Archive | June, 2012

Review: True Blood (S5E2 — Authority Always Wins)

18 Jun

Last week on True Blood

When last we checked into the lives of the citizens of Bon Temps, Russell (Denis O’Hare) was missing, Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), Bill (Stephen Morely), and Nora (Lucy Griffiths) had been captured by the Authority, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) was being pursued by the newly vampiric Rev. Newhouse (Michael McMillan), and Tara (Rutina Wesley) had been turned into a vampire by a rather annoyed Pam (Kristen Bauer Von Straten).

This week on True Blood

Just judging by last week’s preview of “Authority Always Wins”, you would have been excused for expecting that tonight’s episode would have been totally dominated by Christopher Meloni, playing the role Roman, the head of the Authority.  Well, Meloni doesn’t show up until the episode’s final 15 minutes but he totally manages to dominate every one of those 15 minutes.  Even looking back on this episode in order to write this review, almost of all of my thoughts are dominated by Meloni’s intimidating and powerful performance.

Before Meloni’s appearance, the majority of the show was made up of scenes of Bill, Eric, and Nora being held prisoner and interrogated in the Authority’s headquarters.  Whoever designed the Authority’s headquarters deserves an Emmy for set design next year and director Michael Lehman makes good use of the contrast between the baroque corporate chic of the upper levels and the grim and stark prison in the lower levels. 

During one particularly harrowing sequence, both Eric and Bill are interrogated by separate Authority members.  Both Bill and Eric are hooked up to machines that look a bit like Jack Kervorkian’s suicide machine and silver is slowly pumped into their veins.  Bill’s wonderfully creepy interrogator asks if Bill is familiar with the Vampire Bible and then goes on to explain that, according to the Vampire Bible, God created Lilith first (as a vampire) and Adam and Eve were then created to serve as a food source.  As someone who has long loved all the legends that surround the character of Lilith, I loved this little development.

After they are both interrogated, Bill and Eric are eventually brought before the Authority and it’s here that Roman finally makes his appearance.  Stalking about with his hulking frame concealed beneath a perfectly tailored suit, Meloni totally owns both the role and the final fourth of this episode.  Whether he’s bellowing in rage or coolly slitting open his own wrist without so much as even flinching, Meloni gives a performance in this episode that perfectly captures the aura of power that a character like Roman needs to be believable.  I think the main reason why Meloni does so well here is because you look into his penetrating eyes and you see his cold expression and you believe — as you rarely believe with most other actors — that Meloni really could kill someone.

Speaking of killing someone, Roman comes close to killing Bill until Bill explains that Russell isn’t actually dead.  Roman agrees to put off administering the true death so that Bill and Eric can track down and kill Russell.  Another benefit of Meloni’s domineering performance is that seeing how scared Roman is of Russell serves to remind the viewer that Russell can be pretty intimidating himself.

The episode’s other major plotline dealt with Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) having to deal with the newly turned Tara.  Pam, to no one’s great surprise, reacts to Tara’s resurrection by saying, “She’s all yours, kiddoes,” and then running off.  Tara ends up spending the night tearing apart Sookie’s house.  When she’s asleep during the day, Lafayette — who was the one who first suggested that Pam turn Tara in the first place — comes close to staking her but he’s talked out of it by Sookie.  When Tara does wake up, she utters her first words since turning and tells Lafayette and Sookie that she’ll never forgive them.  She then disappears into the night.

Speaking of newly-turned vampires, Rev. Newlin is now showing up on TV where, smiling in that creepy way of his, he gives interviews about his new life as a vampire and how he can be both a vampire and a Christian.  One interviewer asks Newlin if he has someone in his life and Newlin replies, “Yes.  She makes me very happy,” which would seem to indicate that, even in the world of True Blood, it’s more socially acceptable to be openly vampiric than openly gay. 

Soon afterward, Newlin is confronting Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) and offering $10,000 to buy Jason from her.  Jessica refuses and mocks Newlin with, “My dad is king.”  Newlin smugly replies, “Not anymore.”  This little scene makes me fear that somehow, in another episode or two, Rev. Newlin — who is preaching the same type of co-existence as the Authority — will end up as the new king of Louisiana.

It’s just a feeling I’ve got.

