My wife, a True Blood devotee, had little vested interest in the news that longtime show runner Alan Ball was leaving the show after the sixth season because in her opinion, the bloom had been off the rose for a year or two before that. Nevertheless, the route the show took in Season Six was…interesting, if that may be one of the words associated with it.
For those unfamiliar with the show, we have you covered on reviews from past seasons which can be found here, but as a note, there may be some discussion of Season Six that may be construed as spoilery. Proceed at your own discretion.
It seemed as if at the end of Season Five when Bill (Stephen Moyer) was a bit of a badass and Erick (Alexander Skarsgard) knew it, things would become chaotic and action-filled. But Season Six just put things in a weird spot. The Governor of Louisiana (Arliss Howard, Full Metal Jacket) declared war on the vampires based on the carnage they incurred in Season Five, but the result was something of a martial law of sorts for the vampires, with curfews, tactical teams with wooden bullets or tasers and the like. However, and more importantly, they were quarantined in mysterious yet ominous prisons, where they were being experimented on and studied. The prisons would appear to be the closest thing to a backdrop the show has for the season as family (like Erik's sister) or progeny like Pam (Kristen Bauer van Straten, 50 First Dates).
Meanwhile, Bill's former flame Sookie (Anna Paquin, X-Men) is avoiding a vampire who is on her trail as part of a relationship, while Sookie's brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten, The Right Kind of Wrong) attempts to protect her. This is before seeing the "Vamp Camp" with his own eyes and getting involved in a whole other storyline, by the way. I could (and/or would) explain storylines that Sam (Sam Trammell, The Fault in Our Stars), Alcide (Joe Manganiello, Magic Mike) or Terry (Todd Lowe, The Princess Diaries) and his wife Arlene (Carrie Preston, Doubt), but to do so would get mired in the tall grass.
An observation around another of HBO's television shows (Game of Thrones) appears to be that there are a lot of plotlines involving various characters and that at times for some people, can get confusing. However, Thrones sets up a nice mythology for his characters and backdrops to the point where one invests themselves in the arcs. It seems like as far as True Blood goes, they watched a lot of Thrones but in Season Six take the investment made into some of these characters for granted when it comes to the public. Sookie and Bill were Sookie and Bill for the first few seasons, but in the last couple she seems to be winding her way around the male principals of the ensemble, to the point at the end when it almost seems like the writers said ‘screw it' and randomly paired her with one of the co-stars. With Season Seven on the way, there is a fifteen percent chance Sookie and Jason get it over with and start humping. They're both attractive folks and the creative team seems to have not much idea of what to do, so who knows, right?
There are moments and even performances in the sixth season of True Blood that are not bad, ironically enough the arcs of Lowe and Preston that I did not mention earlier are not bad here. I have been a recent conversion to Preston with her occasional appearances on The Good Wife and she turns in nice work here, but her and Lowe simply extend what the mythologies of their characters until an emotional climax that is surprisingly affecting. It is distraction free and focused and even as a tertiary storyline in the season is very nicely executed.
It makes the primary and secondary storylines even more rueful, because it seemed to be a polar opposite from Season Five, throwing many things against the wall. Sometimes it was a guest star (can someone tell me what the purpose of Rutger Hauer was in this season?), but mostly it was the intent of these arcs that were uncomfortable in their storytelling. The "Vamp Camps" were creepy in an Auschwitz kind of way, more charismatic characters like Alcide were shuffled into near anonymity, and the overall, not stated desire of a clean break from what Season Five had done to basically haphazard storytelling was a shame to see.
It seemed like the show runner for the season took the goodwill built through sixty-plus episodes of the show and tried to build some history for the characters on his own, and the result was the fourth season of Community, but in vampire form. To Ball's credit he seemed to have a grasp of the show and what his characters were about (as they did), but it seems like nobody knew what the hell what going on here.
The show's ten-episode run in Season Six is spread over four discs and all are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen for the world to enjoy. The show has always been pretty nice from a technical standpoint and these standard definition discs look good, with ample image detail and ample color reproduction, with the show's many nighttime sequences looking deep and ink black with little pixilation complaints. Flesh tones look natural and the image is free of noise or artifacting, and looks as good as a standard definition set of a show in high-definition is going to look.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks are also commendable, with dialogue sounding clear and consistent throughout. The low-end pops up periodically over the course of the season and there are even moments of channel panning or directional effects, particularly in moments when a vampire comes from a far place to a group like in the end shot or when Eric leaves after freeing the vamps in the lab. It is impressive to listen to even if you do not have the Blu-rays.
Almost everything from the Blu-ray edition comes to the standard definition set, but the quality of which lacks a little bit. There are small three to four minute vignettes titled "Inside the Episode" that explore character moments, motivations, storylines and occasional scene breakdowns. In total, the vignettes go for a tad under 40 minutes (36:57 by my math) and are superficial.
Five commentaries grace the season, using mainly the crew (executive producers Alexander Woo, Brian Buckner, writer/producer Kate Barnow, writer David Kenneth and director Howard Deutch) and cast (Moyer, Preston and Amelia Rose Blaire). It should be noted that this entire group does not record tracks, it is pairings from this group. Frankly, group tracks would have been better as a lot of time is spent watching what goes down during each episode, and very little of fascination is shared during them. Preston (with Buckner) is the closest thing to an entertaining track, as they discuss working with fat suits and armadillos though not together, unfortunately. The production recall on these tracks is minimal and for fans of the show, you are not going to glean much from listening to them.
Married to someone who has seen all of the seasons of True Blood, had sat in on a Comic-Con panel, had some HBO swag and even dressed up as Sookie for Halloween once, she said unequivocally and without hesitation that this was the worst season of True Blood to date. It gives little reason for fans (who I will note have seemed to put up with many different ideas) to give a crap about the show even as it heads down the final stretch. It still looks and sounds good, even if the extras are boring. But I suspect, nay hope, some sort of creative mulligan may be involved for the seventh and last season of True Blood.