True Blood Season 4 Review

I was recently approached by a certain webmistress and asked if I would share my observations on the last season. “Are you sure”, I asked? She responded with the equivalent of “Let ‘er rip.”

The Question: “What did you think?”

The Live Grenade

I think, that if given half a chance, I would smack Alan Ball upside the head, and yell “Snap out of it!”

Let me explain.  The author Stephen King once famously said regarding Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic handling of King’s horror tour de force The Shining: “I gave Kubrick a live grenade on which he heroically threw his body”.

That, to whit, is what I mean.  Alan Ball was handed a veritable gold mine of imaginary characters and plots upon which to mine.  In large part, he has done so, and admirably. He and his crew selected and assembled a breathtaking cast of extraordinarily talented actors. He has managed to create a believable world and a town populated with people we have come to know and (for the most part) love.  This is in no small part due to the talents of the cast, writers and the set designers. He has created new characters for whom we would not, for love or money, wish to part. Who would give up Lafayette? Or Jessica?  Who would change Jason back? Or Hoyt? Terry?

But – and this is a big ass BUT – in his attempt to shake things up and add dimensions, he’s gone way too far off the reservation. I understand that he now has Lafayette, Jessica and a Bill who he has to fit in. And that he has to accommodate the Bill character due to Stephen Moyer’s (deserved) popularity. I get that. But that doesn’t explain away the annoyingly sappy, treacly, preachy tone many of these stories seem to contain lately.  I don’t watch (or read) True Blood stories about vampires, werewolves and demons to be reminded life is worth living and death is just another state of mind.  And a peaceful one, apparently. Soaring musical scores and eyes full of wonder. Beams of light, lessons learned and all that rot.


No. The thing is, first and foremost, the books don’t take themselves seriously. And I fear Mr. Ball is starting to take the show too seriously. The books’ popularity lie in the fact that they are light-hearted, blood soaked romps through a fucked up world.  Yes, that world mirrors our own, and yes Ms. Harris has a lot to say about that fucked up world.  But she approaches her message obliquely, rather than stuffing it down our throats.

I’m not saying that Ms. Harris is the literary genius of our time.  But she can spin a damned good yarn. She’s good at it. Hell, she’s GREAT at it. Her books are reminiscent of the penny serials of old: we all eagerly stand outside the news seller waiting for the latest installment in her narrative. And damnit, her books are FUNNY.  Her characters are funny. They have developed through the years and all have histories in which we are familiar.  And based on those histories, we as readers can often divine what their reactions may be, or at the very least, understand what motivates them to act in the surprising manner they may ultimately choose.

And this is the second part of my complaint with the recent seasons: by removing so much of the established history and adding in so many weird and disconnected plots, we are losing that cause and effect. The character arcs. The storylines are becoming part of a disjointed whole. We have some characters “reacting” to book-sourced plots in situations arising from TV plots. The show this season many times made me feel as though Mr. Ball had lost control of the story.

And damnit – where the fuck is Bubba? How can you leave out pure comic gold like that?

The Return of Nan and Vampire Banter

The exchanges between Bill and Nan were some of my favorite parts of the season. The scene in the basement when they were lying there silvered, and verbally bitch smacking one another had me crying with laughter. This is where the show excels: bringing the all-too-human, mundane aspects of the “Sups” personalities to life. The bickering.  The power struggles.  The petty jealousies and the seething resentments. Gold. Pam’s snarking. And can I just say here that Kristin has made Pam her BITCH? She rocks that role. She has some of the best lines in the series, and delivers them with a pouty-lipped punch to the face.

More Alan, please. It’s the little things. It’s Eric lifting one eyebrow, ever so slightly, bemusedly observing that Dr. Ludwig is “no friend of the Fang”. Eric was a little short of his devastating one-liners this season, as he spent most of it in a moon-eyed trance, played as usual with aplomb. Nothing like taking a stone cold killer and turning him into your nerdy kid brother in one fell swoop.

And while we’re on the subject, no one – and I mean NO ONE – has made a character more thoroughly his own than Alexander Skarsgard, which is no surprise, really, because what role hasn’t he ever nailed? Fans of his other work will agree with me on this. He is the Zen master of understated, emotive acting. He has the ability to convey a generation’s worth of emotional history with the perfectly timed quiver of an eyelid. He can make you feel the heartbreak of a tortured soul with one simple, slightly unfocused stare. He needs to be given more meat. While Eric in the books is funny and camp, Alex has made the TB Eric a multi-layered complex character, which also has the effect of making his humorous throwaway lines all that more effective.  And he has so many hysterical lines in the books that make me positively drool at the thought of Alex delivering them.

Please sir, may I have some more?

Lighten Up, Already

Before I sign off and go hide under my sink, I want to request that Alan Ball give some of our poor favorite characters a break and let them just be their fecking selves already.

Lafayette: He is comic gold, Alan. Stop turning him into other ridiculous characters. Really? A female ghost? Don’t get me wrong, Nelsan managed to make even that foolish (treacly, hokey) plot line believable, but FFS. Lafayette is grand just being Lafayette, swanning around a hick Southern town in gold lame hot pants, not chipping his manicure clearing brush on the road crew, and tossing out scathing bon mots with the grits at Merlottes. You kept him for a reason.  We fell in love with him. Let him be HIM. Give him a story, but for the love of all that’s holy, keep him as Lafayette. At least for awhile.

Tara: How this woman isn’t in the local nut house at this point defies explanation. Give her a rest and let her spend some time as a snarky observer for a bit. She’s been psychically ponzied, found out her childhood love killed her new love, been abducted, raped, sucked and now brain blasted. What’s next – Zombie? Russell Edgington’s love toy?

Sam – Sam has a role that I can’t quite put my finger on.  It’s slippery. I love Sam, and he always has a fairly compelling story, but somehow lately it just never feels right. Not sure why.  And with that being said, as I obviously have nothing constructive to add, I should just shut my face and leave it. I just felt a little unsatisfied with his story this year.  At least his stupid family is gone. And I say that after hearing that sentiment from just about every TB fan I know.

Dammit, Bubba again. And his cats.

Shit, I’m going to miss Nan.

So, what did I think? I think that this cast is brilliant. For the most part, the writing is funny and sharp, particularly the conversational writing. I am grateful to Mr. Ball for giving life to these characters. I think that the show has great bones. I just feel the perhaps the decorator went a little over the top with the balloon valances and gilt accessories. Less preaching to the audience – we get it. Let the characters do what they do best and convey the messages the way they do it best: subtly, sexily, covered in blood and with great snark. You have a great cast and a wealth of material to play with – maybe rely on them a little more?

~ Little Suzie Snarksgard

(I am not a critic, but I play one on a web site)

Thank you Suzie!!! : )

3 Responses to “True Blood Season 4 Review”

  1. robzar88 says:

    Where have I heard these thoughts before???

  2. vealsistah says:

    Oh Suzie – you have created within me an urge to slow clap dramatically, and work up to a crescendo of deafening applause. Of course, there is only one of me, and I’m in the office – so such behavior would likely land me in a room with a padded view in an “I love me” jacket.

    Suffice it to say you hit the nail on the head, and I agree with you 100%. Thank you for articulating what I’ve felt, but lacked the capacity to adequately describe.

  3. JUDE says:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! This is the BEST I’ve ever read about this show! After Generation Kill this is the best series HBO has ever presented. I also agree 100% on everything you said. Maybe if we beg and plead enough, we will get to see Bubba. AB says that he will have to be a impersonator. Deal with it, we certainly will. My first love on the show is Eric. I read that Alexander has a 5 year contract. The day he leaves, I will too!! Thank you again!

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