True Blood Review – Episode 1: Strange Love

March 5, 2009 by  

Meet Vampire Bill, Bon Temps first vampire.

Meet Vampire Bill, Bon Temps' first vampire.

For first-timers not familiar with Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Series, the first episode of HBO’s True Blood is still quite an exciting ride. And for those of us well-versed in Ms. Harris’ story, well, seeing our beloved characters onscreen for the first time ain’t bad either.

Let’s look at the episode from the point of view of someone who has never read the novels the show is based on, and who has very little knowledge of the show’s premise going in (this person is also known as “me until after this episode when I became totally hooked and read all the books”). The first Episode introduces us to some very important characters and plot points, and also reminds us why Alan Ball, the visionary behind another HBO hit (Six Feet Under) is such a creative genius.

So, what and who does Episode 1: Strange Love, introduce us to?

Main Characters:

Sookie Stackhouse is the main character. The novels by Charlaine Harris are told from Sookie’s perspective. Sookie is thin and beautiful, with blond hair and porcelain skin. She is 25 years old, and has lived in small town Bon Temps her whole life. She currently works as a waitress at Merlotte’s Bar & Grill, and shares her old family home with her Gran.

Jason Stackhouse is Sookie’s older, promiscuous brother. He is handsome, albeit rugged, and a bit absent-minded and careless. He seems selfish, but has a soft spot in his heart for his sister and his Gran, the only two women who have been constants in his life since he and Sookie’s parents died in a flood some years prior. Jason is a screw-up, bouncing from woman to woman (and bed to bed), but he’s loyal to his family and his friends.

Bill Compton is the first vampire to come in to Merlotte’s. He is over 150 years old, pale, tall and handsome. He speaks with a careful Southern drawl, and seems very anxious to live peacefully among the humans of Bon Temps. Though quiet and straightforward, Bill isn’t one to miss out on an opportunity to test people, especially Sookie. After saving Sookie from the Rattrays (see why below), Bill tests her character by first mentioning how juicy the arteries in her groin are (presumably to see if she is interested in letting him bite her) and by also offering her the blood that was drained from him. When she is repulsed by both ideas, Bill is satisfied, and intrigued by her. He knows she is different, but doesn’t know why or how. He asks her “What are you?” but she does not let him in, just yet, on her secret.

Lafayette Reynolds is the muscular, witty and tough cook at Merlotte’s. Although he often dons muscle shirts which show off his glistening black skin, he is also prone to wearing make-up, and even compliments Sookie on her’s. Although we only get a few brief moments with Lafayette in this episode, keep your eye on him.

Tara Thornton is the cousin of Lafayette, and quite a tortured young woman. We are first introduced to her as she grows increasingly irritated with a customer at her job as a sales associate of a big box retail chain. She quits in a huff (after hurling some choice words at her boss) and eventually manages to land a job tending bar at Merlotte’s the very same night. She is Sookie’s oldest and best friend, and one of the only people who doesn’t think she’s crazy.

Sam Merlotte is the owner of Merlotte’s Bar & Grill. In Episode 1 we don’t learn much beyond the fact that (1) Sam is sympathetic to Sookie’s gift and (2) he is extremely protective of her. Sam is a flannel shirt and jeans kind of man, with golden-red hair that hangs gently over his eyes. His scruffy beard manages to make him even more handsome, but he is also quite mysterious.

Rene Lenier is a good friend of Jason’s who works with him on the road crew. He is oddly handsome, with dark hair on his head and face and a thick, almost unintelligible Cajun accent. He is also very protective of Sookie and a loyal friend to Jason.

Minor Characters:

Mack & Denise Rattray are a wily local couple who frequent Merlotte’s and think Sookie is crazy (though Mack has some pretty perverted thoughts about her rear end). The Rattrays are a classless duo who want little more than to stir up trouble.

Dawn Green is a fellow waitress at Merlotte’s. Thin and brunette, Dawn is also a on-and-off bed partner of Jason Stackhouse.

Maudette Pickens is a plain woman who has had “relations” with at least one vampire (which she filmed and showed to Jason). She beds Jason at least once that we know of.

Hoyt Fortenberry is the strikingly tall and classically handsome, yet slightly dim-witted mama’s boy who is a very devoted friend and co-worker of Jason and Rene. He is quiet and shy, but also kind-hearted and sweet.

Important Plot Points:

Vampires now co-exist with humans. In the opening scenes, we see the sole reason why vampires are now free to “come out of the coffin”: the invention of synthetic blood, called Tru Blood, which supposedly satisfies the nutritional needs of the vampires, making them essentially harmless to humans. We even get to meet a vampire in the first sequence, though he is quite agitated that the clerk of a rural Lousiana convenience store is impersonating a vampire to play a trick on some young college kids. The vampires are even organized, as shown by the Vampire League of America’s outspoken representative Nan Flanagan, who speaks frequently on TV about the need for vampire rights. In the rural Louisiana town of Bon Temps, however, there aren’t any sightings of vampires, until one finally comes into Merlotte’s Bar & Grill, where our main character works as a waitress (but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).

Vampire blood is a drug for humans. While more is revealed about the effects of vampire blood (or simply “V”) on humans later on, in Episode 1 it is made clear that V is a dangerous, yet highly sought after narcotic for humans. The kids who drop by the convenience store ask the clerk if he knows where they can get some, and the suspicious couple sitting in Sookie’s section at Merlotte’s (the aptly named Rattrays) are drainers– folks who prey on vamps so they can drain their blood and sell it on the black market for a huge profit.

Sookie Stackhouse can read minds. The first time we see Sookie she is attempting to shut out the flood of thoughts pouring into her mind from those around her. In fact, it is by hearing the thoughts of Mack Rattray that Sookie discovers the two are drainers. She is able to block out throughts, with some effort, but this “gift” has made most of the town scared of her (or led them to believe she is downright insane). Keep in mind that her gift is an very important part of the story as a whole.

Fangbangers get a thrill from the bite of vampires. Women (and) men frequently step into the danger zone by sleeping with vampires. Maudette Pickens has done it, as evidenced by the videotape she shows Jason (and the fang bite on her inner thigh). Fangbangers supply a valuable service to vampires, as blood lust and actual lust are closely tied together.

Stay tuned for a recap and review of Episode 2. In the meantime, have a supernatural day!