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Tooth and Nail: An Advance Review of Season Three of HBO's True Blood

It's time once again to invite HBO's gloriously addictive vampire drama True Blood, returning in just a few weeks' time with its third season, back into our homes.

Based on the strength of the first three episodes of the season, there's no need for it to use a glamour, as viewers will only be too willing to let it in without a struggle.

When we last saw the inhabitants of Louisiana bayou town Bon Temps, they were recovering after their brush with the immortal maenad Maryann (Michelle Forbes) and tensions were running high. When poor, doomed Eggs (Mehcad Brooks) finally remembered the actions he had taken while in her thrall, he sought to make a confession to Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer), only to be shot to death by Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten). Elsewhere, Sookie (Anna Paquin) considered a marriage proposal from Bill (Stephen Moyer), only to discover that he had been kidnapped.

I had the opportunity to watch the first three episodes of Season Three of True Blood and was quickly sucked back into a world of supernatural intrigue, illicit passion, and seductive darkness.

(WARNING: As always, please do not reproduce this review in full on any sites, forums, or blogs. Also, it goes without saying that the following review will contain (light) spoilers.)

The mystery of who seized the vampire Bill will unfold in the first few episodes of Season Three of True Blood, which picks up right where the Season Two left off, continuing the format established at the beginning of last season. (And, no, I will not be spoiling the identity of the kidnapper--or kidnappers--here, per Alan Ball's request.)

The effect of structuring the plot this way is a powerfully intoxicating one. By beginning mere minutes later, the third season--which kicks off with the Brian Buckner-scripted "Pack of Wolves"--quickly forces the audience right into the thick of it along with Sookie Stackhouse and the series' characters. It's not an opportunity to catch your breath (especially not in the action-packed season opener), but rather to be swept up in the momentum that's set up right from the opening scenes.

One of True Blood's strengths comes from its dense plotting, and the first three episodes of the season continue this in spades. While the residents of Bon Temps attempt to clean up after the maenad incident, there are a number of new threats that prevent people from going back to their normal lives. Bill's kidnapping reveals just how vulnerable all of them are, while multiple characters find themselves in jeopardy of both a mortal and psychological nature.

The season kicks up a number of questions about the characters' natures. How do we define ourselves? Are we a sum of our past actions or the choices we make in the present? Are we individuals or part of a larger collective? By knowing where we came from, can we finally claim to understand ourselves? Are we more than our birth-rights, more than our heritage? Are we free to follow the better angels of our nature? Or forced to fall in line with our inner demons?

There's an insidious darkness contained here (different from the frenzied excess of the Maryann storyline), one that lurks beneath the surface and threatens to pull down at least once character in its wake. Actions once done cannot be undone and several characters will learn that the past can't ever be escaped from... (This is especially true in Episode Three, "It Hurts Me Too," written by Alexander Woo.)

There are some fantastic and surprising character pairings going on here. Look for baby vamp Jessica (the sensational Deborah Ann Woll) to find herself contending with not one but two older vampires, including the caustic Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten), who gives her some sage advice when Jessica finds herself in a bit of a bind. (One word: chainsaw.) Shifter Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) discovers that you need to be careful what you wish for, especially when he solves the mystery of his parentage, coming face to face with the trashy Mickens clan. (There's also quite a scene that will get many buzzing between Bill and Sam in the season opener.)

Not surprisingly, Sookie finds herself pushed towards the trickster vampire Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) in more ways than one as she asks for help in locating the missing Bill Compton. But does Eric want to help her... or hinder her? Just how complicit is he in Bill's disappearance? And with him out of the way, does it clear the path for him to claim Sookie as his own?

The first few episodes set up a number of tantalizing questions for the Sheriff and the telepathic waitress while Bill is faced with a series of choices of his own. While I'm forbidden to reveal just what those are--or what circumstances we find Mr. Compton in when we catch up with him early in Season Three--but I will say that things are far more complicated and more deadly than they initially seem.

While the main throughline would seem to be that of Bill's disappearance, there are a number of subplots for each of the characters that are equally entrancing. Tara (Rutina Wesley)--whose friendship with Sookie hits the rocks--finds herself drawn towards an inexorable fate, even as her cousin Lafayette (the always fantastic Nelsan Ellis) attempts to save her in more ways than one. Jason finds himself once again stumbling towards ecstasy... or at least towards realizing just what the universe has in mind for him isn't what he planned.

Star-crossed lovers Jessica and Hoyt (Jim Parrack) face a number of obstacles, making each of them question whether there is happiness to be had with one another. Elsewhere, the odd-couple pairing of Terry (Todd Lowe) and Arlene (Carrie Preston) have issues of their own to deal with, while a certain secret might just tear them apart.

