After reaching such extreme heights during the second season and proving what kind of a show it can be, True Blood comes crashing back down to the Earth with a heavy thump as its third season fails to maintain those heights. In an underwhelming third year, the show suffers from a series of its own failings, although it still manages to impress on varying fronts.
The third season picks up directly after the second: Sookie is still in the restaurant and Bill has been kidnapped by silver-toting assailants, Jason has just shot Eggs in the Merlotte’s parking lot and is, rather understandably, in somewhat of a panic, Jessica has just murdered a poor trucker for sport and Bill is sat in the back of a car, chained in silver and being unceremoniously fed on by a pack of werewolves.
Now, first thing’s first: the werewolves. Although their existence contributes to the universe of True Blood, in a world where supernatural creatures roam freely and aimlessly as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, they are an inclusion that fails to serve its purpose as far as I’m concerned. Whereas other creatures like the vampires and even the Maenad from season two show proper intelligence and thought process, the werewolves in this show are portrayed as simple, rabid beasts that have very little thought other than to serve others and consume copious amounts of vampire blood. Apart from Alcide, a werewolf assigned to protect Sookie from the big bad of this season, they spend most of their time in this season going wild over blood , which does not a good storyline make. Not to mention that Debbie, another werewolf, is one character I would love nothing more than to slap.
As with each season of True Blood, there is a main narrative driving everything forward. This time, that revolves around a three thousand year old vampire named Russell Edgington, who controls a pack of werewolves and strongly opposes the AVL’s (American Vampire League) fight for vampires to be treated as equal to humans. Not only that, as time progresses, he becomes fixated on knowing what Sookie is and how to ‘obtain’ her.
As far as big bad villains go, Russell Edgington isn’t terrible by any stretch of the word; he’s suitably maniacal, strong, devious, has a history and becomes a huge obstacle for our ‘heroes’. He’s probably one of the highlights about this disappointing season. That being said, he still has the tendency to become ‘pantomime’, with actions seemingly committed for sport rather than reason. It’s made even more apparent when he appears on live television and rips a news anchor’s spine out, before heading into an insane rant with fragments of said spine still in his hand. It’s a great, memorable scene by all accounts but even for a big bad villain, it still seemed over-the-top. Still, I am glad he is returning for the upcoming fifth season because, as far as the villains from all four seasons go, he is probably the one that has exerted enough power and dominance to be crowned the most fearsome of them all.
Not content with dealing with Russell’s murderous intentions, Sookie also sees significant story progression in the relationships she holds in this season. After beginning with full intentions of accepting Bill’s marriage proposal and then slowly realizing, as time goes by, that she cannot trust the man, she ends the season with pure revulsion at both Bill, Eric and vampires in general. Bill has been manipulating her from the moment they met, at the Queen’s behest, and Eric is, well, just Eric. The sparks between her and Eric definitely ignited during the third year, that’s for certain, and those sparks will grow into flames of passion during the fourth season. For the mean-time, though, her feelings for Bill have all but completely evaporated, and rightly so. That relationship became stale the moment she began to see Eric in a different light. Not only is he a better and more interesting character than Bill, but he provides Sookie with some degree of excitement and danger that she couldn’t get elsewhere, not to mention that ‘tall, dark and very handsome’ vibe!
As well as Sookie enjoying some character progression, Tara does as well, although not of the positive kind. She starts the season miserable, continues to be miserable and ends it miserable. If things couldn’t get worse for her, she meets a vampire named Franklin, who is psychotic through-and-through. After spurning his advances after sleeping with him, she finds herself kidnapped and held prisoner at Russell’s mansion – forced to relate to him and satisfy his deranged needs in order to survive his plans of ‘turning’ her. She spends a heavy portion of the first half of the season in this predicament and as I said before, although her character may be progressing, it’s not in the way I like.
