Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Review of True Blood's 1x01: "Strange Love"

Written And Directed by Alan Ball

Bill: “I’m afraid I’m not as warm as the men you must be accustomed to.”
Sookie: “What men?”

Vampires are the attraction that will never, ever die. Their allure is seemingly every bit as immortal as they are themselves but the vampire stuff we’ve been getting has been a mixed bunch to put it mildly.

Blood Ties, Blade: The Series and Moonlight all lacked bite and swiftly met cancellation and while the Twilight franchise may be a roaring success, it’s not exactly all that accommodating for the more sophisticated of tastes. But there is hope and clearly this is part of it.

After the excellent Being Human, I didn’t really need to seek out another vampire show but given that this one is spearheaded by HBO and Six Feet Under creator, Alan Ball, I had to give in. Judging by this debut episode alone, I’m very glad that I did. I just wished that it hadn’t taken FXUK so long to get off their butts and air the series.

I don’t have Charlaine Harris’s books to reference/compare and contrast because I’ve never read them but at some point, I will do. The idea of vampires coming out of the coffin is certainly an intriguing concept and it’s played with some interesting results in the town of Bon Temps.

We have vampires on TV talking about their rights and every single local in Merlotte’s have their own opinion on the bloodsuckers that’s for sure. Particularly with scumbag couple Denise and Mack Rattray.

Stereotypes exist for a reason and these two are as trailer trash as you can get in one go. The way Mack was perving over Sookie when he wasn’t thinking other snide thoughts about her mentality was vomit inducing and Denise herself was skankier than any low rent hooker imaginable.

For me, that definitely meant that as soon as they started getting friendly with Bill, it had less to do with them showing some progressiveness and more to do with them lining their pockets. Apparently vampire blood gets you high and horny and Bill had the misfortune to get drained by the redneck couple.

It’s a good job that Sookie was able to use her telepathic abilities to save Bill’s life and nearly choke Mack in the process. Perhaps I’m taking this too personally but I’ll end up doing a happy dance when him and Denise get killed. I really don’t care how because they are two scumbags not worth watching if you get my drift.

Sookie and Bill, that classic vampire/human attraction and if I wasn’t aware that Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin were a real life couple, I think I’d hype more about their chemistry which kind of speaks for itself really. I like Bill and I like Sookie a lot but I can understand why people are against them so to speak.

Sam might not have pure motives – he’s in love with Sookie and clearly that clouds his overall judgement on Bill but Tara’s heart is in the right place. Plus like many humans who fall for supernatural lovers, I do think that Sookie runs the risk of not thinking things through.

In some ways she romanticised Bill a little too early and this was after talking to him for less than a minute. Plus because of her rescue of him, the Rattrays ended up beating the crap out of her after work. I’m gonna assume here that Bill will return the favour and rescue her.

Sookie and Bill certainly had a lot of interesting later scenes together. She found herself surprised about some of his weaknesses, even his name. Bill even realised that something was up with Sookie. Gee, did her telepathy make it that obvious? Is that part of the reason why Bill isn’t so quick to piss the locals off as well?

Another part of this opening episode that I liked was how everyone seemed to know about Sookie’s ability. Tara was pissed off when Sookie read her mind as was Jason and both Dawn and Lafayette assumed that she knew of her brother’s arrest due to her abilities. Guess not.

Family life was also the other element of Sookie’s story in this episode. She has a great relationship with her grandmother and it’s hard not to love the old lady. I especially liked the way she gently poked Sookie into talking a bit more about Bill. I guess with Jason’s standoffish attitude towards vampires, grandma was a needed balance for Sookie. Plus I liked that Sookie remembered to try and ask Bill about Gran’s civil war meeting. It’s just a pity that her being attacked had to come in the way of whatever his reaction would’ve been.

As for Jason, I don’t like him but that’s obviously intentional to a degree and while Ryan Kwanten is nice to look at, I really do think and hope that Tara can do better than Jason. Jason as far as we know is more or less the town’s man whore and getting involved with fang banger Maudette Pickens was a fatal mistake for both of them.

Even without reading the books, I really doubt that Jason killed Maudette. Sure he’s a bit thick and intolerant but that doesn’t equate killer all the time. Besides, I think he’s more or less one of those characters that we won’t lose in a first season anyway. His bed hopping antics aside, there’s a great dynamic between him and Sookie well worth exploring.

