True Blood: In which we learn that amateur porn got a little weirder

First aired: 7th September 2008

Cast:

Anna Paquin – Sookie Stackhouse

Stephen Moyer – ‘Vampire Bill’ Compton

Sam Trammell – Sam Merlotte

Ryan Kwanten – Jason Stackhouse

Rutina Wesley – Tara Thornton

Chris Bauer  – Detective Andy Bellefleur

Nelson Ellis – Lafayette Reynolds

Jim Parrack – Hoyt Foytenberry

Carrie Preston – Arlene Fowler

Matthew Raymond-James – Rene Lenier

William Sanderson – Sheriff Bud Dearborne

Lynn Collins – Dawn Green

Lois Smith – Adele Stackhouse

James Parks – Mack Rattray

Karina Logue – Denise Rattray

Synopsis: Rural Louisiana and a couple is driving down a country road in Louisiana, the girl is in the driver’s seat and is feeling somewhat amorous and wants some from her boyfriend, he’s keen on the idea. They spot a shop sign telling passers by that the shop sells True Blood. Though a bit of televisual exposition, we learn that vampires had  declared their existence two years ago after the successful development of synthetic blood. The couple go into the store and at the counter are intimidated by a goth dressed shop assistant, who plays up the idea that he is a vampire, when they leave a middle aged man in a confederate flag cap shows his fangs and warns the guy not to play at being a vampire, because real vampires don’t take so kindly.

Bon Temps, Louisiana and at Merlotte’s Bar & Grill, telephathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse is struggling not to hear the thoughts of the patrons. Nearby at the local big box retails store her best friend Tara is struggling not to express her anger and failing that walks out on her job after one too many stupid customers. Back at Merlotte’s waitresses Arlene, Sookie and Dawn banter with short order cook Lafayette and the talk gets a little blue.

In a house nearby, Sookie’s brother Jason rises from between the legs of Maudette Pickens, their mutual ardour is blunted by him noticing two puncture marks on her thigh, near the femeral artery, a sign she has had sex with a vampire. She says that it wasn’t something she wants to do again, she likes it rough, but not that rough. Jason is looking for the door, but Maudette offers to show him the tape.

Back at Merlotte’s Sookie is ecstatic to see a real-life vampire walk into the bar, no one else is particularly pleased. He orders a bottle of red wine that Sookie knows he does not drink. The vampire is joined by local reprobates the Rattrays, whom from their thoughts Sookie knows want to drain the vampire dry as vampire blood (or V) is a prized narcotic. Sookie wants to intervene, but none of the rest of the staff are interested, so she goes outside.

Jason and Maudette watch the tape where Maudette is having sex with a bald and tattooed vampire as she is suspended from her ceiling by chains, Jason’s mood dividing it’s time between repulsed and aroused. This viewing inspires some rough sex with Maudette who is suspended by shackles from the rafters in her living room.

In Merlotte’s car park, Sookie sees the vampire being drained and using a chain from a nearby truck she fights of Mack Rattray and his wife Denise and then removes the silver chain that is immobilising the vampire who identifies himself as Bill Compton. Sookie leaves and goes back to work. Tara arrives and Sookie convinces her boss Sam Merlotte to hire Tara as a bar tender. He does this mostly to keep an eye on Sookie, whom they both see as being in danger due to her fascination with Bill. Jason arrives at Merlotte’s looking for Sookie and sees Tara who is clearly smitten with him. Jason then chases after Dawn.

Sookie arrives home and tells her Grandmother about vampire Bill. She then goes to bed, having a dream that borders on erotic and frightening. The next day Sookie is sunbathing and her and Jason catch up over ice tea. Granny learns that Maudette has been found strangled to death. Jason starts acting suspiciously and Sookie wants to read his mind, but Jason gets out of there pretty quickly, angered by her even wanting to do that. 

Later on he is trying to arrange a date with Dawn when Sheriff Bud Dearborne and Detective Andy Bellefleur arrive to question Jason about his encounter with Maudette. They bring him in for questioning, leaving the road crew he is leading, comprised of Arlene’s boyfriend Rene and Hoyt.

At her house, Granny asks Sookie whether Vampire Bill would be willing to talk to her historical society and Sookie promises to ask him before leaving for work. At the bar, Lafayette talks to Tara, showing concerns for her working at the bar. In the bar itself, most people are talking about Jason having been taken away by the police. Bill enters the bar and asks Sookie out. Jason and Tara overreact and Sookie struggles keeping their thoughts out of her head and she blows up at them before storming out. She has arranged to see Bill after work and is waiting there when she is attacked by the Rattrays and is taking a severe beating.

Notes: Let’s get this out of the way, this show has a lot of adult content. It sets it’s stall out as a HBO show very early on and doesn’t shy away from sex, violence nor nudity. If you find that crass or distasteful then this show is not for you. The show is based on the Stookie Stackhouse books written by Charmaine Harris who also wrote the books that Midnight Texas is based on and like that show has a rich mythology baked in as well as using the dichotomy of supernatural stuff and small town to create it’s own little corner of weirdness. And much like the other show, does it very well. The town of Bon Temps is one of those very out of the way places where everyone knows everyone and change takes a while to filter through. Outside of this quiet little town the world has changed as vampires after centuries of hiding and exclusively feeding on humanity have stopped doing both. Vampires are public and are fighting politically for equal rights and acceptence. They appear on TV news after the discovery of ‘True Blood’ which is a synthetic blood substitute. This has led to a black market trade of vampire blood and more awareness of human vampire sex, the humans involved being referred to as fang-bangers. You get that reaction that people used to get to interracial relationships and same-sex relationships (well still have if we are honest) and this show uses that framework to look at themes of race, sexuality and small town bigotry. Does it do so subtly? No, not really, but it does it effectively.

The writing is sharp with dialogue that feels TV, but with an air of authentic southern-ness to it. Is that how people in Louisiana talk? Not a clue, but it feels like a small town and seperates it from all the city based stuff that this genre usually is inhabited by.

The performances are also great, giving a career best form Anna Paquin and a decent performance as a vampire for Stephen Moyer (not for the first time either oddly enough)  and the rest of the cast are either pretty well observed and fully fleshed out characters or are at least entertaining when on screen.

The show has it’s own look in both character ans production design and uses it’s more lax content restrictions to tell it’s own story it’s own way. Of course there are moments that make no sense, like how does Tara keep getting jobs? How do vampires whose blood does not flow have sex? How can people afford to keep eating at a local bar when there doesn’t seem to be any other businesses operating in Bon Temps? But this is a fantasy drama that is sexy, brutal and downright bizarre in different combinations all at the same time. There isn’t anything else like it. It doesn’t fit into the usual cliches, it doesn’t spoonfeed the audience, but is does entertain.

Verdict:

Does it work? Yes, this is a strong opening episode.

Does much need fixing? No, this is less of a pilot than it is a first chapter.

Does it stand up? Yes, It’s a modern setting, but has that timeless small town feel that keeps it from being dated.

Do I want to watch the next one? Did I? Just finished season 2 this week.

Did I enjoy it? I enjoyed giving this show a rewatch.

Overall: 4 out of 5. Fun, entertaining and bizarre, it’s a great tv show that I was happy to revisit.

Published by Munky

Liverpool based family man and unrepentant geek, trying to understand what's going on in my own head, which is not always being a good place to be. Remember always, we live in a world of wonders.

One thought on “True Blood: In which we learn that amateur porn got a little weirder

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