True Blood, on HBO
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Okay, this series is based on Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse book series, none of which I've ever read. But I wanted to check the show out, partly because it's about vampires, and partly because it stars Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse. Of course, it's on HBO, which I don't get, but I found I could order the episodes On Demand, for free, when it first started in 2008. So I watched a few eps, and I liked the show well enough. Unfortunately, the episodes stopped being available for free, so I had to stop watching. The show wound up running for seven seasons, concluding in 2014. It wasn't until October 2017 that I started re-watching season one on Amazon (and then I went for a few months without Amazon Prime, and resumed watching the season sometime in 2018, finishing in June). Hopefully I'll get through the rest of the series, but it may take awhile, since I'm not really a binger.
Anyway, the background is that a couple years before the series started, a Japanese company introduced a synthetic blood beverage called Tru Blood [sic], which vampires can drink instead of human blood. Since then, vampires have made themselves known to the general public, and have been given certain rights, including voting. But there are also people who are against this, including some prominent religious figures. There are also vampires who don't want to drink Tru Blood, preferring the real thing, and who have no interest in "toeing the party line." There are also lots of humans who will have sex with vampires, and/or sell their blood for vampires to drink, and so forth. But the flip side is that humans can use vampire blood as a drug (called "V-juice" or just "V"), which mainly works as an aphrodisiac. In fact, there are other things it can be used for, which are less commonly known...
Anyway, so things are complicated, and the very existence of vampires is a major issue around the world, obviously. But the series focuses on the small Southern town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, where Sookie Stackhouse works as a waitress in a bar called Merlotte's. She can hear other people's thoughts, and struggles to avoid listening in, which is a major pain. Her family and those closest to her are aware of this, but others around town think she's a psychic, or some kind of freak. Anyway, she lost her parents when she was a kid, and was taken in by her grandmother, Adele. She also has a brother named Jason, who's a bit of an idiot, and doesn't like vampires. In the first episode, one of the women he's been sleeping with, Maudette, gets killed, and he's the only suspect, but in the second episode it's revealed that he wasn't guilty, and the true culprit was probably a vampire, with whom she also had sex. Meanwhile, another woman Jason is sleeping with, Dawn (who also worked at Merlotte's), turned out to have been with a vampire (though a different one than the first woman), and she eventually winds up dead, herself. I should also mention that Sookie's best friend, Tara Thornton, has a thing for Jason, but he seems pretty clueless. Anyway, Tara gets a job working at Merlotte's, as well, in spite of her generally bad attitude and tendency to say whatever's on her mind, without worrying about offending anyone. Also, she has an alcoholic mother, Lettie Mae, who causes her terrible grief. And Tara has a gay cousin named Lafayette Reynolds, who also works at Merlotte's, though he has much more illicit ways of making money, as well, such as prostituting himself, and selling drugs. There's also another waitress at Merlotte's, Arlene Fowler, who is also friends with Sookie. And Arlene is dating a guy named Rene Lenier, who is a friend and coworker of Jason's. And I should mention that the bar's owner, Sam Merlotte, has a thing for Sookie, though it doesn't seem like he's likely to do anything about it. And then one night, Sookie meets Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). He's a 173-year-old vampire, who was turned around the time of the Civil War (which will later make him interesting to Adele, who is thrilled to have a chance to talk to someone who actually lived in that era). Sookie is fascinated by Bill not only because he's the first vampire she ever met, but more importantly because she can't hear his thoughts, which is a great relief. (That's not because he's a vampire; we'll later learn that Sookie can read most vampires' thoughts.) Anyway, Sookie and Bill soon begin courting.
