Skip to main content

I saved the therapist for you.

True Blood 
Season 6

(SPOILERS) The longer True Blood continues, the more it seems as if it was only ever a deeply average show wrapped in very sexy gore. Which is sufficient. It’s rarely less than entertaining. The performances are dependable and, if it’s never reached the heights, neither has it succumbed to the lows of its family-friendly progenitor Buffy. But by this point it’s quite clear the show is coasting. For every inspired idea decently executed (Vamp Camp) there’s one that is muddled and tepid (Warlow). This is a season that has a good thing (Rutger Hauer), then forgets to use him, and makes a stunningly misshapen misstep by showing solidarity with a character no one cares about enough to get on board with a whole episode mourning and eulogising him. True Blood Season 6 is an HBO series on its last legs, one that should have probably ended two seasons before it will.


As ever, the show tirelessly sledgehammers commentary on religious hypocrisy and prejudice. Complaining about the lack of subtlety at this stage is pointless; it’s part of the series’ DNA. Governor Burrell’s plan to destroy vampire kind is nothing terribly original, and Vamp Camp is an expectedly variable mix of good ideas and lesser ones. For example, Pruitt Taylor Vince (who seems to be in every other show at the moment) as a vamp psychologist never strays from the predictable. But the voyeuristic aspects and twisted experimentation are effective in so much as they sport a sadistic sense of covert government programmes and conspiracies. The best element is Arliss Howard’s performance as Burrell, which makes it a shame he gets written out as early as Don’t You Feel Me. Still, his demise is effectively OTT and surprisingly the never-very-interesting-previously Howard Deutch handles the episode with something approaching panache. Anna Camp’s Sarah Newlin just can’t hold the stage in the same way; it’s clear the writers love her, but as a character she’s middling. Howard’s scene opposite Skarsgard in The Sun, where Eric poses as a campaigner for the preservation of the whooping crane, is enormous fun, and one wishes there was more dialogue of this quality elsewhere.


True Blood pick ups and drop ideas carelessly, whenever it suits; it gives the impression of a team who hope glossy production values will paper over the cracks. The contact lenses that prevent glamouring don’t appear to be worn by guards in the facility all the time, which is handy. Bill’s Lilith-enhanced superpowers in the first episode fluctuate throughout the season. It’s difficult to see why he vacillates so much with regard to rescuing his friends in the camp when he could probably break in and slay all the guards with barely a pause for (lack of) breath. In the end, it’s Eric who pretty much does that, and he’s your common or garden vampire, not an uber-deity. The “quest for fairy blood” plotline is patchy in the extreme, a means to create a love triangle with Sookie as much as anything. Why is it Bill can’t give Nora any of Warlow’s blood he has stored away; doesn’t Eric find it a bit suspect that Bill swans off in the day to try to procure Warlow (and his blood) which entails consuming the very blood that might save his sister?


That episode, In the Evening, is one of the best of the season, and the loss of Nora is much more affecting than Terry. There’s also includes a strong flashback, telling us how she came to be a vampire. Less weighty are the flashbacks involving Warlow’s fairy origins. Robert Kazinsky, the main Big Bad-or-is-he of this run, certainly the main Sookie love interest (Bill and Eric have other things on their minds), is only so-so. You can see the joins where the writers decided to turn the menacing Warlow of the previous seasons into the ruggedly handsome Warlow who turns Sookie’s head. The writers play with the “Is he really bad or isn’t he?” theme and when they decide he is, it’s too late for him to be an effective menace. Sookie’s dilemmas have little impact, as we don’t really swallow that she’d even consider his offer to make her a vampire-fairy thing. It probably wasn’t such a smart move to have him hiding out in the fairy realm for two or three episodes either. In series’ this short it makes it look as if the writers are in a holding pattern.


Most damaging in the Sookie stakes is the turn of events in Fuck the Pain Away, when Lafayette (Nelson Ellis has zero to do this season, but attempting to throw him a bone this unappetising is hardly a favour) contacts Sookie’s dead parents only for her dad to possess him. It’s a series nadir when he bundles her in the back of his car and takes her off to drown her. The revelation that dead dad would rather Sookie than allow Warlow to be with her is difficult enough to swallow, but the forced drama with Lafayette is risible.


Tara is very much in the background too, but those with screen time are often ill served too. The Sam Merlotte arc, as he vies with Alcide and his werewolf pack for protection of Emma, is banal as is his relationship with Nicole. Alcide’s problems with his pack are barely more compelling. Then there’s Andy and his faerie brood, Terry and Arlene. There are more misses than hits in the plot threads this season, so it should be little surprise that it finishes so tentatively.


