HBO has yet another hit on its hands. The
first season of True Blood
excellent look at a world, particularly the deep south of the US,
vampires existed. Filled with sex,
horror, and an interesting mystery, the show hit all the right notes. The second season premiered on June 14, 2009
and was had the highest ratings on any HBO presentation since the final
of the Sopranos.
Now those people who
don't spring for the pay network (myself included) who wanted to see
going to happen next in Bon Temps, LA have to wait no longer. HBO will release True Blood: Season Two on
Blu-ray and DVD on May 25th of this year. It's arriving not a moment too soon.
Due to the invention of artificial blood, vampires have now
come 'out of the coffin' and revealed their existence to humanity. Since they no longer need to feed on humans,
they want to be productive members of society... or so they say.
The politics surrounding vampires doesn't really concern
Sookie Stackhouse however. Being a
waitress at a restaurant/bar in the small town of Bon
she's never even seen a vampire. She has
problems of her own, including the fact that she's a 25 year old virgin
never had a boyfriend. That's because
Sookie has a special ability: she can
hear other people's thoughts, whether she wants to or not.
It's hard for her to get past the first date
when she knows the boy across the table from her is wondering how far
That changes when Bill walks into the restaurant one
evening. A ruggedly handsome and
extremely genteel man who is new to town, Bill is the one person who
can't 'hear'. That's because he's a
vampire, 'killed' during the civil war he's come to reclaim his
and land, abandoned since his last living relative passed away with no
Sookie and Bill grow close, and in the first season they
investigate a series of murders that has terrified the sleepy little
town. Most people thought that Sookie's
Jason, was the killer, but it turns out they were wrong.
Naturally not everyone likes vampires, especially the
Religious Right. That's examined in more
detail this season as Jason Stackhouse becomes embroiled in a Christian
the Fellowship of the Sun. While he's
traveled off to Texas
to a 'leadership conference' that will teach him anti-vampire rhetoric
(unbeknownst to his sister), Sookie and Bill become entangled in a
It seems that a very ancient and powerful vampire, Godric,
has disappeared. He's the Sherrif of a
large area of the country, based in Dallas,
and the vampires need Sookie's unique ability to help track down their
leader. Unfortunately this sets both
siblings on paths that will soon cross.
The second major plot line this season revolves around
Maryanne, the rich woman who showed up in Bon Temps last season and
Sookie's best friend, Tara, to live with her rent free.
It was a good tome for Tara
to find someone to take care of her, since she was going through a
patch. In Maryanne's lush house, Tara has gourmet meals, servants to clean up
and a hunky sweet guy who happens to be staying there too and takes a
the young girl. But Maryanne isn't who
she seems to be, and her presence in the town starts to cause unrest. Seemingly innocent things start happening at
first, but they soon spiral out of control.
After watching this series of shows, the first season looks
like it was just a warm up. Now that the
main characters and the world they live in have been established the
can really get down to telling some good stories and exploring what
created. (Well, they and Charlaine
Harris who wrote the books the show is based on.) This
world gets fleshed out a bit more, and
it's quite an interesting world too.
One of the great things about this program is that it really
isn't a monster show like Buffy. It's a
drama that happens to have vampires, shape shifters, and telepaths in
cast. The vampires in the series aren't
the focus; they're just something that separates this world from our
own. The problems that vampires have and
real agenda are more incidental background material than the driving
the show. The reason you'll want to go
on to the next episode isn't to find out who killed Miss Jeanette and
in the back of a policeman's car, but to revisit the wonderfully
eccentric characters that populate the show.
They're all very interesting and most of them have secrets. Just about every male in the show, from the
muscular but dim Jason, to sexy vampire Bill and even the mysterious
Bill is a "bad boy" in one way or another, not to mention good looking. That's a pair of facts that my wife assures
me doesn't hurt the show at all.
