Friends, Romans, Fangbangers – lend me your ears. The sixth season premier of HBO’s wacky vampire love story, True Blood, is this weekend and given the show’s penchant for outrageous storylines and ridiculous character decisions, I am totally going to be recapping this bitch for your reading pleasure. But what of those of you who have not seen any True Blood and are wary of jumping into recaps in year six of a show? Fear not! I’m here to give you a brief rundown on the major players and themes.
Hey - I wonder if there's a double-meaning in that...
True Blood is set in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana in a world where, just prior to the start of the series, vampires have revealed themselves to be real and for the most part joined civilized society. The discovery of a synthetic blood substitute called True Blood, has made feeding off humans passé since it’s now easier for vampires to just pick up a six-pack of the stuff and call it an evening than slaughter a family in their sleep and have to relocate every few years before the locals start to get suspicious. Of course, if vampires are real one has to wonder what other supernatural forces might be out there, and oh boy do we find out.
As a sidebar, even if this doesn’t sound interesting to you, you owe it to yourself to at least watch the main titles. They’re seriously amazing and have won awards for how well they are made while at the same time capturing the look and feel of the entire show.
Go ahead and watch. I’ll wait.
But who are the characters for us to hang our narrative hats on? Roll Call! Our “hero” is Sookie Stackhouse, played by Anna Paquin at her breast-y-est. Sookie is waitress at a local diner who can read minds and occasionally demonstrates other weird abilities that are initially unexplained. Sookie gets wrapped up into all the supernatural nonsense when she begins dating Bill, a 170-year-old vampire. Sookie’s twin brother, Jason, is the town’s resident poon-hound and all around dim, but lovable, bulb, like a Louisiana version of Ryan Lochte. Tara, Sookie’s best friend is the smartass skeptical one, while Tara’s cousin, Lafayette, is the town’s resident cook and fabulous gay man. Eric is the region’s “Sheriff” (kind of like a vampire middle-manager) and with his companion, the seriously amazing Pam, he runs a vampire bondage bar, because even in this world just being a badass vampire isn’t enough to pay the bills. Rounding out the supernatural cast is Baby Vamp Jessica, werewolf Alcide and a menagerie of ethereal, yet still kind of rape-y, fairies. Yes, really. Sookie, Tara and Lafayette all work for Sam, the owner of Merlotte’s Bar, though with all their vampire/werewolf/shapeshifter/fairy shenanigans, it’s rare that all of them actually show up to their shifts at the same time or at all.
Monsters, pictured in a rare moment of lighthearted bonhomie that doesn't involve viscera.
The wide variety of characters and the frankly ridiculous plotting is part of what makes the show, for me at least, stupidly watchable. It’s a train-wreck, much in the same way that the first season of American Horror Story was, but it’s so much frickin’ fun that you can get past the insanity and just enjoy the bloody, soapy good time. The stories are melodramatic, but enjoyable. The sex is hot and plentiful. (Seriously, how did swamp trash get so good-looking?) The show doesn’t believe it’s anything more than it is – a modern day Dark Shadows, albeit one given a much more significant budget, the pedigree of Oscar-winning actors and producers and a cable network that’s very willing to allow the show to indulge its adult desires with relation to sex, drugs and violence.
And to be honest, True Blood was never a show built on restraint – the opening scene of the first episode is a man getting a handjob from his girlfriend while they’re driving because she’s bored. The show clearly believes that if there are more than two scenes that pass without someone getting splattered in blood or being naked, the writers just aren’t trying hard enough. Meanwhile the metaphors are anything but restrained; vampires are referred to as having “come out of the coffin” and conservative religious groups protest the proposed Vampire Rights Amendment with signs that say “God Hates Fangs”. Vampire bars are depicted in the same cautiously naughty light as gay bars were in the 1970s – not hidden exactly, but not a place that anyone who wasn’t “like that” went. What saves the show from being completely offensive is, actually, this over-the-top sense of drawing comparisons. Because the show isn’t hiding its comparisons of vampires as a sexual minority, it avoids the uncomfortable implication that previous movies have made that all gay people are predators and murderers. “We’re here, we’re undead, get used to it” may as well be the show’s tagline.
So where does this put us for the season six premier? Spoilers Ahead!
To recap briefly over five years, Sookie and Bill met shortly after the Great Unveiling that told the world that vampires exist and that they just want to be treated like everyone else. Things could have gone okay, even for the sleepy southern town of Bon Temps, LA, with having an “out” vampire in their town until a series of murders occurred that naturally everyone thought Bill was committing. Sookie and Bill catch the real killer (it was Jason’s utterly human co-worker) and in the process learn that Sam is a shapeshifter and that there is a vampire hierarchy that must be obeyed at all costs. Season two brings us both a maenad named Maryann who almost destroys the town with drunken debauchery (of course that’s how it would happen on this show) while a religious group called The Fellowship of the Sun forms to combat the tolerance that the world is beginning to show for vampires. Think of them as the Westboro Baptist Church, except for the fact that, as we see, not all vampires are very fluffy, so maybe they actually have a point.
Not like you need me to tell you this, but their sunny optimism clearly indicates that they're evil.
Season three brings us werewolves for the first time along with the story of a Vampire King who rules over Louisiana and enjoys causing a particularly destructive form of mischief. The season ends with Sookie learning that her strange abilities are the result of her being part fairy. Season four sees a coven of witches setting up shop in Bon Temps, introducing magic more thoroughly into the story line and setting up the vampires and the fairies as natural enemies of each other because vampires who feed from fairies can survive in the sunlight.
Season five delved deeper into the vampire community’s social structure, giving us The Authority, a sort of Ministry of Funny Walks for vampires only with less funny walking and a lot more purified blood sacrifice. The Authority is experiencing a schism in the vampire world between vampires that want to integrate with humans and pay taxes and play with puppies without eating them afterwards and those vampires that really, really miss the eating puppy parts of life and would just like to get back to slaughtering humans like the good old days in the Middle Ages. The season ends with Bill drinking from a vial of sacred blood that supposedly comes from Lilith, the first vampire. Bill “dies” and is reborn as a naked blood-coated demi-god who turns and advances on Sookie and Eric before the two can run away.
Thus, we begin season six wondering what, exactly, is Bill now that he’s met “the true death” and been reborn as some kind of new entity? How will The Authority’s corruption spill over into the already fractured relationships between humans and vampires? Will the Fellowship of the Sun swing opinion to their side, in which case the more loveable vamps (NEVER LEAVE US, JESSICA!) could be in danger? For God’s sake, how quickly can we get to the bloody sexy times? Starting this weekend, we’ll start to see.
MOAR PAM! MOAR!!
True Blood airs starting this Sunday, June 16, on HBO.