Vampires have gotten something of a bad wrap as of late. All the hullabaloo surrounding Twilight's sparkling blood suckers hasn't done the beast any justice, and if anything it's damaged the fanged reputation. Thankfully the folks at HBO are doing their part to make vampires interesting, sexy, and deadly again. True Blood has been making waves on both TV and on DVD, and the second season has recently been released on the home market.
If you haven't seen True Blood before, then you should know that it's wholly unlike any vampire story you've seen before. The show is based on series of "The Southern Vampire Mysteries" by Charlaine Harris, and focuses on events that take place in the South, specifically Bon Temps, Louisiana. There's a larger focus in the show as well, since vampires have been outted for the whole world to see. They are a part of the world's culture now and live side-by-side with humans. Thanks to an artificial blood source, the undead no longer needs to feed on humans (though some do for the heck of it), and they have more or less become productive members of society.
One of the most interesting things about True Blood is that it's a drama first, and vampire piece second. There's all manner of supernatural things going on in the world, but the character drama really rises above the rest. Sure there's plenty of bloodsucking and vampire mystique, but the truth of the matter is relationships, emotions, and plot exposition takes the center stage.
Caught in the center of everything is a young woman named Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), who happens to be a telepath. She can read people's minds and that has prevented her from developing a real relationship with someone, but that's when she met Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). Bill is a 170 year old vampire with a southern man's charm who has begun to explore his human side in recent years. The two love each other fiercely and are the main focal point for events in the series. There are several other characters as well, though rather than recap the entire series I'll direct you to Ian Jane's review of the first season if you're a newcomer to the franchise.
During the twelve episodes here there are a few major plotlines that run through the season. The main one involves Eric, Bon Temps' vampire sheriff, ordering Sookie and Bill to travel to Dallas in search of his maker, Godric. It would appear that he has been kidnapped by a religious group and their intent is to murder the ancient vampire in an effort to ignite the flames of war.
A parallel story runs through this season as well, which focuses on Sookie's brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten). Distraught by the death of a vampire before his very eyes, and confused over Sookie's love of Bill, Jason joins the religious cult, Fellowship of the Sun. With the Fellowship Jason rises in their ranks and essentially becomes a soldier to be placed on the front line when the time comes. As one might imaging Jason's storyline, and the one about Godric, converge at some point though the end result is fairly surprising. In addition to all this there are other plotlines that are featured throughout the season, and they both involve a woman named Maryann (Michelle Forbes).
One on side of the Maryann coin there's Tara (Rutina Wesley), who finds herself living with the mysterious woman. She falls for one of her followers, but eventually grows wise to the strange orgies, blackouts, and freaky bits that tend to surround the woman. Meanwhile Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) has a bit of history with Maryann and fears her for all the right reasons. Now that she's resurfaced in Bon Temps later in life, he wants to get out while the getting is good.
In just about every way the second season proves to be more entertaining than the first. The writing feels sharper somehow and the actors all own their roles at this point. Every dramatic moment stands out with intensity and all four plotlines prove to be engaging and will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end. The nice thing is the show is just as sexy and violent as it was before, leaving this one rooted firmly in guilty pleasure territory. There's also a fair bit of social commentary as well with the vampire rights movement holding comparisons to how gays are treated by religion.
If you haven't seen True Blood before, then you're missing out on one hell of a show. This vampire tale has some real fangs that will sink deep into you, and you'll feel glamoured to the point you'll want to come back again and again. It's a sultry kind of show that really stands out for all the right reasons. The third season can't come soon enough!
True Blood is presented on DVD with its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. Thanks to the setting of the program, the show really develops a fascinating atmosphere. Colors are rich and vibrant, and blacks are inky and deep. The two effects contrast each other nicely during day time and the many nighttime elements. Throughout it all the picture stays crisp and full of detail with very little to ding the overall quality. Some grain comes into play, and there's a little aliasing, but aside from these small pieces this is a fantastic transfer for a beautiful looking show.
As far as the audio is concerned, True Blood is presented with an English 5.1 Dolby Digital track (French 5.1 and Spanish 2.0 are included as well). Just like the picture quality of this DVD release, the audio package leaves a strong impression as well. Atmosphere is really the name of the game here and the show utilizes a smart sense of immersion with ambient noise and dialogue enveloping the viewer. Rear channels are used effectively and LFE is a highlight as well with key moments and music really hitting home. The audio is crisp and clean as well and overall it's downright fantastic.
English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles are included here.
For bonus features the offerings here are worth checking out. For starters there are seven audio commentary tracks to dig through with pretty much everybody and their grandmother joining in for the conversation. Each of the commentaries bears a different tone due to the changing commentators, but all bring their own value to the table. Some of these are more informative than others, though all are entertaining.
The other features on this collection include "Fellowship of the Sun: Reflections of Light", which is a spoof video from Reverend Steve Nelwin and his wife, Sarah. This was a fun inclusion, rather than something focusing on the production of the show, but it's worth a watch. The other supplemental here is "The Vampire Report: Special Edition". This final feature was another companion piece of video with fake clips from the news pertaining to vampires in the world of True Blood.
True Blood is an awesome show in just about every way. The atmosphere is unlike any other, the acting raises the bar, and the supernatural elements are handled in a way that really draws viewers in. In the tradition of other HBO shows there's violence, grit, nudity, and profane language. The whole package comes together in a manner that really sticks it to Twilight's vampires. The beasts here are deadlier and far more interesting than anything else on the market. If you haven't seen True Blood yet, pick up the first and second seasons now. It's a highly recommended series, and this second set of episodes is arguably better than the first.