Meanwhile... even if the slowly developing romance is the centerpoint of the show, there's obviously lots of stuff going on with all the other characters in Bon Temps, as well as controversy around the world. A prime example of that is the organization Fellowship of the Sun, which is anti-vampire. One of their leaders, Rev. Theodore Newlin, recently died, and his son, Steve, claims he was assassinated by vampires. This is basically background stuff at this point, something you might hear a snippet of while a main character is watching the news on TV, but it seems like it could end up playing a much larger role in the main story, down the road. And now, I am going to recap some of the most important details of the season, and I am going to get most of it wildly out of order.... There's a vampire bar in Shreveport called Fangtasia, which is run by a very old and powerful vampire named Eric Northman. (Shreveport is the central city of an area in Louisiana of which Eric is the vampire "sheriff.") And Adele is eventually murdered. And Jason tries V-juice, which leads to various problems. And Lettie Mae believes herself to be possessed by a demon, so she gets herself exorcised by someone called Miss Jeanette, and then convinces Tara to do the same. But Tara later learns the woman who did the exorcisms was a fraud. And Tara has a sort of complicated relationship with Sam, for awhile. Jason begins dating a sort of New Age-y woman named Amy Burley (Lizzy Caplan), who is also into V-juice. She eventually kidnaps a vampire named Eddie (Stephen Root), to drink his blood, though Jason begins to feel sorry for him. But Amy ends up killing Eddie. Later, Amy is killed by someone while she and Jason are sleeping, and when he wakes up, Jason believes he must have killed her, as well as previously killing Maudette and Dawn, though he doesn't remember any of the murders. He confesses to Sheriff Bud Dearborne (William Sanderson) and Deputy Andy Bellefleur, who have been investigating the various murders throughout the season. (Dearborne seems like a fairly reasonable guy, but Andy is a jerk, who hates vampires, and hates Jason, and he's always upset that no one in town takes him seriously.) Arlene eventually marries Rene. Sookie eventually learns that Sam is a shapeshifter, who turns into a dog. And at one point, Bill kills a vampire who was trying to hurt Sookie. But for this he must face a vampire tribunal led by the Magister (Željko Ivanek), who orders him to turn a teenage girl named Jessica Hamby into a vampire. Bill reluctantly does this, and then tries to teach Jessica his way of being a vampire... but she isn't interested. Once she's turned, she just wants to do fun, evil things. Eric and another vampire named Pam take care of Jessica for awhile. Tara has an accident while driving drunk, and goes to jail, at which point her mother disowns her. But Tara is then bailed out by a social worker named Maryann Forrester (Michelle Forbes), who takes her to stay in her very large and luxurious home, to help Tara until she can figure out where her life is going. There, Tara meets a guy called "Eggs," whom Maryann has also been helping. Meanwhile, Sookie and Sam do some investigating to try to find out who the real killer is, to get Jason out of jail. They eventually do figure it out in the season finale, but I don't want to spoil it. I do think throughout the season, the show did a pretty good job of leaving red herrings to make viewers suspect different characters. And it did end up being one of the people I thought was most likely, though not the one I was hoping it would be. Anyway, in the end, the story jumps forward a couple of weeks and sets up some new developments which should lead into season two's plot. (So I'll wait til then to spoil those things.)
Well, I found the season fairly entertaining in various ways, and I look forward to seeing more of the series. Other than that, I also wanted to say that the opening theme ("Bad Things," by Jace Everett) is pretty cool, and definitely fits the mood of the show quite well. (In fact the show has a lot of good music, and has released a few soundtracks, which I may want to get someday.)
Okay, first I guess I'll reveal that the killer from season one was Rene (though that was not his real name). I won't get into his reasons for all the murders, but he eventually tries to kill Sookie, and ends up being killed, himself. Meanwhile, before Jason is released from jail, he's visited by a representative of the Fellowship of the Sun, who wants to recruit him into the organization. And at the very end of the season, Lafayette gets attacked, and his fate isn't revealed until this season. Also, a dead body is found in Deputy Andy's car.