A Few Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • The power struggle with the werewolves continued to slowly develop in this episode.  As I’ve stated before, I’ve never really been that interested in the werewolves but tonight’s episode had some effective black humor concerning the werewolf tradition of eating the previous packmaster.  Add to that, Dale Dickey continue to be a brilliant character actress.
  • Though Luna would probably disagree, didn’t Emma just make the cutest little wolf?
  • While the show was dominated by Meloni, I have to give some extra praise to Rutina Wesley who did a great job tonight as a feral, newly turned vampire.  The scenes where she hatefully and cautiously eyed both Lafayette and Sookie were some of the best in this episode.
  • Nelsan Ellis, who rarely gets enough credit for his work as Lafayette, also did a notably good job in this episode.
  • If there was one performance I didn’t care for in this episode, it was the performance of the guy who played the clerk in the gun store.  I felt he went a bit over the top in his performance and was trying way too hard to be a redneck.  That said, his overacting was nicely balanced by Paquin’s more humorous approach to the material.
  • While Tara was going crazy, Pam was having flashbacks to her previous life and the first time she met Eric.  I have to admit that I’ve reached a point where I’m cynical about flashback scenes on shows that feature vampires.  I’m always hoping that there will be at least one vampire who was not a decadent libertine in the 18th and 19th century.  That said, I thought that Pam’s scenes were well-handed.  If nothing else, Alexander Skarsgard looked good in a top hat.
  • By the way, how many viewers initially assumed that Eric was responsible for the dead prostitute in Pam’s flashback?
  • I’m not sure how much I like this whole subplot with Terry having flashbacks to what appears to be an Iraq war atrocity.  The whole thing feels rather predictable and, quite frankly, whenever a character on a television show mentions serving in Iraq, you know that he’s going to start having atrocity-flashbacks within a couple of minutes.  (It often feels like a cheap shot at the men and women who served in an unpopular war.)  Hopefully, showrunner Alan Ball will do something unexpected with this subplot and prove my doubts wrong.  That said, Todd Lowe’s sleep-walking scene was a definite highlight.
  • Finally, a correction.  Last week, there were a lot of people (including, I’m sad to say, me) who went, “Ewwwwww!” as soon as Eric started making out with his “sister” Nora.  As my BFF and fellow True Blood lover Evelyn explained to me later, Nora and Eric are not blood related.  Really, it should have been obvious from Nora’s English accent.

If only for the introduction of Christopher Meloni as Roman, this was a good episode.  If nothing else, it left us with no doubt that the Authority always wins.


Review: True Blood (S5E1 — Turn! Turn! Turn!)

12 Jun

This post originally appeared at Through The Shattered Lens.

(Possible Spoilers Below)

Before I start my review of the premiere episode of the 5th season of True Blood, I should offer up a confession.  I’ve enjoyed watching True Blood for a while now.  I think Alexander Skarsgard is to die for, I think Anna Paquin’s an underrated actress, and I think that Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) and Jason (Ryan Kwanten) are a cute couple.  I thought last season was brilliant and I thought that the finale especially was exciting and well-done.

That said, I’m hardly a True Blood expert and I’m not going to pretend that I am one.  Like a lot of this show’s fans, I wasn’t there when the show first started.  By the time I saw my first episode, True Blood was already into season 2 and I didn’t become a regular viewer until season 3.   Since then, I’ve worked to get caught up on show’s first seasons but I’m hardly an expert.  (Incidentally, I haven’t read the books either.)  I’m a fan and that’s the approach that I’ll be bringing to my reviews this season.

Anyway, tonight’s episode starts right where season 4 ended: Tara (Rutina Wesley) is bleeding to death on the floor of Sookie’s (Anna Paquin) kitchen, as the result of being shot in the face by Debbie who was then shot and killed by Sookie.  Lafayette (Nelson Ellis), who is still mourning his dead lover, comes downstairs and discovers the mess.  Suddenly, Pam (Kristen Bauer Von Straten, who is hilariously scornful of everyone and everything in this episode) shows up searching for Eric.  Lafayette asks Pam to turn Tara into a vampire.  Pam is, at first, reluctant until Sookie says she’ll “owe you one” in return.  I imagine that promise is something we’ll being hearing about a lot for the rest of this season.  By the end of the episode, it appears that Tara has returned as a vampire and I get the feeling that she might not be too happy about that.

