We’re all about comics here at Panels on Pages, but a geek cannot live on comics alone. Outside the Longbox is our chance to spotlight something outside our typical four-color realm, be it movies, music, TV or whatever.
Oh, vampires. It seems that every few years, popular culture remembers that vampires are cool. Well, we are knee-deep in vampires these days thanks to the Twilight books and movies. There’s ANOTHER “vampires in high school” story playing out on the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, and then there’s True Blood on HBO, based on Charlene Harris’s series of novels. Take a wild guess as to which one is the best. I’ve seen them all and True Blood is actually pretty great. Granted, I’m not a twelve year-old girl (last time I checked) so I may be missing something on the other two, but that’s neither here nor there. For the uninitiated, I will do my best to remain spoiler-free, so read on.
True Blood is set in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana and follows the misadventures of psychic waitress Sookie Stackhouse, her family and the local vampires, shape shifters and monsters… I realize that’s a tough pill to swallow, but the show does bring something new to the table in that the existence of vampires is common knowledge. Two years ago, a Japanese company developed a synthetic blood, which in turn allowed for vampires to live without killing people, thus they “came out of the coffin” and now live amongst human beings, dining on TruBlood instead of say, a banker. Thus is born one of the central themes of the show that paints vampires as the world’s newest minority and their bid for equal rights.
Any vampire story is made or broken on the rules it sets for its undead. True Blood vampires die in sunlight, which I appreciate in this new era of vampdom. They catch fire and burn away. Stakes do the job, too, but it’s messy. Staking a vampire results in a bloody explosion of nasty. The effects are pretty great. The biggest innovation here is the sale of vampire blood on the black market as an aphrodisiac, something the vampire community isn’t too thrilled with. Some give it up willingly, but most “V” dealers take the blood by force.
That said, it’s the characters that make this show worth watching. Anna Paquin (Rogue from the X-Men movies) plays the psychic barmaid Sookie. She can read everyone’s thoughts around her, but she can’t read vampire minds. So when she meets a vampire for the first time in one Bill Compton, she’s attracted to the inner quiet and the two are of course immediately star-crossed and all that jazz. Sookie’s brother and renowned skirt chaser Jason rides a major emotional roller coaster throughout the first two seasons, but it’s hard to hate him no matter what he does because he may be dumb, but at his core, he’s a good guy, so you almost have to like him… But not as much as Lafayette, who may one of the greatest characters in the history of anything. His cousin Tara is Sookie’s damaged best friend and co-worker under the employ of Sam Merlotte, owner of Bon Temps finest drinking hole. And of course, there’s Eric and his lot at the vampire bar Fangtasia. The town is full of interesting characters (I’ve mentioned VERY few for sake of spoilers), and that’s good for the early episodes since you might not fall in love with the show from the start.
There’s not a lot as far as plot is concerned in the beginning. The show rests maybe a little too much on its characters. There’s a murder mystery, but it doesn’t become the real focus of the show until about halfway through. In the meantime, there’s some great character development, but the plot spins its wheels. Season two ditched that problem, by and large and in fact may have had a little too much plot by comparison. At its core,True Blood is a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is a lot of fun. It often dives into the realm of the cheesy, but that’s part of the charm. The tongue-in-cheek attitude and the copious amounts of sex and violence put True Blood in a league of its own with regards to contemporary vampire fare. And there’s PLENTY of sex and violence. I’m having trouble thinking of a principle character you DON’T see either in their birthday suit or covered in someone else’s blood by the end of season 2.
Season 3 premiered last week and it’s more crazy for Sookie and company, only now there’s werewolves involved (and not a pair of denim shorts in sight, interestingly enough), and we’ve already learned from the show’s resident shape shifter, “werewolves are disgusting, blood thirsty creatures,” so this should be fun. The first and second season are on DVD and Blu-Ray and quite possibly on demand (depending on your TV provider) and they’re absolutely worth a watch if you’ve ever been into vampires and Twilight makes you want to stake someone. There’s not a single twinkly emo kid in this show. I can promise you that. So hit up HBO at 9pm EST on Sundays and get your bloody on.