True Blood, the show that has millions tuning in to HBO since 2008, is set in Bon Temps, Louisiana where Sookie Stackhouse meets and falls for vampire Bill Compton. However, in this universe, vampires are “out of the coffin” and actively participating in “mainstreaming” efforts. That is, vampires wish to live amongst the humans, complete with the right to marry, the right to vote and other such sociopolitical benefits. Sookie’s relationship with Bill is met with opposition at many ends, and the show picks up gear and doesn’t stop all throughout the season.
Season 1, Episode 1: Strange Love
The couple in the car pulls over and enters a truck stop, where the viewer sees on the television the words American Vampire League underneath the name of its representative, Nan Flanagan. The couple had been searching for “V”, which is apparently vampire blood and acts as a drug. The scene nicely sets the rules down for the True Blood universe, where vampires can walk into a store and freely buy manufactured blood in all the available blood types and argue for their own political rights in America. The episode shifts to Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress in a small bar/restaurant called Merlotte’s, owned by her friend and secret admirer Sam Merlotte. Immediately we are placed in Sookie’s mind, which is perturbing in that she is able to hear the thoughts of the various patrons. Next we meet Tara Mae Reynolds, who is the show’s sassy-Person-of-Color. She is subtly portrayed as intelligent (she’s seen reading Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein) but clearly has a problem with authority. She also has a tendency to accuse those around her of racism, or in general stereotyping. Tara is Sookie’s best friend from childhood, and practically grew up with Sookie due to her mother being a severe alcoholic. We are also introduced to the crew at Merlotte’s including waitresses Arlene and Dawn, as well as Lafayette, the gay cook who has no problems with expressing said sexuality. At Merlotte’s a scruffy, almost homeless looking vampire enters the restaurant. Sookie jumps on the chance to serve him, since she has never encountered a vampire and is a supporter of the Vampire Rights Movement. Eventually, a redneck couple that telepathically molests/assaults Sookie take interest in the vampire, apparently planing to drain him of his blood in order to sell it as “V”. Sookie runs after them in an attempt to save the stranger, and thankfully has the brains to pick up a chain off the back of a truck as a weapon! Sookie is over the moon over our vampire because she cannot hear his thoughts – even though he has a “dirty mouth” for insinuating he could feed off an artery in her groin instead of her neck. He finally introduces himself – as Bill- and Sookie laughs his name off (she should talk, eh?). Later on, the Stackhouse family receives news that a local girl was found murdered. Jason Stackhouse, Sookie’s brother, is later accused of murdering her since he was last seen with her via the sex tape she recorded. Bill is invited to speak to the local historical society about his time as an original settler in Bon Temps from the Civil War Era. The redneck couple returns with a vengeance and assaults Sookie in the parking lot, where she was supposed to meet Bill.
Overall, the pilot was shot quite well. It’s premise is one that has been shoved in the public’s face for the past few years, with no indication of slowing down. Yet what makes True Blood stand out is its entirely adult take on the conventionally young adult genre of vampire romance. Being on HBO allows for nudity and profanity, which do add a much needed layer of sensuality and ferocity to the show. Otherwise it would just come off as the 30-year-old version of The Vampire Diaries, which it is not meant to be at all. Thankfully Sookie seems to be progressive and capable of taking care of herself. We also see more of what causes Sookie to seem like an outsider when she is repulsed not by the alleged prostitution of the victim, but the idea that someone could earn so much while “laying back and doing nothing” when she works extensively at Merlotte’s. The one thing that did bother me was during Sookie’s second interaction with Bill at Merlotte’s – she seemed to be almost writhing in her seat while in front of him and looked quite ridiculous doing so. The scene where Sam and Tara gang up on her is also cringeworthy. She immediately starts sobbing when Sam tells her not to be a vigilante – which is out of character from what we have already seen of her. There isn’t enough shown of Bill for me to make an assessment of his character other than that if he doesn’t stop with the “What are you” bit, I will end up hating him very much. The supporting characters so far make for an interesting ensemble, and I look forward to see how they come to play their roles in the rest of the series. Clearly the murder will be the arc for this season at least, though not necessarily for the series. On to Episode 2!
Meta-moment: “Honey – if Rene tell you you’re too young to watch a scary movie on HBO then I’m gonna side with him!” – Arlene