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TRUE BLOOD: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Nelsan Ellis, Michelle Forbes
Creator: Alan Ball
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: HBO
Features: See Review
Length: 720 Minutes
Release Date: May 25, 2010

Let's be honest...we ARE frightening.

Shows ***1/2

Vampires are bigger than ever these days...I wish I had their PR firm.

Between modern tales of brooding teen angst and the enduring classics, the undead bloodsucker has found himself more popular than ever...one could probably even get elected president if he existed. We've certainly done far worse.

HBO threw it's hat into the mix two years ago with True Blood, a well-made, funny, and suspenseful series that brought a new twist into the vampire lore. That twist is the invention of a synthetic blood product that means vampires no longer have to feed on humans for sustenance...and they could finally come out into the open.

That didn't make everyone happy...some humans still regarded vampires as monstrous and deadly, and frankly, some vampires still ACTED that way, making bridging the gaps a little hard. But there are good souls on both sides. Sookie Stackhouse (Paquin), a waitress from the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, who has the gift of reading minds, is one of the ones ready to give the other side a try, especially after falling for the handsome and old-but-young vampire Bill Compton (Moyer), who turned against killing for food long before it was even cool.

Then there are others, such as the leaders of the Fellowship of the Sun church. Steve and Sarah Newlin are the typical cream cheese Kewpie doll cookie cutter televangelists harboring a sinister purpose...ever since Steve's father was killed by a vampire, he has become obsessed with bringing the war that bring the creatures of the night into the light, where nothing good will await them.

But in the twelve episodes of season two, Bon Temps has an even bigger problem, thanks to the dark and mysterious presence of Maryann (Forbes). Who is she, and what does she want? What is this strange power she has over Sam Merlotte (Trammell) that can bring out his hidden shape-shifting abilities at will? And more importantly, what are her designs on the town, especially when good people start turning into black eyed sex-crazed zombies who can make love or murder with equal amounts of joy?

There are many pleasures to be had in the second season of the show, and as before, I'm only going to give a few basic outlines. Part of the fun is seeing how storylines develop and come together in unexpected ways, particularly ones that were established long ago that you almost forgot about. I will say if there was one true dramatic standout moment, it was the brief presence of a vampire who has been walking the earth since before the birth of Christ. His name is Godric, and he carries the weight and wisdom of millennia of experience in his face and actions. What happened to him actually made me cry when I first saw it on television...and it did again on Blu-ray.

If there is a complaint to be had, it's that HBO manages to spew liberal propaganda out of every original creation of theirs...instead of just telling a good story with good characters, they clumsily try to tie vampires and gays together, with references to whether vampires and humans should be allowed to marry. I say let 'em...great deal for the vampire; if they keep buying huge life insurance policies on their spouses, all they have to do is wait it out and cash in.

But tolerance for vampires, who live on human blood, and gays, who don't really have a reputation for killing, is at best a blundering and awkward attempt at social commentary, and if the writers care about the integrity of their show, they should start letting the characters be themselves instead of pawns in an increasingly loud and annoying agenda game.

Still, there is much fun to be had. I laughed a lot, I shrank back a lot, I cared a lot about Sookie, Bill, Sam and even the sheepish people of Bon Temps as they were led ever closer to the slaughter by Maryann. This is a clever and original take on the vampire mythology that joined Mad Men as my only must-see series. With the third year about to start, I, for one, can't wait to sink my teeth into some more.

Video ****

I watched the entire season in high definition on HBO, and I have to say, as good as that was, it doesn't compare to the beauty of full 1080p HD that Blu-ray is capable of. Even though much of the series is dark in settings, the detail levels are remarkable throughout, with solid color contrasts and crisply defined images. The second season is even better than the first in that department.

Audio ****

So far, this is the best sounding release of the year for me...the DTS HD soundtrack is engulfing and enveloping, using all stages to maximum effect for the creation of atmosphere and chills. Even my wife commented that the almost constant sounds from behind her were starting to creep her out. Dynamic range is strong, dialogue is delivered well, and the music is a solid plus. Outstanding!

Features ****

The extras in this set are quite fun...there are seven cast/crew commentaries throughout the episodes, where you can hear from the stars and creators. There is a new Vampire Report feature, character perspectives from most of the major players in the show, and pro anti-vampire feeds. One of my favorites, though, is Reflections of Light...four inspirational messages delivered from Steve and Sarah Newlin that had me and my wife in tears of laughter.

And, if you have an online player, you can set it up to tap directly into your Facebook page. You can let your friends know you're watching, choose favorite scenes to instantly share, and even have your profile picture change to a vampire...or a Fellowship of the Sun member...your choice! A clever package all around.

Summary:

True Blood is a fun and dramatically satisfying take on vampires from HBO that could be better served with a little less left wing breast beating, but offers more than enough in terms of stories and characters to keep it ranked as one of the best shows on television right now. And this Blu-ray set makes it all more fun than ever before.

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