True Blood: Season 3 Review

True Blood Season 3
by Shannon Hilson,

HBO's True Blood has been Sunday night’s go-to guilty pleasure for several years running now. Mixing grisly feasting scenes and compelling mysteries with attractive, interesting characters and underlying gay/minority rights metaphors (i.e. “God hates fangs”), it’s not hard to see why. Here we have a show that combines the grit and elegance we’ve come to love and expect in our vampires with a down-home, relatable setting that offers us something new and intriguing as well. It gives you what you want. However, it keeps you guessing while it keeps you watching as well. It’s truly great television of a quality level that I don’t feel we see often enough anymore.

However, as True Blood has evolved over the last three seasons, the fictional town of Bon Temps has grown more and more… shall we say… crowded? Season 1 introduced us to not only the area’s vampires including leading men Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and Area 51 Sheriff  Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard), but also leading lady and telepath Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), as well as shapeshifter Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell). Season 2 added maenads to the mix, as well as hinted at the existence of a wealth of other possible creatures to come. As we dip into Season 3, we find out that there are weres out there to contend with as well. Although the series remains entertaining as always, I am beginning to feel I’m equal parts entertained and overwhelmed as I watch.

The New Creatures of Bon Temps

The plotlines attached to Season 3 revolve largely around the addition of the new were-creatures to the mix. First, we are introduced to werewolves. At the end of Season 2, Bill mysteriously disappears after proposing to Sookie over dinner. (A pack of werewolves acting under the orders of a mysterious third party soon turns out to be responsible.) However, we quickly find out that werewolves aren’t all bad when we meet Alcide Herveaux (Joe Manganiello), a brooding but loyal were who signs on to help Sookie find and rescue Bill in order to fulfill his father’s debt to Eric Northman.

But wait! That’s not all. We are also eventually made aware of the existence of the werepanthers of nearby Hotshot, one of which instantly attracts the interest of Sookie’s brother Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten). The nuances of how exactly weres really differ from shifters like Sam (aside from the fact that shifters can adopt more different forms) are something I am still piecing together. However, I can definitely say that these new creatures added an interesting new dimension to the True Blood universe as seen on TV. The transformation effects alone are really top-notch and a pleasure to watch.

That’s still not where the new additions stop as far as creatures go though. We also wind up being introduced to witches and other magical practitioners. They even manage to jam fairies into the potluck for good measure. Granted this is how Charlaine Harris structured the world in the original novels, but as I felt that was a bit of a mistake, I’m surprised the creators of the show didn’t try to whittle it down a bit. As far as whether or not the fact that they didn’t is a good thing or a bad thing, I’ll let you be the judge.

Other New Additions to the Sookie-Verse

True Blood just wouldn’t be True Blood without a few new characters to get to know and I really will say that characters are what the creative team behind this series does best. If you’ve read many of Charlaine Harris’s original Southern Vampire Mysteries books, then you already know that quite a few of the characters we recognize and love from the television show are… well… just there in the books. However, while many supporting characters like Tara and Lafayette remain one-dimensional and barely significant on the page, they positively shine and come alive on screen thanks to talented acting and stellar writing.

This remains the case with many of the other new characters readers of the series were already expecting to be introduced to. Mississippi vampire king, Russell Edgington (Dennis O’Hare) is equal parts debonair and diabolical, a true joy to watch and get to know. His tempestuous relationship with long-time vampire companion Talbot (Theo Alexander) is especially entertaining and interesting to observe and adds depth to what could otherwise be a rather shallow character. I also found the treatment of British vampire investigator Franklin Mott (James Frain) to be one of the highlights of the entire season. I found he stole every scene he was in.

Overall, the dialogue is sharp, the plotlines keep you watching from episode to episode, and the richness of the entire world you are immersed in definitely does not fail to deliver the delicious Sunday fix you’ve come to expect from this series and its stellar cast of truly fascinating characters. In fact, I felt Season 3 delivered even more thoroughly in that regard than Season 2 did with its maenads and Bacchanalia-like orgies.

Additional Thoughts on the Casting

Aside from the influx of what sometimes feels like too many different creatures to contend with (Charlaine Harris seemed to feel the need to include every supernatural creature she’s ever heard of in the Southern Vampire Mysteries), I have to criticize the “eye candy” element attached to the show in regards to the casting of some characters. I feel like the way it’s approached is uneven to say the least and this has been the case for me since the beginning of the show.

Really, any series about vampires needs eye candy and anyone with eyes can see that we get that by the ton when it comes to the male characters. For example, Eric, Bill, and Alcide are all stone foxes that the ladies can happily drool over. The actors chosen also fit the descriptions of the characters from the books very well.

However, I have to say that I’ve been left scratching my head in regards to many of the ladies for a while now. In the books, Sookie is described as a drop-dead gorgeous stunner. As cute as Anna Paquin is and as much as I love her as an actress, I still am not sure she is who I would have cast as this particular character.

Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten), Eric’s second in command, is apparently a fan favorite, but also leaves me scratching my head at times. She’s a lot older and less “innocent-seeming” than she was in the book, although significantly more edgy as well. However, she retains remnants of the original Pam that make the television version of her harder to process, for instance, her tendency to enjoy wearing pink. She even mentions feeling “underestimated” because of it despite the fact that the character actually comes across as nothing but tough. It really feels to me like no one could make up their mind whether they wanted Pam to remain true to form or become a completely different sort of character altogether and I honestly wish that someone would just decide already.

Newer female characters introduced in Season 3 are departures in similar ways that I am not sure really add as much as they potentially take away. For example, Debbie Pelt, Alcide’s troubled ex-girlfriend goes from being polished and crafty in the book to being a used-up V junkie that looks like she just stumbled in from off the street corner. This makes it significantly harder for me to really understand what Alcide apparently sees in her despite her foul treatment of him.  The treatment of Holly the Wiccan falls similarly flat and really adds nothing to the show either, in my opinion.

That said, I have to say that I really almost feel bad for the guys here when we gals have such a wealth of hotness to salivate over. With the exception of Jessica Hamby (Deborah Ann Woll) and possibly Queen Sophie-Anne LeClerq (Evan Rachel Wood), most of the female characters don’t seem like much to write home to mom about either looks-wise or in terms of personality. However, that is also just one reviewer’s opinion.

Looking Forward to Season 4

True Blood Season 3 of this exciting and decadent series ends in just the way you’d expect – tying up some loose ends while dangling others before your eyes so that you have a reason to bite your nails in anticipation of Season 4. The Bill-Sookie-Eric triangle especially is left in an interesting place for sure. Those of us who have read and enjoyed the books already know what we’re anticipating next season with bated breath. However, how it will all go down in actuality is anybody’s guess, as the writers of the show have surprised Harris’s readers before. Either way, one thing is for certain. Those of us who know and love this show can’t wait to tune in and watch it all unfold.

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