Review: True Blood 2.01 – "Nothing But The Blood"

This time the victim is Miss Jeanette, the voodoo woodswoman whose mojo may or may not have cured Tara Thornton’s (Rutina Wesley) mother of her alcoholism last season. And, oh yeah, poor Jeanette is missing her heart …

For those of you who missed out on season one, True Blood is the latest in a string of supernatural television shows and movies to feature the world of vampires—and the women who love them. Based on the "Southern Vampire" novels of Charlaine Harris, True Blood has a few things going for it. It’s home on HBO ensures no shortage of blood, skin and swearing. And Alan Ball (“Six Feet Under”) keeps the world of the undead from appearing too grim with his wonderful, just-dark-enough wit.

On that note, season two seems more tonally consistent than its predecessor. Where season one tended to vacillate among drama, comedy and soapy romance, the season two opener had a strong, darkly comedic tone overall. From the opening murder, we shift to a scene between resident brooding vamp Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and his new seventeen-year-old vampire charge. While laying down the house rules in regard to staying out late and not eating humans, Bill adds, “We also recycle in this house.”

Those fans thirsting for a Bill-Sookie reunion sequence have a bit of a wait, as the episode next finds Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten), Sookie’s sex-obsessed older brother in his bed. Unsurprisingly, Jason is without a shirt. What is surprising is that Jason is alone and reading a book.  After the death of his free spirit girlfriend last season, and a bout of incarceration on faulty murder charges, Jason seems to have found God … or at least the Fellowship of the Sun, an anti-vampire organization who is shaping up as a possible Big Bad for this season. Later in the episode, Jason attends a local Fellowship gathering. Wearing a look of starry-eyed wonder and more clothes than we’ve ever seen on him, Jason considers a trip to Dallas for what Sookie refers to as “church camp.”

Jason is not the only Bon Temps resident contemplating his relationship to God in the season two opener. In fact, the majority of the episode explores issues of Creator and Created. Bill and Sookie’s reunion suffers honeymoon-interuptus in the form of Bill’s new charge. Sookie is horrified to learn that Bill’s punishment last season for killing a vampire—and saving her life—was to turn a human girl.

Tara too gets a lesson in theology, but hers comes from Maryann (played by the incomparable Michelle Forbes), a newish addition to Bon Temps who has both supernatural powers and an indiscernible motive. Offering free rent and an endless supply of tropical fruit, Maryann shows Tara and another charity tenant a painting of the God Pan with one of his human consorts. Suggesting that we are all that woman in the painting, Maryann leaves Tara and the male tenant alone to canoodle by the pool. However, the romantic moment is interrupted by the butler pushing fresh towels on the pair. Later Maryann fumes, apparently at having her plan thwarted: “Nobody needed towels!”

Meanwhile, Sam remembers his own teenaged encounters with Maryann in a series of flashbacks. Caught in the act of robbing her palatial home, Sam winds up in Maryann’s bed. After a strange sexual sequence—you have to see it for yourself—Sam makes a run for it, though not before stealing the knickknacks he intended to, along with several stacks of cash. Back in the present, Sam tries to return the cash only to learn that Maryann wants something else from him. Maryann’s storyline is one of the more mysterious on True Blood—here’s hoping Alan Ball has a plan, and that he lets us in on it soon.

The God theme is again present in one of the episode’s darker sequences. We find the missing Lafayette chained up in a dark basement with three or four more sad souls. Lafayette gets chatty with another prisoner, who is feeling confessional as a result of his incarceration. It turns out the dude is one of the rednecks who hassled Lafayette for being gay in season one. The sequence has a definite purgatory feel, though Lafayette’s sharp wit keeps the mood from getting too dark. Near the end of the episode the humans’ captor is revealed to be none other than Eric (Alexander Skarsgard). He and the other vamps have some questions for their human captives re: a series of crimes against the undead.  Will season two see a face off between Eric’s army and the Fellowship?

Fans of Sookie and Bill’s tragic love will not be disappointed, as the premiere episode ends with the mismatched pair falling into bed once again. Despite her trust issues, Sookie forgives Bill for turning a human and causing the death of her estranged uncle, who we learned last season was abusive to Sookie.  She is apparently swayed by Bill’s devotion—“You are my miracle, Sookie”—or maybe his bare chest. Admittedly, the Bill-Sookie scenes are sappier than the rest of the episode, with an abundance of long, smoldering stares and theme music. Still, the genuine chemistry between the two makes up for some of the cheese. It will be interesting to see how their epic love survives teenage vampires, an anti-undead Fellowship and a season that promises as much sexy, supernatural fun as the first.  

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