It isn’t just the underwhelming “cliffhanger” as vampires with infected with Hep-V advance on Bellefleur’s; there’s also the unlikely “What happened next” summary. Sookie is suddenly back with Alcide, Sam has become Mayor and introduced the pairing programme (Tara’s mother offering her services; I mean, good grief!) and Andy gotten over losing three of his kids very easily. There are those who have been dealt with reasonably; Jason is as idiotic as ever (and Karolina Wydra as Violet is a promising addition, although her interest in Jason isn’t convincing), Holly as sarcastic and bitchy, Jessica is ever-sympathetic, and Bill has his moments (although after the end of Season Five, pretty much everything we see of him this season has been a damp squib). I don’t expect True Blood to end with a whimper, but little about the set up for Seven has been especially promising. One good thing; it seems Rutger’s back.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Espionage isn’t a game, it’s a war.

The Avengers 3.3: The Nutshell
Philip Chambers first teleplay (of two) for the series, and Raymond Menmuir’s second (also of two) as director, The Nutshell is an effective little whodunit in which Steed (again) poses as a bad guy, and Cathy (again) appears to be at loggerheads with him. The difference here is how sustained the pretence is, though; we aren’t actually in on the details until the end, and the whole scenario is played decidedly straight.

Set mostly in a bunker (the Nutshell of the title), quarter of a mile underground and providing protection for the “all the best people” (civil servants bunk on level 43; Steed usually gets off at the 18th) in the event of a thermo-nuclear onslaught, the setting is something of a misdirection, since it is also a convenient place to store national security archives, known as Big Ben (Bilateral Infiltration Great Britain, Europe and North America). Big Ben has been stolen. Or rather, the microfilm with details of all known double agents on bot…

Ah yes, the legendary 007 wit, or at least half of it.

The World is Not Enough (1999)
(SPOILERS) The last Bond film of the 20th century unfortunately continues the downward trend of the Brosnan era, which had looked so promising after the reinvigorated approach to Goldeneye. The World is Not Enough’s screenplay posseses a number of strong elements (from the now ever present Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, and a sophomore Bruce Feirstein), some of which have been recycled in the Craig era, but they’ve been mashed together with ill-fitting standard Bond tropes that puncture any would-be substance (Bond’s last line before the new millennium is one Roger Moore would have relished). And while a structure that stop-starts doesn’t help the overall momentum any, nor does the listlessness of drama director Michael Apted, such that when the sporadic bursts of action do arrive there’s no disguising the joins between first and second unit, any prospect of thrills evidently unsalvageable in the edit.

Taking its cues from the curtailed media satire of Tomorr…

I know what I'm gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
It’s a Wonderful Life is an unassailable classic, held up as an embodiment of true spirit of Christmas and a testament to all that is good and decent and indomitable in humanity. It deserves its status, even awash with unabashed sentimentality that, for once, actually seems fitting. But, with the reams of plaudits aimed at Frank Capra’s most enduring film, it is also worth playing devil’s advocate for a moment or two. One can construe a number of not nearly so life-affirming undercurrents lurking within it, both intentional and unintentional on the part of its director. And what better time to Grinch-up such a picture than when bathed in the warmth of a yuletide glow?

The film was famously not a financial success on initial release, as is the case with a number of now hallowed movies, its reputation burgeoning during television screenings throughout the 1970s. Nevertheless, It’s a Wonderful Life garnered a brace of Oscar nominations including Best Picture and…

Perhaps I am dead. Perhaps we’re both dead. And this is some kind of hell.

The Avengers 5.7: The Living Dead
The Living Dead occupies such archetypal Avengers territory that it feels like it must have been a more common plotline than it was; a small town is the cover for invasion/infiltration, with clandestine forces gathering underground. Its most obvious antecedent is The Town of No Return, and certain common elements would later resurface in Invasion of the Earthmen. This is a lot broader than Town, however, the studio-bound nature making it something of a cosy "haunted house" yarn, Scooby Doo style.

What if I tell you to un-punch someone, what you do then?

Incredibles 2 (2018)
(SPOILERS) Incredibles 2 may not be as fresh as the first outing – indeed, certain elements of its plotting border on the retread – but it's equally, if not more, inventive as a piece of animation, and proof that, whatever his shortcomings may be philosophically, Brad Bird is a consummately talented director. This is a movie that is consistently very funny, and which is as thrilling as your average MCU affair, but like Finding Dory, you may understandably end up wondering if it shouldn't have revolved around something a little more substantial to justify that fifteen-year gap in reaching the screen.

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

Well, in this case, the cats are going to kill the curious.

The Avengers 5.8: The Hidden Tiger
Another of the season's apparent run-on ideas, as the teaser depicts a character's point-of-view evisceration by aggressor unknown. Could this be the Winged Avenger at work? No, it's, as the title suggests, an attacker of the feline persuasion. If that's deeply unconvincing once revealed, returning director Sidney Havers makes the attacks themselves highly memorable, as the victims attempt to fend off claws or escape them in slow motion.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(SPOILERS) The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those "old" movies Peter Parker is so fond of – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials of old, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy; it was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The MatrixThe Lord of the Rings stands apart as, post-Weinstein's involvement, fashioned that way from the ground up – shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both more cost effective and ensuring audiences don’t have to endure an interminable wait for their anticipation to be sated. The flipside of not taking this path is an Allegiant, where greed gets the better of a studio (split a novel into two movie parts assuming a…