I always look forward to a new season of True Blood arriving on Blu-ray. It's a great show and each season has managed to top the previous one… until now. The fifth season of the show is excellent and filled with all of the murder, mayhem, and erotic interludes that fans have come to expect from the program, but it errs by trying to cram too many plots (all of them interesting) into a scant 12-episode season and looses just a bit in the process.
Season four didn't end on a cliffhanger, it ended on several. Everyone was in trouble, from Sookie who just killed a woman after seeing her best friend getting shot in the head to Bill and Eric who killed an important and powerful vampire and are sure to be facing the Authority, the secret vampire government. Oh yeah, and Russell Edgington, the incredibly powerful 3000-year-old vampire who killed Eric Northman's family way back when has escaped from his solid-concrete prison.
The fifth season opens just where the previous one left off, with Sookie cradling
Sookie isn't doing much better, but there's a glimmer of hope for her childhood friend when Pam, Eric's offspring, arrives looking for her maker. Making a quick decision, Sookie begs Pam to turn Tara… something that
As happens with this show, thing go from bad to worse for just about everyone. While
Once they arrive at Authority headquarters, Bill and Eric see little chance of saving their lives. They're tortured to see if they're part of a rebel movement that's threatening the body that governs vampires, and they realize whether they confess or not, the ‘true death' awaits them. Playing the only card they have, they inform the powers that be that Russell Edgington is still alive. Everyone thought he was dead, not just wrapped in silver chains and entombed in a concrete foundation. Realizing that Edgington will be recuperating for a couple of days and then will come after the two people who buried him, Bill and Eric, the Authority sends them after Russell, figuring they have the best chance, though it's a slim one, of capturing him and if they end up dead… oh well. Of course if they do find him, the trouble just starts.
Each episode in this season is fun to watch and a quality piece of entertainment, but the show doesn't have the "I've got to watch the next episode now, even though it's one o'clock in the morning" addictive quality that filled the previous seasons. The acting is still top-notch and the stories are incredibly interesting, but there are just too many competing plot lines. It's hard to get drawn into one person's tale when they only get a few minutes in each show. Here's a brief list of just some of the plots from this season:
Sookie and Jason start to suspect that their parents were killed by a vampire.
Russell Edgington has escaped.
The Authority is fighting a civil war.
Terry, the ex-marine who is still haunted by his time in
There's a group hunting shape-shifter including Sam and Luna.
Alcide, the hunky werewolf, has to face the consequences of killing his pack leader.
Jessica and Jason have to come to terms with their relationship.
Some fairies are still in our world, and they're running a brothel.
There's a lot going on, and it's just too much to fit nicely in a 12-epiosde season. If there were more installments to flesh out some of these competing plots it would have worked better.
That's not to say that this season is bad. It's actually quite good even as plot-dense as it is and there are some nice twists and surprises. One thing that will surprise a lot of people (who managed to avoid reading about it in the press beforehand) is that Christopher Meloni who played Detective Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has an important role in this season as the leader of the Authority, Roman Zimojic. He's a ruthless, conniving, amoral creature who delights in killing his opponents without remorse… basically the exact opposite of his Law & Order role. Though it's a bit jarring to see him play that character he does a fantastic job.
The Blu-ray Discs:
The twelve episodes that make up this third 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 select the disc you want. Most studios have gone to double thinpaks by now, and I wish HBO had followed. The set also contains a pair of double-sided DVDs that present the series (but not the extras) in SD and have digital copies for people who want to watch the show while on the move.
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, mainly when someone is wielding a wound that is made with a prosthetic makeup appliance. These tended to less realistic than they would have in SD, Pam's rotting face for example. It doesn't look bad, but seeing the effect in HD on a big screen is a bit less forgiving than in SD. Aside from that nit-pick I enjoyed the look of the show. The earthy palate that was used for the show was reproduced well, as it has been in previous seasons. The show captures all of the ambiance of living in
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 magnificent job of accenting the emotions of scenes without ever becoming intrusive or overbearing. The full soundstage is used with ambient noises coming from all corners of the room and the result is very 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 lot to draw the viewer into the show. This is a great sounding set that I couldn't find any fault with.
As with the first four seasons, 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 stand-alone Blu-ray players don't have the capability) viewers are treated to a plethora of in-character interviews with the people who populate the show, trivia, factoids, and even flashbacks to the earlier seasons. There's a lot of content here, and it's not just fluff. 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 five 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 informative.
Each episode also includes an Inside the Episode featurette that originally aired after each installment on HBO. These are quick looks at the events of the episode, but they do contain major spoilers so wait to watch them until after you've seen the show in question.
Other bonus features include Autopsy: True Blood Episode Six, an hour-long in depth look at one installment of the show, an interactive character family tree, 12 fun Authority Confessionals, where members of the organization talk (in character) about their pasts and views.
Creator Alan Ball stepped down as showrunner at the end of this season. Maybe he was trying to tell too many stories before he left, but this season is a step down from what came before. It's still a fun and entertaining series, but not as engrossing and gripping and the earlier seasons. Fans should still have a good time watching the drama and horror unfold in Bon Temps in any case. Recommended.