Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Nelsan Ellis, Alexander Skarsgard, Deborah Ann Woll, Denis O'Hare
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 31, 2011

I must warn you...I HAVE FED.”

Shows **

Is it too much to ask that we separate our politics from our entertainment?

True Blood has been a household favorite of mine since it first started up three years ago. The intriguing tale of vampires coming “out of the coffin” thanks to a synthetic blood substitute making them no longer dependent on human flesh is definitely a fresh spin on the lore. The novels by Charlaine Harris created a world that my wife gets lost in regularly, both on the page and on the screen.

But HBO, a quality network that can't seem to get past irrational liberal hatred, meddles with the text to constantly and clumsily comment on anything they feel is wrong with the world, which is namely, half their audience including my wife and myself. They can't tell a story without beating people over the head with irrational and vehemently one-sided discourse.

I don't know if an episode of the third season went by without some sort of shot at the “right wing”, who only appear in the film to sit and sulk when much smarter liberal thinkers put them in their place. HBO has turned their popular series into a pulpit on everything from the environment to gay rights, and in fact in this recent year turned sitting through scene after scene of gratuitous gay sex into a kind of price we had to pay in order to get back to the real stories at hand.

In their world, the only real enemies are those who believe in God and America. And if we don't agree, then by George, we're certainly going to sit there and take it while they lecture us, or we're going to have to find a better vampire show. Personally, I'm about ready to hang it up and wait for them to make a series based on my friend and fellow reviewer Mark Wiechman's upcoming novel about vampires in the Civil War.

I mean, there's still a lot of fun to be had in this series. We pick up when Sookie Stackhouse (Paquin) returns from the restroom to accept Bill Compton's (Moyer) proposal of marriage, only to find him gone. He's been kidnapped by werewolves, typically the mortal enemies of vampires, but in this case, the wolves are doing the bidding of one of the oldest vampires in existence, the king of Mississippi Russell Edgington (O'Hare). Russell is supposedly 3,000 years old, which of course would mean he's been around since before Christ and came into being when nobody would have had the name Russell. But I digress...

Russell, like Bill's queen and others, have a keen interest in Sookie, who can read others' thoughts (apart from vampires), and can sometimes shoot out a strange light to protect herself. Why? The answer is eventually revealed, and Sookie's own reaction to the news is one of the year's most priceless treasures.

Meanwhile, there are other stories at hand. Tara (Wesley) has never much liked vampires, and she has even less reason too this year when she becomes the object of fixation for a vicious undead predator. Jason (Kwanten) is living with the guilt of having shot Tara's love (believing reasonably that it was self defense), and is now ready to channel his angst and lack of brainpower into law enforcement.

And Sam (Trammell) finally finds out where he and his unusual shape-shifting abilities came from when he tracks down his birth family. They aren't the nicest people, and they harbor some vile secrets of their own, so he takes it upon himself to rescue the younger brother he never knew he had. But family adjustments won't be easy, leading to a climactic confrontation between brothers that left a huge question hanging in the balance.

But much of the focus is on the men and their partners, whether it be Lafayette (Ellis) and his new male witch boyfriend, Russell and his housemate Talbot (as well as him seducing and sleeping with every man available, human or vampire), Eric (Skarsgard) also having a seduction scene with Talbot, and even a completely pointless fantasy scene between Bill and Sam. I have no issues with gay people, but there's a point where it becomes excessive and detrimental to the story. I felt like it was moving slowly from entertainment to endurance test.

HBO clumsily ties homosexual rights with vampire rights, and doesn't have a clue that one, they're equating human beings and fellow Americans with lifeless predators, and two, that they're not selling it very well considering how many vampires in the story are still murderous and bloodthirsty despite the emergence of TruBlood. Accepting vampires might come in the form of Jessica Hanby (Woll) telling her love that she will not drink the fake stuff. She will feed on humans. Deal with it. Does it frighten him off?  No.  He offers her his neck. Is this really the kind of help those who support gay rights want for their cause?

Truth be told, every year of True Blood has brought me frustration over these kinds of issues, but I've found when I revisited each year with the Blu-ray set, I was calmer and less annoyed. That wasn't the case with the third season. I can accept anybody's point of view whether I agree or not, but dammit, if I want that, I'll watch Bill Maher's show. When I watch something fictional, all I want is entertainment. I don't want to be presented with arguments that are so lame that even I, the most layman of conservatives, could blow apart with a yawn while the so-called right-wingers of the show have no motivation other than irrational hatred and distrust of everybody.

In the end, I guess they are who they are. I could hope for less politics, or at least an honest discourse from HBO, but that's about as fruitful as hoping Michael Moore will make an honest documentary. The new season is about to get underway, and yes, I'll be there, but this is one year where I might not cross the finish line.

Video ****

No complaints here...the dark worlds of True Blood render magnificently in high definition, although I still wonder why HBO finds it necessary to jack the prices of these sets so high by putting two episodes per disc on Blu-rays that can hold five times that amount. You'll get a lot of exercise swapping out discs. But Bon Temps, either in sunlit glory or the shadowy gloom of night is a sight to see, with crisp clean definition and details throughout.

Audio ****

True Blood remains, for me, the best sounding television show offered on Blu-ray. This series makes the most of ambient sounds, dynamic range, and front and rear stage usage for an amazing listening experience. Hearing it on TV is one thing, but hearing the uncompressed DTS HD soundtrack is something else entirely...a real treat!

Features ****

When the extras are spread out over five discs, it's hard to stay interested, but here's what you will find if you're dutiful:

Character Perspectives - Learn more about what's going on straight from the mouths of Jessica, Andy, Tommy, and Alcide
Flashback/Flash Forward - Move through time in the world of Bon Temps. Flash back to relive pivotal moments and watch exclusive minisodes that you've never seen before. Flash Forward to reveal the significance of a certain scene
Vampire Histories/Character Bios - Get the background stories on your favorite characters
Hints/FYIs - Don't miss a beat with informative facts, show hints, and clues
True Blood Lines - An interactive on-screen guide highlighting the connections between the many worlds of True Blood
Anatomy Of A Scene - Take an in-depth look at the introduction of werewolves, as Alan Ball and the cast and crew take us through the journey of filming the exciting fight in the beginning of the season
True Blood Post Mortems - Stick around after each episode for a bonus helping of True Blood
Snoop Dog Oh Sookie Video
Seamless Play - A disc-to-disc seamless menu system that provides a complete season viewing experience
Six Audio Commentaries with Cast and Crew, including Alan Ball, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Joe Manganiello, Kristin Bauer Van Straten, Denis O'Hare


True Blood is hitting more and more false notes and becoming less and less like the enthralling world imagined by Charlaine Harris in her novels and becoming more and more like any other politically motivated and devoid-of-intelligent-thought offering HBO frequently tries to pass as entertainment. It will be a shame if they don't right this ship, because there is a lot to offer in this series, but I wouldn't bet my last blood bank donation that we're going to see a change.

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