Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress and telepath who can read your every thought. This hasn’t made her feel welcome in the tiny Southern town full of bigots and racists where she lives. Worse yet, she’s fallen for a vampire, Bill Compton, who’s a champion for other vamps to “come out of the coffin” and live peacefully alongside humans. Oh, and werewolves, shape-shifters, witches and fairies are real, too.
HBO’s True Blood is a fun, sexy romp through an engaging universe of characters and supernatural goings on. Based on the best-selling novels of Charlaine Harris, True Blood heads into its seventh and final season tonight, and we don’t want to miss a minute.
We fell in love with Sookie, Bill, Erik and LaFayette in the tightly scripted first season, and then watched as things got more and more complicated and melodramatic as the show wore on through the subsequent seasons. Seasons two through three were fun enough, season four was awful, and the fifth season was really tough to watch. Luckily, there were many signs of improvement in season six, especially the first half and the season-ending cliffhanger.
Will season seven redeem the series, letting us forgive all the past season flaws? Will the final episodes reach the same sort of critical adoration as those of MASH and The Mary Tyler Moore show?
We’re cautiously optimistic, though we’re managing our expectations from the team that brought us were-panthers, vampire-god Billith and Andy’s faerie baby. It’s the same team, though, that also taught us that vampires have feelings, too. Also, there are lots of naked people.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the past six seasons of True Blood to whet your appetite for the coming end.
If you haven’t watched any of the show, consider this your serious spoiler warning.
These Vamps Don’t Sparkle
Season one is still the best of the bunch. Sookie is adorably frustrated as a little southern town waitress that can read minds, and the Bill Compton/Erik Northman good/bad dichotomy was a fun introduction to the Southern Vampire Mystery universe. Add a bunch of gruesome deaths, the oblivious stupidity of Sookie’s brother Jason and the Deputy Sheriff that is keeping an eye on him, and the whole concept of a vampire authority aiming to mainstream bloodsuckers, and you’ve got a show that pleases even the hardcore book fans.
Its a tightly written season full of fun, campy dialog with brightly-drawn characters you can fall for, not only because they’re all pretty hot. There are only a couple of subplots other than the serial killer, and it all ties up in a nice, non-cliff-hangery way.
We set up for season two with a subplot involving a mysterious independently-wealthy woman (Maryann Forrester) who takes Sookie’s childhood friend Tara in after Tara’s mother kicks her out and one that introduces future villain Reverend Newland, leader of The Church of the New Son, in his charmingly hate-group guise.
Highlights: Sookie and Bill had great chemistry, LaFayette is perhaps the best cross-dresser in the history of television, and Drew Marshall’s cajun accent is fantastic.
The Maenad, Church of Hate, and The Makers
Season two took up where one left off, with Tara at Maryanne’s house and the Church of the New Sun out to kill all vampires. Jason Stackhouse gets involved with the minister’s wife, but her hubby only has (deeply closeted) eyes for hottie Jason.
Maryann turns out to be an evil Maenad who wants to take over the town, which seems pretty cool at first glance, but it’s really just an excuse to show us rednecks having orgies and meat sculptures. Tara is in super love with “Eggs” Benedict Talley, but boy does she worry herself over it for no good reason. Also, he dies.
The Church of the New Sun plays a smaller role here in trying to kill all vampires, Sam, the owner of the self-named town restaurant and local watering hole, Merlotte’s, meets another shape-shifter like him, and Lafayette (who should have been dead according to the books), becomes a vampire blood seller (“V,” as it’s known, is super addictive to humans). Both Bill and Erik meet their makers, but since they’re vampires, that only means finding the older vamps that turned them into creatures of the night.
Eric sends Sookie to find Godric, Eric’s ancient vampire maker, who wants to save vampires by accepting his own death. This is the subplot worth watching here, if for nothing else than the two actors get to show their emotional chops.
