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TV Review: Strong Season Premiere For HBO’s Beloved ‘True Blood’

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CHICAGO – Let’s be honest “True Blood” fans — the end of last season was a plasma-soaked mess. It almost felt as if the writers of this often-great show had just set too many plates in motion over three years of seasons in which the plots ran consecutively. A few of them were sure to crash to the ground. Alan Ball and the team behind the Emmy-nominated hit have very wisely hit “restart” and pushed their characters forward into some fascinating new plot arcs. The first two episodes of the fourth season of “True Blood” feature the show stronger, smarter, and more fun than it’s been in some time.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 4.5/5.0
Television Rating: 4.5/5.0

Don’t worry. We will tread very lightly with spoilers. At the end of last season, Sookie (Anna Paquin) had decided not to deal with any more Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) drama and disappeared for the land of the fairies to learn more about her past. As usual, the new season picks up right there with Sookie on the other side, where she sees her grandfather (Gary Cole) and learns more about her past and her kind.

True Blood
True Blood
Photo credit: HBO

Before you know it, Sookie is back in Bon Temps but the brief time she was away was much longer in the real world and over a year has passed. The push forward in time allows the writers of “True Blood” something of a clean slate. They can push forward relationships and characters beyond the typical episode to episode progression. It was a brilliant decision as the impact of what happened in season three can still play a role but the passage of time off-screen allows for a renewed energy.

What’s happened while Sookie was away? The campaign to make vampires tolerable to human society in a “Post-Russell World” continues and, of course, Bill and Eric will play major roles. As soon as Sookie returns to the world of the living, the Bill-Eric dynamic sparks up again with the latter making the biggest move to become a permanent part of the fairy’s life.

True Blood
True Blood
Photo credit: HBO

To be honest, a lot of the threads from last season appear to have gone somewhat dormant for the year that Sookie was M.I.A. as many of the characters are in similar or related predicaments to season three. Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) and Jesus (Kevin Alejandro) are still a couple and dabbling deeper into the world of dark magic, which brings forward the most intriguing new character of the season, the necromancer-in-training Marnie (Fiona Shaw).

In other plotlines, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) is finally a legitimate cop but he finds himself in a very dangerous situation (again). Tara (Rutina Wesley) is on the road and trying to ignore her past. Sam (Sam Trammell) is working through his anger by hanging out with other shapeshifters. Arlene (Carrie Preston) is nervous that her baby carries the demon seed of Rene. And, finally, in arguably the best subplot, Hoyt (Jim Parrack) and Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) are dealing with domestic problems as her vampire life continues to interfere with his human one. She never cooks her husband dinner because, well, she doesn’t eat food.

Most of the cast seems amped up by the promise of the new season. Skarsgard and Paquin have been the best things about the show for the last two years and they’re both strong again but even supporting characters like Woll, Parrack, Kwanten, Ellis, and Alejandro have a different/stronger energy than they did last season. And Fiona Shaw is a spectacular actress, arguably the best guest star the show has yet procured. The well-known stage actress is probably best-known to modern audiences as Petunia Dursley in the “Harry Potter” movies. I still think Trammell and Wesley’s subplots are the most under-written or just poorly-conceived. I’m tired of Tara’s overreactions and Sam’s anger but both are more underplayed at the start of this season than last time and I’m glad to see them fading into the background a bit and giving actors like Ellis and Woll more interesting arcs.

The renewed energy of “True Blood” seems focused in the right place unlike last season, where everything about the program just became more and more unfocused. The pacing of the first two episodes of this season, the dialogue, the performances — everything seems crisper, smarter, and more entertaining than where we left off. It’s going to be a fun summer.

The fourth season of “True Blood” premieres on HBO on Sunday, June 26th, 2011 at 8pm CST. It stars Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Chris Bauer, Nelsan Ellis, Deborah Ann Woll, Alexander Skarsgard, Jim Parrack, Carrie Preston, Kevin Alejandro, and Fiona Shaw. It was created by Alan Ball.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Anonymous's picture

I have to disagree totally

I have to disagree totally with your assessment that Skarsgard and Paquin are the best things about the show. Skarsgard is one dimensional, Paquin while good at times tends to over act. The real standout is Ryan Kwanten, he makes Jason real and believable. His comedic timing, the on screen chemistry with the other actors and his Southern accent is perfect. Considering he’s the complete opposite to Jason in real life his acting is superb, he should have been nominated for an Emmy during the first two seasons.

