I have a complicated history with this show. I over-invest in the best parts, and gripe about the rest.
The best parts are easily identified: anything centering on the gloriously bitchy Pam or on Eric or on Lafayette (*snap*) or on Jessica (“I’m a virgin again!”) qualifies. These characters represent (or in some cases aspire to) a sophisticated and fashionable cosmopolitan ideal that I love.
Across the seven seasons of the show, this ideal has survived in a narrative space nestled between two other strata of society. Above the cosmopolitan, sits the soulless bureaucratic, commercial and political interests of the Vampire Authority, the Fellowship of the Sun and the various Senators and Governors that come and go. These interests operate like weather. They set conditions the cosmopolitan characters work around and cope with. Occasionally they kick up a storm and do damage. The cosmopolitans can’t escape this strata but keep their heads down and try as much as they can to do their own thing and to stay out of sight.
Beneath the cosmopolitan ideal are the provincials. They’re Bon Temps and they know little about the world. They mistake folksy common sense for wisdom and often wind up tolerating the inevitable ugliness of ignorance.
A folksy character like Sookie is, at her best, open-minded and full of unspoiled life. At her worst, she is just the small-town outsider’s version of open-minded and acts like a square and a scold. The show, which is deeply Rosseauian in its approach to noble Bon Temps (a stance that comes from the source novels) usually doesn’t distinguish between these two ways of being and treats them both as “spunky.” This is deeply annoying. 1
The provincial is not simply a function of place though. Bill is, to my mind, the worst of the rubes and nearly unbearable to watch. He’s seen the world, and yet he rejects it, choosing instead to embrace folksy values (from a previous century) and weds them to extensive political ambitions. Worse he speaks continually about love. He’s awful.
The cosmopolitans are nothing like Bill. They know how to live (even those who are dead) and aren’t fooled by the folk or sucked in by the organizational tools. They are fabulous.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m rooting for Sookie, Jason, Sam, Tara and the rest of the gang. And I adore Arlene. But face it: she lives in a small world, and she and her friends are all convinced that remaining small is a kind of victory.
In my True Blood, a series that exists only in my head, events take place in the bigger world we’d find if we followed Jessica after she got over Hoyt and left Louisiana or if we visited Pam and Erik in their new digs in Tokyo or maybe Hong Kong.
In that world, I am Ginger.2
As per convention, I grabbed the next season of this show on a rainy day in the Fall at the end of a long week at work. I had no expectations and little hope that it would be any good, not after the disastrous fourth season. Boy was I wrong. It was fast, nimble and campy as hell. It may even have been better than season three, which is saying something.
So I’m back on the hook for the last two seasons. Allan Ball is gone though, so I have no idea what to expect…
I loved season three and had been waiting for a reason to drop the money for season four. When the shit hit the fan after the first few weeks of my semester, I thought “Bingo!” and clicked “buy,” and settled in for some quality time with dear sweet Pam and the lovely Eric. Alas, this was not to be.
Good things first. I liked the neat trick used to jump the timeline forward a year. The strict chronology of the first three seasons had gotten claustrophobic and the jump let in some much needed air. The Star Trek homage of the faerie world and the much needed death of major characters in the final episode were also much appreciated. Jessica also became cool enough that my vamp-love is now split three-ways, no small feat.
If season three pushed all my favourite aspects of the show front-and-center and exaggerated them just enough in just the right way, season four took those same things and absolutely ruined them. Pam ruined. Eric ruined. Sookie ruined. Hoyt ruined. Jason more-or-less ruined. Sexy sex ruined. Gay camp ruined. Pretty much everything and everyone ruined.
Things were so bad that I binge viewed the second half of the season just to be done. I disliked it that badly. What a waste.
I put off watching this season of True Blood because I didn’t have anyone to loan it to me and didn’t want to drop the 50$ it was going to cost me to buy it. Plus, I’d heard that it wasn’t very good, and after the lame second season, I wasn’t willing to risk it.
Then on a whim one night at the end of the holiday break, I broke down and bought it. Maybe it was cold and I needed some steamy bayou landscapes to warm the animal spirits?
Whatever the reason, I’m so glad I did. Despite what I’d been told, this was the best season by far. Extraneous stuff thrown to the side. Bill off-screen; Eric front and centre; Pam (sweet magnificent Pam) by his side. Everything else exaggerated a notch (but just a notch). All of it baldly camp, but just barely, like a judiciously used spice and without the gloatingly self-conscious self-consciousness that would spoil the effect. And gay gay gay.
Too much damn fun.
A couple weeks ago, I rewatched this season on a tear. Now I’m not saying it’s any good, but it is absolutely entertaining. And engrossing.
I’ve marked all of the second season episodes as “unwatched” in preparation for my next visit to Beau Temps.
Side note: the theme song is one of my favourite theme songs of all time. I never skip it. Ever.
Second side note: if Angel and Lavern and Mr. Jefferson could have spin-offs, then Eric deserves one. Seriously.
Like really, I’m serious!