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…

What ho, Brinkley. So, do you think we’re going to get along, what?

Jeeves and Wooster 2.4: Jeeves in the Country  (aka Chuffy)
The plundering of Thank You, Jeeves elicits two more of the series’ best episodes, the first of which finds Bertie retiring to the country with a new valet, the insolent, incompetent and inebriate Brinkley (a wonderfully sour, sullen performance from Fred Evans, who would receive an encore in the final season), owing to Jeeves being forced to resign over his master’s refusal to give up the trumpet (“not an instrument for a gentleman”; in the book, it’s a banjulele).

Chuffnall Hall is the setting (filmed at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire), although the best of the action takes place around Bertie’s digs in Chuffnall Regis (Clovelly, Devon), which old pal Reginald “Chuffy” Chuffnell (Marmaduke Lord Chuffnell) has obligingly rented him, much to the grievance of the villagers, who have to endure his trumpeting disrupting the beatific beach (it’s a lovely spot, one of the most evocative in the series).

Jeeves is snapped up into the e…

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

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…

Don't give me any of that intelligent life crap, just give me something I can blow up.

Dark Star (1974)
(SPOILERS) Is Dark Star more a John Carpenter film or more a Dan O’Bannon one? Until the mid ‘80s it might have seemed atypical of either of them, since they had both subsequently eschewed comedy in favour of horror (or thriller). And then they made Big Trouble in Little China and Return of the Living Dead respectively, and you’d have been none-the-wiser again. I think it’s probably fair to suggest it was a more personal film to O’Bannon, who took its commercial failure harder, and Carpenter certainly didn’t relish the tension their creative collaboration brought (“a duel of control” as he put it), as he elected not to work with his co-writer/ actor/ editor/ production designer/ special effects supervisor again. Which is a shame, as, while no one is ever going to label Dark Star a masterpiece, their meeting of minds resulted in one of the decade’s most enduring cult classics, and for all that they may have dismissed it/ seen only its negatives since, one of the best mo…

Ruination to all men!

The Avengers 24: How to Succeed…. At Murder
On the one hand, this episode has a distinctly reactionary whiff about it, pricking the bubble of the feminist movement, with Steed putting a female assassin over his knee and tickling her into submission. On the other, it has Steed putting a female assassin over his knee and tickling her into submission. How to Succeed… At Murder (a title play on How to Succeed at Business Without Really Trying, perhaps) is often very funny, even if you’re more than a little aware of the “wacky” formula that has been steadily honed over the course of the fourth season.

You just keep on drilling, sir, and we'll keep on killing.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)
(SPOILERS) The drubbing Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk received really wasn’t unfair. I can’t even offer it the “brave experiment” consolation on the basis of its use of a different frame rate – not evident in itself on 24fps Blu ray, but the neutering effect of the actual compositions is, and quite tellingly in places – since the material itself is so lacking. It’s yet another misguided (to be generous to its motives) War on Terror movie, and one that manages to be both formulaic and at times fatuous in its presentation.

The irony is that Ang Lee, who wanted Billy Lynn to feel immersive and realistic, has made a movie where nothing seems real. Jean-Christophe Castelli’s adaptation of Ben Fountain’s novel is careful to tread heavily on every war movie cliché it can muster – and Vietnam War movie cliché at that – as it follows Billy Lynn (British actor Joe Alwyn) and his unit (“Bravo Squad”) on a media blitz celebrating their heroism in 2004 Iraq …

The wolves are running. Perhaps you would do something to stop their bite?

The Box of Delights (1984)
If you were at a formative age when it was first broadcast, a festive viewing of The Box of Delightsmay well have become an annual ritual. The BBC adaptation of John Masefield’s 1935 novel is perhaps the ultimate cosy yuletide treat. On a TV screen, at any rate. To an extent, this is exactly the kind of unashamedly middle class-orientated bread-and-butter period production the corporation now thinks twice about; ever so posh kids having jolly adventures in a nostalgic netherworld of Interwar Britannia. Fortunately, there’s more to it than that. There is something genuinely evocative about Box’s mythic landscape, a place where dream and reality and time and place are unfixed and where Christmas is guaranteed a blanket of thick snow. Key to this is the atmosphere instilled by director Renny Rye. Most BBC fantasy fare doe not age well but The Box of Delights is blessed with a sinister-yet-familiar charm, such that even the creakier production decisions may be vie…

In a few moments, you will have an experience that will seem completely real. It will be the result of your subconscious fears transformed into your conscious awareness.

Brainstorm (1983)
(SPOILERS) Might Brainstorm have been the next big thing – a ground-breaking, game-changing cinematic spectacle that had as far reaching consequences as Star Wars (special effects) or Avatar (3D) – if only Douglas Trumbull had been allowed to persevere with his patented “Showscan” process (70mm film photographed and projected at 60 frames per second)? I suspect not; one only has to look at the not-so-far-removed experiment of Ang Lee with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and how that went down like a bag of cold sick, to doubt that any innovation will necessarily catch on (although Trumbull at least had a narrative hinge on which to turn his “more real than real” imagery, whereas Lee’s pretty much boiled down to “because it was there”). Brainstorm’s story is, though, like its title, possibly too cerebral, too much concerned with the consciousness and touting too little of the cloyingly affirmative that Bruce Rubin inevitably brings to his screenplays. That doesn’t mea…

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 …