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Get Your Blood Boiling: An Advance Review of the First Four Episodes of "True Blood" Season Two

Ready for another bite?

I'm ashamed to admit that I came to the True Blood party late. Having been turned off by the initial installments, I only became invested in the Southern Gothic vampire series when I was sent a copy of the Season One DVD boxset and quickly fell under its brooding spell, devouring this darkly seductive series in just a few days.

Since then, I've had the opportunity to watch the first four episodes of Season Two of True Blood, launching this weekend on HBO, and was completely captivated by the series' fantastic characters (both main and supporting alike), the multitude of compelling (and overlapping) subplots, and a strong throughline of dread, allure, and menace that embody the series' sophomore outing.

True Blood's writer/executive producer Alan Ball, who adapted the series from Charlaine Harris' best-selling Sookie Stackhouse novels, has asked that journalists not give away any of the whiplash-inducing plot twists in the four initial episodes of Season Two and I am going to respectfully follow through on his impassioned request... although it's mighty hard as I'm bursting at the seams from wanting to talk about just how insanely shocking these installments are.

When we last saw the gang in Bon Temps, Sookie (Anna Paquin) had survived an attempted murder attempt at the hands of the serial killer stalking the streets of this backwoods town, a killer who was revealed to be none other than Cajun Rene Lenier (Michael Raymond-James), who also killed the girlfriend of Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) while he lay beside her, out of his head on V. Bill proved his undying loyalty to Sookie by risking his own safety by attempting to save her in broad daylight, despite the sun damage.

Tara (Rutina Wesley) discovered the truth about the exorcism that she and her abusive, alcoholic mother Lettie Mae (Adina Porter) underwent in the woods... and ended up getting arrested after she drunkenly ran her car off the road when she spies a naked woman and a pig. She ends up moving in with the mysterious Maryann Forrester (Michelle Forbes), who seems to have designs on Tara.

And, oh, there was the little matter of Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) seemingly getting abducted by persons unknown. And Tara and Sookie's discovery of a red-toenailed leg in the backseat of a car belonging to Detective Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer). Just what do these two things--if any--have to do with one another? That would be telling. But suffice it to say that these two dangling plot threads from Season One are dealt with head-on... and in a very unexpected way.

So what happens in these first few installments of Season Two? For one, Bill and Sookie's relationship is complicated by the arrival of the teenage vampire Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) into their lives and both will have to adapt to having Bill's vampire spawn lurking around the Old Compton place, interfering in just about everything, and causing some major conflict to develop between the star-crossed lovers. Look for a particularly hysterical scene in which Bill attempts to purchase some clothes for "daughter" Jessica at a department store. And for Sookie to make an unexpected discovery (or even several) that could change her outlook forever.

Meanwhile, Jason is drawn deeper into the world of the Fellowship of the Sun, when he leaves Bon Temps to attend a "church camp" hosted by Reverend Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian) and his bouncy, blonde wife Sarah (Anna Camp). I can't speak about any specific details once again but I will say that Steve and Sarah are my two favorite new characters and that there is a certain, uh, frisson between the married evangelists and Jason Stackhouse as he inches ever closer into the church's inner circle.

Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) faces a dilemma and is forced to deal head-on with his unrequited love for Sookie as well as an attraction to Merlotte's newest waitress, the clumsy but spunky Daphne (Ashley Jones) whose simple exterior might belie something far more interesting than she first appears. And we'll learn a lot more about Sam's mystery-cloaked past along the way...

Wondering about Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), are you? Rest assured, there's plenty of Eric Northman in these four episodes and one can't help but feel that, despite moving on the series' periphery, Eric is going to become a much more central character this season on True Blood. He unveils a new look in this first four episodes that's courtesy of the icy Pam (Kristin Bauer) and reveals something we haven't really seen from Eric before: human emotion. (Just what that is, you'll have to wait and see.)

Once again, the supporting cast each gets a chance to shine and in the first four episodes alone, there are some nice character development parceled out to Mehcad Brooks' Eggs "Benedict," Todd Lowe's Terry Bellefleur, Carrie Preston's Arlene Fowler, Jim Parrack's Hoyt Fortenberry, and the aforementioned Lettie Mae Thornton (Porter). True Blood has done a remarkable job at juggling numerous characters and plot threads and these initial installments build upon that tradition, giving even tertiary characters time in the spotlight. The result is a fleshing out of the Bon Temps denizens that deepens the series, even as it strays away from the supernatural mythology that creates its intriguing spine.

All in all, these four opening installments of Season Two show not only a significant improvement above the first few shaky episodes of the first season but are proof positive why True Blood has transformed into an addictive and enthralling series about the darkness that lurks under the skin of every small town. Expect more than the usual amount of sex and gut-wrenching gore as True Blood heads to even darker places these season. One can't shake the feeling that there's a war coming to Bon Temps, one that's steeped in blood and conflict as ancient evils and modern killers alike get tangled up in the battle that's yet to come. I'll be watching--with glee (and at times through my fingers)--on the sidelines.

Season Two of True Blood launches Sunday night at 9 pm ET/PT on HBO.


Bella Spruce said…
I read about True Blood and think it sounds fantastic but then, when I actually tune in to watch the show, I find it to be totally over the top and annoying. I've yet to be able to sit through an entire episode! Maybe I should just read the books instead...
Jenni Lou said…
Awesome review. You gave away a little bit more than others but without actually spoiling anything! Kudos to you! I am beyond excited for Sunday and am jealous of all the journalists who have been given the first 4 eps to view.
Mel said…
Whew. As if we were already excited about season 2, you go an whet our appetites even more. Glad you're back on board the True Blood train, Jace.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the new bits of info! How far into the season do we have to wait for Eric to show up? I've heard episode 3, but I'm hoping it's sooner.
Mazza said…
Amazing review as ever Jace. I can't believe season 2 is so close but I am dying to know what is going to happen and it seems like Sunday will never get here!!!! You always do such a good job of building anticipation without spoiling everything!
OldDarth said…
The show did get off to a shaky start and still am not a big fan of Sookie. However the rest of the cast grabbed my interest over the course of the season and now I look forward to Season 2.

BTW the show has one of the best opening title sequences.

Has it been changed at all for S2? Hope not!
haxxai said…
Anonymous: interviewed Alexander SkarsgÄrd today and he revealed that he will be in every episode of True Blood this season

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