Alan Ball, the man who brought Charlaine Harris' series of novels to the small screen, stepped down as showrunner at the end of the fifth season of True Blood, and it a good time to go. The show had lost a lot of its appeal after five years, and it was time for some new talent to try their hand. Unfortunately, the change didn't do the trick and the show continues its slow decent into mediocrity. While there are some good parts in this sixth season, it is still plagued by too many competing story lines and a tendency to become silly at the drop of a hat.
Spoiler Note: I'll discuss events that happened in the first episode, but I won't reveal any major plot points after that.
This set of shows picks up exactly at the end of last season, where Bill had consumed a vial of Lilith's blood, instantly dying, and then being reborn as an evil monster. Sookie and Eric high tail it out of the Authority's headquarters (they ruling elite being all dead at this point) and try to regroup to think of a plan. Now that Bill's evil, what will they do?
Turns out that Bill has become a god (he can walk in the daytime, has telekinesis, and gets visions of the future) but after the first few minutes he stops chasing Sookie and Eric and flies back home. Even though we'd been lead to believe he's a villain, that was just a phase and Bill is really good now.
A dark and vengeful Bill isn't the only things the residents of Bon Temps have to worry about though. After the brutal massacres that vampires were responsible for (see last season) Louisiana Governor Burrell basically declares war on the undead creatures. He imposes a dusk to dawn curfew on vampires, seizes all of their businesses, and has a covert camp set up where vampires are taken and subjected to brutal scientific experiments. When Pam and Jessica are captured out at night, they're imprisoned in "Camp Vamp."
That would make a decent story, but there's so much more crammed into these ten episodes. Here are a few more plots that are introduced in the first episode:
While Sam, Luna, and Emma are escaping from The Authority, Luna dies and makes Sam promise to take care of her daughter.
Jason meets his fairy grandfather who promises to help protect Sookie from the 3000 year old vampire who is after her, Warlow.
Alcide, the werewolf, becomes pack master but has trouble controlling the more aggressive female members of his group.
Andy has been entrusted with his four daughters who were recently born from a fairy mother, and they start growing very quickly.
That's just what happens in the first episode... it grows and gets even more complicated from there, introducing new characters (Sookie gets a new romantic interest, of course) and bringing back people who were best left out of the show.
While having so many competing plots hurts the show, it is not the worst aspect of this season. The main problem is that the stories seem to happen at random. Bill was clearly evil at the end of season five, but that didn't work for the new creative staff so they just changed him into a good character. A vampire is taken to Vamp Camp, so two other characters just turn themselves in, with no plan whatsoever, in order to rescue the first person. Sookie literally meets a guy on the side of the road, and falls in love with him. None of these things progress logically from what has gone on before, they happen just... because.
Then there are the silly aspects of the show, the parts that make it really hard to suspend your disbelief. I won't give anything away, but there are revelations about the deaths of Sookie's parents that are really dumb, the laughable security at Camp Vamp left me scratching my head, and the end of the last episode is filled with "you've got to be kidding me" moments.
That's not to say that the whole season is without merit. There are a lot of very good parts that will remind viewers of the show's best years. There are a lot of flash back to damaged ex-marine Terry Bellefleur's past that are quite touching and the parts where Bill tries to prevent a horrific event that he prophesized were often gripping. It's just sad that these excellent parts were mixed in with so many plot threads that didn't work.
The Blu-ray Discs:
The ten episodes that make up this sixth season are presented on four 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 1.78:1 AVC encoded image looks good. The first thing that viewers notice is the nice detail. The fine lines are crisp and unbroken and the whole show looks very, very good. 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 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.
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.
The extras this time around aren't as copious as fans have come to expect, but there's still some good stuff included. While the P-in-P "enhanced viewing" mode in gone, there are five commentary tracks to various episodes provided by the cast and crew who talk about the show, the production, and their characters.
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 Camp Vamp Files, a half hour look at the containment camp that is featured in this season. Hosted (in character) by Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp), this feature go in depth about what was taking place inside the research facility. The extras are wrapped up with True Blood Lines, a rather awkward interactive guide to the people who inhabit the show.
I have enjoyed every season of True Blood since the first, and I've recommended the show to many of my friends. This is the first season that I found myself seriously wondering if I should bother with the next one. There were just too many silly things that happened that divorced the show from any semblance of reality. If you enjoyed the last season, give this one a spin since there are some very good moments, but make it a rental.