Loosely based on the novel Living Dead in Dallas, season two is a slow starter, but we all had enough love from season one to keep us watching. Plus naked vampires are sexy, which balanced out the naked rednecks in the orgy.
Highlights: Godric is a compellingly creepy vampire messiah, and his death scene is truly emotional. Steve Newland becomes a fan favorite with his barely concealed closeted breathiness, and Jason continues to be brilliant at being dumb.
Too Many Were-Creatures
Starting season three, Bill is missing, Sookie is increasingly anxious, and honestly we’re not paying too much attention to either one of them. Jason hooks up with a white trash were-panther, and Alcide becomes the coolest werewolf in the history of television, and not only because he looks amazing with his shirt off. We all wish we had such abs. Oh, and we barely paid attention to Sam Merlotte’s younger shifter brother on his slow slide into stupidity and death. Meh.
Luckily, Russell Edginton appears as the vampire king of Mississippi in this third year of True Blood, and his scenery-chewing devil-may-care violence and charm kept us riveted to our seats through the less than engaging parts of the twelve episodes that aired. Edgington is by far the best villain the show has ever known, and we’re glad to see him up through season five.
Sookie learns of her own fairy ancestry, which is why vampires are super attracted to her blood. It’s like catnip for these fangers.
There were too many subplots in this season, including the scenes of Bill and his maker, Lorena, that should really have taken more of a backseat. The werewolves are barely one step above the were-panther’s in pure inbred dumbness, and honestly, Hoyt and Jessica were never going to work out, anyway. Also, where the hell was Lafayette? His season-length drug binge did his flamboyant self no good.
Highlights: Russell Edginton steals this season. Best villain ever.
Jumping the Witch Shark
As if the Maenad wasn’t bad enough, season four (loosely based on the novel Dead to the World) brought with it a host of subplots that continued to drag on way past the point of intelligibility, and that’s saying something about a show about fictional supernatural beings. Marnie, a self-effacing older woman with hidden power, is taken over by an ancient evil and then enslaves LaFayette’s lover Jesus, a brujo with talents of his own, before eventually taking over LaFayette himself.
Erik loses his memory in a confrontation with the witch’s coven, and ends up a shadow of his former self. Sookie totally takes advantage of this because he’s obviously way prettier than the absent Bill, anyway, so why not just shack up with him up in the panic room?
On the positive side, Jessica gets more screen time as Bill’s progeny, showing the more human side of being a vampire — can her boyfriend truly love the monster she’s become, how do you decide on a meal together when all you eat is blood, and does this dress go with those shoes? Hoyt’s mother is truly a joy to watch as she cycles between her overbearing and cruel love for her only son and her true hatred of anything not white, human, or her son.
In the end, Sookie’s dead grandmother saves the day, pulling the spirit of the evil witch out of LaFayette’s body. Werewolf Alcide’s ex-fiancee breaks in to Sookie’s house with a shotgun in a jealous rage, and Sookie ends up turning the gun on Debbie after the werewolf woman fatally wounds Tara.
Highlights: Hoyt’s mom is sharply drawn and acted, and the gentle humanity of Jessica and Hoyt’s relationship is a welcome change from all the soap opera melodrama.
The Authority Is Ridiculous
Unfortunately, season 5 was also a mess. Sookie convinces Pam to make poor dead Tara into a vampire in return for helping Pam find Eric, her maker. Tara comes back as a vampire, and goes a bit crazy.
Vampire Authority leader Roman (Christopher Meloni, an actor with serious ability) was relegated to prowling around a conference table and looking grumpy). The Vampire Authority, while an interesting idea, never quite seemed convincing. Salome — yes that one — was never very interesting as a character. The scenes where these corporate vampires get high on vampire-god Lillith’s blood were incredibly poor; no one wants to watch a bunch of silly dancing vampires running through the streets.
Bill’s quick change into a religious zealot was disappointing, and his scenes with Eric contained too much unfulfilled promise. Naked and bloody, Lillith was visually interesting, but far too thinly characterized to pose a credible threat.