Let’s look at Tara as a character. From the first season, she’s always been a strong character, full of attitude, and her troubles in life have always served to make her that much more steely and prickly. Now, she’s been reduced to a whimpering wreck who flinches at the touch of another and has all but lost that attitude which made her so fascinating to watch. I understand that being held prisoner, raped and traumatized to such a standard is likely to change even the strongest of people, but it was still rather unsettling to watch. As the season ends, she adopts the trademark ‘I’m-cutting-my-hair-because-I’m-changing-my-life’ look and rides off into the night, only to return in season four as a cage-fighting lesbian. I’ll not discuss the ludicrous nature of that until next season’s post.
Once again, dim-witted Jason becomes embroiled in a plot that will not end well for him. He blackmails Andy into making him a cop, a job he is quite terrible at, before meeting a woman named Crystal in a run-down area. Crystal is a were-panther’ (just like a werewolf but with a panther, obviously) and the rest of her ‘tribe’ are sickly, old, strange people who trust no outsiders and inbreed amongst themselves.
This story might not actually be so bad if it weren’t so irrelevant to everything else. For example, in the first few episodes of season four, the story is completely dropped with no further mention or acknowledgement, making the entire thing a complete waste of time. I do like Jason’s character and I’ve enjoyed his escapades with the Fellowship of the Sun in season two, even his vampire blood dealings in season one, but not this time. It’s a shame though because Ryan Kwanten plays him brilliantly and always has, portraying that good blend of stupidity and willingness to do something worthwhile with his life. I can fault the character and the development he undertakes but I cannot, and will not, criticize Kwanten’s performance in the role.
As well as the above characters off doing their own thing, others also get in on the action too; Lafayette meets a nurse named Jesus whose story, that features heavily in season four, begins to come into fruition; Sam meets the Mickens, his birth parents, who cause more trouble in his life than he probably hoped for; Jessica continues to dodge the ball with Hoyt until they finally make a go of it by the end. The fact that all of these individual stories are present is part of the problem as to why season three manages to underwhelm rather than continue the excellence set by its second year. There is absolutely no sense of connectivity between these stories – they are all exclusive to the character and have no impact on the main narrative or anything else. For example, Sam and his family. That entire story offers meagre traces of character development in Sam whilst bearing no relevance to anything else in the show. Obviously, focusing on the main story for the entire season would’ve been detrimental and not recommended but a little intertwinement between these stories would’ve been much welcomed. Also, I do not like Tommy. He’s arrogant, sneaky and a pain to watch. I just thought I’d get that out there.
Including the aforementioned issue, season three’s increased roster of characters also proves to be a problem. Too many characters spoil the broth, as it were. It’s not that having a lot of characters is something that will always be an issue, as other shows have exceptionally large casts and manage perfectly fine, but in True Blood, it doesn’t work. More characters means more stories, which means less connectivity and less time spent focusing on the important plots. Tommy, Crystal and vice versa are all ‘deadwood’ that needs to be burned. Season four, where art thou?…
The majority of season three may be disappointing but it’s no secret that it improves significantly during the second half. By the end, we are left with numerous threads that will be picked up immediately in season four, such as Sookie literally disappearing with the fairies, Bill and the Queen heading into a Matrix-style confrontation (seriously, how ridiculous does this scene look?), Sam pulling the trigger (literally) on his petulant brother and, as mentioned earlier, Tara riding off to start a new life. Plus, the second half of the season featured less of the werewolves, which was never going to be something I’d find to be an issue.
All in all, True Blood’s third season didn’t manage to maintain the dizzy heights that came before it. The show introduces more characters that it can cope with, offering mundane plots to keep them busy whilst we wait with anticipation for a return to the main narrative. Several characters enjoy significant character development, some more positive than others, whilst some of the core dynamics of the show are changed. For some people, season three may be the beginning of a downward trend that it will struggle to work around. For others, this season may simply be a blip on the horizon. Whatever your opinion, True Blood has more than enough life left in it for a show that revolves around dead creatures, and it will be thoroughly enjoyable.