the whole concept of blood sharing and the intense sexual fantasies it can elicit was introduced by Sam’s erotic dreams of Bill. His slightly bashful face as he accepted Bill’s invitation to join him in the shower was pitch perfect for a man having homoerotic fantasies who has never fancied himself as gay before. It was also a more lot more clever and fun way to set up what is coming with Sookie and Eric than mere exposition.
–Is it just me or has Pam’s make-up gone a bit haywire? Though, I love her emerging role and hope we get to see her sarcasm blossom this season.
–As advertisements for the next Twilight installment to hit the theaters ramp up, it is refreshing to imagine True Blood’s own take on the vampire/werewolf showdown.
What about for the rest of you? What plot line are you most excited about? Whose identity most intrigues you?
It is very, very good to be back!