True Blood Season One Episode Recap: Strange Love

March 11, 2009

Sookie Stackhouse isn’t your normal waitress. With an unwanted ability to hear people’s thoughts, being in a room full of people can really be a headache! Enter Bill Compton, a 173-year-old vampire who just wants to fit in. With his lack of brain waves, spending time with Vampire Bill is the “peace and quiet” Sookie so desperately wants.

In the series opener, we learn that vampires exist, and with the Japanese invention of synthetic blood, which satisfies a vampire’s nutritional needs, humans need not fear. An action-packed, comedic gem among so many dark, melodramatic vampire tales, True Blood is a breath of fresh air.

HBO True Blood

HBO True Blood

What I like most about the story is how real it is. If vampires were to “come out of the coffin” in real life, I imagine their struggle for equality and their battle with themselves to “mainstream” would be similar to what we see on the show. As when other minority groups fight for their rights, the vampires must stand tall against religious organizations, human prejudices, and people’s desire to exploit them.
True Blood has one of the best acted ensembles, with tons of chemistry, since Friends (And if you didn’t like Friends, you have to at least admit that the actors were talented and worked amazingly well together). It’s refreshing to watch a show and get so engrossed in the characters that you forget they’re not really related, or they’re not really best friends, or they’re not really in love (well, maybe they are…)

The opening scene was a very effective hook. We learn right away about the Vampire Movement, TruBlood, and that V-Juice (Vampire Blood) is the hottest new drug on the underworld market. And I love how they threw in fellow HBOer Bill Maher. Of course, I imagine he’d be all for Vampire Rights. It was interesting that they gave us the stereotypical vampire who turned out to be a redneck and then the redneck turned out to be the real vampire. Right away I thought, “This is not a typical vampire show.”

The first scene with Sookie was done very well. And it’s a real treat to hear the thoughts going through the heads of her customers. Her penchant for reminding everyone that she doesn’t like “nasty talk” or curse words is amusing. Overall, Sookie is a very likable character.
By far, however, my favorite character is Lafayette Reynolds. He’s comic relief in an already hilarious show. The part where they’re having the sex talk, and Sookie is looking on in a combination of fascination and disgust, was utterly brilliant. The first meeting of Tara Thornton was also a very humorous scene. I had tears coming out of my eyes when she put the inquisitive, irritating customer in her place. And then threatening to sick her Baby Daddy on the boss… what a riot! The other side characters are all very stereotypical “Southern Folks,” but done so well, you can’t help but love their place in this world.

The scene with Jason Stackhouse and Maudette Pickens is probably my least favorite. (Although, as a General Hospital fan, it was nice seeing Graham Shiels as the tattooed vampire on the video.) I just thought the scene was very overdone with cheesy dialogue.
I was very happy with the introduction of Vampire Bill. Everything goes quiet as Sookie feels his presence. She turns, and they stare at each other longingly as the dramatic music plays in the background. Then the music stops and Sookie sounds like an excited school girl when she proclaims, “I think Merlotte’s just got its first vampire!” Can’t have anything too dramatic on such a fun show.

I think my favorite thing about vampires is that they tend to be decades and centuries old, so they have old fashioned ways about them. Bill is obviously no exception. Even when the Rattrays are an unwelcome interruption to his meeting with Sookie, he still tells them “Good Evening.” What a gentleman?! I was a little disappointed with him, though, when he left with Mac and Denise after Sookie told him not to go!

But the resulting scene with superhero Sookie was well worth it! With barely any fear, she runs to the rescue of the silly vampire who let his bloodlust nearly get him killed (well, I guess killed again)! I like that Sookie isn’t scared of Bill. Right away she decides he’s good, despite his undead status. And poor Bill just doesn’t know what to think of this fearless waitress who risks her life to help him.

