While teenagers rant and rave about how awesome Twilight is, adults can sink their teeth (forgive me, I’ll probably do that a lot) into the HBO True Blood series. While the two series really are not all that far apart when you take into consideration the fact they’re just love stories wrapped inside a semi-horror glaze, True Blood has the added benefit of a (supposedly) more mature audience and the accoutrements of a premium cable network. This means, of course, a generous heaping of nudity and graphic violence, but also the ability to play around with much more devious storylines that transcend the usual vampire staples…although there is plenty of that going around this season as well.
When we last checked in with Sookie Stackhouse, the mystery surrounding a Bon Temps serial killer had finally been solved, to the town’s infinite relief. Sookie is thrilled that her vampire soul mate, Bill Compton, has escaped with his life (or is it death?) after coming to her daylight defense. On other fronts, Sookie’s pal Tara Thornton sets down new roots with an affluent benefactor, Maryann Forrester; Sam Merlotte resolves to get in shape-shift shape after a forest foray; roguish brother Jason finds new purpose with an anti-vampire sect; and detective Andy Bellefleur licks his wounds after being proven wrong about Jason’s guilt. But just as things are settling down, some deadly new twists threaten to ratchet up the saga of Sookie Stackhouse to bloody new heights!
When I last saw this series I was coming off of reviewing the first season on Blu-ray and genuinely wasn’t impressed with it. Everyone around me devoured the series like it was some kind of drug and swore by its greatness. I skipped it while it was on HBO and opted to wait to watch it in one go on Blu-ray…although I later regretted that as that left me with an entire season to watch before I could delve into the review portion. And since I wasn’t exactly eating up the stories that were presented to me, I found it get rather tedious towards the end of the season.
But this is a new season, with new characters and a new story. I was more than willing to give it a chance as, once again, the same friends who had trumpeted the first season at me were singing the praises about the second. Undoubtedly the series has done nothing but improve upon what made the first season such a hit; they’ve expanded the cast, progressed characters (and the inter-character relationships) along at an appeasable pace, introduced new elements into the town of Bon Temps and increased the amount of sex per season twofold. Yes, the series brings in more of the same as well so it’s not all-new, but this second season still boasted more than a few changes to the general schema that the first season laid down.
So did I enjoy it any better? Honestly…no, I didn’t. It’s still essentially the same show that’s quite leisure in its pacing; that’s fine, of course, but you kind of go into an episode and then spend about forty minutes before the final ten minutes ramps up into something really good. This repeats throughout the season, so you go into a new episode to see the resolution to the last and then you just rinse and repeat. I’m not hating on that general practice as quite a few shows do it (some of which I still enjoy), but when shows get into that kind of position you have to be really invested in the characters, setting, and overall premise of the show to stick with it. For me I just don’t care about the majority of it—I’m not into the big vampire craze as so many are and the overall feeling that this season gives off is really just more of the same with the introduction of a few new characters and creatures into the True Blood mythos.
I do appreciate what the season attempted to do, however. The fresh blood (told you I’d keep doing it) that was infused into the series helped the dwindling numbers from season one feel a bit stronger; plus the addition of Maryann as the “maenad” protagonist for the season was a nice deviation from the vampire influx that the series pressed upon us. Due to this it became a great deal more supernatural in nature—while the show is advertised as “Vampires! Vampires! Vampires!” there is also quite a great deal of other supernatural beings, like mind readers, shape shifters, and the aforementioned maenad who had a whole range of powers that she exhibited throughout the season. She was almost a little too supernatural considering she kind of did whatever the situation called for (super strength and speed, invulnerable to bullets, blood deadly to vampires…you name it, she had it in some form), but because of that reason she did make for a good villain.
The season wasn’t a total bust; I did enjoy it on occasion, but in the end I still couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t for me. I have no emotional investment in the story or characters and as much as I can appreciate the talent and work that goes into making this series, I…really just don’t care about it at all. Of course this is still a Highly Recommended season for fans of the first, as even I can see why it was hailed and so thoroughly lauded upon by critics and fans alike. But if you’re like me and didn’t find much to enjoy about the first season, then there’s nothing here in the second that will change your mind.
The set comes wrapped with a Blu-ray ribbon denoting its awesomeness (1080p and DTS-HD Master Audio? Yes please!) and once you toss that away (which also features a description of the show and disc contents on the back) you’re left with an ultra-thick cardboard slipcase which houses the five Blu-ray discs inside. Basically if you own or have seen the first season Blu-ray set then you know what to expect here as it’s more of the same elegant packaging that HBO is so well-known for in their releases. Thankfully their prices on DVD and Blu-ray sets have dropped drastically from what they once were, but they’ve kept the same high-quality presentations in-tact.
Moving on to the video presentation we get an AVC encoded 1080p transfer that is pretty much flawless. I loved the way the first season looked on Blu-ray and it’s no exception here—there is some absolutely stunning footage to be gazed upon throughout the season. True, as with the first season the majority of the presentation is dark; dimly lit bars and orgy-filled mansions abound during the course of the season, but even in the low-light sequences there’s still plenty of detail to glean from the image. Daytime sequences really look fantastic, even with the kind of perennial rainy haze appearance that the series casts itself with, and anytime people actually have clothes on in the series there’s plenty of detail that exudes off of them.
Audio is a DTS-HD 5.1 MA mix and like the first season it sounds spectacular. In fact I can pretty much just copy and paste what I said about the first season set verbatim as it still applies here: surrounds are tossed all about the room, spitting out of every one of the speakers with a ferocity that you rarely hear from a television show. Needless to say in terms of Blu-ray, this show certainly excels. The video transfer does become hindered on occasion by an extreme lack of lighting, but it’s only on occasion and nothing to really mark many (if any) points off for so overall the A/V presentation for this season is simply stunning.
Extras are much like the first season and include, on every episode, “Enhanced Viewing,” which ranges from pop-up trivia to character biographies and a neat little “flashback/flash forward” option that allows you to jump ahead to see what the significance of a specific scene is in the context of the overall True Blood story so far. It’s a decidedly less exciting experience than what we got from the Enhanced Viewing on season one, but it’s still a pretty fun time to be had and adds something to the experience for repeat viewers.
Other extras include brief straight-from-the-series vignettes entitled The Vampire Report: Special Edition and Fellowship of the Sun: Reflections of Light. Then there’s the bigger event to be seen (or rather heard) which is the collection of seven audio commentaries which includes such participants as Alan Ball, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Michelle Forbes, Alexander Skarsgard, Rutina Wesley, Ryan Kwaten, and Sam Trammell as well as a few creative talent from the series as well.
Overall a solid mixture of extras packaged up in a very nicely done set. Another Highly Recommended set to own for fans of the series. Newcomers will, as with the first season, want to stick to a Rental first.
True Blood: The Complete Second Season arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on May 25th.