The main problem I have with this season is the 'vampire
rights' subplot that's obviously supposed to be an analogy for gay
the US. (One of the anti-vampire slogans is "God
hates fangs" an all-to-obvious reference to "God hates fags".) It's not subtle or nuanced, and the jabs that
they take at the religious far right are too easy and the writers come
as being a bit lazy. It would have been
hard, but they could have used more restraint in the analogy and the
would have been better. (This started me
wondering: How do homosexuals feel about
being compared to vampires? Is this a
sympathetic analogy? The vampires in the
show aren't all sparkling and good either.
One literally tears a man limb from limb and throws the pieces
an early episode, confirming what the religious group says. Like I said, the analogy is too heavy handed
for my tastes and it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. But
Getting back to the show's good points: it
is very sexy. Lead Anna Paquin (X-men
movies, Almost Famous) was a perfect casting
choice. She's attractive, but not a
bombshell-beauty knockout. She looks
like someone you would find waiting tables at a bar in Louisiana. The gap between her top front teeth and other
slight imperfections make the show seem real.
She has a lot of screen presence and the chemistry with co-star
Moyer (who also appeared in the excellent BBC vampires TV show Ultraviolet) really makes the show steam
during their romantic scenes.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The twelve episodes that make up this first season are
presented on five Blu-ray discs.
Unfortunately they're housed in one of those fold-out books. You know, the ones where you have to have
four feet of free table space to unravel the cardboard so you can
disc you want. Most studios have gone to
double thinpaks by now, and I wish HBO had followed.
The 1.78:1 AVC encoded image looks good. The
first thing that viewers notice is the
nice detail. As a matter of fact, that
increased definition works against the show in a couple of places,
someone is wielding a wound that is made with a prosthetic makeup
appliance. These tended to less
realistic than they would have in SD, Sookie's black eye at the
the season is a good example. The earthy
palate that was used for the show was reproduced well too.
The show captures all of the ambiance of
living in Louisiana
and just watching some scenes will make you feel hot and humid. The swamps were filled with bright green
foliage and brown rotting vegetation, the flesh tones are great, and
the red blood
is vivid and impressive. Lines were
generally tights and even low-light situations had a good amount of
detail. The only problems I saw was that
some scenes were a tad on the soft side and there was a bit too much
some places for my tastes. Blacks were
crushed slightly in some shadowy scenes too.
These last 'flaws' are most probably intentional though and what
director and DP wanted, as they help set the tone of the show.
Presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, the
show sounds absolutely wonderful. From
the first notes of the opening song the full-ranged audio does a
job of accenting the emotions of scenes without ever becoming intrusive
overbearing. The full soundstage is used
with ambient noises coming from all corners of the room and the result
effective. This doesn't only apply to
the action sequences, but to the quieter moments too.
The soft sounds of a graveyard at night or
the gentle noises you hear while two people are fishing on a lake do a
draw the viewer into the show. This is a
great sounding set that I couldn't find any fault with.
As with season one, this set has an extensive Picture-in-Picture
"enhanced viewing" mode. While watching
the shows (with a player equipped for P-in-P playback, many early
player's can't) viewers are treated to a plethora of in-character
with the people who populate the show, trivia, factoids, and even
the first season. This can be
distracting when watching an episode for the first time, so luckily
most of the
video content is accessible from the extras menu.
There are also six commentary tracks with various members of
the cast and crew who talk about the show, the production, and their
characters. While I didn't have time to
listen to all of these, the ones I spot checked was entertaining and
The fifth disc includes the bulk of the stand along
featurettes. It starts out with Character Perspectives, over two hours
of some of the in-character shorts that made up part of the P-in-P
experience. These are fun, getting a
chance to hear the characters speak about their thoughts and motivation
having to shoe-horn it into an episode, but it did go on for a bit too
long. Near the end my eyes were glazing
over. The in-characters pieces continue
with Fellowship of the Sun: Reflections
of Light where the Reverend Nelwin and his spouse give advice to
his church, and The Vampire Report, a
series of news reports.
This is a nice set.
The show keeps getting better as it goes, and it was nice that
included the video P-in-P extras in a separate section in this
collection. In addition to that the audio
and the picture is very good. Creepy,
tender, intriguing and very sexy, this show is well worth checking out. Highly