In the hands of the talented writers, True Blood's universe, as well as its mythology, continues to unfold in some tantalizing ways as we learn more about the shifter community and get our first look at another supernatural sub-set of the America: the hidden werewolf nation lurking at the edges of society. I don't want to say too much about how the wolves are introduced but it's immediately made clear just how much of a threat they pose, even as Sookie is forced to form an alliance with the werewolf Alcide out of desperation. (Just how the werewolves fit into the already complex and dizzying political maneuverings of the vampires will play out over the season.)

I'm already in love with several of the new characters introduced this season, including Denis O'Hare's Russell Edgington (the Vampire King of Mississippi) and his consort Talbot (Theo Alexander), Joe Manganiello's Alcide, Grant Bowler's vicious Coot, Kevin Alejandro's sweet orderly Jesus Valasquez, and James Frain's Franklin Mott, the latter of which uncovers a very intriguing subplot that could change our perceptions of certain events in the series' very early days. Hmmm...

Meanwhile, several familiar faces return (in some very unexpected ways) and a new crop of mysteries threatens to have me on the edge of my seat all summer long. While the season opener offers a hell of a kick-start to the season, it's perhaps the second episode, "Beautifully Broken," written by Raelle Tucker, that might just be my favorite installment of the three that I screened as the past comes kicking and screaming into the present, alliances are tested, new bonds forged, and shocking decisions are made with fiery consequences.

All of which adds up to a hell of a beginning for a season that promises to shatter the status quo of the series and plunge headfirst into the physical and metaphorical darkness. Ultimately, once True Blood's third season sinks its pearly-white fangs into you, there's no letting go.



Season Three of True Blood begins Sunday, June 13th at 9 pm ET/PT on HBO.

Comments

Who hoo! I'm so excited for the show's return. The only thing I'm worried about is that I watched season 2 in one night. The pacing just rolls from one episode right into the next. It might be hard to wait a whole week for the next one!
Annie said…
You've made the wait for True Blood even more unbearable! Thanks for giving us a taste of what's to come and for not spoiling us rotten. I can't wait!!!!
Bella Spruce said…
So excited!!!! I can't wait for more adventures in Bon Temps! Thank you for the sneak peek!
Anonymous said…
“James Frain’s Franklin Mott, the latter of which uncovers a very intriguing subplot that could change our perceptions of certain events in the series’ very early days. Hmmm…”

“All of which adds up to a hell of a beginning for a season that promises to shatter the status quo of the series”

OH HELLS TO THE YES! this sounds unbearably exciting. Thanks Jace!
Monica said…
Thanks for the reviews!!!!Sounds so good and i cannot wait!!!!
I'm curious about Jessica and Pam...i guess a lot of funny over there Xd
I sooo wanna see Sookie and Eric development as in the books, i know it's very slowly but i'm a patience girl!Don't think Eric is behind anything..actually quite the opposite...he has to find Bill...or the Queen won't be happy....at least the Queen herself is behind this!!!
Well Steve Newlin is a good option!!!
Franklin Mott seems interesting....
cannot wait!
Kath said…
Awesome review, I can't wait for the new season! Thanks for not being too spoilery (even though I've read the books)!
Anonymous said…
I didn't think it was possible to be even more excited for True Blood Season 3, but you have managed to do that with your review. Sounds like we are in for one hell of a season and I can't wait.

Two weeks sounds even longer now
beadrbop said…
Amazing review as always! Thank you so much for giving fans enough information without ruining the show for us! Can't wait to see what is in store for Jessica and Hoyt!

Oh and your teaser of "Not surprisingly, Sookie finds herself pushed towards the trickster vampire Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) " has this AS/Eric fan doing the "waiting sucks" dance right now! Thanks again for the awesome review.
Unknown said…
Who cares what happens to Bill? Bring on the REAL vampires and a non boring Sookie Eric pairing.
Beccity98 said…
Love Jason's childlike-ness in the hopeful way he asks, "Santa?" Can't wait for this season, but Having read the books, am more impatient for 4th season-Hot naked vampire running through a forest beats werewolves any day!
Sean said…
I don't think Eric had anything to do with Bill's kidnapping although Alan could switch that around. Great review. I can't wait.
Anonymous said…
Thank you so much Jace for the wonderful review, without of course revealing to much.
I am looking forward to season 3 with great anticipation. Bills storyline has me completely glamoured. I am on tenderhooks as to who took him as well as the conspiracies that abound around him. As to Sookie, I hope she remains strong and keeps the faith for her man and is also very wary of the "trickster"!!!
the other new additions to the show sound exciting as well.
Best show on TV!!!
Emmy worthy!!

True Blood Rocks!

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