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True Blood - Season 1 (Review)

True Blood, Season 1

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HBO furthered their impressive reputation for producing outstanding adult drama with True Blood, a gloriously sexy, bloody and twisting take on the Southern Vampire Mysteries novels by Charlaine Harris.

Created by Six Feet Under‘s Alan Ball, the show set in a world where vampires have just begun to ‘come out’ after a synthetic blood substitute called True Blood is introduced. But while some people welcome them (especially for the sexual kick they bring), others resent their presence and seek to shun them.

Thrown into this heady mix is Anna Paquin’s Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress living in Bon Temps, Louisiana, who unexpectedly finds herself falling for the sharp-toothed charms of Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), a Civil War veteran and vampire.

But their romance is seldom easy, particularly given the resentment it causes among most of the townsfolk, as well as Bill’s own vampire clan.

And to complicate matters still further, there’s a murderer on the scene who singles out victims who have slept with vampires… and who soon targets Sookie as a potential victim.

The first season of True Blood may have been knowingly excessive in its depiction of violence and (particularly) sex (it was frequently filthy), but it also made you care for its characters and there was seldom a dull moment in their presence. It also had fun toying with tried and tested vampire conventions, as well as offering valuable observations on small town American life, and the current global political situation (tolerance, racism, etc).

Paquin was almost unrecognisable as the blonde temptress Sookie, complete with deep Southern drawl – but she imbued her character with a necessary toughness that equipped her well to cope with the various trials and tribulations thrown her way.

And Moyer grew into the part of Bill, channelling the emotional complexity of his feelings for Sookie well, and emerging as a suitably enigmatic, even sexy presence.

There was strong support, too, from the likes of Sam Trammell as barman Sam (a man with the hots for Sookie and a secret of his own), Ryan Kwanten as Sookie’s dim-witted, sex-driven brother Jason Stackhouse, and Rutina Wesley’s Tara, the outspoken best friend of Sookie who had her own demons to conquer (mostly in the shape of her alcoholic mother).

Ball ensured that the various twists of the series were well hidden, tossing in plenty of surprises throughout, while exploring the darkness inherent in both humanity and the undead… as well as the capacity for good in both.

It may have been slight when compared to the likes of Generation Kill or Mad Men, but True Blood was consistently well written and balanced soap opera and fantasy, excitement and sexiness with some thought-provoking elements.

It also ensured that come the final episode revelations and traditional cliffhanger ending, the prospect of Season 2 will be well worth sinking our teeth into. For vampire fans seeking a little more blood than the teen-based Twilight franchise has thus far provided, it is a wickedly naughty treat.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 691 minutes
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: October 26, 2009