Time for me to reveal this season's major events, and I'm sure I'll get them somewhat out of order. We learn that the dead body was Miss Jeanette, and her heart had been removed. We also learn that Lafayette and some other people are being held prisoner, chained up in a basement under Fangtasia. And we learn that Sam has a past with Maryann, which leads him to distrust her. And a new waitress named Daphne Landry begins working at Merlotte's, though she's pretty bad at her job. Eric asks Bill and Sookie for help finding a vampire named Godric, the sheriff of an area in Texas, who has gone missing in Dallas. We eventually learn that Godric was Eric's maker (the one who turned him into a vampire). Jessica is living with Bill, and continues to be troublesome. But she eventually meets a human named Hoyt Fortenberry. I guess he's Jason's best friend, and had a recurring role in the first season, but I didn't find him particularly memorable until this season, when he begins dating Jessica. And that relationship helps Jessica get better control of her emotions, and try harder to not give in to her vampiric impulses. Sookie eventually discovers Lafayette is Eric's prisoner, and arranges for his release in exchange for her help finding Godric. However, the whole experience leaves Lafayette with some major PTSD. Before Bill and Sookie (and Jessica) go to Dallas, Sookie invites Tara to move into her house, and Tara agrees. Sam learns that Daphne is also a shapeshifter, so the two of them get closer... until it is revealed that Daphne is working for Maryann, who is a Maenad, and has the ability to entrance humans, who become totally uninhibited as well as devoted to Maryann. (This includes Tara and Eggs, and soon nearly everyone in Bon Temps, though no one remembers what had happened once the trance wears off.) Andy stumbles upon the entranced people, having orgies and such, but when he tries to confront them about it later, they just think he's crazy or drunk. Meanwhile, Maryann invites herself to move into Sookie's house with Tara, revealing that the lavish estate she'd previously been staying in actually belonged to a friend. And um... I think Arlene starts dating Andy's cousin, Terry Bellefleur, who is a cook at Merlotte's. Maryann murders Daphne and frames Sam. Jessica eventually returns to Bon Temps, and reunites with Hoyt, who wants her to meet his mother, Maxine. However, Maxine can't stand the idea of her son dating a vampire, so things go very badly... especially when Maxine falls under Maryann's trance, and says horrible things to Hoyt. Jessica loses control and tries to bite her, which causes Hoyt to tell her to leave.
Jason joins the Fellowship of the Sun (whose headquarters, coincidentally, are just outside Dallas), and he soon becomes a favorite of its leaders, Steve Newlin and his wife, Sarah. This leads to a rivalry between Jason and another guy named Luke, who resents how quickly Jason advanced when Luke had to work long and hard to do so. Meanwhile, Jason's relationship with Sarah develops into a potential romance. ...While in Dallas, Sookie meets a bellhop named Barry, who she realizes is a telepath like her, the first one she's ever met. She wants to talk to him about it, but he wants to completely avoid the subject. Eric recruits Bill's maker, Lorena Krasiki, to keep Bill occupied while Sookie goes on a mission to infiltrate the Fellowship (unaware that Jason is there). We learn about Bill and Lorena's past together, and that Lorena still wants him back, though he wants nothing to do with her. Later, when Sookie (and a guy pretending to be her fiance) arrive at the church of the Fellowship, they're soon locked up, as the Fellowship knew why they were there. Steve and Sarah also come to believe that Jason only joined the Fellowship as a spy, and they try to have him killed, but he escapes. Later, a guard tries to rape Sookie, but she's rescued by Godric, who had allowed himself to be captured by the Fellowship, for his own reasons. He wants to prove that humans and vampires can coexist peacefully, but the Fellowship has no interest in that. There's a standoff between the Dallas vampires and Fellowship members, but Jason shows up to help save the day. Bill, Sookie, Jason, and the vampires return to Godric's nest. Godric banishes Lorena, though she still hopes to see Bill again someday. Luke shows up with a bomb (wrapped in silver chains) strapped to his chest, and does some serious damage. Eric is hurt, and convinces Sookie to suck silver bullets out of his chest, though it turns out he was lying about needing her help. Now that she's ingested some of his blood, she's bound to him in a similar way to her bond with Bill, which quite understandably pisses her off.
Sookie, Bill, and Jason return to Bon Temps, which is now in chaos because of Maryann. Um... Sam and Andy and Jason all try to stop the entranced townsfolk from... doing whatever. Sookie confronts Maryann, and discovers she (Sookie) has some sort of power she didn't know about, and can't control, but not much comes of that, for now. And they learn that Maryann is trying to summon Dionysus with a ritual that includes sacrificing a supernatural creature, in this case, Sam. Bill goes to visit the vampire queen of Louisiana, Sophie-Anne Leclerq (Evan Rachel Wood), to ask for advice on how to kill a Maenad. Bill later returns to Bon Temps to carry out a plan with Sam's help to kill Maryann.
Beyond that, there are things I don't want to spoil yet about this season. Things about Godric, and Jessica, and Sam, and Eggs, and Bill... (I'm actually not sure if I'll ever need to reveal the thing about Godric, but I surely will about the others, when I get around to watching and reviewing season 3.)