When True Blood first hit the airwaves all those years back, the show had promise. Along with all of the typical bloodsucking fare, this show had an age: vampires were out. It always had the potential to be a biting commentary (pun absolutely intended) on the struggle for equal rights within the gay community. Where most folks saw excess blood and gratuitous nudity (admittedly there, as with most HBO shows) there was a sense of urgency to the vampire struggle for equality. After all, openly gay show runner Alan Ball always had a penchant for the most obvious metaphors, but over the years, the show lost its way. Luckily, season five is a return to the same clumsy metaphor, with some added political/religious undercurrents.
Truth be told, it is these “added” elements that give season five the ups-and-downs of a show well past its prime. With each season, the stakes grew higher for Sookie Stackhouse and company. Soon the show gave way to witches and werewolves and mythological beats. It soon became overwhelming as Alan Ball continued to add more and more to this fictional world. The problem is, with everything he added, Ball constantly seemed afraid to take away. Year after year, the main cast grows exponentially with no main characters leaving the show. Suddenly supporting cast members who were very much intertwined with female lead, Sookie Stackhouse, are given their own storylines, completely independent of our female lead.
True Blood season five is an example of this overcrowding gone awry. Folks familiar with the show may recall the affable yet aloof, Terry Bellefleur (Todd Lowe). Season five tasks him with carrying a not-so-subtly politically charged tale of PTSD and pyromania. It fleshes out the character with some interesting material, even if the subject matter is less than topical considering the general disapproval of America’s involvement in Iraq. The problem is, we don’t need more characters to care about in this show. Furthermore, the show is so busy that Terry’s side story comes to an untimely end by the closing credits of episode nine… leaving viewers stuck with Terry and no real sense of purpose for the rest of the season. If his story was so inconsequential that it had, literally, no effect on the season finale, then his arc could have easily been left out.
Still, season five is far from a waste of time. While it is indeed overcrowded, the core focus of season five is one of the most promising since the show’s inception. Season five follows Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) as they try to contend with The Vampire Authority. So much of season five deals with the political elements of vampires in modern society, which has always been an element of True Blood that I have admired. The show then delves into a political uprising, anarchy within the ranks, religious extremism, and the rising tensions between human and vampire. The allegory is anything but subtle, but for those interested in the mythology of vampirism or the previously ignored political elements of “mainstreaming” vampires into American society, season five has plenty to offer. The shifted focus to vampire politics and religion is a welcome exercise in the vampire sub-genre, which has since proven as tired and lifeless as the fictional characters themselves.
Overall, True Blood season five is a complicated success for the HBO series. Rife with unimportant side stories, such as a power struggle within the wolf pack, Luna’s daughter being kidnapped, and a surprisingly anti-climactic and obvious allegory for hate crimes involving humans against “supes”, True Blood season five has more than it knows how to handle. Still, the core storyline surrounding the Vampire Authority was enough to keep me engaged, along with some surprisingly charming moments between Pam and Tara. Not an all-together triumph, True Blood season five boasts one of the most promising storylines for a series that bit into its own hype years ago, with a cliffhanger that gives hopes for an equally compelling season six storyline.