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

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

You guys sure like watermelon.

The Irishman aka I Heard You Paint Houses (2019)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps, if Martin Scorsese hadn’t been so opposed to the idea of Marvel movies constituting cinema, The Irishman would have been a better film. It’s a decent film, assuredly. A respectable film, definitely. But it’s very far from being classic. And a significant part of that is down to the usually assured director fumbling the execution. Or rather, the realisation. I don’t know what kind of crazy pills the ranks of revered critics have been taking so as to recite as one the mantra that you quickly get used to the de-aging effects so intrinsic to its telling – as Empire magazine put it, “you soon… fuggadaboutit” – but you don’t. There was no point during The Irishman that I was other than entirely, regrettably conscious that a 75-year-old man was playing the title character. Except when he was playing a 75-year-old man.

So you want me to be half-monk, half-hitman.

Casino Royale (2006)
(SPOILERS) Despite the doubts and trepidation from devotees (too blonde, uncouth etc.) that greeted Daniel Craig’s casting as Bond, and the highly cynical and low-inspiration route taken by Eon in looking to Jason Bourne's example to reboot a series that had reached a nadir with Die Another Day, Casino Royale ends up getting an enormous amount right. If anything, its failure is that it doesn’t push far enough, so successful is it in disarming itself of the overblown set pieces and perfunctory plotting that characterise the series (even at its best), elements that would resurge with unabated gusto in subsequent Craig excursions.

For the majority of its first two hours, Casino Royale is top-flight entertainment, with returning director Martin Campbell managing to exceed his excellent work reformatting Bond for the ‘90s. That the weakest sequence (still good, mind) prior to the finale is a traditional “big” (but not too big) action set piece involving an attempt to…

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

You're skipping Christmas! Isn't that against the law?

Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
Ex-coke dealer Tim Allen’s underwhelming box office career is, like Vince Vaughn’s, regularly in need of a boost from an indiscriminate public willing to see any old turkey posing as a prize Christmas comedy.  He made three Santa Clauses, and here is joined by Jamie Lee Curtis as a couple planning to forgo the usual neighbourhood festivities for a cruise.

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

We’ll bring it out on March 25 and we’ll call it… Christmas II!

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
(SPOILERS) Alexander Salkind (alongside son Ilya) inhabited not dissimilar territory to the more prolific Dino De Laurentis, in that his idea of manufacturing a huge blockbuster appeared to be throwing money at it while being stingy with, or failing to appreciate, talent where it counted. Failing to understand the essential ingredients for a quality movie, basically, something various Hollywood moguls of the ‘80s would inherit. Santa Claus: The Movie arrived in the wake of his previously colon-ed big hit, Superman: The Movie, the producer apparently operating under the delusion that flying effects and :The Movie in the title would induce audiences to part with their cash, as if they awarded Saint Nick a must-see superhero mantle. The only surprise was that his final cinematic effort, Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, wasn’t similarly sold, but maybe he’d learned his lesson by then. Or maybe not, given the behind-camera talent he failed to secure.

On a long enough timeline, the survival of everyone drops to zero.

Fight Club (1999)
(SPOILERS) Still David Fincher’s peak picture, mostly by dint of Fight Club being the only one you can point to and convincingly argue that that the source material is up there with his visual and technical versatility. If Seven is a satisfying little serial-killer-with-a-twist story vastly improved by his involvement (just imagine it directed by Joel Schumacher… or watch 8mm), Fight Club invites him to utilise every trick in the book to tell the story of not-Tyler Durden, whom we encounter at a very peculiar time in his life.

When primal forces of nature tell you to do something, the prudent thing is not to quibble over details.

Field of Dreams (1989)
(SPOILERS) There’s a near-Frank Darabont quality to Phil Alden Robinson producing such a beloved feature and then subsequently offering not all that much of note. But Darabont, at least, was in the same ballpark as The Shawshank Redemption with The Green MileSneakers is good fun, The Sum of All Our Fears was a decent-sized success, but nothing since has come close to his sophomore directorial effort in terms of quality. You might put that down to the source material, WP Kinsella’s 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, but the captivating magical-realist balance hit by Field of Dreams is a deceptively difficult one to strike, and the biggest compliment you can play Robinson is that he makes it look easy.

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…