True Blood’s sixth season has finally drawn to a close. I really have to wonder if this show has jumped the shark. I think I may be of the opinion that the show has actually jumped the shark and just hasn’t quite landed on the other side yet.
Over the past few seasons True Blood has existed as a set of seasonal story lines that seem to be almost completely self contained from season to season. This gives me the impression that the show runners are prepared for the show to be cancelled pretty much at any moment. Granted each season does end with some kind of cliff hanger but it’s becoming more and more obvious that it’s just a lead in to the next season’s, almost completely unrelated, story line. It almost feels like a “monster of the week” kind of show, except being a “monster of the week” it’s a monster of the season. And the monsters are slowly growing more and more ridiculous and less interesting.
This season we got to deal with “Billith” a super powered version of Bill Compton that came to be after Bill consumed Lillith’s blood. We don’t really know what Bill is now (and neither does he) but we find out that he can’t be staked, has telekinetic powers, and is still not able to walk in sunlight. But that’s OK because we now have Warlow, the faerie vampire hybrid who’s blood can allow vampires to walk in the sun…indefinitely (not really sure how that works, but let’s go with it). Warlow’s been thought to be a vampire who’s been after Sookie her whole life and even killed her parents. But wait, he’s actually in love with her and wants to marry her while her parents where actually vampire hating bigots who would rather kill her than let Warlow make her his bride, causing Warlow to kill them to defend her. Of course, Bill needs Sookie because his visions tell him that he needs to synthesizer her blood to save their friends. Since this is such a HUGE problem for Sookie (because she couldn’t just donate some blood) she ends up starting to develop affections for Warlow, who Bill then targets as his next blood source because he’s the next closest source of Fae blood (and because Jessica killed Andy’s daughters, so that source’s pretty much gone).
Meanwhile, a government official, aided by the actions of Russel Edgington in the previous season has declared a war on vampires. He’s created a vampire fighting police force and internment camps where they can take vampires and study everything about them (including how they have sex, which is apparently very important based on the number of times we see that study taking place). Conveniently, this situation seems to be contained to the state of Louisiana and not much seems to happen outside of Bon Temps. So, while Bill tries to figure out his visions and role as the god/prophet of vampires Eric wages his own mini-war on the Vamp Camp which ultimately ends in his sister getting killed after being infected with a virus manufactured at the camp, so smartly named Hep-V.
Also, Sam ends up getting mixed up with some supernatural civil rights activists who run afoul of Alcide’s pack. The whole point of this is that Sam now has a biracial girlfriend who he gets pregnant after rescuing her from the pack and that Alicde has finally left the pack and his role as pack master (after hemming and hawing so much before finally becoming one in the first place). Oh, also Sam’s the new mayor of Bon Temps and Arlene’s the new owner of Merlot’s and Terry and 3 of Andy’s 4 daughters are dead. It doesn’t really matter so much how or why they died because…well it just doesn’t. The show was clearly using them, like so many other incidents, as devices to update the relationships between characters. And that’s right, I’m saying that I don’t feel like the story line involving Terry’s death doesn’t matter. As much as the show would try to have you believe otherwise by directly tying his funeral into the climax of the season.
By the end of the season we find out that Warlow is indeed a dick as he tries to force himself on Sookie only to be fought by many of the remaining non-vampire members of the cast, and Bill, and ultimately being killed by the Stackhouse family. Bill also saves the rest of the vampires by feeding them his blood, which drains him of his “god-hood” while/after Eric frees the vampires from the internment camp in a bloody rampage (with the help of Jason, who’s got a new vampire girlfriend now) before flying off for some naked alone time, reading a book on the top of a mountain somewhere in Europe (because…fan service ladies, fan service). With Warlow killed all of the vampires that had his blood in him (including Eric) were no longer immune to the sun, seemingly causing Eric to meet and unexpected and untimely demise on the top of the mountain.
In the end we’re treated to an epilogue where six months have passed since the death of Warlow and the emancipation of the vampires. Bill is promoting a book and acting as a vampire spokes person. Meanwhile, that Hep-V thing has somehow spread and is endangering the survival of vampires by contaminating their food supply (so, it’s basically the same problem from the last season of the American “Being Human”). So Bill and Sam have created a system where vampires and humans form a symbiotic relationship. People feed the vampires and the vampires protect the people. “Protect them from what?” you may ask, and the answer is: Zombie Vampires (of course). Because, apparently, the Hep-V virus turns infected vampires into shambling, dim-witted, husks before killing them (despite not really having this type of effect on Eric’s sister before killing her). So that’s where we’re left at the end of this season.
When True Blood premiered it burst onto the scene as a torrid romance between a psychic and a vampire in the deep south in a world that was just learning about the absolute existence of the supernatural. It was studded with some interesting characters and the power for some significant social commentary with the backdrop of dealing with the socio-political effects of vampires existing across the world (especially in the deep south). However, even back then the show placed a heavy dependence on sex and violence. Sometimes seeming to unnecessarily book-end scenes with one or the other just because they could (a complaint I actually have about several HBO shows). Now, I understand that the show does come from books but when you make the show you can choose what you take from the books and how you portray it. True Blood chose to portray it in a more visceral manner than I would’ve liked in some cases, but it was still a show that had an original feel to it and a story line that was interesting.
As the show continued on though, the show began to rely more and more on the relationship aspects of the show, almost to a fault. Beings who were hundreds of years old were suddenly caught in a perpetual relationship soap opera that made Bon Temps seem like some kind of supernatural high school. It got to the point where the show was even making fun of itself with moments like this:
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some high points in the show. I’ve especially enjoyed Jessica Hamby (played by Deborah Ann Woll) as well as Eric Northman (played by Alexander Skarsgard). While their characters can be frustrating Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) and Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) also provide much needed comic relief to the show. I loved the whole relationship between Jason and Jessica and Hoyt and while it was full of some “country dumb” behavior, I felt like it was one of the most genuine romance triangles that the show’s pulled off.
There’s a lot of other positive stuff, unfortunately these kinds of performances and moments are greatly overshadowed by the constant pining away for Sookie and the constant supernatural escalation of the series. While new villains like the Vampire authority and Russell Edgington were fun at times they just felt like a part of the never ending stream of the next “biggest and baddest” that was showing up so that the characters could put aside their relationship issues for a few minutes to deal with it, only to end up rearranging the romantic landscape of the show. Originally it was just vampires, now it’s shapeshifters, clandestine vampire religious organizations, Faeries, Werepanthers (because…really), minor Greek dieties, Faerie Vampires and now….you guessed it ZOMBIES (well, vampire zombies anyway).
The show just feels like a more and more of a mess that’s just barely holding itself together because of the good will that it’s built toward several the supporting characters. Speaking of which, I don’t believe for a second that they actually killed Eric at the end of the last season. Getting rid of that character would be suicide for the series and having him “meet the sun” didn’t even really feel like a legit attempt at making us think that they would. They could’ve just had Pam swoop in and save him at the end of the episode and saved us all some time.
But I digress, I keep wanting True Blood to pop a double back flip over the top of that shark and hit the ground in gear and keep riding on because there are so many potentially good things about the show. It just seems like they’re going to continue floating along on this path of occasional violence, sex, constantly dysfunctional relationships and supernatural one-ups-man-ship until they’ve run the show into the ground. On the off chance they don’t though, I hope the next season gets back to more stable ground and lets the characters breathe and figure out their world and some of the actual interesting secondary relationships instead of introducing a new “monster” that somehow they’ll need Sookie’s help to go fight.