by Jeremy Grossman
Another season of “True Blood” means another season of cramped storylines, an excessive number of characters, and lots and lots of blood and sex. The fifth season premiere, “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” promised some new, exciting developments for the show, but it’s best to remain cautious. “True Blood” has always had the ability to amount to something more than just a guilty pleasure, but the show has squandered every opportunity in favor of soap opera-style melodrama, devoting screentime to characters and plots that just aren’t very compelling at all.
“True Blood” has never been able to make werewolves interesting, serving only as mere eye candy for the show, and so the sooner that Sam Merlotte cleans himself up from his dull werewolf drama, the better. It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with any of the werewolf characters–in fact, Marcus’ werewolf mother, Martha, was very creepy–but the werewolves are so detached from the show’s main narrative, that it’s always hard to care about whatever it is they’re doing. And as for Alcide, well, Joe Manganiello is lucky that he’s good-looking, because there is absolutely no reason that this character would have been around for this long otherwise.
Another completely detached character is Terry Bellefleur, whose mysterious friend has arrived in town, complete with secrets from their past. Do we have any reason to believe that these secrets won’t be completely uninteresting and will contribute nothing to the show? No, we don’t.
As for the slightly more interesting stories, we have the return of Steve Newlin, who is now a gay vampire that is madly in love with Jason. It’s outrageous and completely out of left field, but it’s hilarious. Steve was one of the most entertaining characters of Season 2 (almost universally regarded as the show’s most competent season) so his return is definitely welcome, no matter how ridiculous.
But in my opinion (and I might be alone on this, given the character’s unpopularity), the episode’s most intriguing development was Tara’s turning. It baffles me why Tara is such a hated character, but I have always liked her because of how human she is. Even as every other character on the show is falling in love with vampires, and having sex with vampires, and turning into dogs, or turning into fairies, Tara has always been the voice of humanity and reason. Maybe I like her so much because she isn’t defined by any of the show’s “guilty pleasures”–her development as a character doesn’t depend on how much sex she’s having, or who she’s having sex with. She’s merely a woman struggling to survive.
Of course, the writers are always throwing supernatural entities at her for her to deal with, like Marnie the witch, Franklin the vampire, and Maryann the maenad. But now that Tara herself is the supernatural entity–well, I can’t wait to see where that goes. It’s the ugliest, most perfect twist of irony that Tara has been turned into a vampire by Pam, and I pray that the show makes the most out of it.
But I really do have my doubts that Tara’s transformation will receive the attention it deserves. Why would it, when the show could instead focus on a naked Eric having sex with his sister? Because that’s really what “True Blood” is concerned with, after all–the sexy, the messy, and the gross. And any sort of character-driven stuff that makes its way onto the show is probably just a mistake.
Jeremy Grossman is entertainment editor. Email him at email@example.com.