A woman lies dead in Andy’s police car, with her eyes wide open with fear and her heart removed in the most horrific and violent of ways. It’s a pretty gruesome precursor to what lies ahead for the rest of the season, which has healthy doses of sex, violence and death. Oh, and a Maenad.
So, where are our characters at? Well, dim-witted Jason has eloped to the church of the Fellowship of the Sun, an anti-vampire church sect that loathes every fiber of vampires and will use violence to enact vengeance upon them. Tara is still being taken under the wing of Maryann, who she believes to be her friend and her shoulder to cry on, as well as initiate a relationship with ‘Eggs’. Sam meets another shapeshifter friend, Daphne, who promptly reveals herself to be working with Maryann and attempts to give the devious Maenad Sam on a platter, amidst a back-drop of the entire town having a massive nude orgy in Sookie’s front garden. Sookie, meanwhile, has a very nasty encounter with Maryann’s true form, which leaves her close to death. As Eric helps to bring her back, she goes to Dallas with Bill to help locate the vampire Godric, Eric’s very powerful and boyishly-cute maker, in a multi-episode arc of sorts.
Basically, our characters are all involved in their own thing and in different places. Season one had the task of introducing all of these characters to us, as well as the ‘universe’ of True Blood, just like every new show has to do. The second season, however, does not have to spend any more time undertaking this process, which allows stories that were prominent in season one to take a step back and for others to come into the focus. For example, the relationship between Bill and Sookie was the biggest plot of season one, even above the serial killer amongst the crowd, but that takes a significant breather in this season. It’s still there and the cliffhanger of the whole season takes place just as Bill asks Sookie to marry him, but it is certainly not the true focus anymore. That’s a good thing because as much as it was almost ‘sweet’ to see them together at first, it’s one of those relationships that loses its steam fast as the ‘electricity’ between the two seems to fade over time, with things between them becoming somewhat stagnant. There are far more sparks between her and Eric but that isn’t happening just yet…
Not only does the lessened task of introducing characters allow for other plots to come into focus but it also allows for secondary characters to scoop a significant amount of screen-time, especially when compared to the first season. Jessica, the new vampire forced upon Bill to make, was introduced at the end of season one and has a large amount of work to do here, most of which involving her very sweet romance with Hoyt. You know I said about there being electricity between a couple? These two definitely have it. At least for now.
It’s not just Jessica that gets a significant boost in screen-time, either. Lafayette also features quite prominently, from being chained up in the basement of Fangtasia, to being traumatized upon his release and then helping to break Tara from Maryann’s spell. This is a character that just works. Each and every time he’s on screen is either a brilliantly comedic moment to look for later on YouTube or a well-acted ‘serious’ moment, such as being paralyzed with fear as a gun is pointed at him and vice versa. I’ve never read the books but I hear that Lafayette was killed off very early on in them. It’s due to Nelsan Ellis’ acting skills that I’m glad this change in direction didn’t happen.
During this season, the scenery shifts from the confined forest areas of Bon Temps to the urban surroundings of Dallas as Sookie works to locate Godric. Not only does this serve to take a break from the beastly acts being committed back home but also to see the world of True Blood elsewhere and what that entails; there are vampire hotels, with tinted windows and ‘drinks’ (aka human beings) available on demand. There are airlines that incorporate vampires into their schedules, with coffins available for their transport and so forth. We don’t get to see these things when we’re in Bon Temps so a trip elsewhere allows us to. As I said in my last post, the concept of vampires being ‘out of the coffin’ works brilliantly as it allows for a whole new perspective on the story. The Fellowship of the Sun story allows for a religious perspective on the outing of vampires, albeit a crazily-flawed group, and the political perspective comes from the news debates continuously broadcast on TV. With this trip to Dallas, we also see the cultural side of the spectrum and how the world has come to adapt to the vampires roaming the streets without hiding their identity. It’s extremely fascinating and the stories that can, and do, come of it are made possible because of it.
As well as exploring how the rest of the world has adapted to vampires, the excursion to Dallas also made it clear that Sookie is not the only person in the world with mind-reading powers, and to serve up a bit of back-story on Bill, via his devilishly wicked maker, Lorena. Bill may appear to be a rather cuddly vampire now but in the past, and under the guidance of Lorena, men were forced to watch as their lovers were eaten, before the vampiric duo would have sex on the same bed their fresh kill still lay warm on. Bill may refrain from eating these days but his history is extremely colorful indeed. Good characters often have more to them besides what there initially appears to be.
Lorena’s introduction also makes the ‘maker’ bond even more apparent. Bill can no longer stomach the presence of the vampire that made him but his bond with Jessica takes on a fatherly sort of role, whereby he gives her orders which she must adhere to, telling her what time to return home for and criticizing her choice of boyfriends. Whereas with Eric and Godric, it takes on a different form, with Eric merely being extremely respectful and emotionally connected to his maker, making his death even more of a troubling event. The bond shared between a vampire and their maker allows for a wider view of a vampire that extends beyond their lust for human blood and that is much welcomed.
The main story of season two is easily awarded to that of Maryann, the Maenad who has decided to land in Bon Temps. For you of you who don’t know what a Maenad is, they’re female followers of Dionysus, the Greek God of wine and ritual madness in Greek Mythology. They often engage in uncontrolled sexual behavior, become highly ecstatic and ritualistically hunt down animals, and sometimes humans, hence the heart removals (and tricking Tara and Eggs into eating said heart but the less said of that the better). Maryann is played by the very talented Michelle Forbes, who brings the character to life on the screen. I touched upon this in my previous post but Forbes really is exceptional in this role, from playing the role of concerned friend to devising an insane wedding with Sam as a sacrificial tribute and controlling the entire town into chanting the various names of her God, Dionysus. If someone was to ask me what a Maenad was right now, my thoughts would immediately go to Maryann. As far villains go, Maryann is one of the finest to grace True Blood’s story-book, even for an ancient creature.
My love for all things Maryann has made me realize that I definitely have a predisposed love for all-powerful female villains in TV shows. For example, Marnie in season four of True Blood, Glory from season five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and so forth. Besides Marnie, these are characters that are immortal, have incredible power compared to that of man and can destroy the entire cast with a mere click of their fingers. A lot of the time, the villain with all of these powers is usually a male (for example, the first four seasons of Buffy had prominent male villains) yet, to me, it’s even more satisfying to see these female villains encompass so much power. I’d be curious to hear if anybody else thought the same as this.
Out of the four current seasons of True Blood, season two ranks the highest on my personal list. It explores the background considerably more than season one, with secondary characters getting the screen-time they deserve as well as presenting new, and fascinating, characters to us. Unfortunately, proceeding this is a season with too much going on so savoring the fine details of this season will be essential. Michelle Forbes was an exquisite choice to play such a monstrous villain and helped propel season two into the excellence it rapidly became. If there’s one thing Maryann achieved, it’s to demonstrate that Satan really does come in all forms, with or without the Sunday hat, and sometimes it is absolutely wonderful.