As for the other characters on this show, they’re certainly a colourful lot. You never need be scared of vampires as long as Tara lives and breathes in Bon Temps. She is definitely the kind of person whose bad side you do not want to get on. Hissing at customers, quitting her job before slapping her boss may not be qualities of endearment but I really loved her. Does that make me a masochist?

I don’t mind Sam either as a character but his crush on Sookie could wear a little thin and I’m not saying this as a Sookie/Bill shipper but just in general. As for his other staff, Lafayette has an equally foul mouth as Tara but he works brilliantly and I loved his little ‘sex’ talk moments with Arlene and Dawn. There wasn’t that much definition for either Hoyt or Rene but hey, first episode and all.

Also in “Strange Love”

From this moment on, there’s nine books in the Sookie Stackhouse released. The tenth one is due in October.

Vampire: “You ever pretend to be one of us again and I’ll kill ya. Got it?”
Clerk: “Yeah.”
Vampire: “Have a nice day now.”

I should’ve seen the ordinary guy being a vampire. That couple gushing about Tru Blood (the synthetic blood for vampires) and V Juice were annoying though.

Tara (to female customer): “Trust me; you are not getting me fired. I am quitting. You’re just the fucking catalyst and for that, I oughta thank you.”

Tara: “I can’t work for assholes.”
Sookie: “I’m glad you can be so picky, ‘Miss Say Hello To The Rest Of Us’.”

Some of the Southern accents seemed a little heightened than others. Is there any regular actor on this show who is from the South?

Tara: “Why can’t I keep a job?”
Sookie: “Maybe because you can’t keep your mouth shut?”
Tara: “Bitch, who asked you?”

Sookie: “You’re our first … vampire.”
Bill: “Am I that obvious?”
Sookie: “I knew the minute you came in. Can’t believe no-one else seems to have.”

According to Sookie, vampires have been out of the coffin for two years. There’s some allusions to gay rights with them as well.

Sookie (to Bill): “Hey, you just shut your nasty mouth, mister. You might be a vampire but when you talk to me, you’ll talk to me like the lady I am.”

Tara: “I only go off on stupid people.”
Sam: “Most of my customers are stupid people.”

I noticed that when Tara’s working, she does seem to have her head in a book. She also seems to have a certain amount of respect for Sam too.

Jason: “You wanna go somewhere?”
Dawn: “Yeah, I do. I wanna go home. Goodnight Tara.”

Sookie: “I never thought I’d be having sex with you. At least, not so fast.”
Bill: “Who said anything about sex?”

Sookie’s little nightmare moment was something Alan Ball did quite a lot on Six Feet Under so it’s not something that bothers me with this show.

Gran: “I know. What kind of cheap woman could ever do something like that?”
Sookie: “No. It makes me sick that they’re getting a thousand bucks to lay there and do nothing while I bust my ass for ten bucks an hour, plus tips.”

Tara (to male patron): “Uh-oh do … do not snap at me. I have a name. And that name is Tara. Isn’t it funny a black girl being named after a plantation? No, I don’t think it’s funny at all. In fact, it really pisses me off that my momma was either stupid or just plain mean. Which is why you better be nice if you plan on getting a drink tonight.”

Who was that mystery dog that followed/watches Sookie? There has to be something more to it. And it barked at Bill.

Lafayette (re Jason): “Young boy is sex on a stick. I don’t care how stuck up he is.”

Lafayette (re Sookie/Bill): “Looks like she likes ‘em tall, dark and dead.”

Standout music: Obviously the theme tune, Jace’s “Bad Things” and “The Dreaming Dead” by Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter.

Bill (to Sookie): “Do you realise that every person in this establishment is staring at us right now?”

Chronology: This premiered on HBO in September 2008, so until any definite chronology is confirmed, I’m going to assume around that time.

“Strange Love” is a rousing opening episode. There hasn’t been that many fascinating new shows in the 2008-2009 TV season but not only is this the best of a limited bunch but it’s just one of the best fantasy shows going. Alan Ball is clearly an acute writer and while public timing was perfect for this series launch, the fact that it seemingly offers something new to the genre is also beneficial as well.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post