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petzipellepingo [userpic]
by petzipellepingo (petzipellepingo)
at August 10th, 2010 (10:02 am)

Seeing Red: Does 'True Blood' Have Too Much Blood in Season Three?

By John Clarke Jr.

'True Blood' fans can remember back to that first season when a campy gem was born. The fangs were shorter -- almost Ricky Gervais-sized -- while plots focused around the social strife and political tensions between vampires and humans, with overtones of heated 1960s race relations. We met a motley crew of characters, lovable, hated and some in-between. Alan Ball's HBO creation was funny and dark in that deep south way where danger seems to lurk behind the kudzu and Spanish Moss. Love interests, requited and not, sprouted. We marveled at the raunchy 'vamp speed sex' (a ramp up to this season's vamp speed texting!) and lurid human copulation set a standard. But gore was almost more inferred in Season One.

Then Season Two rolled over us in a weird wave, topping out with frenzied, bloody cult orgies that climaxed with eating fresh hearts and group sex slathered in blood. Those scenes were not likely to be topped, right?

Don't underestimate Season Three tricks. ...The 'True Blood' team seems to know third seasons are clutch and must hit hard and fast: shock and awe type of stuff. And so far, that's just what Ball and his team have done. Oh yes, there will be blood.

While the camp and gore has its place, it already eclipses the character depth that drew fans in the first place. Then there's the werewolves mess, which at times has threatened to sink the series and lose its way from the funky, murky, sexy, funny draw that is clearly its strength.

Ball has been tight-lipped on the increasing violence and has only commented on character development. He did slyly offer that Season Three would be "wicked," yet admitted the shocking windfall of violence sticks closely to Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse book series on which 'True Blood' is based. During Season One and Two, he took liberties to build characters and only loosely based his series on the books. Season Three, he says, is staying close to Harris' work.

Yet once it veers into soap opera torridity with gratuitous gore, 'Blood' might as well just be phoned in. Producers and writers may want to nurture the secondary characters such as the outstanding Jason Stackhouse, the Sheriff, pitch-perfect Lafayette and perhaps build on the weird alluring periphery of goons, sexpots, hillbillies, grifters and ex-cons. Or focus on the season's saving grace: Vampire King of Mississippi Russell Edgington and the struggle between vamp royalty and their loyal subjects over state rule. So we won't be concerned with the ultraviolence. Ball is a genius with unconventional story arcs and perfectly comfortable with jarring his viewers by ripping out a plot line. Let's drink up to that and dive into some of these season's bloodiest moments.

The sultry and sadistic Lorena, evil sexpot and Bill's maker, takes her time torturing Bill within an inch of his life. Bill lays splayed on the floor covered in blood. "Just make it quick," he pleads. She lovingly peruses her array of blood-splattered mid evil-looking torture devices, as she berates Bill, her unrequited love, for rejecting her and the traditional vampire ideals.

'True Blood' is educational, in a really gross way: We now know what happens to a vampire when they're staked. Earlier in the season, Bill has a violent bout of hate sex with his maker Lorena (he twists her head fully around and she's still smiling). In this highlight from last week, Sookie impales her and gets showered with gooey, vein-filled, sticky, bloody, web-like viscera that looks awfully hard to wash off. What's left is a mangled pulp.

God love this season's breakout star, the vampire freak Franklin. He's crazy as a loon, dangerously insecure, passionate, joyous to embrace carnage: a beautifully cracked deviant that gives 'Blue Velvet' sociopath Frank Booth a good run for his money. After being held hostage as a forced lover, Tara escaped by channeling her inner cave man and graphically bashing in Franklin's skull, leaving his bloody noggin caved in and crumpled like a discarded yogurt cup in a stately four-post bed.

Weird, charming and foppish Vampire King of Mississippi Russell Edgington shows some depravity in Season Three. After reading the vampire magistrate the riot act, explaining he holds the reigns to the vampire nation, he suavely lops off weasel's head as if popping a fine champagne with a sword. A beheading never looked so debonair. Leave it to the King to pull of a bloody, yet somehow classy, Sabrage.