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Sookie and Bill

Anna Paquin’s and Stephen Moyer’s chemistry is undeniable in this scene. Normally the leading pair’s first scenes in a television show are awkward and unbelievable, but other than the joking-about-his-name bit (where she might have forgotten her line?) it went very smoothly. Right away they made my list of sexiest couples on TV! Of course, is there any girl alive who could be immune to Stephen Moyer’s mysterious good looks and hot-as-hell grin? I was very sorry that the dream sequence in Sookie’s backyard turned out to be an actual dream sequence and not real, and then cut off so quickly!
I think Tara needs a good kick in the rear for mooning over the womanizer Jason. She either needs to get over it or make a move (I doubt he’d turn down any woman, really). I like Tara’s and Sam Merlotte’s easy manner and witty banter. Of course, with Sam, she has to compete with his crush on Sookie, which could get awkward.

There’s not much for me to say about Adele Stackhouse. She’s a straightforward, loving grandmother. It is a bit of a shock to have that familiar, lovable character so comfortable with the conversation about a vampire, though. Then she gets all giddy to meet him and learn about the Civil War from someone who was there. If only in real life… And I find it adorable that she stays up late at night reading paperback novels. I will probably be just like her at that age! She was particularly adorable when she was learning about fang bangers and prostitutes who serve johns of the undead variety. However, I think that conversation would be strange to have with one’s grandmother.
And although Jason is a sleazebag, his concern for his sister is endearing. I was ready for him to go lay down the law with the Rattrays. And I actually felt quite sorry for him when the news of Maudette’s murder was announced. Then he had to act so guilty when the police came to question him, so I felt even worse for him.

Probably my favorite scene in the whole show (with the exception of the Bill/Sookie scenes, of course) is when Lafayette and Tara interact with the man in overalls at the bar on the second night. Tara is incredibly funny when she’s going off on “stupid people,” and I actually believe that Lafayette would like to hook up with him. Following this is when Sookie learns about her brother being arrested and yells at Dawn Green, “I am not psychic!”

The last scene with Bill and Sookie gave me goose bumps. I was leaning into the TV hanging on every word and I was equally taken aback as Sookie was when Bill stood abruptly and left. It was a bit strange how she could jump from being so worried about her bother to being so engrossed with Bill. On second thought, maybe not so strange. Vampire Bill is quite hypnotic! But then I fell a little bit for Sam when he started yelling at Sookie about being a vigilante, and then he comforted her when she started to cry. And I just love how he calls her “cher.” When Sookie yelled at both Sam and Tara to shut up when they weren’t saying anything, just thinking, I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit.

The final scene of the show was brutal. It really brought home my hatred of the Rattrays. Every kick was so realistic and the blood splatter made me cringe!
All and all, I was very impressed with the first episode of True Blood. It was unique and fresh, and left me desperate for more!

(Photo Credit: HBO)

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True Blood Review – Episode 1: Strange Love

March 5, 2009

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!

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True Blood Episode 101 – Strange Love

November 14, 2008

Across the country, vampires have “come out of the coffin” following the invention of mass-produced synthetic blood. In Louisiana, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a waitress with telepathic abilities, falls under the spell of sexy, 173-year-old vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) – whose thoughts she can’t read. After saving Bill from the Rattrays (James Parks, Karina Logue), a pair of ruthless “vampire drainers,” Sookie tests the limits of Bill’s gratitude when the two are left alone in the dark. Meanwhile, Sookie’s best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley) goes to work for Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) at his bar and grill, while Sookie’s roguish brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) finds himself in hot water when a “fangbanger” with whom he’s been intimate meets a tragic end.

Written and directed by Alan Ball.

2008 Air Dates

HBO Debut: SUNDAY, SEPT. 7 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT)
Other HBO playdates: Sept. 7 (10:30 p.m.), 9 (11:30 p.m.), 10 (10:00 p.m.), 11 (8:00 p.m., 2:30 a.m.), 12 (midnight), 13 (10:00 p.m.) and 25 (8:00 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: Sept. 8 (8:00 p.m.), 14 (4:00 p.m.) and 28 (4:00 p.m.)

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