IMHO's picture

I completely agree with your

I completely agree with your comment. It is Paquin and Moyer that sizzle as the main leads on and off screen. Anyone else that follows is simply a flash in the pan distraction which is necessary for drama.
Stephens character Bill constantly shows a depth that is heartwrenching and also beautiful. It is hard to play such a character whereas Skarsgards Eric shows the same face over and over, yes, one dimenisional at best.
I look forward to the drama Eric will cause between the ever soulmates Sookie and Bill. Bills redemption and Sookies eventual, and granted long time coming, realizations that it is he who is the man most in her corner and forever in her heart.
Bring on season 4

Anonymous's picture

You crack me up, what the

You crack me up, what the hell is your problem, most people agree that the Paquin and Moyer (the leads??) are not the best thing of the show; other actors outshine them Ryan Kwanten, Skarsgard or Nelson Ellis are great examples for that.

Anonymous's picture

What the...???

Paquin and Moyer sizzle?? So you call his betrayal and abusive ways to sookie, sizzling and beautiful? Wow. Well you are certainly in the minority. Everyone knows that Skarsgard is the main attraction to this series. He is far from one dimensional. He can be evil and menacing. He can be humorous. He can be emotionally vulnerable. But this is all one dimensional to you? If sookie does return to Bill, then she would lose all respect from the viewers. Are we supposed to look up to a “heroine” who return back to her abusive ex-boyfriend? Once Eric and Sookie finally get together, they you’ll see what a sizzling relationship really is like.

BrianTT's picture

Ryan Kwanten

I didn’t mean my praise for Paquin and Skarsgard as a slight on the other performers, especially not Kwanten, who was spectacular in the first two seasons. Just because Anna and Alex are the best doesn’t mean others aren’t worthy of praise. I do think Ryan was wasted in season three and seems to be again in season four. Does anyone else remember when Jason was funny? The writers need to find a better way to use him but you make a good point that he’s an underrated actor, for sure.

Anonymous's picture

I also have to agree about

I also have to agree about Ryan. He’s got the dumb guy role, so no one thinks much of him. But yes, the comedic timing is great. I think a lot of Anna’s lines are off & what is with her arms???

Anonymous's picture

“As usual, the new season

As usual, the new season picks up right there with Sookie on the other side, where she sees her grandfather (Gary Cole) and learns more about her past and her kind.Before you know it, Sookie is back in Bon Temps but the brief time she was away was much longer in the real world and over a year has passed.”

YOU CALL THISTREADING LIGHTLYWITH THE SPOILERS???????!!!!!

No to mention the whole bunch of other spoilers you divulged. When writing a review on the much awaited season premiere episode of a hit TV show before it hasn’t even aired, you should be A LOT LESS specific about what happens and just focus on their acting and how well or poorly the story was written.

Again, leave out the important specifics. These ARE spoilers. And you didn’t “tread lightly” at all.

BrianTT's picture

Not really.

I gave away NOTHING. Trust me. And most fans would know that the first 8 minutes of the season premiere (which is all that I spoiled in your angry quotation above and I didn’t even spoil HALF of what happens in those 8 minutes) have been available through HBO GO for weeks now. In other words, it’s out there. And, if HBO is making it available as a sneak peek, how much of a spoiler is it? And one needs to talk about the basic structure of the season — the set-up — just as one needs to mention the PLOT when writing a review. Why read ANY reviews if you want to know nothing about what happens at all?

I didn’t spoil as much as the HBO commercials for the premiere. I wouldn’t do that. And most people would realize WAY more happens in a season premiere of True Blood than outlined in this review. Brian

Anonymous's picture

PAQUIN/SKARSGARD????? REALLY????

You really think this is the Paquin/Skardsgard are the best players in TB?? Really? Skarsgard may have some fun lines, but he has absolutely no chemistry with Paquin and he plays a real p*rick and I for one, have no interest in the Eric storyline. Moyer, on the other hand, has shown such great acting chops and plays Bill with so much anguish - you just have to feel for the guy. Moyer’s acting skills surpass Skarsgard’s (deadpan with the occasional yelling scene) and his storyline is much more interesting - it is a journey. Eric is still a p*rick regardless of what he wants to be. Sorry - if this is going to be the Skarsgard show, TB has lost this viewer and many more, I can asure you. By your review, I am not looking forward to tonight’s show. Sorry. You ruined it for me - and Eric.

Milly's picture

Just in case we need a more

Just in case we need a more reasons to keep saying how rude Team Bill is. You probably are from The Nest or The Vault or the beautiful Bill’s Wiki Women right?

Thanks for the review, seriously don’t even bother to answer them, it’s just that they really think AB won’t follow the books with Sookie and Eric.

We know Alex is a great actor, many reviews pointed out this about from what they saw of Season 4. And Ryan is another great actor too.

Paquin si definitely better in acting next to Alexander and next to Kwanten and Ellis too.

Thanks again for the patience you showed with some people and thanks for the time you spent to wrote this review.

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