By Rob Sheffield
June 23, 2011 9:00 AM ET
The last time we saw Sookie Stackhouse, amid all the rampant gore and sweat and naked flesh of True Blood, she had a bit of a revelation: “I know I am basically vampire crack.” Well put, Sookie. There’s something about this girl that drives all the monstrous creatures around her sick with desire. It might be because — as she discovered at the end of last season — she has a tinge of faerie in her blood, which renders her irresistible to vampires. Somehow, this small-town waitress keeps proving she’s made of much tougher stuff than any of the otherworldly fiends she encounters. Nothing fazes her, not even her discovery about her ancestry. As she put it, “I’m a faerie? How fucking lame.”
The kinkiest twist of True Blood is how regular Sookie is — she’s the girl next door, even when she’s swept up in all this occult madness. The more tangled up she gets in the bloodlust of the vampire underworld, the more of an ordinary Southern girl she seems. And that’s more tantalizing than faerie blood any day. So it’s no wonder she’s at the center of a centuries-old erotic battle. Scary monsters and supercreeps keep her running scared — but she likes it that way.
True Blood got crazy in its superb third season, stretching out into all sorts of supernatural subcultures, as Bon Temps, Louisiana, became overrun with witches, faeries, shape-shifters and, of course, were-panthers. Russell Edgington, the vampire king of Mississippi, apparently met his doom when he got buried in cement. Sookie and Bill came to a breaking point, since she decided there’s a limit to how often you can keep forgiving your hot vampire boyfriend, especially if he’s just been pimping you out all this time to the vampire queen.
The new season keeps up the standard of excellence, with more fetishes, more lust, more evil, more startling ways for bodies to change and transmogrify. There are more unmentionable surprises. There are old faces and new faces. There are more strange creatures we haven’t seen before. But mostly, there’s more love gone wrong, which is something Bon Temps never runs out of. And inevitably, there’s a moment where somebody gets Sookie’s name wrong and calls her “Snooki.” (That one had to happen, right? Who knows? One day they might throw in some were-guidettes.)
The cast is still amazing: Anna Paquin has hit her stride as Sookie, grappling with her true nature and conflicts in her sex life. Stephen Moyer and Alexander Skarsgård compete to see who can be the fiercest undead glowerer around, and Nelsan Ellis has perfected his queeny sneer as Lafayette (walking into a séance, he sniffs, “This must be where old air fresheners go to die”).
You might have expected True Blood would have run out of fresh perversions by now, but the longer it keeps rolling, the better it gets, because the characters are cursed with longer and uglier memories. Even the sexiest vampires, like Bill and Eric, have to drag their bloody pasts and foul consciences around with them. On True Blood, all that mileage just makes the drama more intense, delving into issues of guilt, loss and (a True Blood specialty) revenge. But it nails the way regular human experiences — coupling up, separating, grieving — warp people you thought you knew into total strangers, if not total monsters. That’s the secret of True Blood — all the creatures that roam Bon Temps become a metaphor for our insatiable lusts and inner desires. Humans craving what they can’t have and those secret appetites transforming them into beasts, or even killers.
It all ultimately comes down to the tension between Sookie and Bill — the more history they share, the more painful their relationship gets. Last season, Bill told her, “It is who you are, not what you are, that I love.” But love makes it harder for any of these people to guess who or what they really are — and that’s also what turns them on.
There’s a moment in the new season where somebody asks Sookie, “What are you?” Her reply: “I’m really sick of being asked that question. That’s what I am.” And yet, like everybody on True Blood, she can’t stop asking the question herself, because the answer is never the same. That’s how True Blood keeps getting more fascinating – all that throat-chomping and trachea-slurping adds up to a spectacularly vivid story about the terrible things we do for love.
SOURCE: Rolling Stone – This article appears is from Rolling Stone issue 1134/1135, available on newsstands and through Rolling Stone All Access on June 24, 2011.
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