Speaking of new vampires, the thoroughly creepy Rev. Newlin (Michael McMillan) is back, he’s now a vampire, and he’s’ apparently in love with Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten).  After he manages to trick Jason into letting him enter his house, Newlin explains: “I’m a gay vampire American…”  Newlin explains this while he just happens to have Jason tied to a chair.  The scene between Newlin and Jason were probably the most obviously politically-charged sequence in tonight’s episode, with Newlin seemingly standing in for such real-life homophobic bigots as Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church.  Anyway, Newlin is chased off by Jessica who shows up to announce that “Jason is mine!”

So are Jessica and Jason back together all official-like now?  Not quite.  Jason later tracks Jessica down to an incredibly tacky frat party where Jessica explains to him that she just said that to scare off the Rev. Newlin.  The whole party sequence was actually my favorite part of this episode.  I loved the reminder that not everyone in Bon Temps is obsessed with the supernatural.  Some people just want to drink beer and sing karaoke.  Deborah Ann Woll, in particular, gave a good performance here and it was obvious that both she and the character she plays loved vamping it up.

But what about Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) and Bill (Stephen Moyer)?  When last we saw, they were killing Nan (Jessica Tuck) and getting told off by Sookie.  Tonight’s episode found Eric scrubbing away Nan’s remains while Bill called Jessica and told her that he would be going away for a few weeks.  They detect the danger at Sookie’s house but Eric coldly dismisses it with, “Fuck Sookie.”  Bill disagrees but even as they run out of the house, they are captured by the Authority.  Fortunately, Eric’s sister Nora (Lucy Griffiths) works for the Authority and she rescues both of them.  She and Eric then proceed to spend most of the rest of the episode having sex and uhmmm…Eric, that’s your sister.  Eric tells Bill, “We fight like siblings but we fuck like champions.”  Ewwwww. 

Now, it’s a testament to the charisma and body of Alexander Skarsgard that, even when committing very graphic incest, he’s still the hottest thing ever to show up on HBO. 

Anyway, Eric, Bill, and Nora meet up with some rebel vampires and are given false identities and appear to be on the verge of escaping when suddenly, the Authority’s goons show up and recapture them. I assume this is setting everything up for Chris Meloni to show up in the next episode.

But that’s not all that happened tonight!  One of the things that I love about True Blood is that it’s never shied away from offering up as many plot complications as possible per episode.  This is not a show that moves slowly and that was certainly true tonight.

It turns out that season 3’s main villain Russell (Denis O’Hare) isn’t dead and he’s not where he’s supposed to be.  Meanwhile, Scott Foley is wandering around town acting enigmatic, Andy (Chris Bauer) is still proving himself to be a dumbass in general, and apparently there’s some sort of power struggle developing with the werewolves.

A Few Random Observations:

  • I have to admit, I’ve never been that interested in the werewolves.  They’re just not as much fun as the vampires.  That’s one of the few things that True Blood has in common with the Twilight series.
  • Best line of the episode comes from Pam: “I’m wearing a Wal-Mart sweatsuit for you all.  If that’s not a demonstration of team spirit, I don’t know what is.”  My twitter timeline literally exploded with people reacting to that line.
  • My second favorite line was Alcide’s “It smells clean.  Like lemons on top of ammonia on top of bleach.”
  • If you’re like me and you mostly watch this show because you’re hoping for a chance to catch Alexander Skarsgard undressed, this episode did not disappoint.
  • This was a good episode for your Jessica lovers as well.  One of my favorite parts of tonight’s episode was when she dismissed the Rev. Newlin by explaining that she’s older than him.
  • Chris Bauer continues to play the most realistic lawman on television.
  • As much as I love Alexander Skarsgard, Stephen Morley had some great scenes tonight.  His facial expressions while watching Nora and Eric were priceless.
  • I felt bad for Sookie during her little flashback scene.
  • The return of True Blood means a return of my effots to get my sister to allow me to dye her hair “Pacquin blonde.”
  • I hope Nora’s around for the rest of the season.  Incest aside, she’s a great character and Lucy Griffiths gave a great performance tonight.
  • I was hoping that Russell would physically show up on tonight’s episode but I’m actually kind of glad that he didn’t.  With everything else that was going on tonight, I’m glad that I have something to look forward to in the future.
  • Another thing I’m looking forward to: Chris Meloni as Roman.  If anyone was born to play a vampire named Roman, it’s Chris Meloni.

So, over all, I think tonight’s episode was a good start for season 5 and I look forward to spending another 11 episodes in Bon Temps.

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