Sookie is only around to show Eric and Bill where Russell has gotten his evil self to, and LaFayette, Jessica, and Jason are stuck with fairly uninteresting interactions and far too little screen time.
The Authority rounds up all the vampires into its version of a vampire-flavored Guantanamo Bay. Russell Edgington heads to a hidden fairy circus tent to drain the glorious fairy blood from the fairy leader. He ends up a splattery mess when Eric appears and stakes his scene-chewing ass.
Then there’s Billith. Bill Compton is possessed by the ancient vampire goddess, and gets lots of sweet powers, except the ability to walk in sunlight. After many encounters with various naked and covered in blood incarnations of the goddess, Bill himself gets to get naked and bloody. It’s pretty ridiculous, and too much a departure from the Bill we loved in season one.
Highlights: Even the return of Russell Edginton couldn’t save this season from becoming a slog of have-to-watch television, though Jessica’s touching glamor of her troubled ex-boyfriend Hoyt is a much needed bright spot.
Might As Well Be Walking On The Sun
Season six started well, giving us hope that True Blood could once again become a force in the world of television.
We get to see more of Pam’s backstory, though we could do with less actual flashbacks to periods in the past. They never quite sing for some reason.
Sookie meets her nemesis, Warlow, who turns out to be half fairy, half vampire, letting him walk in the sun. For some reason, he’s waited thousands of years to become Sookie’s husband, though we’re never really sure why.
Warlow gets some Sookie nookie, and almost convinces her to marry him in the magical, sunny fairy land. She refuses, he gets pissed off, and she’s saved by her fairy grandfather, Naill Brigant, played with charm by Rutger Hauer.
Sherriff Andy Bellfleur’s 2-week old fairy children are killed and eaten by a famished Jessica, while waitress Arlene and her ex-marine with PTSD Terry try to help him raise his supernatural kids. Jessica tries to redeem her horrific act by offering her protection in penance.
Bill, still recovering from his blood-soaked possession, forces a scientist to synthesize fairy blood so all vampires can go out in daylight.
Eric heads into Vamp Camp and tries to save all the vampires from being burned by the sun in the open roofed death chamber, but it’s Bill that saves them all by offering them his blood. As they feed upon him, the chamber opens and all the vampires do a happy dance, soaking in the sunlight like they haven’t seen it in hundreds of years, which is true for most of them.
Infected True Blood (the drink, not the show) is giving vampires Hepatitis V, which kills them all in short order. It also seems to turn them into zombie-like hunger machines whose only purpose is to eat humans as fast and as with as much spilled blood as possible.
Terry arranges to be shot and killed by his previous marine buddy, ironically just after he’s glamoured by a vampire to forget his troubling past. The funeral is long and wordy and a low spot for the season.
The town of Bon Temps gathers to protect itself with a new “one human, one vampire” rule – every uninfected human must let the “good” vampires feed on them in order to receive protection from the Hep V vamps.
The penultimate scene in season six is a horde of Hep V vampires coming to eat the entire town of Bon Temps, which has turned out for a celebration of the new plan.
The season ends with a shot of viking Eric Northman, who has run away from home, reading a good book naked atop a snow-covered mountain peak somewhere in a Scandinavian country. When the fairy blood wears off for all the vampires when Warlow is killed by Bill, Eric goes up in flames, burning to death as vampires do when exposed to the sun.
Here’s to True Blood’s seventh and final season, then, airing Sunday night, June 22. Has Eric met the true death? Will the new plan to protect humans and feed vampires even work? And where the hell is Pam in her search for Eric? Will Terry stay dead?
Highlights: Eric’s fiery death is a great cliff-hanger, and Hep V vamps make vampires scary again.
Stick with us as we recap each episode, because, honestly, we can’t stop watching.
All images courtesy True Blood Wiki.