If you missed Season 1 of True Blood, start searching for repeats on HBO, dash to the corner video store, or click on over to your favorite online DVD source because I've gotta say… you have a lot of catching up to do and True Blood Season 2 begins with a bang (make that a fang). There's no mollycoddling here, which means you might find yourself without a clue if you start the series fresh when it debuts on Sunday June 14, 2009. [click image to enlarge it.]
I've seen every episode that's aired to date, but I must confess that even I needed a little kick-start to the brain as "Nothing But the Blood" began. Who is that dead in the back of the patrol car? Is that Lafayette in a dungeon? Did Bill's young vampirette protégé grow up overnight?
A long time ago, I was tasked with reviewing entry #5 in the True Blood paranormal romance series of "Southern Vampires" mystery books by Charlaine Harris. I liked it, but was a little lost beginning there in the middle, and wasn't quite compelled enough to go back and start at square one. So when the television series debuted last year, I was more than happy to tune in for the reader's digest version complete with pictures. After some initial doubt, I got hooked and was as interested as any fan in the continuing adventures of Vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) and his paranormal paramour, the mortal Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin).
Season 1 had genuine focus: Sookie and Bill's meeting and falling in love, centered around a murder mystery in their sultry hometown of Bon Temps, LA. Sure, there were some side stories and ancillary characters, but Season 2 is much more of an ensemble and each story seems better self-contained. This is kind of a double-edged sword; while all the new and revamped characters are interesting, that means there is less of the Bill and Sookie dynamic (at least, it seems so thus far).
Horror.com was sent the first four episodes to review and while I did watch all them, I'm only reviewing the first two here (however, there is a great cliffhanger ending in Episode 4… now I have to wait until July to see how that one ties in!). Show creator Alan Ball says that the second season will actually be following the second novel ("Living Dead in Dallas") in which Sookie and Bill mess with Texas to investigate the disappearance of a VIP (very important vampire). Along the way, author Harris is expect to do a cameo. Stay tuned!
Season 2 Episode 1: Nothing But the Blood
Sunday June 14
Directed by Daniel Minahan
Written by Alexander Woo
HBO says: A shocking murder outside Merlotte's has Bon Temps reeling. Meanwhile, Sookie's (Paquin) relationship with Bill (Moyer) is tested when she learns about Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), and of his involvement in her uncle's death. Sam (Sam Trammell) recalls a shape-shifting encounter he had with Maryann (Michelle Forbes) as a 17-year-old. Jason (Ryan Kwanten) gets a sudden windfall that allows him to pay for a leadership retreat with the Fellowship of the Sun. Two adversaries find themselves sharing a mysterious dungeon and, possibly, the same fate.
I say: Dare I…? Yeah — why not? The first episode hits the ground running with some gruesome horror imagery, but is overall anemic. (And while I'm at it: Why didn't they call this episode "Nothing But the Tooth"?) If I were watching the show for the first time, I am not sure I'd tune back in. "Nothing But the Blood" is pretty firmly focused on Tara, who is one of my least-favorite characters (don't get me wrong; I like them all, but this show, particularly this episode, really should center on Sookie and then laser-point out to those in her orbit). There's something about Tara's mysterious benefactor Maryanne revealed, plus she gets a new love interest, the hard-bodied Eggs (Mehcad Brooks).
Season 2 Episode 2: Keep This Party Going
Sunday June 21
Directed by Michael Lehmann
Written by Brian Buckner
HBO says: Sookie is forced to cope with Bill's obligations to Jessica, as well as the romantic inconveniences the teen vampire's presence creates. At the Light of Day leadership conference, Jason makes a favorable impression on its ambitious leaders, Steve (Michael McMillian) and Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp), though not on his jealous roommate Luke (Wes Brown). Maryann casts her spell on Merlotte's patrons, and Sam proves helpless to stop the revelry.
I say: Now we're talking! The second episode is what True Blood is all about: it's fraught with sex, death, nightmares, trickery and mystery. We also see a little more of Jason Stackhouse, Sookie's dimwitted but mostly goodhearted brother (and when I say "more" — I mean that. Believe it or not, Kwanten didn't take his shirt off in "Nothing But the Blood"… a first?). He's now been taken in by a cult-like camp of anti-vampire evangelists known as The Light of Day where, it's presumed, he'll eventually be forced to face off with his "fang-banger" sister Sookie. Meanwhile, Sookie is trying to understand the baser motivations of the bloodsucker movement as she gets to know Bill's 17-year-old newly-turned ward, Jessica. Towards the end of the episode, we start to see just a how dangerous Maryanne's seductive powers are — but so far there is no connection between her, Sookie and Bill. It'll be interesting to see how their powers will converge: Bill's thrall, Maryanne's seduction, and Sookie's voices.
Season 2, Episode 3: Scratch My Back
28 June 2009
Season 2, Episode 4: Let's Take a Trip Together
12 July 2009
Season 2, Episode 5: Never Let Me Go
19 July 2009
Season 2, Episode 6: Friend is a Four Letter Word
26 July 2009
Season 2, Episode 7: Release Me
Season 2, Episode 8: Timebomb
Season 2, Episode 9: I Will Rise Up
Season 2, Episode 10: New World in My View
Season 2, Episode 11: Frenzy
Sookie Stackhouse - Anna Paquin
Bill Compton - Stephen Moyer
Jason Stackhouse - Ryan Kwanten
Tara Thornton - Rutina Wesley
Sam Merlotte - Sam Trammell
Arlene Fowler - Carrie Preston
Bud Dearborne - William Sanderson
Andy Bellefleur - Chris Bauer
Terry Bellefleur - Todd Lowe
Maryann Forrester - Michelle Forbes
Eric - Alexander Skarsgard
Jessica - Deborah Ann Woll
Eggs "Benedict" Talley - Mehcad Brooks
Rev. Steve Newlin - Michael McMillian
= = =
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson